Alcohol board asked to scrap restrictions on nightclub

Photo by The Georgetown Dish
ABC Chairman Charles Brodsky
ABC Chairman Charles Brodsky

In a heated, three-hour continuation of a hearing that started last month, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board wrestled with the bold request of George -- a part-time nightclub tucked into the same block as Café Milano and houses and condominiums on Prospect and N Street -- to scrap the so called "Voluntary Agreement" section of its liquor license that limits the club's occupancy numbers, noise level, use of outdoor space abutting residential areas and type of entertainment.

Attorney Tim Altemus, representing CAG and the ANC, ANC Commissioner Bill Starrels, George owner Ki Jun Sung and Andrew Kline, far right, representing George (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Attorney Tim Altemus, representing CAG and the ANC, ANC Commissioner Bill Starrels, George owner Ki Jun Sung and Andrew Kline, far right, representing George
Stating that economic conditions necessitate throwing out the Agreement in order for the club to survive, George co-owner Ki Jun Sung presented signed form letters gathered from Club patrons and a survey of nearby parking options to argue that George has many patrons who support its existence and that the parking supply is more than adequate for the growth in business the club seeks. The new owners acquired the Voluntary Agreement when they bought the liquor license from Georgetown Billiards, which occupied the space previously.

 

The license has a requirement that the establishment generate 45 percent of its sales from food, or $2000 in food sales per seat each year. While the license assumes that the establishment serves food like a restaurant, the owners said it has no stove, pots or pans. "We have a microwave," Sung said, describing a menu of quesadillas, tacos and chicken pot pie that is served just Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights when George is open. Sung said that half of the food served at George is brought in by caterers for special events that take place "one or two times a month."

Whereas the legal definition of a restaurant includes being open to the public, Sung said that George is open Fridays from 6:00 to 9:00 to anyone, but that every Friday and Saturday night "it's a private party" with entry restricted to those on a list, plus their friends. Sung said most of George's revenues come from alcohol sales between the hours of 10:00 pm and 3:00 am.

"It's difficult for me to get my hands around the concept that George is a restaurant," said ABC Board member Mital Gandhi. "It's a real

The ABC Board hears testimony (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) The ABC Board hears testimony
concern that I have. I am trying to understand if [by terminating the Voluntary Agreement] you are just trying to serve more alcohol."

 

Board member Nicholas Alberti also sought to clarify what direction George might go in if the Voluntary Agreement restrictions (originally written and approved by George attorney Andrew Kline when he represented the previous owner of the license) were dumped.

"Our business model would remain the same. But we would have live entertainment, be able to use the courtyard, and increase our capacity," Sung said. He said nullifying the Voluntary Agreement would also enable George to stay open later on holidays.

But Edward Emes, a neighbor, told the ABC Board the current restrictions on George may not be enough to maintain the livability and stability of a block that is also home to residents in adjacent houses and condos. "There has been a tremendous increase in occupancy in that complex" that now includes Neyla, Café Milano, Morton's, Bankok Bistro, Peacock Café, plus a theatre. Citing noise, trash volume, and lack of parking, Emes said, "We're overloaded." 

"Things run wild and it inflicts itself on everyone else. There has to be a limit," Emes said.

ANC Commissioner Bill Starrels, who has served in Georgetown for over 10 years, said the underlying idea of Voluntary Agreements is not to arbitrarily impose restrictions, but to allow alcohol establishments to co-exist with others in a way that preserves quality of life for all.

ABC Chairman Charles Brodsky dismissed the ANC concerns as "hyperlocal." Calling the District's 1700 Voluntary Agreements a "deviation" from the city's laws, Brodsky said "every hour" that a business like George is closed represents "$300,000 of lost business in the city." 

Board member Alberti pointed out that George's Voluntary Agreement does not restrict its hours of operation. 

Legal experts have joined D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson (At-large) in questioning Brodsky's dual role as ABC Chairman and private event promoter. His businesses, the Nation's Triathlon and the D.C. Triathlon -- frequently have matters before the Georgetown ANC -- what some say constitutes a troubling conflict of interest.

"It's a very legitimate concern -- this conflict situation," Mendelson  told The Georgetown Dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 Comments For This Article

Anonymous

Purchasing catered food and reselling it to a private party does not constitute a restaurant food sale. All the CR license holders that struggle to operate as a restaurant (think the recently closed Morso) and invest heavily in kitchen equipment, ;chefs & line cooks; and a menu beyond microwaveable foods can now focus on just selling liquor. It is clear they are wanting to ditch their voluntary agreement so they have free reign to change their CR liquor license and operate as if they have a CT (Tavern) liquor license, without having a legal change. How the ABC Board handles this situation with George will change the course of Georgetown and how restaurants (CR license holders) are able to operate. Precedent has already been set by Leopold's expanding into L2 Lounge. L2 uses the CR license of Leopold's - yet they are two different & distinct businesses and no one would think L2 Lounge is a restaurant. The mystery remains how L2 was able to get this past the ABC and ANC and CAG. Basically, L2 Lounge doesn't have a liquor license and they use Leopold's. Combining the two operations, it is hard to believe that Leopold's sells 45% food and 55% alcohol. It does seem like certain businesses are targeted for adhering to the law and others get a blind eye. That being said, a CR license is not open to interpretation. It is demeaning to CR license holders that sell food and invest heavily in their business to function as a restaurant. It is also demeaning to CT license holders that invest in their business and run a tight operation and try to be a good neighbor.

Peter Rosenstein

I would have thought that the owner of George, Ki Jun Sung would have worked these issues out before he bought a small billiards place and decided to turn it into a nightclub. He knew what the voluntary agreement was before he bought George and he even has the same lawyer that worked out the voluntary agreement with the previous owner of the space.

I am generally opposed to voluntary agreements that make business owners go beyond what the law requires them to do. But I do understand the value of a business owner meeting with the residents and current business owners of the neighborhood in which they want to open a business to work out the details of what kind of business they will be running and if it is compatible with the area. Residents moving to Prospect Street know very well that this is a commercial strip off Wisconsin Avenue.

However in this cas it appears that even the other businesses are concerned with what kind of an operation Mr. Ki Jun Sung will run and he could have easily ascertained that by talking to them before he bought the place.

So in this case I think there is a legitamate reason for the ABC Board to look at this very carefully and to try to make sure that it can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction and not just assume that every business is right for every block.

False Reporting

Where does the reporter get the idea that this is a "night club"??? There is nothing "clubby" about George.

This reminds me of Republicans trying to badmouth democrats by saying "this here Democrat bill" instead of the correct "Democratic bill".

Please, if you consider the Georgetown Dish a legitimate news publication, consider your words wisely before using them.

BLT

"Purchasing catered food and reselling it to a private party does not constitute a restaurant food sale."

Actually, it does.

"I am generally opposed to voluntary agreements that make business owners go beyond what the law requires them to do."

If that were the case, then you would be against this voluntary agreement since it restricts occupancy to 99 whereas it is zoned for 200.

"But I do understand the value of a business owner meeting with the residents and current business owners of the neighborhood in which they want to open a business to work out the details of what kind of business they will be running and if it is compatible with the area."

The value to whom? And on what criteria is this value determined? If the neighbors don't like raw fish would it be acceptable for them to protest a sushi restaurant moving into the block because it did not provide value to them? Aside from the fact that your opinion has no legal basis, the notion that George isn't compatible with the neighborhood is ludicrous. Aside from the upscale hotels in the area, it's probably the nicest bar in Georgetown and regularly attracts congressmen, cabinet members and, most importantly, scores of local Georgetown residents. And Chip Dent can even be found inside on many weekends.

Anonymous

The George is a nightclub masked as bar. What is the difference? I've been to The George and they have dance music, a dance floor, a dj, a dress code, a cover charge, bartenders in uniforms, and tables/booths to lounge and drink in. No different than Midtown, District, Tattoo, or any other nightclub in DC.

Walks like a duck, talks like a duck. Must be a duck.

The George is a nightclub not a bar.

Lester Richards

BOTTOM LINE - Brodsky must go.

How unfortunate that we all must suffer through the appointment of a Fenty running buddy.

Where is this press on this? Brodsky's FOR PROFIT races not only receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in waived MPD fees (thanks, Adrian), but he comes before neighborhood groups asking for street closures, then turns around and hears cases that directly impact those neighborhoods.

Brodsky is 100% out of touch with both the business community and the residents of DC. Vince Gray is working to remove several of Adrian's appointees to the UMC Board. I will recommend he do the same here, as should the ANC, and everyone else.

Anonymous

When people state that Voluntary Agreements prevent license holders from doing all that the law allows, they fail to address an equally important part of ABC statute, viz., the license must be APPROPRIATE. ABC regs clearly set forth Appropriateness Standards which aim to protect the surrounding neighborhood from negative impacts on peace, order and quiet; parking; traffic; and vehicular and pedestrian safety. An applicant must meet these standards before obtaining (or changing) a license. In enacting these laws, the DC Council obviously realized that every type of ABC-licensed operation is not approprite for every location.

George Washington

Actually, George is very different than the nightclubs you mentioned. There is no dress code at George. I have been admitted wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans/sweatpants on several occasions. Many of the patrons choose to dress up but there is certainly no dress code. I have also never paid a cover charge when I go there, because I am on their "list." I seriously doubt that Midtown, District, or Tattoo would admit me if I was wearing a sweatsuit and did not have cash to pay the cover. Yet that is exactly how I go to George.

Walks like a duck, talks like a goose. Who knows what it is?

George is a bar, not a nightclub.

Ralph Greenleaf

"The George is a nightclub masked as bar. What is the difference?"

Everyone who goes to George would call it a bar and would cringe at the idea of ever stepping foot inside a nightclub. Otherwise, it really doesn't matter what you call it. Due to its CR license George has to hit its food minimum, which it does. None of these side arguments are here nor there when it comes to the question of whether the Georgetown ANC should be able to hamstring George by imposing an arbitrary maximum capacity that is 1/2 what zoning and fire code allows.

George has not caused problems for the neighborhood, to which the president of the Madelon condo board and a resident with a unit facing the interior courtyard have testified.

I understand that older residents in Georgetown want to micromanage all aspects of commerce that take place in Georgetown. If they're unwilling to compromise, then terminating the voluntary agreement is the only option. After a termination, George would be subject to all of the same laws as it was when the neighborhood agreement was in place.

Charles Brodsky

Hi Lester,

My name is Charles Brodsky. Normally I do not respond to comments posted here but this time I felt the necessity to do so.

From the date I started the Nation's Triathlon and the DC Triathlon my company has paid the MPD, DC Fire/EMS/Harbor Patrol/DPW/DDOT, US Park Police and every other government agency for every police officer, EMS technician, ambulance, firetruck, tow truck, garbage truck and all other city services in full. In fact we pay police full overtime rates (now $60,60 per hour)at a minimum of 4 hours per officer. This has come to hundreds of thousands of dollars event though big city races like the NY Marathon and NY Triathlon have had these fees waived for a very long time. Not us.

It is unreal and potentially libelous that you would make accusations like this without checking the record. In fact we know the Georgetown Dish made a FOIA request to MPD to check on this very fact. Perhaps if Ms Solomon wishes to chime in here and say something nice about me for a change she can validate my statement and confirm we pay our bills in full every single time. What say you Ms Solomon?

Furthermore Lester our races have generated over $7m in economic impact for the District of Columbia's businesses, brought athletes, families and friends from 42 states and 7 countries to spend their money here. We also raised more than $8m for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research and helped fund our Achieve Kids Tri 501c(3)program that operates in Wards 5, 7 and 8. These 6 week long 5 day per week training programs help teach our inner city kids how to break the cycles of obesity and lead healthy lifestyles and also helps their parents make the same healthy living decisions. http://www.achievekidstri.org. If you would like to make a donation you can do so on the website. Its the least you can do to make up for your wild and false accusation. The camps start end of June and it would be great to have you out there as a volunteer so you can understand exactly how we make an impact on a very local level here in DC.

Lester not only am I not out of touch with the business community and residents of DC but I am doing the opposite which is creating positive economics for the city, promoting events that help adults stay healthy and fit and helping the youth of our city get fit, lose weight and lead healthy lifestyles. Do you do anything like this for the city Lester or are you just a couch potato pundit that likes to take shots at others? Educate me here Lester - tell me about your contributions to health and our cities youth. I'm all ears.

I would appreciate if you showed an ounce of decency and publicly apologized for slandering my business and making false allegations. That would be the right thing to do.

As for suffering through Brodsky during his tenure as ABC Board Chairman you should know that ABRA has ranked at the top in terms of customer service and received exceeds expectations every single quarter since I have been in charge of the Agency. We are widely regarded by the business community and others as the best run agency in the city. We run within our budget, regularly meet with out clients and constituents, hold security and noise task forces to get community and stakeholder input and engage in other types of activities that ensure we run the best agency possible and provide the safest environment for our clients and residents.

We may not always agree with the folks in Georgetown or other parts of the city on what they believe should happen but that is the nature of the beast - not all times do all people agree, that's the way the world works. However we pledge to give every stakeholder their opportunity to come before the board and state their case in an environment that recognizes their right to be heard courteously and be embedded in the process even though they may reach the outcome they desire.

Lastly Mr Lester I will leave you with my personal cell phone number. 202 257-3472. If you or anyone else reading these comments feels strongly and would like to chat personally or meet for a cup of coffee face to face to discuss whatever is on their mind, provided its not a specific contested case, please do not hesitate to call. I am willing to meet and discuss with you at length,

Thank you.

Charles L. Brodsky
Chairman Washington DC Alcohol Beverage Control Board
Chairman Achieve Kids Tri Inc

Anonymous

When someone complains that a voluntary agreement prevents an ABC-licensed establishment from operating to the full extent allowed by law, he conveniently fails to address an equally important part of the governing statute, viz., that the operation must be APPROPRIATE. ABC regs clearly delineate Appropriateness Criteria aimed at protecting the surrounding neighborhood from negative impacts regarding peace, order and quiet; parking and traffic; and pedestrian and vehicular safety. An establishment must meet these standards before it can obtain (or change) a license. That is the law. Obviously, when the DC Council enacted the statute, it recognized that not every type and size of licesed operation is appropriate for every location.

Anonymous

Charles Brodsky Self serving letter begs comment:

Earlier Mr. Brodsky appeared before ANC 2E. He said his Triathlon funded charity. He gave the appearance of a 501 3(c) non-profit.
He could not, and would not answer what percentage went to charity!
It too, begs the question of what went to Brodsky.

At the GEORGE nightclub hearing he took the Bully Pulpit by lecturing an elderly witness whether he realized his opposition negatively impacted DC revenue.

His ad hominems and pre-disposition on Georgetown environs obviously affect Board impartiality. His claim affording "right to be heard courteously" would be best answered by counting the pages and time of George testimony vis a vis pages and time he allowed the citizen protestants.

This and other actions raise the conflict of interest concerns expressed by Councilman Mendelsohn. Might Mr. Brodsky recuse himself in
such questionable situations?

Mr. Brodsky welcomes calls at his phone number: 202 257 3472.

VERITAS!

Anonymous

I think what youve done for D.C is remarkable. I applaud that SOMEONE is taking initiative and a proactive approach to not only improving the economics of DC but also promoting the health and well being of people of all ages. Keep up the hard work Mr. Brodsky.

Steve Prefontaine

I dislike Charles Brodsky, but you can't have it both ways. You imply that there is impropriety with Brodsky running a business whose initiatives require neighborhood commission approval. The Georgetown ANC approved his 2011 request for street closings, so the insinuation is that he would then owe the ANC for their approval of his triathlon and therefore he might express this gratitude in a hearing such as the one described in this article. Yet you are complaining that he seems unreceptive in this case toward the requests of the Georgetown ANC. So where is quid pro quo you are accusing him of?

And regarding how much of his revenue goes to charity -- what business is that of the Georgetown neighborhood association? Maybe the guy makes a million dollars a year off of his triathlon and all of the money to charity is a result of teams performing fundraising. So what?

Anonymous

Charles Brodsky's conflicting business and public roles jeopardize the integrity of the ABC process. His businesses are clearly affected financially by ANC decisions on his business requests. Conversely, when an ANC is weighing Brodsky's business requests, commissioners know that he will adjudicate vital community matters they must bring to him as ABC Chairman. This puts pressure on ANCs to act favorably on Brodsky's business requests to receive favorable treatment at the ABC board. ANCs reject Brodsky's business requests at their peril. So not only does Brodsky's conflict of interest compromise ABC decisionmaking, but that of ANCs. This egregious conflict of interest raises legal questions regarding ABC and ANC decisions where Brodsky is involved.

Dave Roffman

I think the club should change its name to BRODSKY'S and give 10 percent of its bar tab to the CAG and another 10 percent to Mr. Eame's so he can install soundproofing for his house. I think BRODSKY'S should then hire Michael O'Harro (former owner of Tramps' Disco and Champions as the manager/advisor. And if all this fails, I think GEORGE should move to Cady's Alley and get Anthony Lanier to umbrella-in Leopold's license to their establishment as well.

That's my solution, and I'm sticking to it.

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