Café Milano threatened by unruly nightclub

Photo by Swedishscene.com
Café Milano, next to George
Café Milano, next to George

Café Milano, the venerable Washington dining place of stars, is under threat from a new nightclub on the block that has spilled noise, vomiting and other disruptions in the tracks of Cabinet officials, Senators, ambassadors, Hollywood stars and even military leaders who regularly gather at the high-profile restaurant.

George -- the nightclub that recently took over a former billiards hall a few yards from Milano -- is seeking to terminate the "Voluntary Agreement" section of its alcohol license that governs noise, music, occupancy limits and other controls. The agreement limits the club's capacity to 99, specifies that noise shouldn't travel outside the establishment, and prohibits live music as well as dancing.

George's owners say economic circumstances necessitate that the old restrictions inherited from the billiard hall be scrapped for George to survive. A hearing to consider the case will take place Wednesday at 4:00 at the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration at 1250 U Street, NW, Second Floor.

"They get sick, they get drunk. They are standing outside there," said one local observer of the clubgoers. "Many times we have seen people puke."

"On New Year's Eve, taxis did not want to pick up their people. They were wasted," said the longtime observer. "It was a nightmare."

As George attracts larger crowds through LateNightShots.com, the private networking site for club-goers, the current controls have not succeeded in preventing disturbances that worry neighboring restaurants, including Morton's and Peacock Café.

"It's really just a spruced up dive bar with a floor that your feet won't stick to, playing loud 80s music.  It's dim, crowded, and has a dance floor full of people having a great, if sloppy, time," said one enthusiastic reviewer on Yelp. "This place gets drunker, and louder, and more festive as the night goes on, to the point where by 1:30 or 2 everyone from one end of the bar to the other is dancing, or making out, or both."

George has hosted more subdued events. Cocktail-hour gatherings listed on the bar's website have included Homeland Security officials Janet Napolitano, Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge. "White House press secretary Robert Gibbs...happened to be walking by [George] when Ridge arrived, but he was really heading to Café Milano next door," reported Politico.

D.C. alcohol control authorities held a hearing Jan. 26 which was suspended due to weather. The follow-up will include testimony from George as well as the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG) and the Georgetown ANC -- both of which want to keep the current restrictions in place.

"If a Voluntary Agreement is just a piece of paper that an entity can walk away from, it eviscerates the intent of the law -- it would take away the people's voice," said attorney Tim Altemus, who is representing the ANC and CAG. Nullifying George's Voluntary Agreement "could open Pandora's box and eviscerate any effect a Voluntary Agreement has, or its community has, in the way a restaurant operates," he said. "That should be of concern."

ANC Commissioner Bill Starrels said the outcome of the hearing could affect nearby residents and property values in the Madelon and Georgetown Court complex. "Without a Voluntary Agreement [George] could be a full-fledged nightclub -- with few restrictions -- and there isn't anything anyone could do about it," he said.

0 Comments For This Article

Regular

As a Georgetown resident and a regular at George, this article makes me sick. First off, George isnt a nightclub, its a bar that is frequented by young professionals in the DC area. Its not a place where you have underage drinkers (Thirds) nor can you hear the music from Prospect Street or even in the courtyard...the same cant be said for Third Edition.

People being drunk on New Years Eve is the beef with the place? I am pretty sure you could go anywhere in the city and see drunk people vomiting on New Years Eve.

Also, the place is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, its not like this is some non-stop rage fest going non-stop.

The ANC needs to stop stiffing businesses in Georgetown and imposing these absurd regulations against establishments that are catering to the younger, professional crowd.

Anonymous

Your opening sentence has nothing to do with the rest of your article. How is Cafe Milano threatened? Did you get any quotes from the owners or the management at Cafe Milano before makin gsuch a dramatic statement?

anonymous

This situation is gg to show whether the community has any voice with the powers that be--or not.

Anonymous

Congratulations to Dish for getting under the tip of the GEORGE Nightclub iceberg & getting the facts about which others are afraid to complian.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Anonymous

You know what? Good for George! Good for them! The presence and existence of George is far closer to reality and good vibes for Georgetown that the blue-blood, security-choked, bubble-world, snotty world of Cafe Milano patrons that similarly create problems in the neighborhood, according to people who have tried to go there! George is a bar, a nightclub, and guess what? Sometimes people drink too much and sometimes there's noise associated with a nightclub! People actually talk and drink and have fun at bars and nightclubs--they don't worry about security SUVS and guys with guns and private rooms and bodyguards and any of that crap! Good for George! Let's hope the community rallies around this new, fun nightclub!

Cheese with your Whine?

If you live in a downtown urban location you should expect some noise and human traffic on Th-Sat nights. And as someone who lives near Dupont, trust me, young professionals mingling trying to find taxis is nothing compared to what it is like living near actual clubs.

Also, I have no doubt George's location is an economic boon to Cafe Milano as people get dinner or drinks there before heading over.

Ron Lumberg

"Congratulations to Dish for getting under the tip of the GEORGE Nightclub iceberg & getting the facts about which others are afraid to complian."

Why exactly would people be afraid to complain about a bar?

"This situation is gg to show whether the community has any voice with the powers that be--or not."

What's lost in these articles by Beth Solomon is that the city has laws in place to prevent these ridiculous doomsday scenarios that Bill Starrels lays out from occurring. George is a great addition to the neighborhood. And literally every one of its patrons would cringe at your description of the venue as a "nightclub".

Anonymous

Fine piece of reporting by a truly independent reporter who considered both sides of the argument before striking the keyboard - NOT! She fails to mention that residents at the complex complain more about noise coming from Cafe Milano than George. She fails to mention that Milano had to defend a lawsuit for an underage girl who lost her life because she was fed drinks there? No such incident has occurred at George. Hmmm, that's the kind of "venerable" establishment the reporter wants to back? Finally, Journalism 101 - she did not provide one single quote from anyone working at Milano, which apparently is threatened by George, according to her. Maybe this reporter is under pressure to stir the pot and create controversy where there is none.

Marty M

See, George is where they kiss for the first time on the dance floor. And if they can't dance, they can't kiss. If they can't kiss they can't fall in love, and I'm history.

Not-Anonymous

This is truly absurd. Personally I have done more bad stuff in the bathrooms of Cafe Milano than I have ever done in The George. I am upset with The George because last time I was there they did confiscate my glow-sticks and kept asking my friend of Latin descent to bus the tables.

P.D.

"So please tell me why they think that asking for increased occupancy and getting rid of the voluntary agreement is going to fly with the ANC, ABC, Zoning, etc.?"

It is zoned for 200 people per the fire marshal.

"Everyone knows that you have to meet half way to play some ball in Georgetown. The neighborhood associations want to know that you are a team player and the residents want to know you give two craps about their quality of life."

The ANC refused to compromise on any changes to the voluntary agreement signed 5 years ago, which is why a motion for termination was filed

The president of the Madelon condo board testified at the hearing that Cafe Milano causes more noise issues than George does. And an owner in a condo facing the courtyard testified that she has never once heard noise from George. How has George in any way affect the quality of life for Georgetown residents aside from providing an appealing upscale nightlife option?

"I have been to enough ANC meetings to know that the Commissioners want to see open communication between neighboring residents and businesses. So George, why don't you put on your best Brooks shirt and have a talk with Franco... because everyone knows Cafe Milano always gets what Cafe Milano wants."

Aside from the fact that Laurent (the Milano maitre d') regularly escorts Milano patrons into George after they finish dinner because he knows it's a great spot, I'm not sure what Milano has to do with this dispute.

Gtown Vice

If the two venues were compared purely on the grounds of morality, and not the offering of wilted spinach covered with oil, then George is probably the more virtuous competitor. Yes, Milano caters to a wealthier (read: middle-aged) crowd, and those individuals indeed carry more favor with zoning boards. But while George offers no pretense or excuse for its existence, Cafe Milano repeatedly fails to address the sex-trade and related degradation of women occurring nightly at its bar.

The owners of George should be heralded for providing a safe venue for young professionals to enjoy an evening out, and catch a cab afterwards. Perhaps the stodgy and morally ambiguous patrons of Milano should take note of the comparatively responsible behavior occurring next door and take stock of their own misguided notions of what's truly appropriate in Georgetown.

James G.

Why does this reporter fail to mention the hookers that frequent Cafe Milano? That, in itself, is a bigger threat to Cafe Milano than a bar around the corner.

Anonymous

Maybe George should have moved into a place that didn't have a voluntary agreement ALREADY in place. I'm just saying...

Anonymous

I am a resident who lives in close proximity to George.

I am not here to argue whether or not George is great for the neighborhood or if it is an upscale establishment full of young professionals. I feel that it is important to have agreements between the businesses and neighbors to ensure quality of life issues will not be compromised in the neighborhood.

The concern is not just for what will happen to George if the voluntary agreement is void and occupancy increased - but what other businesses will decide to pursue if this president is set.

I know there are sides being taken in this forum - For George or Against George - but I am trying to look at the big picture and how this will impact Georgetown as a whole.

Ralph Greenleaf

If neither the president of the Madelon condominium board nor a condo owner whose unit faces the interior courtyard where George is located has any issues with George, then who exactly is it that is disputing this? And what negative effects are they citing? (And too many people waiting for cabs on New Year's Eve isn't a reasonable answer)

To Anonymous

As much as you're trying to be a voice of reason in this discussion, you're missing the point. There are laws in existence to prevent issues relating to noise and public disorder. There's a delusion on behalf of many Georgetown residents that it is them, and not the city government, that is the only thing standing between the Georgetown we have now and complete pandemonium.

The current agreement that allows for 1/2 the capacity that the space is zoned for is not reasonable. Since the ANC refused to come to any compromise on the issue, there is no other choice but to file for termination. Fear that other venues will then apply to have their voluntary agreements terminated is not a valid legal argument to reject George's request. Each case needs to be looked at on an individual basis. And since there have been no real problems associated with George, Beth Solomon had to cite a bunch of anonymous sources referencing problems with cabs on New Year's Eve and a supposed "threat" to Cafe Milano that does not exist.

Journalist

What a terrible piece of yellow journalism. Beth, you should be ashamed of yourself for writing such a biased, unsubstantiated "article."

GtownNative

Just how is prostitution at a restaurant/bar a threat to the neighborhood? The issues up for debate are noise, vomit and unruly crowds exiting George at 3 AM. A civilized exchange at the Milano bar, followed by a quick and DISCREET exit to a cab/car has never disturbed the neighborhood or detract from the high-end dining experience I enjoy at Milano. In fact, spotting the beginning of these trysts has been a frequent exhilarating topic for me and my dinner mates.

For women that are looking for the favor of wealthy men, Milano is a welcome environment.
George is just a bunker for preppies to relive their frat days.

Anonymous

GEORGE Nightclub occupancy is set by ABRA (99), not by the Fire Marshal or C of O. Liquor lawyers and non-lawyers knowingly play this semantic beard all the time.

Better they address the numerous Propane tanks sitting in the adjacent
stair alcove where employees smoke in the non-smoking alcove next to trash containers. This fire hazard puts people at risk, Fire Marshal and signage notwithstanding.

ABRA should read the Dish or receive copies!

VERITAS

Anonymous

GtownNative: Prostitution is illegal. Vomiting is not.

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