Open letter from ANC Rep regarding XII / Twelve Restaurant & Lounge on H Street NE

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1123 H Street, NE

From an email:

“An open letter to ANC 6A neighbors, Ward 6 and DC community leaders, members of the press, and all other interested parties:

The stabbing that occurred at Twelve Restaurant & Lounge (“XII”) on H Street NE this past weekend is just the latest entry in the extremely long and frustrating history with this establishment. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A (“ANC 6A”) and the neighbors immediately surrounding this establishment have experienced numerous instances of altercations in and around XII (many of which spill into residential streets), repeated broken promises regarding noise mitigation, chronic violations of XII’s Settlement Agreement (a contract it signed with the community regarding certain restrictions on its operations), and a complete disregard for the safety, peace, and quiet of the surrounding neighborhood.

In fact, this stabbing is the second such incident in just two months; there was also a stabbing that took place inside XII the night of March 7, 2014. After that incident, XII came before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (“ABC Board”) and made many new promises, including making several changes to its security plan designed to prevent such an incident from happening again. Nevertheless, just two short months later, another stabbing takes place, with one victim currently reported to be in grave condition.

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One would think that with such a track record, the community could expect swift (and permanent) action against an establishment that regularly flouts the rules and laws and is also host to multiple violent incidents. However, throughout the ANC and community’s long history of problems with XII, the ABC Board has been frustratingly ineffective in taking any action to rein in such a bad actor. In fact, this weekend’s stabbing was able to take place only because the ABC Board issued an order allowing XII to operate under an expired liquor license while it files a third application for renewal, after the first two were dismissed for XII’s failure to attend required hearings.

Administrative law and procedure is certainly not the most exciting of subjects (it was one of my least favorite courses in law school), but here, it is necessary to provide further detail on how the Board’s failure to apply its own rules and regulations fairly to all parties has had a direct impact on XII’s being able to continue to operate in an unsafe manner, disturbing the surrounding neighborhood and putting people’s safety at risk, despite repeatedly refusing to follow basic procedures required by the Board when applying for a license renewal.

To elaborate, the ABC Board has consistently held community members and ANCs to much stricter standards than it holds licensees in a protest process. When a new license or renewal is publicized (“placarded”), the ANC and community have a certain deadline by which they are permitted to file a protest of the license or renewal. After the protest is filed, there are essentially three required dates of attendance for both the protestants and the licensees: 1) Roll Call Hearing; 2) Status Hearing; and 3) Protest Hearing. If the parties are unable to work out their differences and settle the dispute, the protest hearing moves forward as scheduled. However, if a protestant (typically an ANC) misses just one of the three required attendance dates without good cause shown, it is dismissed from its protest. Protestants who are dismissed typically do not receive a second chance to renew their protest.

On the other hand, the Board has shown that it will allow a licensee to repeatedly miss any of those three required hearings with no consequences. When a licensee misses a required hearing without cause, their application may be “dismissed,” but the Board simply instructs the licensee to re-file an application. One may assume that re-filing has some sort of administrative consequence, but aside from the minor headache of re-filing paperwork, there are no repercussions. In the instance of a licensee who is filing for renewal of its application, such as XII, the licensee is allowed to continue to operate and sell alcoholic beverages.

In the case of XII, ANC 6A protested the license renewal application of XII based on a long history of violations and broken promises. XII subsequently missed two required protest dates without showing good cause. These actions had absolutely no consequences to XII – the establishment has essentially been allowed three chances to renew its license without ceasing operations (the Board briefly issued a Cease and Desist order based on XII’s most recent failure to attend a required hearing, but subsequently reversed itself a couple of days later without a hearing, allowing XII to re-open). At the end of this letter is a full chronology of XII’s license renewal process.

Not only are there no consequences to the licensee for missing these dates, but the ANC is essentially punished for the licensee’s failure to attend the hearing. This is due to the fact that each time the licensee re-files its application, the protest calendar is “reset,” meaning that it will take that much longer for the ANC to ever have an actual hearing before the Board regarding its objections to XII’s liquor license. In this case, XII’s original roll call hearing took place on November 12, 2013, with a status hearing to take place on December 11, 2013. With that timeline, a protest hearing would have likely taken place in early-to-mid January, 2014. However, we are now in May 2014, and the clock is about to start again, with XII being allowed to re-file its application. A petition date likely won’t be until June or July, meaning the ANC shouldn’t expect a hearing until the fall. In other words, it is entirely possible that the Board will not hear the ANC’s various objections to XII’s license until a full year after XII filed its original renewal application.

This disparate treatment of opposing parties in a protest is very troubling, and reflects a Board that is either unwilling or unable to act in fairness to the communities and ANCs who are directly affected by these licensees. It has created a system that licensees appear to be actively exploiting in their favor, essentially allowing them to postpone any hearings on their activities with little to no consequence. If protestants are to be held to strict standards, so should licensees. If this is a weakness in the laws/regulations, I hope that the Council and/or Mayor’s office will investigate and determine what fixes are necessary. If this is merely a weakness on the part of the Board to act in fairness, then I hope that with enough public pressure, the Board will become aware of this disparity and take steps to prevent it from happening moving forward.

I am certain XII is not the only establishment who has used this unfairness to its advantage. It is time for this process to change, and while very little good has come out of XII’s operations in the past few years, I hope that this situation can at least be the catalyst for real change at the ABC Board.

Of course, not only do I hope to see change on a city-wide level in how the ABC Board treats licensees and protestants, but I also hope that the two recent stabbing incidents at XII, combined with XII’s utter refusal to work with the community or even follow the most basic of laws and regulations, leads to the permanent revocation of XII’s liquor license. I have seen statements from multiple leaders in our community that they believe it is time for XII to lose its license, and I hope for the community’s sake that they follow those words with actions, and we can finally see this establishment shut down.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Jay Williams
Commissioner, ANC 6A05
Chair, ANC 6A Alcohol Beverage Licensing Committee
williamsanc6a05(at)gmail.com

Chronology of Twelve Restaurant & Lounge’s License Renewal Process

September 13, 2013 – XII’s first renewal application is placarded.

October 19, 2013 – ANC 6A notifies the ABC Board that it is protesting XII’s license renewal.

December 11, 2013 – ANC 6A attends required Status Hearing. Representatives from XII fail to appear. ABC Board dismisses XII’s first renewal application for failure to attend required Status Hearing.

December 17, 2013 – XII requests reinstatement of its renewal application.

January 15, 2014 – ABC Board denies XII’s request because it did not demonstrate good cause for its failure to appear.

January 15, 2014 through February 5, 2014 – Despite its renewal application being dismissed and its previous application expiring, XII continues to operate without any intervention by the ABC Board.

February 5, 2014 – ABC Board issues Cease and Desist Order to XII because it failed to file a new renewal application.

February 7, 2014 – XII submits its second renewal application.

February 12, 2014 – ABC Board vacates its previous order and allows XII to re-open. The order is issued with an effective date of February 7.

February 21, 2014 – XII’s second renewal application is placarded.

March 7, 2014 – An individual is stabbed on the premises of XII.

March 8, 2014 – MPD Chief Lanier exercises her power under D.C. Code § 25-827 and summarily suspends XII’s liquor license.

March 19, 2014 – ABC Board conducts summary suspension hearing regarding the stabbing incident. XII presents plans to, among other things, train its employees on preserving a crime scene, use metal detector “wands” at its entrance when offering entertainment, and implement a new security plan.

March 20, 2014 – ABC Board permits XII to re-open.

April 6, 2014 – ANC 6A again notifies the ABC Board that it is protesting XII’s license renewal

April 21, 2014 – ANC 6A attends required Roll Call Hearing. Representatives from XII fail to appear. ABC Board dismisses XII’s second renewal application for failure to attend required Roll Call Hearing. XII does not request reinstatement.

April 21, 2014 through May 7, 2014 – Despite its second renewal application being dismissed and its previous application having long since expired, XII continues to operate without any intervention by the ABC Board.

May 7, 2014 – XII submits its third renewal application.

May 14, 2014 – ABC Board issues order stating that because XII’s previous license has expired and its renewal application has been dismissed, it must cease and desist operations immediately.

May 21, 2014 – ABC Board reverses its May 14 decision without a hearing (and without prior notice to the ANC that it would be deliberating this issue), vacating its cease and desist order, and allowing XII to re-open and operate indefinitely while its third renewal application is pending.

May 24, 2014 – While operating under an expired license and with its third renewal application pending, XII is host to its second stabbing in as many months. Chief Lanier again invokes her authority under D.C. Code § 25-827 and summarily suspends XII’s liquor license. A hearing is expected before the ABC Board on Tuesday.”

21 Comment

  • I wish Jay Williams was my ANC commissioner. Well said!

  • TL;DR — Shut it down!

  • Very well written. This place needs to be closed for good. Thank you for your efforts, Jay.

    Would a petition help? I’m a neighbor and I know I’d sign. We always cross the street when coming home from other establishments in the evening. I bet other establishments on the street would sign too. That place is nothing but trouble.

  • How is a club that doubles as a restaurant supposed to prevent stabbings? Seems like there will always be knives available if they serve food downstairs.

    Now, if this patron brought in an outside knife, that’s a different matter.

  • After years of problems with a local nuisance nightclub in Shaw that also has a long, long history of violence, drug use and sales, noise violations, public safety threats, and operating without proper permits (or permits of any kind) for years, I completely feel for the community and ANC 6A on this one. Anything that does not lead to a police suspension of the license takes one to three years to adjudicate before the ABRA board, only to end in a slap on the wrist – a fine of $500 is pretty common.
    .
    It is incredibly frustrating to see that out of 2000+ licensees in the District, it’s the same 15-20 of them that cause 90% of the problems, and the ABRA Board absolutely refuses to admit that some people just can’t run bars and clubs and should have the license revoked permanently. What is even more frustrating is that these same 15-20 nightclubs and bars occupy so much time on the docket that they make adjudication for the other two thousand establishments take years.
    .
    I understand that opening a bar or club is a big investment. I understand that taking the license away essentially forces places into bankruptcy. But this is a public safety issue. It is an absolute MIRACLE that we have not had innocent neighborhood residents or passerby killed in recent years in one of the disputes that seems to flow out the front doors of some of these places every Friday and Saturday night. And when that happens (and sadly, with this City Council’s refusal to act and the ABRA Board’s refusal to act when a place is identified as a problem establishment, that is a when, not an if) I hope that family sues every member of the ABRA Board personally and sues the city for hundreds of millions of dollars. I’d actually like to see Ruth Ann Miller, the ABRA Board Chair, hauled off in handcuffs for criminally negligent homicide the next day.
    .
    In the meantime, it might be time to take matters into our own hands as citizens, and use the ballot initiative process whereby members of the ABRA Board are elected, the same way that the school board is. If we could pull something like that off, I’d like to draft Jay Williams into running for chair. Maybe then we could get some of this dealt with!

    • >>>> I hope that family sues every member of the ABRA Board personally and sues the city for hundreds of millions of dollars. I’d actually like to see Ruth Ann Miller, the ABRA Board Chair, hauled off in handcuffs for criminally negligent homicide the next day. <<<<

      I hope that none of this happens. How about the family places 100% of the blame on whoever did the stabbing rather than grasping at some million dollar payday?

      • negligence? Ruth Ann Miller and co.’s lives must be pretty easy. They don’t consider anything….ever…when considering liquor license applications. They just give.

        Please. Start doing your job.

      • I have to agree and disagree with you, 90′s. Yes, the person who stabs / shoots / strangles someone is liable for their actions, but when it happens in this type of situation where there was just a stabbing two months ago and now you have another, I think there’s plenty of blame to pass along to the ABRA Board and the City Council too.
        .
        To me, this is much like an intersection that is dangerously designed where there is a blind spot or a poorly timed traffic signal. Yes, it is the liability of the individual driver to maintain control of their vehicle, however if the city is aware that there have been a number of serious accidents at that intersection, and that the accidents are due to the design of the intersection, and they do nothing to fix it and then someone gets killed there, I think the city is, and should be, and has been found in court in the past to be, legally liable. The city has an obligation to address known public safety hazards. For some of these establishments, that is exactly what it is.
        .
        And so, if you sit on the ABRA Board, in charge of enforcing our regulations for liquor licensees (one of which is taking all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of patrons) and you KNOW that a particular establishment has insufficient security procedures and a statistically astronomical rate of violence and other complaints compared to other establishments nearby, and you allow it to keep operating, I think it IS partly your fault when blood is spilled. You KNEW that there was a historically unusually high level of extreme violence in a given bar or club, you had the ability to revoke the license altogether, and you failed to act. That is negligence. And I think it raises up to a criminal level, or at least ought to.
        .
        That’s not to say that a place that has always followed the rules and never had any problems won’t be the site of the next fatality, but that, much like drivers with a half a dozen traffic tickets are more likely to crash than a driver with a clean record (which is why their insurance is higher), establishments with a rap sheet as long as your arm seem to be the main spots for violence. Past performance is an indicator of future results here. The ABRA Board ignoring that fact has failed to make the problems go away thus far.

        • Not only was there another stabbing at XII in March of this year, there was a brawl there with two arrests the weekend before this stabbing. Not sure what ABRA is looking for, but they sure suspended Sticky Rice’s license when their staff questioned the ABRA investigator’s credentials on New Years eve.

  • Very well written — sounds like the process as it currently works is really skewed in favor of the licensees.

  • But this ANC protests ALL liquor licenses applied for and has proven unsupportive of small business even those who bend over backwards to comply in every way, essentially treating all businesses hoping to serve alcohol like irresponsible inconsiderate neighbors like club xii has been always taking the side of the nimbys without fair consideration of H st hopefuls and current businesses. Also club xii has gotten away with doing absolutely NOTHING asked from them for at least 6 years. Yet they accuse EVERYONE with a liquor license for a rise in crime ( generally untrue if you actually look at the numbers), noise, trash etc etc when so many small business owners take pride in running a clean respectable establishment that doesn’t over serve or allow this crap to ever come close to happening.

    • justinbc

      I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but only once ever have I seen a bar (Columbia Room) deny service to someone for fear of “over serving”, and that particular patron wasn’t even close to the inebriation level I’ve witnessed there, so it had to be related to something else.

      • That’s funny. The only time I have ever seen someone denied service was at The Passenger. That guy was absolutely gone.

    • Interesting take….I’ve usually attended 1-2 ANC meetings per year in this ANC to which XII belongs.

      They don’t protest ALL liquor licenses, not even close. There are plenty of clubs on that end of H, plenty that are legitimate & responsible business owners. Likewise, there are 1 or 2 AND XII that seem to think they are above anyone’s authority.

      Your comment reminds me of the “neighbors” who show up to speak at the ANC, and when questionned about where they live, it turns out they are employees of the clubs on H. (that was the most recent meeting I went to).
      Not that you don’t have a right to your views, but I’m not sure the community agrees.

  • Jay Williams: Thank you for your very thorough review of a topic important to many locations in the city — U Street, in particular, as my neighbors, family, and me and have similarly been affected, by stabbing/shooting activities by patrons of adjacent DC alcohol establishment licensees. Would you please keep Popville updated on the ABC Board’s response to your letter — if any — and the outcome of your efforts to have the XII license revoked and/or to have the Licensee requirements in the Protest Process tightened legislatively. Also, ditto on the comment above: I wish you were our ANC Commissioner; Our’s — Jeremy Leffler, ANC Commissioner of 1B-02 — has been absent since elected.

  • ABRA is the most seemingly biased board there is. I have never experienced ABRA even taking in to consideration the realistic concerns of the neighbors. They do not consider the neighborhood or the future implications of liquor licenses, they hand them out like candy.

    Residents are forced to “settle” with “settlement agreements” which are routinely ignored because if these cases actually go to hearing before ABRA, ABRA will just hand the establishment what they want. Most often, noise is a mitigating factor and is discussed in settlement agreements. In a call to ABC, it was made clear that noise is not often enforced.

    What is the point of having a “process” if it is not followed and the residents are never given a voice?

  • Yknow, that last time the board reversed its own ruling (May 21) really deserves scrutiny. How could they do that without any notice to the ANC protestants? After all those shenanigans by the licensee? After Chief Lanier deemed it necessary to close the joint?
    Can’t help thinking there was some kind of quid pro quo delivered by the club owner to one or more members of the board. Not necessarily a money bribe but some kind of outcome in a real estate deal, or a job for a relative, or a stock tip, or vacation package, or something else that someone really wanted.
    The board should have to explain what happened there. On the surface, at least, its actions look awfully suspicious.

  • Yknow, that last time the board reversed its own ruling (May 21) really deserves scrutiny. How could they do that without any notice to the ANC protestants? After all those shenanigans by the licensee? After Chief Lanier deemed it necessary to close the joint?
    Can’t help thinking there was some kind of quid pro quo delivered by the club owner to one or more members of the board. Not necessarily a money bribe but some kind of outcome in a real estate deal, or a job for a relative, or a stock tip, or vacation package, or something else that someone really wanted. The board should have to explain what happened there. On the surface, at least, its actions look awfully suspicious.

  • this place sounds like a lot of fun!!!…..maybe the girls and I will head down there next weekend – ’round midnight…….

  • I know a girl who was roofied there by a bartender two years ago today. She was found passed out on the sidewalk in front of the place and was told it happened because she was white and shouldn’t be hanging out in there. She never reported because she was so scared.

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