Potential Trouble for Swann Dive (formerly Saloon 45) Hoping to come to 18th and Swann St, NW

1821 18th Street, NW

Ed. Note: I like the name change to Swann Dive.

Back in April we learned Saloon 45 (now hoping to be called Swann Dive) would be coming to the former Sandy’s Flower Shop:

“Will provide a small menu approximately 5 to 7 items of mostly fried foods along with over 50 specialty craft beers chosen mostly from local brewers. We have a small selection of wines and cocktails. Drinks and food will be provided in a quiet relaxing environment either inside at a table or outside in our summer garden. Summer Garden Seats #36, Total Occupancy Load #85.”

Interesting update from Short Articles about Long Meetings:  [“ABRA held a closed hearing about the matter on August 6, according to official records (see page 4 of a 22-page .pdf here), and will issue a decision within 60 days”] via ANC Rep Will Stephens:

“Our Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans has submitted a letter supporting the protest and asking the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board to full-out deny the new license application. The letter is here. This is highly unusual, because normally Council Members do not get involved in liquor license requests.”

Updates when a ruling is announced.

21 Comment

  • msmaryedith

    You don’t have to worry about “disturbing the peace” when it’s only three doors down from Lauriol Plaza; the peace is already disturbed. Lauriol is a nightmare for the neighborhood, especially when it comes to parking. It largely caters to people driving in from Virginia and Maryland, not neighbors. Although there is valet parking, there are consistently cars double-parked on the already-congested 18th Street waiting for valet. Patrons often try to avoid paying the $5 valet fee and instead park in zoned parking, then teeter down the street, often yelling and clearly intoxicated, when the restaurant closes. Then they get back in their cars and drive (drunk!) back to the burbs. If Jack Evans is going to concern himself about a nuisance to the neighborhood, maybe he should look there.
    I think Swann Dive sounds good, and I love the name.

    • +1. Also, did Rebellion right across the street get any opposition like this? Current merits aside, even before it opened it was clearly a much larger place with a big rooftop deck. The letter makes Swann Dive sound like a dance club run by untrained monkeys.

      • I agree with your main point, and I agree that this place should be given a chance to open, but Rebellion isn’t a good comparison. The Rebellion space has been an ABRA-licensed spot for years (Straits of Malaya, Wazuri, Zabb, etc.), and it was a straightforward change of ownership application for ABRA. The Swann Dive people are looking to establish a new tavern (not restaurant) license in a spot where there was once a flower shop. From a regulatory standpoint, there’s a major difference and anyone looking to support Swann Dive in front of ABRA should understand that.

        • msmaryedith

          I do understand that, and that Rebellion isn’t the same thing. But I think that most of the potential problems outlined in that letter describe Lauriol to a tee, and no one seems to do anything to address those (existing) problems. Lauriol causes so many hassles for its neighbors (and doesn’t give a sh*t) that I partially wish it would burn down.
          It’s just a weird strip that doesn’t seem to do really well for retail, so maybe a tavern is the better option. The pet shop next door is ok, but I tend to go elsewhere since it has a) extremely limited selection and b) extremely high prices (presumably because their overhead is so high that it has to). I for one would welcome a good neighborhood bar–because Rebellion isn’t that. And it sounds like it would be a neighborhood place, not a destination spot attracting people from outside the area who would be driving/creating parking issues.

          • You’re correct on all counts. My comment wasn’t directed at you — sorry if it looked like it was. In fact a big problem that Swann Dive faces is that the nearest example of a license being granted for a space where there wasn’t one before is Lauriol Plaza, which is really one big cautionary tale. When it was in the Rosemary’s Thyme space it was a charming (if not fantastic) little place. They built the new restaurant in their old parking lot and now its the Embassy of Maryland (or Virginia, if you prefer), with all the problems you describe.

            If I were the Swann Dive people I’d try to diffuse that issue by pointing to Jack Rose, which was built in a renovated gym up the street. It’s technically in a different ANC, but it’s more recent.

          • msmaryedith

            Sorry, I wasn’t taking offense! Just trying to say that
            a) retail just doesn’t seem to survive in this strip and
            b) even though it’s technically different from an ANC standpoint, Rebellion doesn’t really add much to the neighborhood, and this might
            I realize Lauriol might be a cautionary tale, but why not try enforcing issues with THEM directly rather than prevent what might be a great establishment from getting its start. I actually like Bar Charley’s bar, but it is TINY. Rebellion has been a huge, huge letdown. It would be nice to have a tavern.

          • msmary, I’m curious as to why you feel that Rebellion is a huge let-down. I haven’t been there myself since the reno, but friends have told me that it’s pretty nice.

          • leftcoastsouthpaw

            I’m curious as well about your thoughts on Rebellion. I’ve been there a couple of times and I will definitely be back. It may not be a “neighborhood” bar, but I also don’t think it attracts a rowdy crowd either.

          • msmaryedith

            I’ve had terrible service there. We went when it was first open/crowded, so it was understandable (but also got stuck in weird bar seats–literally, I could not get out when some others sat beside us; it’s such a weird layout). We went again on a Sunday afternoon when it was very empty and sat on the rooftop. It took 30+ minutes to get sangria (because they were “waiting” on the right glassware to come from downstairs–maybe just put it in a pint glass at some point?), then a while for our Shiner Bock (which I want to say was $7/can), and then took over 45 minutes to get the check, and we had to ask for repeatedly. My boyfriend has gone back on his own a couple of times without me and had similar experiences. I’ve heard bad things about the food, too. I should probably give them another chance, but it only takes a couple of experiences with crappy service and high prices for me to decide not to return for a while.

        • Accountering

          Meh, this is bureaucratic gobbledy-gook. Just because something was in that location before, something terrible can open, but a small neighborhood spot opening in a new location is deserving of extra scrutiny… Only because that is the way it has always been done. Doesn’t mean it is right.

          • Never said it was right, but them’s the rules. Don’t like ’em? Fight city hall or run for office if you have the time and resources. In the meantime, if you want to get a license in the face of what (in this case) is entirely predictable opposition, then you need to know the rules and how to apply them to your advantage.
            Besides, the distinction between existing licenses and new ones is not just gobbledygook. It makes perfect sense that an ownership transfer would be treated as a more routine matter than a new license in a new location. If you want to argue that license protestors are taken too seriously, or that new licenses should be given out more freely, fine. But there is a difference from a policy standpoint.

    • I agree. Lauriol is very loud, people waiting in line block the sidewalk and the valet drivers are constantly blocking the bike lane on T St. It would be great if they would just turn the Lauriol Plaza into a Uniqlo.

  • “Normally councilmembers do not get involved in liquor license requests” Obviously you’ve never met Jim Graham.

  • Jack Evans: literally the worst. And agree with previous commenters; allow Swann Dive to open (FANTASTIC name) and burn Lauriol Plaza to the effing ground.

    • msmaryedith

      +1. I moved here recently from Ward 6, and Tommy Wells and his office have always incredibly responsive and helpful when I have reached out to them. A couple of times have told my boyfriend “you should email Jack Evans about X neighborhood issue” so he did. Radio silence. They don’t even acknowledge your message. Jack Evans only cares about what HE cares about.

  • Also, when Bar Charley opened a year or so ago on the same block no one batted an eye; and they have an outdoor patio. Agree with the posters; Lauriol Plaza is a suburban nightmare located in a densely populated Dupont neighborhood. It may was well be a Dave and Busters. I live on T St and the area is a nightmare on most nights, especially weekends. If someone wants to open a small bar on Swann, please do. It will not one issue to the area.

    Jack Evans is a terrible council member; I have contacted his office repeatedly about parking offensives on T st and not once has he contacted me. I guarantee you he has a vested business interest in this space (or problems with the owner) and is why he is calling on the ABC to do something about it.

  • The ANC is worried that a neighborhood corner bar doesn’t have parking? For real?

    • msmaryedith

      I know! But the reality is that Lauriol churns out more intoxicated people than most bars–AND THEN THEY GO STRAIGHT TO THEIR CARS AND DRIVE BACK TO MARYLAND AND VIRGINIA. If a cop was stationed on the 1700 block T Street each weekend night, they could probably make 20+ DWI arrests. Whereas a neighborhood bar will most likely be serving the neighborhood, i.e. people close enough (and with enough sense) to walk.

  • This bar is going down. The neighbors in the surrounding blocks fought bar charley hard to get some concessions on hours. They are really worried about the fact this is really an alcohol-only place with a small amount of food. I personally don’t care, and like the background story to this bar. But my suggestion is he try to find another location. The neighbors are more trouble than they are worth. They want it totally blocked, and they will get it.

  • If you think Bar Charley is small, the proposed place is tiny. And no place but to build a dumpster right up onto the neighbors fence line for garbage, which is by the way the same space as the proposed patio. It’s a terrible business plan and why does the neighborhood need another bar when already the others are frequented mostly by out of staters? The neighborhood isn’t going to be the only support for another tavern, it’s not financially feasible.

  • Just one correction: The ABC hearing was *not* closed —- it was a regular protest hearing totally open to the public.

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