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Bloomingdale Civic Association’s Response to Steven May’s Open Letter Re: Engine Co. 12

by Prince Of Petworth May 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm 33 Comments

Engine Company 12 To be Located at 1626 North Capitol Street, NW

Following is a letter written by BCA regarding Steven May’s open letter to the community discussing a potential delay in the opening of Engine Company 12 at 1626 North Capitol Street, NW.

Bloomingdale Civic Association’s Response to Steven May’s “Open Letter to the


The Bloomingdale Civic Association (“BCA”) has read Mr. Steven May’s “Open Letter” dated
today. While the BCA looks forward to working with Mr. May as he works toward the opening
of Engine Company 12, it is necessary to clarify a few things about the BCA.

First, the BCA fully supports Bloomingdale-area businesses and their efforts to serve the
Bloomingdale community. This includes supporting restaurants that seek liquor licenses.
Recently, we supported the applications of Big Bear Café and Boundary Stone, and we hope to
support future applications from businesses that will add value to our community.

Second, our policy concerning support of liquor licenses is that we consider all requests for
support during a duly noticed public meeting after the business owner has filed the license
application. Big Bear Café and Boundary Stone followed this process and the BCA supported
them. The principal reason for this policy is that Bloomingdale residents deserve to know what
the business owner is asking them to support and the official record of that information is found
in the filed and accepted application (acceptance occurs before the licensing board issues the
placard for posting). In fact, Bloomingdale residents already have approached us regarding
Engine Company 12’s intended use of the patio. While Mr. May has likely discussed this issue
in prior meetings, the use of the patio will be governed by the request in the application and the
terms of the license.

Third, the BCA is not delaying Engine Company 12’s opening. To be clear, the liquor licensing
process does not require that a letter of support from a civic association (or ANC) be obtained
prior to the submission of a liquor license application or at anytime thereafter. Likewise, there
is no requirement that such letter must be submitted with a liquor license application. We were
pleased that Mr. May sought our support and offered to consider his request once he filed the
application. Any claim that the BCA is the cause of Engine Company 12’s failure to open for
business on July 1, 2011 is disingenuous – at best. Even if the liquor license application was
filed today, in a best case scenario, the application could not be approved and issued before July
1, 2011. Further, I have found no support in the District’s regulations and through a call to the
licensing board for Mr. May’s claim that not acquiring a letter of support prior to the submission
of an application would cause a delay in application process. Therefore, assuming that the lack
of a liquor license is the only reason Engine Company 12 is unable to open on July 1, 2011, the
blame for not opening on time would seem to fall at the feet of the person(s) responsible for
filing the application in a timely fashion.

Continues after the jump.

Mr. May’s letter this morning was the first time we have heard Mr. May suggest that the BCA
is preventing the opening of Engine Company 12. Mr. May first requested an opportunity to
request a letter of support via an email sent Thursday, April 14, 2011, three days before our
April meeting. In my response I asked if the application had been filed and indicated that there
would not be enough time before the April meeting to alert neighbors that the issue would be

discussed and that a vote may be taken. Mr. May said the application had not been filed and that
he would “move ahead without the letter at this point….” Perhaps if the person(s) responsible for
filing the application had in fact moved ahead without the letter and submitted the application
there would not be a delay in Engine Company 12’s opening date, again, that assumes liquor
licensing is the sole reason for the delay – but I digress. During the April meeting, Mr. May
stated that the BCA would not consider a letter of support until the application was filed and
indicated that he would file the application shortly thereafter. On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, in
preparation for the May BCA meeting, I emailed Mr. May to find out whether the application
had been filed and his response was “I am dropping it off on Friday”, which I took to mean
last Friday, May 6, 2011. The application was not filed last Friday. Yesterday, Advisory
Neighborhood Commissioner Hugh Youngblood informed me that the application would be filed
this Friday. Even if the application is filed this Friday, it will have to be reviewed and accepted
before the placard is issued. At no point have I or any other Bloomingdale Civic Association
board member indicated that the BCA will not support Engine Company 12’s application for a
liquor license. The fact is that there is currently no application for us to support.

We at the BCA are pleased to represent Bloomingdale and to assist Bloomingdale business
owners with their entrepreneurial dreams. Despite Mr. May’s “Open Letter,” our offer to him
still stands; we would be pleased to consider his request once the application is on file.

Best regards,

Teri Janine Quinn
President, Bloomingdale Civic Association

  • scarecrows NOW

    The fact that the BCA is even getting involved in this is text book neighborhood busy body meddling.

    Sorry, BCA. Small businesses in DC have enough hoops to jump through already–they don’t need more on their plate with your self-important “process” that they must follow.

    • Anon

      You are a complete fool. A self-important, arrogant, future business owner spreads lies high and low and then you blame the community organization for responding?

      You must be Steve May or Brian Brown. Only they would have the nerve to say what you said.

      • I post under my own name without the need to hide behind anonymity.

    • TCres

      Which process, other than they are following the standard ABRA procedure? It’s the business asking for community support here, not the community asking for approval.

      Everyone in this area wants this to open and succeed, so we’re all confused why this group all of a sudden has become so adversarial. There has been no opposition to the business, other than stop squatting on the firehouse for 3+ years.

  • Bloomingdale

    The community that cares is one that gets things done. I love it!

  • Ace in DC

    Good to hear the BCA is trying to do it’s job – not just frustrate the process. Sounds like May just doesn’t understand the process all that well. Is this his first restaurant endeavor in the area? But I can’t wait until it opens – I have always dreamed of owning and old firehouse. So cool!

  • Bloom Res

    After initially reading this post, I contacted my community leaders and was very disappointed to discover that Mr. May’s call for civic action on his behalf was false. If he wants support from the community, he should tell the truth.

    I feel like teaching a class for small business owners on stakeholder management.

  • JohnDC

    Great response from the BCA. “Perhaps if the person(s) responsible for filing the application had in fact moved ahead without the letter and submitted the application there would not be a delay in Engine Company 12’s opening date, again, that assumes liquor licensing is the sole reason for the delay – but I digress.”

    I would of the developers & operator to be upfront. “Hey it’s an old firehouse and we bit off much more than we can chew. It might be delayed but we can’t wait to open”

  • Anonymous

    As of now, I am going to refuse to patronize this place until it passes into the hands of new owners, hopefully in a way that does not unjustly enrich Brian Brown. I was incredibly annoyed by his attempt to sell the building for millions of dollars (after it was essentially given to him by the city with the condition that he open a restaurant in it), but this final set of lies coupled with the way he has (mis)managed and lied about the process of making his fence something other than a dangerous eyesore are the final straw.

    On the other hand, we had a lovely dinner at Rustik last night – the owner is incredibly personable, as was the hostess and our server. The kale salad, believe it or not, was unbelievably good. I look forward to patronizing other neighborhood businesses like Boundary Stone as they open. I vote for no more discussing Brian Brown’s tomfoolery, and lots more discussing how nice it is to sit outside at Rustik, drink a tasty Bells beer, and eat pizza with a patio full of my neighbors. And, I might add, it is particularly nice that Rustik is always full of an extremely diverse mix of people, from infants to seniors, of every race and ethnicity. Let’s celebrate that instead of wasting another word on EC-whatever.

    • JohnDC

      I’m very pleased about Rustik having outside seating. Grabbing a beer & pizza outside so close to home sounds awesome.

    • reluctant

      i’m starting to feel the same way and i live far closer to the firehouse than rustik. delays, even change of plans, i understand, but lies just piss me off.

      diton and rustik will always have my business.

    • Tres

      Nah, this kind of rhetoric is almost as foolish as Browns’. Let’s be real. You want that restaurant. You have sexy dreams about it. You can scold Brown without going to extreme of “I refuse to patronize”. That’s the kind of small mindedness that leads to the dark side. (Myopia leads to hate, hate leads to NIMBY-ness, etc).

      We have to be civil like Teri was. Kudos to her. You don’t always get to deal with the best people in life. Suck it up. Fuck this attitude of brinkmanship. Be helpful. Lead Brown, show him the right way — as opposed to give him another reason to bicker. Don’t stoke the fire.

      • Anonymous

        “You have sexy dreams about it.”

        This is a stupid post and as patronizing to Brown (“show him the way”) as it is to everyone else (“suck it up.”)

        “Hate leads to NIMBY-ness.”

        My point is made.

        • Tres

          If you live in a neighborhood with one bar within 15 minute’s radial walking distance, you don’t pout when a new entrepreneur stakes a claim. Are you going on strike against the second bar here?


          Beggars can’t be choosers. I own here too — only difference is I’m realistic. If you don’t want this bar here, ready your pitchfork — but don’t expect me or reasonable others to join you. Leave the crocodile tears at home.

          • Anonymous

            i’m a chooser not a beggar. we’ve been jerked around enough by this project. there were deals made for the city, which neighbors helped facilitate that have been broken.
            have you been with this project from the beginning? did you attend all the meetings about what the community wanted to see here?

            i think it’s quite reasonable to expect open communication from brian brown and steve may, and it’s quite reasonable to avoid patronizing establishments where the owners continuously lie. no one is carrying pitchforks but your brand of realism is too ass kissing for my taste. ec 12 is fucking up and they should be called out on it.

  • A neighbor

    I’ve been waiting for the Firehouse to open for YEARS…! Everyone in the neighborhood (I live in the neighboring block) is excited about this with only a few concerns (parking has been the main one, not liquor). But, seriously, Mr. May has shot himself in the foot with such an obnoxious tirade of lies about his failure to get a liquor license in time. What an ass. It’s really disappointing to those of us living nearby because this kind of attitude doesn’t bode well for the way the restaurant will be run.

  • on5

    Teri – excellent letter, finely balancing legal logic with neighborly tone. Three cheers for raising the common denominator. Fine representation of the ‘hood, and thank you for promoting a level-headed venue for working with the (obviously confused) business owner in the future.

    More cheers for Rustik’s outdoor seating. Wouldn’t it be great if Red Toque could get it’s hands on the lot to its south?

    And hooray for liquor licenses for bars and restaurants. Better than cheap bottles tossed in my yard.

  • Bdale guy

    I agree with “A Neighbor.”

    I live in Bloomingdale and have been excited about Firehouse for a while. However, my excitement is rapidly disappearing, and I’m having a hard time hoping that Brown and May are a success. For some reason, they come across as doing the neighborhood a favor and are forgetting that we don’t need them as badly as they need us. Perhaps they need to own this building for a few years — paying the taxes while it sits empty — to be reminded of that. Bloomingdale has gentrified and is attracting businesses without them.

    Kudos to the very well written letter by the Civic Association. They’ve really made clear how competent and professional they are… unlike the Firehouse crowd.

  • BDale Res

    Brown is a DS…this is just his annual reinforcement of that to the community. It has been almost a year since he reminded us of the fool he is. Shame on him…

    The way he keeps his house is like white hillbilly trash living in a big city mansion. Total DS indeed.

  • amanda

    I am supportive of the restaurant, despite my disdain for BB, but the tone and message of this letter borders on coercion. Not cool.

  • In response to the Bloomingdale Civic Association`s letter I have the following concerns.

    First, the Bloomingdale Civic Association should understand it is imperative for organizations seeking a stipulated ABRA license (ANC Stipulated) to garner as many letters of support from local area civic associations, area leaders, and residents as humanly possible. For anyone who has worked their way through the ABRA licensing procedure before can tell you, working towards a stipulated license vs. a standard issue license cuts the wait time from 90 to only 45 days. Thus ensuring an opening of Engine Company 12 by July 1, 2011.

    From day one our intent has been to get the first floor restaurant and outdoor cafe online by July 1, and bring the the subsequent floors online slowly throughout the summer. It has become virtually impossible to meet this date with the bureaucratic stagnation involved in getting this project’s ABRA license support letters secured.

    I initially visited the Bloomingdale Civic Association on February 28, 2011 with Brian Brown, and we presented and updated the association as to our progress and notified them that we would be requesting a letter in support of our application in the following weeks. Throughout March I personally attended numerous neighborhood association meetings and held several meet and greets with local residents and gave tours of the building to anyone who wanted to view its progress or discuss any possible concern. I have consistently made myself available days, nights, weekends,etc to meet with anyone who had a concern about the project.

    The list below is a snapshot of the outreach I have done;

    February 26, 2011 Bloomingdale Civic Association Meeting
    March 9, 2011 North Capitol Main Street Board Meeting
    March 16 & 17, 2011 I walked door to door on Quincy and R Streets talking to residents who were outside passing out business cards and discussing concerns
    March 19, 2011 Tours for North Capitol Main Street Board and several local residents
    March 21, 2011 Bloomingdale Civic Association Meeting
    April 19, 2011 ANC 5C Meeting Present and Update
    April 23, 2011 Meet & Greet AME Zion Church for local residents followed by a tour

    Most recently I emailed the Bloomingdale Civic Association on April 14, 2011 asking permission to not just present but to request a letter of support for their April 18, 2011 meeting. This email was merely a follow up since I had already notified them I planned to ask for the letter of support at their February meeting and verbally on several occasions.

    The Bloomingdale Civic Association responded that they did not feel they would have enough time to get it scheduled for their April meeting and that I should present yet again and wait until the May meeting to request the letter. In May I emailed the Bloomingdale Civic Association again asking to come to this months meeting and request a letter of support I was told as long as I had filed my ABRA application with ABRA by Friday May 13, 2011 it would be acceptable to come to the meeting and request the letter. Then on May 11, 2011 I received an email from the Bloomingdale Civic Association stating that they didn’t feel they had enough time to properly digest our application and I would only be allowed to present at this months meeting as well.

    In my opinion it is this type of bureaucratic stagnation that is killing the more rapid revitalization of the Bloomingdale community. I have the luxury of managing two projects in two different wards in Washington,DC. The difference in community support, leadership, and communication between the civic associations and civic leaders in Ward 2 (Shaw’s Tavern) vs. Ward 5 (Engine Company 12) is night and day. I believe this is clearly reflected in the shear number of commercial projects revitalizing Ward 2 that are virtually non existent in Ward 5. The jobs alone created by these projects should dictate a more rapid review and response time by Ward 5 Civic Leaders, not to mention the increase in tax base, the positive impact of thriving businesses vs. large scale vacant buildings that knowingly attract nefarious activity.

    I have made the same statements over and over again on the specifics of the firehouse, when approached by an area resident about my hours of operation I met with her discussed the issue and modified the hours of operation to accommodate the resident. A copy of the speaking points (ABRA License Application Responses) is available to anyone who wishes to review it,I have handed it out at several meet and greets and at the ANC Meeting on April 19, 2011. Other than the modified hours of operation to accommodate the local resident not one item of our operations has changed since February.

    As always I am dedicated to getting this project off the ground, I am more than the Project Manager and General Manager for Engine Company 12, I am a resident of the neighborhood and I am committed to having a viable neighborhood where I can work, shop, and walk around with my children.

    Additional note; there are no lies in my original letter to the community and any claim that there are is completely false. As an organization Engine Company 12 has been working diligently to get this project off the ground anything stated to the contrary is completely false. I am happy to meet with anyone to discuss this project at length at any time.

    Thank you for your time and thank you to those of you who have worked to support our project.


    Steven Michael May Jr.

  • SstreetEsse

    You have never mentioned anything about a stipulated license. This is the first time the word “stipulated license” has been thrown around. There is no reason for you to wait until the last minute to apply for a liquor license. You clearly don’t know what you are doing because if you did, you would know, that a support letter carries no weight with abra. It is a nice thing to do but the only time any letter carries weight is if it is a protest. You shouldn’t have waited this long to apply. It is unrealistic whatever you are saying and you are alienating the community. I have been present at almost all of the meetings you have had with the community and you have never been clear. First meeting you said patio would be open until 9pm. second about 9 or 10. third 11pm. the neighbors are asking to see what you are applying for and then you would have their support. As of now there is nothing to support. It would be silly to write a letter saying BCA supports EC12 with whatever they are doing because it is unclear what they are asking.

    You should be ashamed of yourself and you seem to be confused about how to obtain a liquor license.

  • Neither I nor anyone associated with this project has ever stated we would be closing at 9 pm. It would be business suicide to do so.

  • mona

    So Mr. May. Have you filed for the license yet? Seems like that is the sticking point. You file, the community sees what you file for and then writes you a letter of support. I hope your not expecting a letter of support before you file. You are going to have to file so that the community can see what your intent is first before they can support you. For all the neighbors know you could intend on being open till 2am and if they give a letter of support before you file then they are on the hook for that.

  • The application has been filed and will be posted on our website http://www.enginecompany12.com, in the next day or so. The file was too large to transfer via email. It should also be noted that we never expected some blanket letter supporting any and every action associated with the ABRA application. These letters can be limited to state we (civic association) support xx’s application given the following variables. We are not trying to be difficult. My philosophy from day 1 has been etremely open communication. Feel free to review the application as soon as it is live and feel free to contact me with any questions whatsoever.

    • Ace in DC

      Mr. May – First, I am a huge supporter of this project. Second, please pick your battles. I know you are frustrated with the process, but please don’t lash out at the community (your original letter was a little, shall we say, provocative). It seems like just a minor, although granted, costly miscommunication/error. You have lots of supporters, but all it takes is 2 or 3 vocal antagonist and you will have a tougher time. A few months from now we can all laugh about this over a couple beers at your awesome new firehouse restaurant. Again – huge supporter, keep doing the good things with reaching out to the neighbors and following the convoluted DC licensing process and good luck! Also – please say there will be a working fire pole in the place!

  • I too look forward to the day when when we can sit back and laugh about this ordeal. I have been madly scowering the country for an antique firepole from the same period for the past 6 months. To say its been difficult would be a massive understatement. In any case a working pole new or antique will be installed. What kind of firehouse would it be if it did’t have a working brass pole? My kids would kill me.

    Thank you for your support.

  • Anonymous

    this place is the most important project happening in bloomingdale and on north capitol. it will create non-local foot traffic above florida. it will help connect eckinton and bloomingdale. this project will have a huge impact andwill affect future development of places like the gas station lot, the empty buildings next to the “flea market”, and the quality of life on north capitol.

    we are all concerned and interested in this project. the developer got a sweatheart deal even though he wasn’t the most qualified of the people that submitted plans. it has taken years for this to even get to the stage it has.
    nearly everyone i have talked to is excited, frustrated and highly skeptical that this place will open.

    we just want openness mr may. your letter was tasteless. had you developed your mailing list and notified us when you were going to be at community meetings, we would have been there to support you.

    just don'[t be an ass in the process.

  • Bdale res

    Just get the job done. Too many irritable people with chips on their shoulders. Waa waa waa. Focus that negative energy in a productive light.

  • Veronika

    Whatever, I will be a patron of Engine 12. I agree with whomever made the point that this is the 2nd restaurant/bar in the neighborhood. Whatever needs to be done to get this place open, I’m in favour. I’ll be at the fund raiser on Saturday and I’ll be a regular come July or come September. However, if the liquor license is the main problem, why not open without it? Not ideal, I know, but at least it will be open. I’d still frequent and patiently wait it out, just like I did with Beau Thai.

  • Anonymous

    Steven, as someone who works in the PR industry, my advice to you is: stop talking. The community will support your restaurant, and it sounds like the BCA will too. But you’re not doing yourself, your partners or the community any service by drafting letters and posting long-winded diatribes on a blog. You are not helping your cause.

    Get the space placarded, follow the necessary procedures to seek support from the local ANCs and citizens associations, and get your restaurant open. people will forget about all of this. But provocative letters containing half-truths and not-quite-accurate statements, and getting into tit-for-tat arguments on comment threads, serves no purpose and does not aid your standing in the community. Just stop.

  • Jason

    you can see how much of an IDIOT this guy is, where is Brian Brown or the people investing their money in this project because its shows this guy is just a project manager or whatever big name shot he is trying to portrait. Just like my grandmother use to say “watch the loudest guy in the room” he is always nobody to listen to. Go figure. How can you start a fight with a neighborhood that you expect to do business in a real business man wont act like this. To all neighbors lets not mess it up for the real people investing THEIR money in this project.


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