Not Your Next Adams Morgan

Posted November 21, 2007 at 2:52pm

Residents along the H Street corridor in Northeast D.C. last week appeared united in their desire to prevent their neighborhood from turning into another Adams Morgan, where bars outnumber cars and drunk college students rule the streets.

But the consensus at a community meeting, convened to discuss a potential moratorium on licenses for new bars and clubs in the area, was that it is still too early to impose limits.

Joe Englert, who owns the Rock and Roll Hotel and has been involved with a number of other clubs on the corridor, said he feared any restriction would stifle other development and that the current pace of growth is not fast enough to warrant a moratorium.

“It’s not like in the next year or two you could have 30 to 40 bars opening up,” Englert said at the meeting of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A Alcohol Beverage Licensing Committee.

“The reality is, we’re looking at seven to 10 years before we get real services” along the corridor, he said.

So far, all of the H Street bar and restaurant development within ANC 6A boundaries (between Seventh and 14th streets) has taken place in the arts and entertainment district, which stretches from 12th to 14th streets. There are six bars and two sit-down restaurants licensed to serve alcohol; five more bars and a restaurant have been approved within 6A and are awaiting their licenses.

And while residents want more restaurants and family options, they doubted that banning bars would help. One resident who did not want to be identified said he lived along U Street Northwest during its revitalization and sees H Street progressing on a similarly positive path — without the moratorium.

“Nine years ago, this was what U Street looked like,” the resident said. “There were a couple of bars at 14th and U, but down to Ninth Street it looked like it was a shell. If what U Street is now appeals to people, that appears to be the model.”

Anwar Saleem, the executive director of H Street Main Street, agreed that a moratorium would be premature.

“I personally think it’s too early,” Saleem said. “It would send out a dual message — that we want development but that we oppose some development. That’s not the message we want to send. We want to encourage people to come out to the corridor.”

Saleem noted that personally, he would like to see more family-oriented, sit-down restaurants. But he added that there are only eight bars and restaurants out of about 350 storefronts on the corridor.

“That’s only about 2 percent,” he said.

The only support for the moratorium came from James Standish, a resident who pointed to Barracks Row on Eighth Street Southeast as a model for the corridor. He scoffed at the notion that “the only way to start urban development is with bars.”

“Yeah, there might be three bars along Eighth Street, but not everything is,” Standish said. “We need to put something in for families.”

He added, “Don’t you think the people in Adams Morgan think it might be nice if they had a few less bars? But it’s too late. You can’t kick businesses out.”

The committee collected surveys at the meeting and voted to continue monitoring the issue.

“We’ve got plenty of time to go about this,” committee member Jeremy Marcus said. “It’s not like we’re going to go to sleep and wake up the next morning and have it be Adams Morgan.”