(WB) The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Thursday issued a decision approving a liquor license allowing the LGBT nightclub Town Danceboutique to reopen in a former church on North Capitol Street, rejecting arguments by nearby residents that the club would have an adverse impact on them.
In a 13-page written decision, the ABC Board cleared the way for what its owners are calling Town 2.0 to move into the former St. Philips Baptist Church at 1001 North Capitol St., N.E. about a half mile north of the U.S. Capitol.
The decision came nearly two months after 17 witnesses testified either in support or opposition to the license application at an ABC Board hearing on Dec. 4. Most of the opposition came from residents, the management and others associated with an adjacent apartment building, the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence apartments.
Also testifying against the application was a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission that has jurisdiction over the area where the church building is located.
An attorney representing the residents and management of the apartment building told ABC Board members that noise, traffic congestion, and potential crime generated by a large nightclub like Town would be disruptive for the building’s residents. He and some of the opposing witnesses said many of the building’s residents were formerly homeless U.S. military veterans, some of whom were recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse and alcoholism related problems.
The attorney, Lyle Blanchard, said some residents facing these problems were concerned that having a nightclub located next door could create temptations for them in their struggle to overcome alcohol abuse.
Among the witnesses supporting the Town license application were an architect and an acoustical consultant who testified that soundproofing techniques that Town and the company that owns the church building plan to put in place would prevent any noise generated from inside the building from reaching the apartment building and its residents.
In its decision, the ABC Board imposed four conditions on its approval of the license, three of which Town’s co-owner John Guggenmos said at the hearing that Town has agreed to put into effect. They include hiring at least two off-duty D.C. police offers to be present outside the club on Fridays and Saturdays from at least midnight to the club’s closing.
The second condition requires the club to ensure that a line of people waiting to enter the club’s front door entrance on North Capitol Street run in a southward direction away from the adjacent apartment building. The third condition, according to the board’s decision, requires that “no recorded or amplified sounds may be heard in a residence with its windows and doors closed or heard from public space.”
The fourth condition, which Town had not agreed to at the time of the hearing, requires that all exterior seating at its planned outdoor café located on the K Street side of the church building cease operating at 2 a.m.
In its license application submitted to the ABC board, Town requested permission for both its inside operation and its planned outdoor café to stay open until 4 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. In compliance with the city’s liquor law, Town has acknowledged that alcohol sales would end at 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturday.
The application says the club’s indoor space, which will include a dance floor and a stage, would accommodate up to 524 people. The outdoor café seating could accommodate up to 125 people, the application says.
The Board states in its decision that “noise is an obvious concern” of nearby residents and it has taken concerns by the nearby residents seriously.
“Nevertheless, the Board credits Town’s assurances that it can prevent the leakage of noise from the property, and that Town will incorporate appropriate soundproofing into the design of the premises,” the decision says.
The decision also notes that the board could not find any confirmation under existing law that it must take into consideration a possible impact of a nightclub or bar on people suffering from substance abuse or alcoholism. “As a result, the Board will not consider this specific factor in this case,” the decision says.
But the decision points out that even if this were a factor, “the Board is not persuaded that the existence of Town would have a negative impact on the treatment of alcoholism and substance abuse at the Conway Residence.” The board adds in its decision, “Indeed, alcohol is widely available in stores, restaurants, and other retail locations all over the District of Columbia…As a result, there is insufficient evidence that Town will have a negative impact on the treatment of alcoholism and substance abuse in the community,” the decision concludes.
Attorney Blanchard who represents license opponents couldn’t immediately be reached to find out if opponents plan to appeal the ABC Board decision.
Gay nightlife and small business advocate Mark Lee, who serves as coordinator of the D.C. Nightlife Council, said the approval of the Town license will have a positive impact on the city.
“The decision by the D.C. ABC Board to approve the Town nightclub license application is being celebrated throughout the entire community, gay and straight, that both welcomes and appreciates a vibrant nightlife scene and strong nighttime economy in the District,” Lee said.
Lee called for the city’s elected officials to change the license application process for clubs like Town, which he said gives too much authority to opponents of such establishments that result in “huge sums of money in legal fees and opening delays” for the mostly small nightlife businesses.