Ward 6 Residents Protest New Restaurant on H Street

The Ward 6 ANC 6A meeting recently concluded and was attended by many who are protesting a new restaurant on H Street

The ANC 6A commissioners, Laura Gentile (6A05), Amber Gove (6A04), Roberta Shapiro (6A03), Mike Velasquez (6A02), Robb Dooling (6A06), Chair Keya Chatterjee (6A01), and Steve Moilanen (6A07, Treasurer) Photo courtesy of Elizabeth O'Gorek/HillRag

By Badi Cross

Howard University News Service

Trash, noise complaints, and parking issues plagued the neighborhood along H Street when the XII Lounge was open, claim Ward 6 residents, who said they do not want a repeat of the stress and safety concerns.

That’s why some of them are leery about Vybrations Restaurant and Lounge, which is seeking a Class C restaurant license to open in the same building at 1123 H Street, NE,

The issue was the biggest topic at Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A’s monthly meeting on Thursday evening, along with new committee appointments and a new department of buildings. The meeting had a strong turnout with more than 40 people in attendance.

The owners of the restaurant, Karie and Kathon Van Hook, and their representative Sean Morris, were present to address the concerns of the ANC and the residents of the area. The owners expressed their willingness to compromise with the ANC to be able to operate in the space.

A major concern for residents is the potential noise level of the restaurant. The owners of the restaurant are requesting an entertainment endorsement for both indoors and outdoors where they would be able to operate until midnight on weekdays, and 2 a.m. on weekends, troubling many of their neighbors.

The residents who brought up this concern expressed the understanding that they live in a city, but that they feel businesses like this are meant for commercial areas.

The owners pledged to adhere to any precedents for music, including a willingness to not have any live entertainment at the venue.

“Would you accept no music at all on the roof?” resident Lloyd Belcher asked.

Other major issues were trash and pests in the area. D.C. has a major rat problem, and a venue that doesn’t dispose of trash regularly could attract even more rats to the surrounding area. To mitigate this, the owners suggested they would look into hiring a private commercial trash pickup company to clean two or three times a week. They didn’t respond directly to a comment that if the trash isn’t picked up every day, the problem of attracting pests would persist.

Residents also brought up safety concerns. Parking and rowdy patrons could potentially become huge problems if they aren’t handled properly, especially with the restaurant having a 350-person capacity.

“You have 350 people, four people come in one car, and that’s 75 more cars on our street,” Commissioner Mike Velasquez said. “That’s 75 more cars parking on Linda (Street), 75 more cars parking on 12th Street, 75 more cars parking on the 1100 block of G Street.”

In addition to spillover parking, residents said, intoxicated people could also go into the neighborhoods and create trouble.

One resident, Sara Valero, recalled issues they’ve had in the past. “The crowd before was nasty, aggressive,” Valero said. “They used to pee on our building gate. There were shootings, brawls, etc.”

The owners said they would make it clear to their patrons where the parking garages are on H Street, as well as stress the use of public transportation or ridesharing. Multiple people responded with appreciation for those measures.

Overall, the people who gave their opinions during the meeting were not convinced that the Van Hooks would be able to enforce all of their suggestions, with several residents continuing to oppose their restaurant license.

Ultimately, the ANC voted to oppose the license unless the commission; Velasquez, who presides over 6A02, where Vybrations would operate; and the owners come to an agreement over the restaurant’s operation. The ANC expressed their full support and confidence in Velasquez and will oppose the license unless he approves of it.
In other business, Ward 6 account managers Hazle Crawford and Mark-Anthony Tynes introduced the new Department of Buildings (DOB) in D.C.

The department is responsible for regulating the construction activity around the district, reviewing construction documents to ensure compliance with building codes and zoning regulations, inspecting buildings and construction sites, and maintaining general oversight over construction activity.

Crawford stated that the DOB’s main goal is to “protect the safety of all residents, businesses, and visitors, and advance the development of the built environment through permitting inspections and code enforcement.”

Residents will be able to meet DOB staff and ask questions during a meet-and-greet from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. For more information, visit the DOB website here.

To read the minutes from the meeting, watch the recording, or get more information, visit ANC 6A’s website: https://anc6a.org.

Badi Cross covers Ward 6 for HUNewsService.com.