A popular but controversial Adams Morgan nightspot has been put of out business after community protests and negative testimony by investigators led a city board to reject its application for a new liquor license.
Cassava Cafe, the scene of numerous violent incidents and complaints about loud music, ceased operations when its bid was denied last month by the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C and the Kalorama Citizens Association (KCA) have pushed to close the cafe, in the heart of Adams Morgan at 2411 18th St. NW. Cassava has been involved in a number of on-premises assaults and related shootings.
The two groups originally tried to reduce music noise by having the cafe keep its doors closed during operating hours. According to Denis James, ABC licensing chairman for the Kalorama Citizens Association, Cassava was "not compliant with the request."
After that, the Metropolitan Police Department was notified, and the ABC Board supplied its own investigators to look into the matter. In addition to assaults and shootings, investigators reported underage drinking and marijuana use.
According to reports and testimony by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration and police investigators, underage patrons were found to be drinking alcoholic beverages and getting involved in physical fights.
Police officers also testified that patrons regularly left the establishment with bottles and other alcoholic beverages in their hands.
"The concerns were very serious," said James, a homeowner since 1971 who lives a block and a half from the cafe. "We treated [them] in a serious way. I believe the board took the right position" in denying the license renewal.
James credits the "excellent police work and testimony" with helping neighbors win denial of Cassava's license renewal.
Lyle Blanchard, an attorney representing ANC 1C, agreed with James: "Because of the history of incidents at Cassava, there was ample testimony by the police department, which served as a basis for the board's decision."
The cafe has not appealed the board's ruling, and phone calls to Cassava Cafe's attorney went unreturned.
In other actions, the ABC Board allowed ANC 2B to assume ANC 1C's responsibility for protesting the license renewal of Lauriol Plaza, at 1835 18th St. NW.
The substitution took place because the ANC boundaries changed last month as a result of redistricting. Lauriol Plaza was in ANC 1C's jurisdiction prior to redistricting. Had the substitution not been permitted, a mandatory two-year period would have passed before Lauriol Plaza needed to apply to renew its license.
"Neighbors are concerned about general issues like peace, order and quiet," said Vince Micone, chair of ANC 2B, "and how some of those issues can be mitigated" once it gets late. "We hope to have a speedy resolution."
In other business, six establishments signed agreements with their neighborhood associations placing restrictions on various aspects of business operation, including patron capacity, hours of operation and the way alcoholic beverages are sold.
ANC 2B agreed to similar terms with both Visions Cinema Bistro Lounge, 1929 Florida Ave. NW, and Tequila Grill, 1990 K St. NW.
While both establishments are allowed no more than 25 patrons seated in each of their sidewalk cafes, they must also adhere to strict hours of operation for the outdoor cafes.
Beginning at 7 a.m. daily, Visions will stay open until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and midnight Friday and Saturday. Also, service will be denied to anyone not seated; management must make sure patrons do not obstruct entrances to any neighboring buildings; more than 15 special events are prohibited annually; and employees should direct patrons to the best available off-street parking locations.
The Tequila Grill is permitted to remain open for business until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is forbidden to market special promotions of any type aimed at students of George Washington University.
The other establishments signing cooperative agreements are Anzu, 2436 18th St. NW; New York Pizza, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; Alabama Grocery and Deli, 2209 Alabama Ave. SE; and Geranium Market, 7350 Georgia Ave. NW.
The board has also approved new licenses for the following establishments: Azul, 1752 Connecticut Ave. NW; Stacks Delicatessen/Archives, 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; La Plaza Restaurant, 629 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; and El Amigo Restaurant, 3612 14th St. NW.
Temporary authorization, or stipulated licenses, was granted by the board to three Northwest restaurants allowing them to serve alcoholic beverages before they have actually been issued a license. Endorsements were filed from each establishment's respective community association.
The restaurants in question are Sparky's Express Cafe, 1720 14th St. NW; Roha Restaurant Lounge, 1212 U St. NW; and San Diego, 2309 18th St. NW.
An official license will be granted or denied depending on the outcomes of public hearings scheduled for later dates.