In what its drafters say is precedent-setting compromise, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3-E has won a written promise from the owner of an upper Wisconsin Avenue bar to hold down noise, litter and illegal parking outside the new supper club he is about to open.
ANC 3-E had initially planned to oppose the granting of a liquor license to the new club, called Three Dimensions, at 4926 Wisconsin Ave, NW. Four business with liquor licenses, including the Godfather Supper Club, are already on the same block, and neighborhood residents have repeatedly battled against the issuance of additional licenses in the area.
When the ANC met early last summer to discuss Three Dimensions' bid for a liquor license, "it was like a lynch mob," according to Mike Heibel, a former teacher who is the principal owner of the new club as well as of One Flight Up, another bar on the same block.
"People were yelling and screaming like you wouldn't believe," Heibel said. "I said, hey, wait a minute, I didn't know you people were opposed to me. I never had any problems at One Flight Up."
As a result of that meeting, Heibel sat down and composed a list of Promises - he promised to have a doorman and a dress code to "assure the highest type of clientele," to forswear nude or "go-go" entertainment, to pick up trash up and down the block, to look for off-street parking beyond the 27 spaces behind his building, and generally to maintain "the highest possible standards."
"The agreement was my idea," Heibel said. "This is what I told the neighborhood I thought I could do."
Won over by Heibel's promises, the five-member ANC decided to withdraw its opposition. But many neighborhood residents were angered by that decision, and by the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board's subsequent approval of Three Dimension's liquor license application.
"They said you've deserted us, you're going to let down, you're being led down the garden path," recalled ANC commission Carol Gidley. "They really felt like 'you commissioners have not represented us, you're not listening to what we're saying.' We even had a staff member quit on us because of the thing.
"We felt we can't be against every liquor license," said Gidley, explaining the ANC's turnabout. "If we've been duped we'll know it and we'll oppose him (Heibel) when he comes up for renewal."
Three Dimensions, and an upstairs pub called the Dart Emporium, will open at the beginning of December, Heibel said. But he has already begun collecting trash on the block.
"He's been cleaning up - I'm afraid he's been doing a better job than the ANC has," said ANC 3-E chairperson Virginia Spevak.
ANC 3-E has opposed a number of recent liquor license applications along the same densely developed stretch of Wisconsin Avenue. "We've got licenses coming out of our armpits," Gidley said.
One of these cases involved the Godfather Supper Club's request for renewal of its license at 4934 Wisconsin Ave., only two doors down from Three Dimensions and in the same building as Heibel's One Flight Up.
Opponents, backed by ANC 3-E, claimed that the Godfather, which has employed topless and bottomless waitresses, had contributed to latenight noise and disorderly behavior on surrounding streets. As a result of such testimony, the ABC Board voted not to renew the Godfather's license, although the club has been allowed to continue operating pending appeal.
Spevak and Gidley are unsure if their agreement with Heibel amounts to a binding contract. But the ABC Board, according to Heibel, said it "would take a very dim view if I didn't uphold my end of the agreement."
"Sometimes these decisions are not pleasant ones to make." Gidley said. "I guess we make mistakes - and I hope to God this wasn't one of them."