A Barracks Row bar’s expansion and renovation plan failed to win support from ANC 6B commissioners, who voted last night (Tuesday) to protest it before the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.
The Ugly Mug (723 8th Street SE) wants to install a retractable roof and nearly double its seating capacity. That drew criticism from residents and fellow business owners, who cited concerns about trash, noise, rodents and parking in emails and in person before the commission.
The plans call for the Mug to expand to the second floor of its building, adding capacity for 95 people upstairs for a total capacity of just under 200, including its sidewalk cafe.
The bar also wants to add a retractable roof near the rear of the building, to allow patrons to enjoy fresh air on nice weather days. The roof will be located in an area with seating for 37 patrons, according to Ugly Mug owner Gaynor Jablonski.
Jablonski portrayed himself as a conscientious local business owner who’s trying to better serve his burgeoning customer base. He promised community benefits with the expansion like soundproofed walls, indoor keg storage and an effort to obtain permission to build a trash enclosure in the alley behind the bar.
He also pledged to close the retractable roof at 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at midnight Friday and Saturday, and to increase the frequency of trash and recycling pickups to twice a week for both.
That wasn’t enough for the eight residents who spoke out against the plan Tuesday. Many accused the Ugly Mug of not living up to its existing promises and worried that an expansion would effectively double the number of problems.
Among those alleged problems:
- Rodents: “We really have to think hard about the new opportunities for rodents that [these plans] could create,” said a C Street SE resident. ” i am concerned about the precedence that sets for the neighborhood.”
- Noise and loitering employees: “We have written letters to The Ugly Mug concerning… employees emptying trash at 3:00 to 4:00 a.m. [That creates] lots of noise,” said a 7th Street SE resident. “Employees lounge on our properties and smoke cigarettes.”
- Odors and vibrations: “I just moved here in the middle of August from Ohio,” said a resident who lives in a 7th Street SE apartment behind The Ugly Mug. “[There are] significant odors of food and waste that would sometimes wake me up.” There are also vibrations that felt like “airplanes landing in my living room. This is a really big concern for us.”
- Parking: “Every time you add another 100 people, believe me, those people don’t always come on Metro or walk, they’ll come in cars,” said one E Street SE resident. “It’s just outrageous… we shouldn’t be faced with accommodating parkers. The [business owners] who make the money should get together and build a parking garage.”
- Vomiting bar patrons: “I go to the Mug, I like the half-priced pizza,” said a 7th Street SE resident. “But the dog knows where the vomit is. One area of vomit on E Street has been there for three weeks. I don’t see power washing, it’s a tragedy. Bars are great, I’ve gone to them all my life, but sometimes enough is enough. Let’s have some retail, let’s get some other opportunities.”
The Ugly Mug did have one supporter speak out at the meeting, who refuted some of the claims from critics and took Jablonski at his word.
“I mean, it’s a bar,” said an E Street SE resident. “It’s a great owner, great staff. They’re going to go over and beyond what they say, and maybe they’ll set an example for other restaurants on the block who are actually causing the rat problem.”
The commission voted 6-0-2 to protest the changes before ABRA, with commissioners largely siding with the residents. They reported receiving nearly 30 emails on the matter.
“You have reached new heights here, because you have residents, landlords and businesses organizing against you,” said 6B Vice Chair Ivan Frishberg. “That doesn’t really happen. This is real.”
“The idea of us saying double what you’re doing now, when you can’t even handle what you’re currently doing now — not possible,” Frishberg continued. “I just don’t think you can expect someone living behind you to listen to your music and chatter until midnight. You’re not even close to [earning approval].”
Jablonski told HillNow.com afterward that he would proceed with demolition work on the second level of the building and was confident that he could resolve differences with commissioners in a mediation process.
Jablonski reflected that when he first opened the Mug nearly a decade ago, crime was a bigger problem on Barracks Row and residents were less likely to “nit-pick” local businesses.
“Unfortunately this city has become very anti-business,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. Nine years ago, Rose’s Luxury was a brothel.”