Civic Associations, Letters of Support, and Local Business

Photo courtesy of
‘Former Engine No. 12′
courtesy of ‘parkview dc’

If you follow the food scene as closely as so many do in this town, you’re probably well aware of the circumstances surrounding Firehouse 12.  The space on North Capitol and Quincy Place in Bloomingdale that was once the home of DC FEMS Engine 12 has been bought and is being developed into a restaurant named after the former occupants, Engine Company 12.

This past Friday, the General Manager Stephen May Jr. of Engine Company 12 wrote an open letter to lambast the local civic association for dragging its feet in supporting the restaurant publicly with a letter of support, which would help them through the process of obtaining an ABRA license that would allow them to serve alcoholic beverages. On Sunday, the Civic Association responded.  Late yesterday, Curbed published another response from Mr. May.

When it comes to the matter of the Letter of Support, an instrument of inestimable value to a new business or one returning through the ABRA process, the community has to be measured in terms of its support.  To vote on them without a week’s notice or without deliberation from the community is a dicey proposition. Recently, two home health aid businesses petitioned our ANC Commissioner in Brookland for a letter of support, and both were given, but both also went through a process wherein they spoke with the community, and the commissioner issued significant notice to the community before voting on these letters.

So, where did the breakdown occur?  Reading Mr. May’s letter, it’s as if he felt that the community owed him the letter he’s looking for, which is a little frustrating to see.  Reading the responses, it seems as if the Bloomingdale Community Association could have been more proactive, but it seems that Mr. May and the BCA needed to be on the same page about the process for granting the letter to begin with.

Liquor licenses are especially contentious things. One need only look at the kerfuffle around Big Bear Café in Bloomingdale last year to see that this is a community that, in the parlance of the Internet, feels ways about things. Knowing that much, working with the BCA management more than just a few days ahead of a meeting would seem to be a wise event, even if you’re doing a lot of community outreach, which to their credit, Engine Company 12 has done.

It’s a tough line, this one, but understanding that no business is entitled to a rubber stamp from the community is valuable. So, before condemning the BCA, know that the community’s endorsement is something that requires some prior notice to get, and build that into your timelines, business owners.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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One thought on “Civic Associations, Letters of Support, and Local Business

  1. It’s worth noting that multiple other business plans for the space have come and gone in the last five years, and it’s safe to say a lot of people in the neighborhood got tired of being burned by promises that never materialized. I think it’s been a safe position for Bloomingdale and Eckington to take a wait-and-see approach on things regarding the old firehouse.