Hear Mount Pleasant
Neighbor to Neighbor
A little over a year ago, a group of concerned neighbors formed Hear Mount
Pleasant to promote dialogue and civic participation in decision-making around
our commercial strip. We believe a new, more transparent and democratic
approach to community involvement in the liquor licensing process will enhance
the quality of life in our neighborhood.
Hear Mount Pleasant is supporting the efforts of three restaurants to terminate
their voluntary agreements with the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance
(MPNA), and to replace them with a new model that has wide community
support. We have also worked with community agencies, a range of
organizations, and churches to promote joint problem-solving and collaboration
among businesses and residents.
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding
about our goals and agenda. We hope this document clears up some of the
concerns raised and clarifies our position on some key issues. This document is
not meant to address every concern or issue that has arisen. As always, we are
open to discussion and questions. Please write us at email@example.com to set
up a meeting or to ask questions.
What’s wrong with the existing VAs?
The current VAs were negotiated in secret without community input. An analysis
of these VAs reveals that there are important differences among them. Many VAs
contain provisions that have little to do with the community’s legitimate interest in
maintaining peace and good order. Some provisions interfere with restaurant
management, business relations and even the owner’s ability to recoup their
investment. These provisions become part of the restaurant’s liquor license and
any violation can result in fines and/or loss of the ability to serve alcohol. Here
are some examples:
Some restaurants are prohibited from seating patrons at tables
unless one person within the party is ordering food. This restriction
applies regardless of the time of day, even if the bar is full and the
restaurant has empty tables.
One Mount Pleasant restaurant owner is prohibited from entering
into any new partnership, association or corporation.
Three restaurant owners are required to make their “best efforts” to
sell their businesses to an entity that will not serve alcohol.
Another restaurant owner is required to clean 18 inches of the
actual roadbed in front of his restaurant on a daily basis.
Other provisions are subject to interpretation or are selectively enforced. For
example, virtually all restaurants in Mt. Pleasant are prohibited from offering 2-
for-1 alcohol promotions and free drinks. Yet, some restaurants routinely offer
half-price drafts, free drink coupons and free bottles of wine without fear of
Three restaurant owners, Haydee and Mario Vanegas (Haydees), Jaime Carillo
(Don Jaime) and Alberto Ferrufino (Don Juan) want relief from these VAs so that
they can implement new business plans and offer more amenities to the
community, including some live entertainment. They have agreed to enter into a
new Cooperative Agreement (CA) that would replace the MPNA VA. This CA,
which has received endorsements from many community organizations and the
Mount Pleasant Business Association, includes reasonable and enforceable
requirements to address legitimate community concerns such as music stop
times and noise emissions, and eliminates many unnecessary and overly
Many organizations, such as MTP Main Street and the Mount Pleasant Business
Association, believe that the current overly restrictive VAs have harmed
economic development on Mount Pleasant Street. Many residents of Mt.
Pleasant also would like to see change. Hear Mt. Pleasant has collected over
1600 signatures on a petition supporting new voluntary agreements that would
allow live entertainment and lift restrictions that have inhibited the cultural and
economic life of our neighborhood.
Why can’t the restaurants simply negotiate and sign a new Voluntary
Agreement with Hear Mount Pleasant and other organizatons that support
They can, but under the law, the MPNA VA also remains in effect. In cases
where there is more than one Voluntary Agreement, the Alcohol Beverage
Control Board (ABC Board) has historically ruled that the restaurant must abide
by the most restrictive provisions. So, even if other community organizations or
another group of five residents were to negotiate a new agreement, the more
restrictive provisions of the MPNA VAs, including the ban on live entertainment,
would remain in effect. In order to lift the ban on live entertainment and to put a
new Cooperative Agreement in place, the MPNA VA must be terminated.
Hear Mount Pleasant’s approach: Collaboration, communication and joint
Much attention has been focused on our efforts to lift restrictions on live music
and dancing in neighborhood restaurants. There has been little discussion of the
work we’ve done to build a more collaborative problem-solving approach to
issues that emerge on Mount Pleasant Street.
Mt. Pleasant Street is a commercial street in the midst of a residential
neighborhood. In cities throughout the United States, residential and commercial
districts must co-exist. We have looked to “best practices” and time-tested
strategies that have been used in other communities to guide us in our efforts.
For example, the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) has many good ideas
about how to approach regulation in mixed-use neighborhoods. We recommend
that people check out their website at www.rhiweb.org.
Using some of the principles and strategies developed by RHI and others, we
have been bringing residents, community agencies and business owners
together to work on joint strategies to solve common problems, strengthen
communication and build trust between business owners and residents. We
know that this strategy works and we believe it provides a better framework for
addressing community concerns than the current “gotcha” approach of existing
What does this dpproach look like?
Let’s take a concrete example. One of the biggest concerns that residents have
is noise emissions. Whether music is live, recorded, amplified or acoustic, noise
emissions, including low bass tones, can shatter the peace and good order of
any neighborhood and may be particularly bothersome to those who live closest
to the source.
Until recently, all of the MPNA VAs prohibited all live music but said nothing
about recorded music or sound emissions other than to follow existing laws.
Recently, MPNA has allowed some live music, limited to 12 evenings a year for
two hours with no more than four musicians. During Sunday brunch, three
musicians are permitted, but only at a volume that is no louder than background
music. None of these VAs address sound emissions – the real concern for
In contrast, Hear MTP’s Cooperative Agreement requires each restaurant to
conduct a sound assessment study and implement a noise abatement plan. We
are already working collaboratively with those restaurants who want live music to
put these plans in place. Specifically, we engaged volunteer sound professionals
who worked with business owners to develop noise management plans for live
and recorded music. One business owner has already made changes to his
sound system and installed a limiting switch to ensure that music and bass tones
(whether recorded or live) cannot be heard outside of his restaurant.
We reached out to the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), a DC
Agency that is funded to support small, Latino-owned businesses, and they are
eager to to provide more intensive support to the businesses we are working
with. LEDC staff have provided business planning, management consulting and
one-on-one coaching to business owners, helping them improve community
relations and rethink business strategies.
Why live music is important to us
Mount Pleasant has a long, rich musical tradition. For a great many residents,
music has historically been a part of the fabric of community life and helps make
our neighborhood special. We want to create more opportunities for neighbors to
share cultural experiences beyond consuming drinks and food in our
neighborhood businesses. Music, dancing and cultural expression can occur in
Mount Pleasant in ways that respect the community’s interest in peace and good
We believe local musicians and music lovers are assets to our community and
can help build better and more accountable relationships between residents and
business owners. For example, people with strong ties to local music
communities are helping business owners manage noise emissions.
Allowing businesses to partner with musicians and music lovers is a way for
business owners to reconnect with the greater community and offer something
beyond food and drink. Many DC restaurants and bars do not provide local
musicians a place to perform. For this reason, DC has a long history of local
musicians working with local business owners to preserve the ability of
restaurants and other small spaces to offer live entertainment. Musicians know
that bothering neighbors is the fastest way to lose these valuable venues, which
is why they want to work with owners to offer music in a responsible way for the
We are committed to working with owners to make sure they understand the
limits of what they can offer without creating excessive noise emissions, and to
do so in a way that preserves community support for live music.
Issues around discrimination
Many people are very angry that the Latino press, some business owners and
residents have raised concerns about discrimination against immigrant-owned
Race, class and ethnic tensions have existed in our neighborhood for decades.
This is nothing new. It is critical to recognize this context as we seek to bring
more voices into discussion around these issues and to resolve differences.
We need to find better ways as a community and as neighbors to talk about the
impact of race, class, ethnicity and cultural differences on our daily lives and on
how decisions are made in our neighborhood and city. We need to do this
without name-calling and also without denying the reality of people’s experiences
with racism and discrimination.
Here are some of the reasons why many people feel that the current VAs
The VAs governing Latino businesses are generally more restrictive than other
VAs. For example, only Latino-owned businesses are required to make their
best efforts to sell to a non-alcohol serving entity. Latino business owners also
believe that they are subjected to more complaints and enforcement actions,
even though other businesses operate in ways that openly violate provisions in
their VAs. For example, Haydee Vanegas was forced to appear before the ABC
board when a three-piece mariachi band performed at her restaurant because
the mariachi band violated the MPNA language. As a result, she almost lost her
liquor license. Similarly, Alberto Ferrufino, the owner of Don Juan, also was
forced to appear before ABRA when his brother form El Salvador was “caught”
singing along to a juke box.
At the same time, several non-Latino owned businesses regularly promote half-
price drink specials and alcohol giveaways in clear violation of the Vas, yet have
never been subjected to any enforcement action. Indeed, the MPNA has actually
helped advertise these specials.
These disparities have helped to create a widespread perception within the
Mount Pleasant Latino community that MPNA’s use of the liquor licensing protest
process to restrict live music targets Latinos and Latino culture. In the 1980s and
early 1990s, mariachi bands were the most visible and frequent performers in
Mount Pleasant, and as such were an important part of the culture and spirit of
Mount Pleasant. Many residents felt an intense loss when the VAs banning live
music went into effect. Whether or not the restrictions were motivated by anti-
Latino sentiments, a great many people experienced the policy in those terms,
regardless of the intentions of MPNA.
What about the ANC protest against Tonic, Marx, Radius, and Corado’s?
Hear Mount Pleasant has never supported the ANC’s decision to protest
businesses who have decided not to seek termination of their existing
agreements with MPNA. However, we believe that the best way to persuade the
ANC and others to not pursue these protests is to engage in dialogue and
discussion. We have had numerous one-on-one and group meetings with
members of the ANC. We also regularly attend ANC meetings.
At the November 6th ANC meeting, after many months of behind the scenes
discussion, we formally asked the ANC to withdraw their protest. Our statement
is available on our website at www.hearmtountpleasant.org.
The ANC’s protests against Tonic, Radius, Marx, Corado and the Pupuseria
were designed to compel these restaurants to agree to a new system of liquor
license regulation called the Responsible Hospitality Association of Mount
Pleasant (RHAMP). As conceived by its promoters, RHAMP would be composed
of a 20 person elected “Assembly.” The Assembly would be authorized to
establish policies to address alcohol issues within the neighborhood and the
conduct of businesses that serve alcohol.
While we agree in principle that our neighborhood and our city would benefit from
a more transparent and democratic approach to community participation in the
liquor licensing process, we do not support the particular framework of RHAMP.
We believe that the structure is too complex and too bureaucratic to be workable.
Nor do we support coercing businesses to participate in such an organization
through the liquor licensing protest process.
We regret that many conflate Hear Mount Pleasant’s tactics with those of the
ANC’s and would be happy to answer any questions about the differences in our
approach as well as the many areas in which we generally agree.
Hear Mount Pleasant’s Cooperative Agreement
Our commitment to transparency and openness
Hear Mount Pleasant sought to develop an agreement that included an
opportunity for wide community input.
We announced our intention to draft a new Cooperative Agreement on our
website, through street outreach and through widely advertised events.
We posted a draft of our agreement on our website and sought feedback through
an easy-to-use web portal.
We sought input from churches and community groups including Mount Pleasant
Main Street, Community of Christ and The Mount Pleasant Business Association.
Principles of our CA
To end pre-emptive prohibitions on the kinds of activities and amenities
our local establishments may offer, while encouraging responsible
business practices that respect residents’ needs.
o Pre-emptive prohibitions constrict the business's opportunities for
creative interaction with the community in the provision of amenities
that the community values and desires.
o Pre-emptive prohibitions now in place in Mt Pleasant have left us
impoverished of such positive social, cultural and inter-cultural
experiences as live music, dancing and other forms of live
entertainment and social interaction.
o Pre-emptive prohibitions unfairly depress the value of the business
now and in perpetuity by limiting what the owner can do to attract
patrons and reducing the value of the license when the owner sells
To recognize and support the time-honored role of social establishments,
such as restaurants and taverns, as the prime venues for the mixing of
diverse individuals and cultures that is integral to the urban experience.
To encourage Mt Pleasant establishments to serve as venues for local
musicians, artists and performers.
To encourage Mt Pleasant establishments to provide opportunities for
neighborhood social, arts and cultural groups to conduct meetings and
host events at these establishments.
To usher in a new era of constructive, harmonious cooperation between
our residents and our existing businesses and, by so doing, to
demonstrate that Mt Pleasant welcomes new small business investment.
To enable citizens to work collaboratively with new businesses to ensure
that they are free to explore creative ways to serve the community and
attract patrons. Our hope is that businesses can ultimately prosper and
flourish as part of an embracing and welcoming neighborhood.
Summary of the Hear Mt. Pleasant Cooperative Agreement
Compliance with All Laws and Regulations – Licensee must comply with all
laws and regulations
Live Music and Entertainment – The Licensee may offer live music and other
forms of entertainment and charge a cover. However, live entertainment must
end at midnight Sunday through Thursday and no later than 1 p.m. on Friday and
Hours of Operation – The Licensee must operate in accordance with his/her
Last call – No alcoholic beverages may be served 20 minutes prior to closing.
No more than one drink per person may be served at last call. Employees will
help patrons obtain taxis or make a phone available to them, as requested.
Night Manager – To encourage reporting and immediate resolution of
complaints, the night manager must be contactable by telephone and a
telephone number must be posted on the premises. The contact number must
be given to the ANC, community organizations and residents.
Sound Assessment and Noise Management Plan – The Licensee must
conduct a noise impact study and implement a noise management plan to
prevent noise emissions.
Telephone Log – Licensee is responsible for responding to all complaints and
must maintain a log of all complaints received.
Regular Meetings – Licensee agrees to meet with protestants and members of
the community on a regular basis to facilitate problem identification and
resolution. The Licensee agrees to explore the establishment of a voluntary
Responsible Hospitality Partnership – a collaborative framework for creating,
enhancing and managing Mount Pleasant Street as a place for the enjoyment of
commercial, cultural, artistic and community amenities.
Effect – The Agreement is intended to replace, not supplement, the existing
Our CA is posted on our website (www.hearmountpleasant.org)