After a Bitter Fight, Eighteenth Street Lounge Gets Its Liquor License to Reopen in Shaw on 9th St NW

Eighteenth Street Lounge, which announced in June 2020 that it was permanently closing after 25 years in Dupont, and then instead announced in June 2021 that it was relocating to a 5,000 square foot (half the size of original space) property off Blagden Alley in Shaw (near 9th and N NW), has faced a bitter fight in its liquor license application, facing protests from FOUR different entities/groups: 1) ANC 2F, 2) the Blagden Alley Naylor Court Assocation (BANCA), 3/4) two separate groups of 5+ neighbors/property owners. BANCA requested that the application be denied (though in alternative, suggested conditions).

Last week, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board voted to approve ESL’s tavern liquor license application, with a number of conditions:

  • Roof deck bar must close at 10:30p Sun-Thu nights, midnight Fri-Sat
    • ESL had sought full legal closing of 2a/3a. BANCA asked for 10p closing daily on roof deck, and 1a indoors
    • ABC Board said this was warranted because ESL couldn’t construct a barrier on roof facing the Blagden Alley; patrons on roof may yell and cause unexpected noise; and opening/closing roof door – escaping music indoors “may create notise that disturbs nearby residents during traditioal sleeping hours.”
  • Live entertainment (live music and DJs) prohibited outside
    • ESL was not requesting this anyways
    • ABC Board imposed “to prevent excessive noise reverberating through the alley”
  • Blagden Alley entrance/exit can only be used for emergencies; customers have to enter/exit on 9th St NW
    • ESL did not object to this
    • ABC Board imposed because “patrons traversing the alley late at night may disturb residents if they engage in loud talking, loitering, yelling, or fighting”
  • Business required to comply with sound consultant recommendations
    • ESL says they plan on spending $200,000 for soundproofing
  • Spot must file a security plan and comply with it.

Although the ABC Board said it was not “ripe for consideration,” it did reference BANCA’s allegations (yes they issued a press release) that ESL’s owner, Faird Nouri (sole owner since 2008), engaged in criminal conduct and other disorderly behavior after the close of the record in the case. The allegations stemming from an March 21st incident were detailed in Washingtonian – Nouri late night blasted music, sirens, horns from his Tesla in Blagden Alley to “disturb and intimidate the Protestants” and allegedly slammed a car door on someone’s (adult?) son’s leg. BANCA also noted that “various members of the community” had obtained protective orders against Nouri (per source they weren’t actually successful). The ABC Board said it wouldn’t reopen the record because MPD was investigating and did not want to interfere with an active police investgiation. But it also said that “a future criminal conviction related to these allegations could lead” to a suspension, revocation, or a finding of bad character in a future renewal proceeding.

These were not the first allegations in the process-earlier in 2022, there was an allegation that ESL (or someone on ESL’s behalf) engaged in witness tampering-the ABC Board didn’t pause the case but referred it for investigation.

The ABC Board said that the property’s location across the street from the Convention Center and served by public transportation means that the “location is generally suitable for nightclub and other nightclub activities.” The Board did not agree with protestants to restrit use of cover charge, valet, or dance floor, saying that ESL “has demonstrated the ability to operate a nightclub in the past.” It did not restrict interior hours because lack of “evidence that activity inside the premises will disturb the surrounding neighborhood” and no one could use the alley entrance/exit.

The space will fit up to 268 indoors and up to 48 on roof deck (with bar). First floor will have a stage; the bar Never Looked Better (also a source of BANCA complaints) is in the basement.

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