- Provost is a restaurant at 2129 Rhode Island Ave. NE that serves alcohol
- The existing liquor license from 2019-2022 had community-requested provisions attached
- Those provisions restricted any “nightclub”-like activity, VIP table/bottle service, any cover charges, any dancefloor, and any speaker use on the roofdeck
- While renewing the license, Provost wanted to eliminate or modify those provisions
- Resolution: The deadline to register a formal protest passed on 8/15/2022; no party with standing protested, so Provost was successful
This is no longer an active case. The rest of this issue page remains for reference, but is written in present/future tense.
This case will be heard by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).
(PDF page 34)
|never deliberated at the ANC level (necessary for standing)
|Nina Gilchrist addressed the SMD meeting to discuss business concerns with the existing SA
Provost is a (black woman-owned) restaurant, describing itself as “a laid back, American style restaurant with soul food roots serving organic fare in a gorgeous setting.” They are currently open fairly limited hours to the public (Friday-Sunday), but were open more prepandemic and host private events as well. Provost’s owner, Nina Gilchrist, is a long-time resident of the neighborhood. They have a bar and seating downstairs, as well as a roofdeck bar and seating area.
When they opened, Provost struggled to gain community approval for its licensing to serve alcohol. The end result was a “Settlement Agreement” (SA), a document attached to Provost’s license including additional community-negotiated provisions, and enforced by ABRA. For unclear reasons, possibly due to the full Commission being unavailable or unwilling to support in the process, the existing SA was negotiated with the then-sitting ANC Commissioners in 5C07 (Yolanda Odunsi) and 5C02 (Kevin Mullone) and a group of nearby residents, rather than with ANC 5C. Groups of residents and ANCs are both accepted/common parties, though it might be unusual for the named residents in the former case to be sitting Commissioners.
The Settlement Agreement can be read in full, but the relevant provisions, reproduced here verbatim, include:
- The license holder’s hours of operation and hours of sale, service, and consumption of alcoholic beverages for the interior shall not begin before 8:00 a.m. or exceed 2:00 a.m. on any day of the week.
- The license holder’s hours of operation and hours of sale, service, and consumption of alcoholic beverages for the summer garden shall not begin before 8:00 a.m. on any day of the week or exceed 12:00 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, or 1:00 a.m. on Friday or Saturday.
- The conditions contained in this Order shall not prevent or prohibit the license holder from applying for, receiving, or operating under any extended hours or additional hours granted under the law.
- The license holder shall not operate the establishment as a nightclub.
- The license holder shall not have cover charges.
- The license holder shall not have a dance floor.
- The license holder shall not have VIP table service.
- The license holder shall not have VIP bottle service.
- The license holder shall not have amplified music or sound on the rooftop.
Provost’s ask is, maximally, to eliminate the SA entirely. When briefing the SMD meeting in July, Ms. Gilchrist cited a number of examples of things they might like to host, including:
- performances with cover
- indoor dancing
- setting up televisions on the roofdeck (which would require amplification)
- charges for specific seating for performances
Ms. Gilchrist cited these as being necessary, because attendees at events are not likely enough to make voluntary tips to artists or to order enough food/beverage for the margins to properly compensate performers and supporting staff.
The amendment or elimination of their SA is considered a substantial change, elevating this application from a simple renewal.
The prospect that businesses may end up operating with “nightclub” qualities is a continual concern due to a history of nearby establishments (such as SIP/1812 Lounge) being notoriously poor neighbors.
Specific to Provost, Commissioner Montague remarked in SMD meetings that sound from the rooftop could carry down Thayer and disturb residents in their homes. He also cited one prior noise complaint, as well as the position that all establishments in our neighborhood should be subject to SAs as an implicit rule.
After some comments of both concern and support on the July SMD meeting, Commissioner Montague concluded that he would reach out to closer-by residents on Thayer and look into proposing a less restrictive SA. There has not been anything discussed widely since.
Letters in support or opposition of the renewal should be made by 8/15/2022. I’m not sure when and in what venue a new SA would be presented, so I can only advise general comments on whether one believes the existing SA is appropriately restrictive, too restrictive, or not restrictive enough.
Submitting a Letter
To submit a letter:
- send before COB Monday 8/15/2022
- email it to email@example.com
- include the following at the beginning of the letter:
- the license number (ABRA-108015)
- trade name (Provost)
- address (2129 Rhode Island Ave. NE)
- I would include the case number in the subject (e.g. “Letter in Support of ABRA-108015 renewal application”)
- including some information about your proximity to Provost, or residency within 5C07 if applicable, may help strengthen the weighing of your comments
- personal experiences or impression of the restaurant itself could also be helpful for establishing its atmosphere
A template to start might be:
Subject:Letter in (Support/Opposition) of ABRA-108015 renewal application
To whom it may concern:
This letter of (support/opposition) is in regard to the renewal application for license ABRA-108015, held by Provost at 2129 Rhode Island Ave, NE.
I live two blocks from the subject property at (your address) and I feel the current Supplemental Agreement is (not) too restrictive.
(Consider inserting anecdotes and concerns for either the business or the community here.)
Very respectfully, (your name) (your address)
switching from facts to opinion
I think the current SA is too restrictive. I believe Provost is a great neighborhood business and am glad it’s managed to survive both initial community skepticism, and, of course, a pandemic that’s taken an especially hard toll on the restaurant industry and our neighborhood retail along Rhode Island Ave.
We should give Ms. Gilchrist and staff our support and the discretion, within reason, to operate how the management finds best balances the needs of the neighborhood and the need to be financially successful. While I don’t expect a full elimination of the SA as a matter of circumstance, I do believe some provisions can be eliminated, and all can be modified for more latitude in operating.
Nearby, The Public Option negotiated an SA with Commissioner Montague in 2021 when applying for a new license after an extended pandemic closure. This SA was written from the same template as Provost’s, but with allowances for charging cover for entertainment, having a dancefloor inside, and having amplication outside until 10pm. It seems like these allowances should be the minimum of what we provide Provost.