With formal attire and a forceful approach, representatives of Tonic restaurant dominated their liquor license hearing Wednesday afternoon, insisting that they will never become a nightclub for GW students.
The four-hour hearing was the last obstacle in the way of Tonic’s liquor license, which has been contested by several community members. After a year of legal buildup, both sides met in downtown D.C. in front of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to call witnesses and present exhibits in their favor.
Tonic opened at the Quigley’s location on 21st and G streets last spring, and has since been negotiating with the University and community groups about their hours of operation. The venue has agreed to limit its indoor service to 2 a.m. on weekends and 1 a.m. on weekdays.
The only remaining protester, attorney Michael Kimmel, represents several dozen members of The Statesman and Letterman Apartments on F Street. Kimmel said at the hearing he would like to limit Tonic’s hours to 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.
If the hours were cut back, he said he would not be opposed to Tonic receiving the license. The primary concern, Kimmel said, is preventing people from being noisy and disruptive as they leave and enter the venue.
“Maintaining peace, order and quiet is very important . and is now at issue,” Kimmel said.
Throughout the proceedings, board members and Tonic representatives consistently used the term “whooping and hollering” to describe the disruptive activity described by Kimmel.
“I just don’t agree that cutting the hours of operation is the right way to address those problems,” said Jeremy Pollok, an owner of Tonic. Specific agreements have already played out between Tonic and the community to cut down on noise – including not having a weekly live music night and not advertising dancing or installing a permanent dance floor.
Pollok also noted that there would be an ID scanner at the door and waiters consistently checking ID in order to eliminate the possibility of serving alcohol to underage patrons.
Jeff Jackson, an Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration investigator, said Tonic is well received by the community – after visiting the venue 21 times.
He also reported that the University Police Department, located directly across the street, has received no noise complaints about the restaurant.
The board has 120 days to issue a decision about whether or not to grant the license.
Ian Jannetta contributed to this report.