Neighborhood group protests liquor license for Allen Lee Hotel

Media Credit: File Photo by Charlie Lee | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Jim Abdo, president and CEO of ABDO Development, said he will negotiate with a neighborhood group about a liquor license for the Allen Lee Hotel on F Street.

A neighborhood group protested the liquor license for a new hotel near campus last week, potentially preventing the space’s owner from obtaining a license.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission unanimously rejected the liquor license for the Allen Lee Hotel on 23rd and F streets last week, saying the hotel will be too noisy and will disrupt the neighborhood. Jim Abdo, the president and CEO of Abdo Development, the construction firm running the project, said he was willing to negotiate with the ANC and adjust the license application to relieve neighbors’ concerns.

The century-old hotel has been under renovation since 2014 and will be turned into a capsule hotel, D.C.’s first, with more than 80 rooms.

“At the end of the day we want the quiet enjoyment of our guests and neighbors. It defeats our own purpose if it’s noisy,” Abdo said at the meeting. “They’re just not going to tolerate it because that’s not what families want when they come on vacation.”

In the original application, Abdo requested to add a rooftop lounge area with two summer gardens, a courtyard and a sidewalk cafe to the hotel. The application also requested permission to sell alcohol until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends.

Abdo did not say at the meeting which hours he would be willing to restrict the license for the next application.

Abdo would need the approval of the neighborhood group in order to apply for the liquor license with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. Other local businesses like FoBoGro have also experienced issues with neighbors in getting liquor licenses.

Abdo Development announced the renovations for the building in 2012 after buying the property for $3.6 million. He said Wednesday that the pod-style rooms would be significantly smaller and cheaper than the average D.C. hotel room.

ANC Commissioner Florence Harmon said the ANC would negotiate with Abdo and his lawyer, Andrew Sullivan, who was at the meeting to determine the sale and consumption hours that the neighborhood would support.

In her decade-long tenure as a member, Harmon said the commission has never approved allowing alcohol to be sold until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. for this kind of development.

“You want neighbors to have a good relationship and not be contentious because otherwise there’s just going to be problems forever,” she said.

The commissioners voted unanimously at the meeting to protest the license, after several Foggy Bottom residents complained that the hotel would disturb the peace of the neighborhood by creating excess noise and taking up the parking on the street.

Donald Cruiser, who lives across the street from the proposed hotel site, said at the meeting that the proposed hours on the license would reduce the quality of life in the neighborhood because it would be too loud.

“I think if they have an outside cafe or rooftop cafe, the living conditions for me and my wife would be unlivable. We’d have to move,” he said.

Availability of parking was another sticking point for local residents. Cruiser said the parking situation the hotel would create would be “absolutely horrendous” because of already limited spaces in the area.

Abdo said the parking wouldn’t be an issue because “everybody in the city is using some form of public transportation and Uber to get around,” but did say that his firm would look into renting out nearby parking garages.

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