- The future home of Pearl Dive Oyster Palace & BlackJack. (Photo: TBD Staff)
The group of Logan Circle residents who are protesting Jeff Black's plans to come to 14th Street have at this point managed to wrest a couple of key concessions from the famed local restaurateur. But one or two sticking points still remain, and with a Jan. 19 protest hearing looming, the question now is whether Black might just decide to take his chances with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
According to a representative for Black Restaurant Group, Black has in recent weeks agreed to drop his plans to install a small smoking deck in the rear of the planned seafood restaurant and lounge, dubbed Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and BlackJack. He's also consented to abide by the same operating hours as nearby ChurchKey, which closes at 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
The rear deck and the operating hours have been the main points of contention from the beginning for the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the 33 individual protestants [FULL DISCLOSURE: TBD Editor Erik Wemple's wife is one of them] in this case. So you might be thinking, well heck, sounds like we've got a deal. Bring on the oysters! But lo, you'd of course be wrong.
During a discussion of the negotiation process at Wednesday night's ANC 2F meeting, Chairman Charles Reed said he was still hoping to get some sort of agreement from Black on paper (not a formal voluntary agreement, more like an informal letter of intent), along with a promise that he wouldn't seek to make any changes to his license for at least three years. But Black rep Andrew Kline fired back that his client "resents the implication" that he can't be trusted to keep his word. "He'd like to get it resolved. But otherwise, we'll go to hearing," Kline said.
The underlying threat there was fairly clear: Given the current makeup of the ABC Board, the odds are actually in favor of Black being granted full operating hours (to 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends), and probably about even that he'd get permission to keep the rear deck. But word is that in addition to the ANC's demands, the individual protestants, represented by Attorney Andrea Ferster, are separately demanding that Black sign some kind of document promising to give them advanced notice should he ever decide to change the terms of his license. Based on Kline's comments Wednesday, it would seem that Black has had about enough of demands of this kind.
So the heat is now really on for Reed and Ferster, who must quickly decide whether they can live without having something on paper from Black, or if they want to risk losing everything they've gained in the mediation process by taking the matter all the way to a protest hearing. And if ABC Board Chairman Charles Brodsky's comments at a December status hearing ("What's the problem here?" he asked the protestants) is any indication, they might be wise to take what they've got and call it a day.