The Corner Forum
Sunday, Nov. 9, 2003
Issue #55

Broader Solution Needed

By Chad Priest, 1213 Duncan Pl. NE

(Mr. Priest sent this letter by e-mail to an Excello protestants listserv. It is reprinted here with his permission.)

I think one of our problems has been our failure to pursue a strategy of engagement with the Lees that is unrelated to the liquor license itself. We allowed the Lees to take the initiative through their offer to buy out Excello and assume the license. Now the issue has been squarely faced around the prospect of either getting N-A-Minit with the license or Excello and N-A-Minit in some version of the status quo.

I do not think its too late to regain the upper hand here, but we have to be willing to acknowledge WHAT we want. I for one have been offended by reading some of the statements in both the Corner Forum and on this listserv about what the "proper" use of the Excello space should be. We don't want a liquor store because of alcohol, but we don't want a coin-operate laundry because of fears of more congregation. I am worried that some of our neighbors won't be happy until a Starbucks or a Gap store is installed where Excello once was.

What we really want, it seems, is for people to stop urinating on our houses, to stop dealing drugs outside the stores and to stop parking in such a way that you can't make a right turn out of Duncan Place for fear of your life. I think we all agree that the sales of single cans of beer is ONE factor in this mess, along with the general crappiness that results from having two liquor stores next to each other in a neighborhood with nothing else around. In the Corner Forum the Lees wrote an article asserting that they sold single cans of beer as a public service to people without much money.

I assume their lawyer wrote this seemingly clever line, but I thought it was offensive. The Lees are simply business people. They don't care about this community at all — and who can blame them? It's not in their financial interest to stop selling beer in single cans. Period. So what are we going to do?

I have proposed on several occasions that we regain the initiative by forming a community corporation and evaluating a number of options including 1) a purchase of the Excello property with rent profits going towards community improvement; 2) creation of a residential improvement district (modeled on the popular business improvement districts); 3) a joint venture with the Lees in the management of a new business at the Excello property.

The last time I recommended pursuit of something like this I was told that we shouldn't HAVE to do that — that the government should be responsive to our concerns and step in. I realize that most of us are in D.C. because of, or as a result of, the federal government. However, despite our inclinations to simply regulate away problems, this problem is not likely to go away through a voluntary agreement or other instrument. We need a broader, long-term solution, and I welcome any creative input regarding this. I hope it isn't too late to go about this problem on two fronts (one considering a challenge to the license transfer, which I think may be a bad idea, and the other trying to persuade the Lees that it is in their best interest to play ball). §