Monday, April 28, 2008

Live Music and Sensibility Win Out in the End

Proponents, rejoice, enjoy, sing along, maybe even dance. Opponents, this is what you were afraid of? Haydee's Restaurant experienced sights and sounds not experienced in years yesterday. Live music. Spirited sounds spilled over from late afternoon into the evening on Sunday inside the venerable, much loved local restaurant after the establishment was part of a decision to amend the restrictive voluntary agreements that had been in place for a decade. The two groups involved with shaping the new agreements were Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance (opposed to restructure of VAs) and Hear Mount Pleasant (proponent of restructure of VAs). The VAs had restricted associated establishments from offering any live music and dancing. The voluntary agreements had teeth because the a neighborhood group, or really any handful of residents, could oppose a restaurant in ABC hearings, a death knell for most restaurants in a city like DC. See Mt Pleasant Residents Show Support for Businesses for some background.

The previous VAs, over time, seemed to encompass all that is wrong about neighborhood covenants. I support laying groundwork to prevent disputes, but the process under which the these particular VAs were perpetuated appeared to leave out the unabashed voices of not only the businesses involved, but many residents of the neighborhood the covenants were supposedly protecting from rogue businesses. And the businesses appeared to be safe, responsible entities which bore no resemblance to the nuisance establishments that dot the city's other commercial/entertainment areas.

No one wants Mt Pleasant to be Adams Morgan or Cleveland Park or Georgetown. We are in no danger of "becoming" any of those. We will change, we are changing as a neighborhood. As is every other cluster, neighborhood, ward and quadrant in the District. How we choose to manage the change is what's important. We should strive to create a fair and equitable system in which residents are made feel empowered, not shunned because they are renters, or new; where owners are given credit for due diligence and operating as good business neighbors; where clients and customers are given a chance to vote with their pocketbooks and where we can have good, clean, responsible FUN! The ideas are easy to come by, practice a little harder. For once I agree with Marc Fisher, that "Democracy in the District can be a painfully slow and frustrating beast..." I would add that real democracy anywhere can be painful, slow and not satisfactory to parties involved. But the beauty is that whatever the dispute, we each have a chance to shed some light on the matter from our very own personal point of view. And if we wish, turn our two cents into a dollar, use it to tip the band, and dance he night away.