Thursday, September 25, 2008

Letter from a Reader: Let Mt Pleasant Businesses Be, Please

I received this letter from a 42 Bus reader regarding an issue that I thought was pretty much over, but I guess I was wrong. The music-in-restaurants issue had ballooned to near epic and ridiculous proportions over the last few years.

Its music people! It makes us happy. It makes us sad. Its art. Its culture. It heals. Its provocative. Its relaxing. Its fun. Its expression. It should not be put in a box. The few businesses involved in this issue do not want to have all night barn burners with customers hanging off the rafters: they just want to be treated fairly and use music to lure and entertain customers. Simple!

I still have no idea why some in this neighborhood are so pressed over music in a restaurant. Do these businesses a favor and patronize them, support them. Anyway, I digress (again!). Here's the letter from a reader, Natalie.

Here's a little story about something that happened this weekend:

Last Sunday I participated in a Walking Town tour about the history of music in Mount Pleasant sponsored by Cultural Tourism DC, an agency which gets funding from [the [DC gov't] to showcase "off the mall" attractions in DC neighborhoods. The tour ended at Don Juan's, where the owner's brother, Pepe Reyes, and his nine piece mariachi band from El Salvador entertained the crowd.

During the event, the owner told me that two Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration (ABRA) inspectors had visited his place the night before while his brother's band played and told him he could not have live music. The inspectors did not know that Don Juan's could offer roaming mariachis until 1AM on weekends. Once the owner showed the entertainment endorsement, the ABRA inspectors left. (As an aside, Haydee's can have any [type of] music they want, just with restricted hours.)

Anyway I called ABRA the next day to ask why this happened. They guy said, "Oh yeah someone called to complain about something going on at Don Juan's on Sunday."

"Wait - are we in some sort of time warp - how could inspectors go out Saturday to investigate a complaint about something that happened on Sunday."

"No, no, no," the guy explained, "The person who complained called on Thursday. The person was upset about an event at Don Juan's that was going to happen...something about a nine piece mariachi band - that was playing at some sort of event on Sunday afternoon. Well, we don't send inspectors out on Sundays, so we sent them to investigate the complaint on Saturday."

"But they were mariachis - on a Sunday afternoon - as part of a Cultural Tourism event! Someone had a problem with that?"

"Well, its a little more complicated than that. This person was upset that Don Juan's was having mariachis that weren't 'roaming' This person thinks that's a violation."

"So you sent inspectors."

"Yes, well, we have to when someone complains."

"What's the legal definition of 'roaming?' Is it okay if they roam around the restaurant or is he only allowed to have mariachis that happen to roam in off the street?"

"Well, we'll have to clarify that."

Your government at work.