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Battle Between D.C. Restaurant And Neighbors Continues

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The outdoor patio outside Hank's Oyster Bar remains closed after neighbors filed a complaint.
Markette Smith
The outdoor patio outside Hank's Oyster Bar remains closed after neighbors filed a complaint.

In the District, a seven-year-long dispute between a Dupont Circle restaurant owner and her neighbors boils over with claims of singed profits, lost jobs and, according to one homeowner, too much noise.

Mayor Vincent Gray recently had dinner at Hank's Oyster Bar, but he wasn't seated on the patio. Half of the restaurant's outdoor seating has been shut down by D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Control board due to complaints from a group of about a half a dozen neighbors.

Owner and chef Jamie Leeds says she's losing thousands of dollars and valuable staff because of it. "Every night we have to let a person go," says Leeds.

She's now petitioning the D.C. Council to change a law that currently states groups of at least 5 people can protest a restaurant's liquor license. She wants it changed so that only residents who live or own property within 400 feet of the business are allowed to file protests.

"It just doesn't make much sense that a couple of neighbors can dictate what a business can do," says Leeds.

Knock on doors not far from the restaurant, and you'll find neighbors, like Ann Ledford, who agree.

"It's never been something that I've heard from the inside," said Ledford. "You know, when I'm going out my front door, of course I can hear people on the front patio, but I've never been disturbed by it. Ever."

Meanwhile, Shelton Walker, who lives nearby on Connecticut Avenue sides with residents who protested.

"A patio is like an outside bar," he says. "It's noisy."

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Thursday.

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