Facing opposition from neighbors at community meeting last night, the owners of Dacha laid out plans for a beer garden on 14th Street that would include 600 seats, a full kitchen, and one unexpected feature: a playground for kids.
“We have a lot of customers now coming with kids, and kids run around the beer garden and they play with gravel,” says co-owner Ilya Alter says of his Shaw location. “[The parents] constantly have to follow the babies.” The idea of the playground is to create a safe space for the little ones to play while the parents drink. Although it’s a new concept to DC, Alter and co-owner Dmitri Chekaldin say beer garden playgrounds are commonplace in Germany.
Whether there will be slides, monkey bars, or some other equipment is TBD. As for potentially drunk adults trying to take a turn: “We’ll have to come up with a policy on that,” Alter says.
The beer garden—across the street from Garden District beer garden—will occupy what’s now a parking lot at 1740 14th Street, Northwest. Alter and Chekaldin plan to expand the current structure on the property so that indoor space takes up about half of the lot. They also intended to add more restrooms and a full kitchen serving a very similar menu to the Shaw location with brats, skewers, and monster pretzels.
The owners are hoping to open the beer garden by next spring—but first they’ll have to take on the neighbors.
At least half of the houses on the block of S Street west of the beer garden have planted “NO Dacha” signs in their yards, and about 50 people have signed an anti-Dacha petition. (There’s one pro-Dacha sign on S Street, east of 14th.) A group of neighbors have hired a lawyer to protest the business’s liquor license, and many of them showed up to an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting Wednesday night to voice their opposition to the beer garden plans, especially the 600-seat capacity.
Among the concerns: noise, trash, rats, public urination, traffic, safety, and lines. One neighbor accused the beer garden owners of “devaluing our properties.” Another complained that they already have a noisy beer garden at that intersection and another one was “not an appropriate use” of the space.
Dacha’s owners laid out plans to address some of the objections, including trash pickup and an exterminator coming six days a week as well as hedges and sound panels to soften the noise. They brought a sound engineer with them.
But for many in the room, it wasn’t enough. Some thought Dacha should have come prepared with more detailed plans on security, parking, and other issues. They also questioned the owners’ sincerity, given Dacha’s history of violations with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. In 2015, after Dacha repeatedly packed the Shaw location beyond its capacity limit, the liquor board ordered the owners to pay a $42,500 fine—one of the board’s largest fines ever—and suspended the beer garden’s license for 21 days. Dacha has received no violations since 2015, according to ABRA.
After the meeting, Alter and Chekaldin said it went about as expected. “We see that we need to do a little more fine-tuning in what can work, what cannot work, and we’ll do it,” Alter says.
As for the “NO Dacha” yard signs? “I mean, it’s cute,” Alter says. “I can’t control what other people do. I only can control what I do. They have a right to voice their opinions.”
Apparently, those opinions also include a McCarthyist rumor. Chekaldin says he heard from a friend who lives on S Street that one neighbor has been going around telling people that he and Alter are Russian spies.
“Russian spies don’t sell beer,” Chekaldin says.