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Sunday, October 20, 2013

ABRA Troubles at Sticky Rice (UPDATED)

Sushi at Sticky Rice by william couch
Sushi at Sticky Rice, a photo by william couch on Flickr
I noticed I was mentioned in a late Sunday afternoon tweet from Barred in DC. The tweet alleged that the establishment faces a 15 day suspension of its liquor license and a four thousand dollar fine stemming from the wrongful ejection of two ABRA personnel on New Year's Eve. I made some phone calls, and did some digging. I have verified (I found the ABRA order) that ABRA is indeed imposing the punishments, and they do stem from such an incident.

Sticky Rice (1224 H Street) will serve 15 days of a 25 day suspension of its ABRA license. The punishment will run from November 13th-November 27th. The remaining ten days of the suspension shall be stayed, and shall not be imposed unless Sticky Rice has another ABRA violation before October 16th 2014. They will also have to pay a $4,000 fine.

Bad news for Sticky Rice & its employees. That's a lot of workers who are going to lose out on tips for two weeks. I spoke to a representative from Sticky Rice (and left a message for one of the owners). I hope to hear back soon. I will update this post with any response from them once that happens.

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UPDATE
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Barred in DC has a new post up discussing the ABRA report (link to the full report is above).

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UPDATE
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While I have not heard back from Sticky Rice, I did want to highlight this statement (left in the comments) of support for Mr. Martin from Mark Thorp (owner of local taverns Little Miss Whiskey's & Jimmy Valentine's):

The testimony given by the ABRA investigators does not appear truthful. Jason Martin has over 7 years of intense, hands-on experience with 3 ABRA-licensed businesses, and a "routine compliance check" (in which the investigators simply verify that all relevant business licenses are up to date and that the business is operating accordingly) would not provoke this alleged behavior from him.
Mr. Martin states that one of the investigators did not have ABRA identification, and the other investigator produced an ID that did not belong to him (and which Mr. Martin states belonged to the ABRA supervisor that arrived after the incident). After being shown a "fake" ID, Mr Martin had the investigators evicted by security personnel, which action is completely reasonable and within the boundaries of the law. 

The investigators testified that they had proper ID when Mr. Martin first asked for them. If this was true, why would Mr. Martin refuse to show his relevant business licenses? The licenses were clearly in order because there are no ABRA charges to the contrary, so Mr. Martin was not at risk. 8 months after the incident, why would Mr. Martin further jeopardize his business- much less waste considerable time and money on attorney fees- by fighting these charges? The penalty initially offered is always significantly less than the punishment faced by the business if it loses its fight against the charges.

I am a fellow business owner on H Street as well as a former employee of Jason Martin, and I have been witness many times to Mr. Martin's careful, calm, and considered management of difficult and sometimes confrontational situations. I do not share any financial interests with him, nor do I stand to receive any personal gain by asserting my belief that Jason Martin acted properly and responsibly, and that the ABRA investigators are not telling the truth.

Sincerely,
Mark Thorp 


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UPDATE
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While no one seems to have an official statement from Sticky Rice, the blog Barred in DC (which originally broke the story on Twitter) has gone through the July 24th* ABRA hearing transcript (237 pages!) and isolated the prepared statement of owner Jason Martin. The new post also includes the comment from Mark Thorp (reproduced above), and a comment left on PoPville. For now, this is probably as close as we can get to the other side of the story.

*The hearing transcript is erroneously dated July 24, 2012. It should read July 24, 2013.

23 comments:

Tom A. said...

t's interesting that sticky rice has become a bar after ten pm where people stand around on the first floor drinking. we were having a late dinner last week and had to push our way out through a giant crowd of people just standing around in the way.

I noticed the real bars on the strip had a smaller number of customers at that time. Anyone know the draw of Sticky Rice, as compared to the other neighborhood spots?

Unknown said...

The staff and DJs are genrally awesome.

Anonymous said...

also, it doesn't have major flaws like all the other bars (pug is too dirty, arcade is lame, granville is too$$, smith commons is to fancy, queen vic too anglocentric...)

Anonymous said...

It is indeed remarkable how a catchy/memorable name and good signage can take a place a long way. Even if it has average food and lousy service! But to be honest this city is the type of place that strives for mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Based on the description of Justin Martin's actions alone, it sounded to me like he was coked up. Why would any restaurant owner get nasty with ABRA Investigators, especially at the tail end of New Year's Eve? Or was he angry that they were there to shake the place down?

Anonymous said...

You know where else you were mentioned http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/three-millennials-try-to-sell-their-peers-on-the-district/2013/10/17/5e2867e6-2008-11e3-94a2-6c66b668ea55_story.html

Mark Thorp said...

The testimony given by the ABRA investigators does not appear truthful. Jason Martin has over 7 years of intense, hands-on experience with 3 ABRA-licensed businesses, and a "routine compliance check" (in which the investigators simply verify that all relevant business licenses are up to date and that the business is operating accordingly) would not provoke this alleged behavior from him.
Mr. Martin states that one of the investigators did not have ABRA identification, and the other investigator produced an ID that did not belong to him (and which Mr. Martin states belonged to the ABRA supervisor that arrived after the incident). After being shown a "fake" ID, Mr Martin had the investigators evicted by security personnel, which action is completely reasonable and within the boundaries of the law.
The investigators testified that they had proper ID when Mr. Martin first asked for them. If this was true, why would Mr. Martin refuse to show his relevant business licenses? The licenses were clearly in order because there are no ABRA charges to the contrary, so Mr. Martin was not at risk. 8 months after the incident, why would Mr. Martin further jeopardize his business- much less waste considerable time and money on attorney fees- by fighting these charges? The penalty initially offered is always significantly less than the punishment faced by the business if it loses its fight against the charges.
I am a fellow business owner on H Street as well as a former employee of Jason Martin, and I have been witness many times to Mr. Martin's careful, calm, and considered management of difficult and sometimes confrontational situations. I do not share any financial interests with him, nor do I stand to receive any personal gain by asserting my belief that Jason Martin acted properly and responsibly, and that the ABRA investigators are not telling the truth.
Sincerely,
Mark Thorp

Anonymous said...

Is it Jason or Justin Martin? Are they the same person?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

Two men without ID barge into your place of business... (at 1:30 in the morning!) and demand to be let into your office? Would you endanger your business and employees by letting them? You people posting criticism have never been victim in a kangaroo court before........

inked said...

6:14,
His name is Jason Martin.

h st ll said...

Excellent comments Mark and Anon 7:26. I don't know the owners personally, but this sounds fishy. I also think it is inappropriate for people to comment about Mr. Martin's state of mind that night. ABRA staff are not medical personnel and likely have no idea what they are talking about in that matter.

Hill hound said...

Based on the ABRA report...it sounds as if the manager may have been under the influence of something...it is a bar for goodness sake and on NYE... Not necessarily a stretch to think that he may have had a drink or two. With that said, he violated the procedures and unfortunately he and the staff have to suffer the consequences...like very other establishment on H Street would under these circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Another example of issues on H street. This is not the first time a problem at sticky rice. H street has some great bars but we also have some less desirable ones too. H st continues to be a bad apple of the city. One bad incident and all the bars would start to loose major business. While I understand mark position and supporting Jason, I do think there is some truth the the abra claim. Lets be honest, all bars in dc have few problems now and then.

inked said...

8:51,
We have a lot of bars, & a lot of restaurants on H Street. Sometimes there are problems, but I think it's is very off base to call H Street a "bad apple of the city." Have you been to Adams Morgan or U Street? Places all across the DC have had ABRA issues. We have a thriving nightlife scene, but we are nowhere near being a "bad apple." Tru Orleans was a rare example of a truly problematic business that just refused to work with the community. They stuck out so much around here because they deviated from the norm of bars and restaurants that try to work with the community.

Anonymous said...

From the transcript, it appears that all parties agreed that Martin thought the credentials were fake and the investigators refused to let him look at them more closely. Not sure how you could fault a business owner for wanting to make sure he's actually dealing with ABRA employees. DC administrating hearings are a joke though. The government is presumed to be honest and private people are presumed to be liars. If they want any chance of an actual hearing, they'll need to appeal it in court.

Anonymous said...

New Years Eve is an awfully odd time to perform a compliance check. This is probably one of the most stressful nights of a bar owner's year, and there are loads of drunken crazies out and about. It wouldn't be unreasonable for Mr. Martin to be on edge and overly suspicious of or sensitive to something like this.

Anonymous said...

The story stops making sense when the manager allows a man - any man - to enter an establishment that sells alcohol with a clearly fake photo ID. WTF? He could have called the police and had them wait at the front door, no? I don't get it, once you flash fake ID at an alcohol-serving establishment, can't the manager call the cops on you?

shoeguydc said...

My sister and I have been friends with Jason (and his Mom) for many, many years. The behavior the ABRA investigators ascribe to him just doesn't make sense. He has to be one of the most low-key, unflappable people we know. Now, with that being said, I wasn't there at the time, but the whole incident, as described, is so out of character for Jason.

Anonymous said...

I don't have first hand knowledge of this incident but I have known Jason since high school. If he said the ABRA agents showed him the wrong IDs then that is what happened.

Anonymous said...

This is mall cop syndrome by ABRA employees. RESPECT MY AUTHORATAHHHH

Anonymous said...

Read the ABRA order. I tend to agree with the dissent, who found Justin Martin's behavior to have been bizarre that night - but who also concluded that the punishment ($4K fine and 15-day license suspension) was too severe.

Anonymous said...

Reading the ABRA order, it appears that Chairman Ruth Ann Miller gives a reasonable dissent. This is a very harsh penalty when there could easily have been a legitimate misunderstanding regarding the validity of the inspectors' IDs at 2:30am. Further, these are technical regulation enforcement inspectors, hardly qualified to determine the "state" of a bar owner whom they likely haven't even met previously.

ABRA consistently fails the community. Had it not been for a tax liability that lead OTR to close TruOrleans, it is likely that it would still be open, making life miserable for residential neighbors, despite repeated violations of their voluntary agreement and DC law. The same is true of continual problems at XII, Fur, Cusbah, Sahra, and other establishments.
Protests drag on an on while these joints stay open and continue to offend.

The end result of this is that a lot of hourly-wage employees will be out of work for two weeks, a serious hardship in this rotten economy.

hamad uzair said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.