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Now You Can Drink and Vegetate at the Same Time

The long and unnecessary battle between Shiloh Baptist Church and the District's first upscale vegetarian restaurant is finally over, and the worshipers of the fruit of the earth beat those who seek sustenance from on high.

Vegetate, a lovely place near Ninth and P streets NW in Shaw, was an early pioneer along Ninth, one of the first businesses to try to see if the gentrification of the neighborhood and the addition of the new convention center nearby could add up to enough street life to support a high-end, niche eatery.

But the restaurant that Dominic and Jennifer Redd opened in 2005, while immediately embraced by customers and critics alike as a cool and welcoming spot, was stymied from the start by its lack of a liquor license--a reality enforced by the vehement opposition of Shiloh Baptist Church.

The church, a real estate powerhouse in Shaw for many years--check out the splendid survey of Shiloh's voracious appetite for properties put together by urban planning student Rob Goodspeed on his energetic blog about D.C. affairs--fought Vegetate through hearing after hearing, just as it has fought other restaurateurs who dare to want to serve customers a glass of wine with dinner.

We can argue for the rest of time about which is more dangerous--alcohol served at public eateries or a church that acts as a bulwark against change in an evolving urban neighborhood--but when Shiloh failed to produce its witnesses at an ABC Board meeting in the District last week, the church's protest against Vegetate's license was finally dismissed.

So it's full steam ahead for Vegetate, but the larger question remains: How long will the District continue to cater to the whims of churches whose members overwhelmingly live outside the city? How long can the political coattails of those churches be when they have little influence left on votes in the District? And will the city take on the difficult task of deciding whether to change liquor laws that ban alcohol from being sold within 400 feet of a school, especially now that small charter schools are popping up in formerly residential buildings (and that's a whole 'nother issue, for another time.)

With both Vegetate and BeBar winning their battles against churches that cater to out-of-towners, the tide may finally be turning in favor of new residents over former residents. But the fact that such standoffs still occur is a failure in and of itself, a sign that as the city changes, too many of us are still living in someone else's neighborhood, rather than making that neighborhood one that all can consider home.

By Marc Fisher |  March 13, 2007; 7:31 AM ET
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Posted by: AH | March 13, 2007 8:31 AM

Finally! For Shiloh to continue to stifle a business which sought to improve the health of the neighborhood as it sold food designed for the health of it's patrons was simply unconscionable. I am happy for the Redds and happy for the neighborhood and as a regular patron, happy that I am free to enjoy wine with my meal, should I so choose.

Posted by: Jeff | March 13, 2007 8:50 AM

I've heard all the [cogent and persuasive] arguments for years from advocates on the Vegetate side of this "debate", but after all this blog chatter I've yet to hear a single compelling case laid out by someone from Shiloh or their supporters. Can anyone even summarize their logic? Because from here it seems completely impenetrable.

Posted by: PD | March 13, 2007 9:04 AM

Thanks, AH--that had totally slipped by me.

Posted by: Fisher | March 13, 2007 9:10 AM

I grew up in a dry county which is still dry, thanks to some prominent churches whose prominent members all seem to belong to private clubs where alcohol is allowed (and where average folks don't frequent thanks to membership fees).

Their arguments have been things like serving alcohol would put a strain on policing efforts to alcohol leads to extramarital affairs and other regrettable acts. The main town - a college town - has hardly grown, since most upscale and all chain restaurants avoid it. Financially, it wouldn't make sense for them to build there.

I'm glad Vegetate persisted in this.

Posted by: from AR | March 13, 2007 9:16 AM

The shame of this is that Vegetate was made to go this long without it's liquor license. Think of how much money they lost by not having it. Yet, they don't even get an apology from Shiloh. I've heard that Mr. Redd is a black man. If so this is tantamount to black on black crime. Think of all the young blacks in the neighborhood that could look up to him as a role model. Or the chronically obese people being served the slop in Shiloh's Tuning Fork retaurant that have been denied a healthier dinner in their neighborhood.

Posted by: Nathan Boggs | March 13, 2007 9:24 AM

I'm pleased to hear that Shiloh has lost this battle. With any luck, this will signal an increased protection of District residents interests vs. whims of suburban MD. dwellers. Now, if only the MPD would ticket cars parked illegally on Sundays...

Posted by: Rudy and Blitz | March 13, 2007 9:38 AM

Can anyone please explain to me why DC defers so much to these churches that don't pay taxes and whose members live outside of DC, so can't vote in DC anyway? (For instance, the infamous non-enforcement of parking ordinances against churchgoers when anyone else would get a ticket.)

What exactly does DC get out of sucking up to them?

Posted by: PQ | March 13, 2007 9:38 AM

I disagree that most of the members of these churches live out of town. a significant number do live in D.C., but not in that area. However, I do object to churches wielding such power over the business affairs of others. Shiloh is just protecting its own restaurant business. It's so transparent, I thiknk I'll go to Vegetate just to spite this church's obstinate and un-Christian behavior.

Posted by: C-dog | March 13, 2007 9:41 AM

C-Dog, you must be kidding. Take a cursory look around Shiloh, Brown Memorial, or any other church in DC on Sunday. Illegally parked cars with Maryland plates, as far as the eye can see. Perhaps a significant number of church members live in the neighborhood and walk to church, or carpool, but not in significant numbers as to be a majority...

Posted by: Rudy and Blitz | March 13, 2007 9:45 AM


Since you occasionally blog on these subjects, I'm guessing you've heard the strongest arguments from the church perspective. Could you summarize it for us? Do they have a response for the seeming incongruity in fighting sit-down restaurants while not doing the same against parasitic corner liquor stores?

It seems like all the comments I've seen on blogs from that side come from some seriously misinformed or obstinate people, and I'd really like to believe that there's more at play here than racial and gentrification dynamics.

Posted by: PD | March 13, 2007 10:51 AM

Hear, hear, PD. I second that. Marc?

Posted by: PQ | March 13, 2007 10:58 AM

PD, because those parasitic corner liquor stores are where they buy their lotto tickets, 40 ounces, and smoking papers.

Posted by: WB | March 13, 2007 12:03 PM

Hey new Shaw residents. I'm a Maryland resident. Let's make a deal. If you let Shiloh keep their church and vacant houses, we'll keep educating the kids your school system abandoned and housing the poor people your city evicted. We'll even deal with the crime your police chief and former Mayor exported. Sounds like a fair trade to me. As matter of fact I think your getting the better end of the deal.

Posted by: Marylander | March 13, 2007 1:07 PM

So far as the schools exclusion goes, I'd prefer to see C zoned- property closer to schools than 400 feet allowed to obtain CRs or DRs, but not CTs, DTs, or CNs. I just don't see that alcohol in a genuine restaraunt setting is automatically dangerous for kids to see. Sure, these license classes are much-abused, but they should in theory work. If they're actually enforced. Though a lot of money is spent by industry just so that never happens.

But most of all, I really think package stores have no business being right next to schools. By package store, I mean the kind that now must close on Sunday.

Posted by: anon | March 13, 2007 1:16 PM

The churches oppose liquor licenses ostensibly because they believe alcoholic drinks lead to street crime, but really what's going on here is a backlash against the changes in the churches' neighborhoods. Here's a column I wrote on the issue:

Posted by: Fisher | March 13, 2007 1:18 PM

If you let Shiloh keep their church and vacant houses, we'll keep educating the kids your school system abandoned and housing the poor people your city evicted.


When I grew up in Bethesda many many of my neighbors went to school in DC to St Johns, Sidwell, WIS, etc. I have no idea where you get your ideas, but not from reality.

Posted by: Bethesdan | March 13, 2007 1:26 PM

"....still living in someone else's neighborhood, rather than making that neighborhood one that all can consider home."


Posted by: Frankey | March 13, 2007 1:33 PM

I'll tell you this....with this new gun banning law....

DC will be a real wild west (east).

I can just see the many stories...."I shot him in self defense".

However, DC is in for some serious wake up calls.

Posted by: Frankey | March 13, 2007 1:40 PM

Why did Shiloh (and its fellow churches) make a big stink about trivial liquor license issues while ignoring the blight of abandoned buildings and corner stores? One word answer: race. Local politics in this city will forever be framed by racial perceptions.

If Shaw newcomers want to see changes in this city's operations, they have to get involved - vote in council elections, attend ANC meetings. Until they do, Marylanders will be making your neighborhood decisions.

Posted by: Daniel | March 13, 2007 1:41 PM

This backlash against new residents in the Shaw area is really substantial. It's coming from both the churches, with their suburban/non-DC congregations, and actual long-time residents of Shaw, who seem to want to thwart any attempt to make Shaw nicer - they seem to want to keep Shaw down.

For example, the ANC (ANC 2C) goes out of its way to keep its meeting times and places secret so only the "old timers" can come and continue to control things. The commissioners don't post any information online and are unresponsive to people who call for information. They say derogatory things about, and TO, new residents of Shaw who actually want to improve the neighborhood, reduce crime, make Shaw a nice place to live, etc.

And they threaten anyone who wants to videotape ANC proceedings.

Someone did manage to tape a couple of ANC 2C meetings and put the videos up on YouTube. I didn't truly understand the horror stories I heard till I saw it for myself. Check it out - it's pretty outragous. (I think you can search YouTube under "ANC2C" or "ANC 2C")

Posted by: PQ | March 13, 2007 1:44 PM

This backlash against new residents in the Shaw area is really substantial. It's coming from both the churches, with their suburban/non-DC congregations, and actual long-time residents of Shaw, who seem to want to thwart any attempt to make Shaw nicer - they seem to want to keep Shaw down.

For 30 years residents of Shaw have watched as real estate developers bought up vacant row houses. These developers then sat back and watched the vacant houses become dilapidated centers for crime to drive down the price of real estate so they could purchase more of the neighborhood. Then once they owned 80% of the block; Like magic the entire block is sold to white out of towners in less than a years time.

The issue here is trust. Long time residents of Shaw have every reason in the world not to trust people who talk about "improving the neighborhood."

Posted by: Historian | March 13, 2007 2:44 PM

Congratulations to vegetate.

I congratulate any restaurant or establishment that is willing to spend the money and fight for what is right against not only churches but in the Dupont area the self styled saviours of the community, to make sure their business will be a success.

I would hope that with the election of Adrian Fenty we have begun to see a change in the influence that churches have had in the District of Columbia. It was Linda Cropp who courted the ministers and their congregations chose to vote for Fenty anyway.

I am not against churches or religion in anyway. I do believe that we need to focus on communities as they are now and not as how they were or how those many congregants who moved to Maryland still would like to see them.

Let us work with everyone in a neighborhood and make sure that individuals have a good life and both new and old residents of a neighborhood get the chance to speak for themselves not through their churches. Our government policies must protect citizens but not be geared to protecting rich churhes and pastors who don't themselves live in the District.

I look forward to the ABC Board under Adrian Fenty's administration being fair and giving everyone a hearing. But the travesty of holding up a liquor license for two years when an establishment meets the law and is entitled to one should come to an end.

Posted by: peter | March 13, 2007 3:00 PM

I don't see why this is even an issue, given the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow a Massachusetts restaurant to serve booze 10 feet from an objecting church. The restaurant is still in business -- go to and follow the link from the home page to the text of the SCOTUS decision.

(No, I have no financial connection to the restaurant, other than having dined there a few times in the late 1980s.)

Posted by: Former Bay Stater | March 13, 2007 3:38 PM

The funny thing is the new Shaw residents call the old Shaw residents Marlanders.

And the old Shaw residents don't consider the new Shaw residents Washingtonians.

Could it be that all the real Washingtonians live in Maryland.

Ahh the paradox.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2007 3:54 PM

"For 30 years residents of Shaw have watched as real estate developers bought up vacant row houses. These developers then sat back and watched the vacant houses become dilapidated centers for crime to drive down the price of real estate so they could purchase more of the neighborhood."


Obviously this isn't good if true. But as I understand it, it's Shiloh Baptist Church that is currently holding onto many vacant properties in the neighborhood, letting them become dilapidated and not putting them to any useful purpose.

Posted by: PQ | March 13, 2007 4:16 PM

P.S. A Shaw neighborhood blog documents the drama going on with Shiloh's portfolio of vacant properties.

Posted by: PQ | March 13, 2007 4:18 PM

If I were Shiloh I would fix up the houses and rent them to section 8, low income residents.

I'm sure the new Shaw residents would welcome low income residents with open arms. After all, the last thing they want to do is exclude the poor from their community.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 13, 2007 4:30 PM

"If I were Shiloh I would fix up the houses and rent them to section 8, low income residents.

I'm sure the new Shaw residents would welcome low income residents with open arms. After all, the last thing they want to do is exclude the poor from their community."

Shiloh wouldn't even consider this concept. The section 8 folk wouldn't likely attend the church and they certainly wouldn't have enough income to satisfy the monetary donations required or expected of the congregation members.

Posted by: Get real | March 13, 2007 7:35 PM

Both these churches have continued social, nutritional, and educational programs for the remaining long-time residents of the neighborhood, even those who are not church members (maybe you blow-ins would like to help out at the Family Life Center and meet the neighbors). Rev. C.L. Long is on WYCB-AM radio nearly every day (surprised you missed that, Marc). There's your DC power base.

Churches are not GW University -- they don't hyperactively buy up neighborhood property. Residents die and leave their homes to churches, often with some kind of use restriction (i.e., no sale). Churches are chronically short of capital and have enough trouble paying for and maintaining their sanctuaries. That is why you often hear that churches are the "biggest slumlords" in US cities.

The congregation of Shiloh Baptist Church has been displaced before -- by the Union Army in the Civil War, fire, dissention, and the deaths of strong leaders. Judging by the comments above, displacement by development is perhaps crueler.

Shiloh history at

Posted by: Mike Licht | March 13, 2007 9:09 PM

Here's the deal: I know you like to deny it, but this city really is transient. And NW is the most transient quadrant. I've lived here 20 years, so I know. So, regarding your comment, "too many of us are still living in someone else's neighborhood, rather than making that neighborhood one that all can consider home"- no one "new" lives here long enough TO make it home. You say the churchgoers do not live in DC so much anymore. Ok. They live in PG County or somewhere else nearby. But what of the "new" residents? They certainly do not remain in the area long. And when they move, they don't go to nearby localities, they move back to Michigan, California, or New York to name a few. They move WAY out of the area, severing ALL ties.

Posted by: walnuts | March 14, 2007 7:15 AM

Walnuts: It is not a transient city for families whose elders were born in Freedman's Hospital. If you don't know any after 20 years, that speaks volumes about you.

Posted by: Mike | March 14, 2007 8:04 AM

Mike: That is precisely the point - there is a core group of native Washingtonians and then a group of people who move in and out of the area. Many of the core group remain. Many have moved out of the District but still live close in.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 14, 2007 9:52 AM

the comment about MArylanders educating DC children is LAUGHABLE!! At all the DCPS NEIGHBORHOOD schools on Capitol hill, check out all the Maryland (and VA) license plated cars dropping off kids. DC is educating Maryland kids-- not the other way around. why? Because DCPS schools are located slose to where the parents work and the parents want to be there in case of an emergency. Many of the schools-- if you look-- are very good. No half-day kindergarten-- in fact many have all day class for children as young as three-- and that means no daycare expenses. why don't these schools do something about it? Because for a long time the neighborhood residents weren't interested in sending their children to DCPS schools-- or they just moved to the suburbs when the kids were school age-- so the schools were underenrolled otherwise. Now the tide is turning and the neighborhood is staying up and sending the kids into these schools, even though few of the children at these "neighborhood" school actually live int he neighborhood, but actually live in MAryland.

Posted by: Jen | March 14, 2007 12:22 PM

Under the guise of being against the gentrification of Shaw, Shiloh Baptist Church is really against the stabilization of the Shaw neighborhood.

Their portfolio of vacant properties and their worn inhabited properties are surely indicative of the effectiveness of their ministries.

Posted by: Shaw rez | March 14, 2007 12:28 PM

Mike Licht, Your post is laughable. If Shiloh is chronically short of capital, how is the bishop driving a Rolls? Seems like there may be a misplaced sense of priorities in that case...

Posted by: Rudy and Blitz | March 14, 2007 1:02 PM

Its Bishop Long from Scripture Cathedral that drives the Rolls :)
Marc, why no mention of Queen of Sheba?

Posted by: Si Kailian | March 14, 2007 1:20 PM

Queen of Sheba is still sans liquor license. A very vocal minority of Shiloh Parishoners (2 in all, I think) spoke out against allowing Queen of Sheba to operate under a stipulated liquor license pending their ABCB hearing. Numerous nearby residents (myself included) spoke in support of Queen of Sheba. ANC2C was unable to grant Queen of Sheba's stipulated license due to a tie vote (typical of the current Commission thanks to Leroy Thorpe's legacy of divisiveness).

I believe Queen of Sheba's hearing before the ABCB is set for April.

Posted by: Shaw Rez | March 14, 2007 1:53 PM

Man, people spout off a lot in these comment sections without any idea of the reality: New Shaw residents are not all or even primarily out-of-towners - many of us have lived in DC for many years. We may be new to Shaw, but we are not new to DC, and we have been here all along.

Posted by: Carmen | March 14, 2007 3:05 PM

To the comment that newcomers come and go. I have lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and plan to continue to do so.

To the comment that newcomers might not welcome Shiloh converting its housing to section 8. Shiloh has been invited by Emmaus (a nonprofic located next to Shiloh that seeks to help the elderly poor find housing) to turn the shells it owns into housing for the elderly poor. Shiloh said "no". That is not neighborly.

Posted by: John | March 14, 2007 4:35 PM

Marc, it is interesting that Jack Evans is co-sponsoring crime "meetings" with the out of town "clergy".

He also seems to be a big backer of the reactionary and corrupt elements of the ANC2C that are against positive change.

There is a big story here Marc. Jack has been embarrassed into mending the vacant property laws recently. But the laws seem to have a loophole for the "churches".

Posted by: anon | March 14, 2007 4:47 PM

Like many churches of the civilized and cultured worlds, the churches of Shaw are no different. the catholic church developed the carrollsburg office complex on the 900 block of F street just this year and also dont forget the lovely 1700 block of rhode island avenue nw and what both of these blocks looked like for 40 years until the catholic church lost all that money in the pedofile scandal. then they got motivated to cash in. so the landbanking of the shaw churches is really no different.

Posted by: Vose | March 14, 2007 5:34 PM

Wasn't there a comment here about Jack Evans? Seems to have disappeared.

Posted by: ed | March 15, 2007 10:31 AM

Historian: For those same 30 years Shaw residents could have bought those same properties, back when real estate in the neighborhood was stunningly cheap. There were all kinds of programs to help low income people purchase their homes. A few took advantage. Most did not. For those that did not, I have no sympathy when they are priced out because of their inaction.

Posted by: Hillman | March 15, 2007 11:33 AM

Marylander: Actually, quite a few MD kids are going to DC schools, especially on Capitol Hill. They go for free, taking up DC tax dollars.

As for crime, PG County has been high crime in areas for quite some time. Blaming it on DC is ludicrous.

Posted by: Hillman | March 15, 2007 11:34 AM

Mike: Does the Reverend Long still have the private parking space for his Bentley? If so, I find your *helping the community* commentary to be somewhat disingenous.

Posted by: Hillman | March 15, 2007 11:36 AM

The whole idea that Shiloh or any other church insists on building massive trophy buildings to themselves on some of the most expensive real estate in the country sortof makes their claim to *help the poor* seem laughable. How many homeless shelters could they build out in a far less expensive local area for what they spent on their massive church on very expensive land in DC? Methinks there's a lot of vanity and hubris in such a building.

Posted by: Hillman | March 15, 2007 11:42 AM

Focusing on the issue of churches protesting liquor licenses, it is HYPOCRITICAL of Shiloh to not protest the renewal of the liquor license at S&W Liquor, which sells liquor exclusively behind bullet proof glass. If Shiloh truely cares about the children, they would also protest the renewal of liquor licenses by the Giant grocery store across the street.

Shiloh, in it's inconsistent protest of liquor licenses, reeks of hypocrisy.

Posted by: retracsemaj | March 15, 2007 2:06 PM

I take back part of what I said about the ANC2C commissioners trying to keep their meetings secret. Kevin Chapple, a new commissioner, is an exception - he has started a website and seems to be trying to get information out to people. (With no help from chair Doris Brooks, who DOES seem to want to keep everything secret.)

Posted by: PQ | March 15, 2007 2:41 PM

It's been Shiloh's position for years that liquor sales from corner liquor stores is fine (even though such liquor stores destroy and neighborhood) but that the ability to have a glass of wine with dinner, or a bar (where kids are by definition not going to be) is evil. Why the difference? Hypocrisy, mostly. And anti gay bigotry. And they aren't keen on Ethiopians either. The list goes on and on and on.

Posted by: Hillman | March 15, 2007 3:28 PM

What a shame for Vegetate, I wonder how much in sales they lost amidst this battle, and how much time the owners had to spend on this unnecessary fight...

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