Dacha and Shaw's Advisory Neighborhood Commission have reached a compromise over the beer garden's expansion. As Borderstan first reported, the beer garden received the OK to increase its outdoor capacity from 126 to 250. The ANC also approved a 250-person capacity for the indoor space next door. The Alcoholic Beverage Control board still has to give its final sign-off.
Dacha's owners Dmitri Chekaldin and Ilya Alter initially wanted to expand the capacity to 350 outside. That drew protest from neighbors, who have long battled with the beer garden over noise. The bar had regularly exceeded its capacity limit, sometimes with crowds of 300 or more. Then about three weeks ago, the owners announced they would limit seating to the permitted 126 and lay off half its staff as a result. Dacha launched a social media campaign, asking people to tweet elected officials about increasing the capacity.
Chekaldin says he feels good about the new agreement: "It's a very thoughtful agreement, and I think it will create a great precedent for the neighborhood and any future businesses that are coming to Shaw."
He says ANC Commissioner Alex Padro and Councilmember David Grosso were both instrumental in getting a deal done.
Chekaldin previously said that they were negotiating to sell the business to an unnamed German beer brand. With this agreement, he says they're no longer interested in that.
"Selling the business was a last resort... If you have nowhere to go, then of course that would have been the course of action that we would have pursued," he says. "My heart and soul went into this place, and so I'd rather not sell it."
Part of the agreement with the ANC will require Dacha to have 200 physical seats. Right now, it has about 100 with lots of standing room. Additional picnic tables will be added to the section of the beer garden closest to 7th Street NW. No additional seats will be added on the side closer to people's homes. Dacha plans to keep operating through the winter as long as the weather permits with heaters and blankets.
Chekaldin says they will likely rehire some employees to accommodate the new setup and additional capacity, but he's not sure how many yet. Meanwhile, the owners are trying to figure out exactly what they will do with the indoor space. A market and cafe is set to open on the ground floor first.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery