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Panutat, LLC v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Bd.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 19, 2013

PANUTAT, LLC, Petitioner,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL BOARD, Respondent, and Chris Labas, Florence Harmon, Michael MacChiaroli, Julie Gess, Andrew Dinsmore, and Trevor Neve, Intervenors.

Submitted May 14, 2013.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Matthew August LeFande was on the brief for petitioner.

Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, and Richard S. Love, Senior Assistant Attorney General, filed a statement in lieu of brief in support of respondent.

Cornish F. Hitchcock, Washington, DC, was on the brief for intervenors.

Before THOMPSON and McLEESE, Associate Judges, and BELSON, Senior Judge.

THOMPSON, Associate Judge:

This petition for review relates to an application by Petitioner Panutat, LLC (" Petitioner" or " Panutat" ) for a Retailer's Class CN alcoholic beverage license for a nightclub (Sanctuary 21, hereafter " Sanctuary" ) Panutat proposed to operate in the basement of 2131 K Street, N.W. (the " Sanctuary license" ). A related petition for review was before this court previously, after the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (the " Board" ) had initially approved the Sanctuary license in an August 4, 2010, order and Intervenors Chris Labas et al. petitioned for review of that order. We resolved that earlier petition by granting the Board's Consent Motion to Remand, in which the Board requested that we remand the matter to enable it to " reconsider evidence" pertaining to the operations of Shadow Room, a nightclub already holding a CN license for its operation at 2131 K Street, N.W., and to reconsider its order granting the Sanctuary license.[1] Subsequently, after a September

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28, 2011, hearing (the " remand hearing" ), the Board issued a January 11, 2012, order (the " Order" ) in which it reversed its August 4, 2010, order and denied the Sanctuary application. The Order stated that " [b]ased on the neighborhood's experience with Shadow Room, ... increasing the number of patrons at 2131 K Street, N.W., w[ould] adversely impact peace, order, and quiet and vehicular and pedestrian safety in the neighborhood." Order at 12. In a March 28, 2012, order (the " Reconsideration Order" ), the Board also denied Panutat's request for reconsideration. Panutat now challenges the Board's rulings, on several grounds.[2] For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I. Standard of Review

" ‘ Under the general limited review that we undertake of any agency decision, we must affirm unless we conclude that the agency's ruling was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.’ " Recio v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Bd., 75 A.3d 134, 140-41, 2013 WL 4779719, at *5 (D.C.2013). " ‘ [W]here questions of law are concerned, we review the agency's rulings de novo because we are presumed to have the greater expertise when the agency's decision rests on a question of law, and we therefore remain the final authority on issues of statutory construction.’ " Id. Nevertheless, " ‘ an agency's interpretation of its own regulations or of the statute which it administers is generally entitled to great deference from this court.’ " Id.

" Unless the Board has committed an error of law, this court will overturn its decision only if it is unsupported by substantial evidence." Tiger Wyk, Ltd. v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Bd., 825 A.2d 303, 307 (D.C.2003). " When there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Board's decision, we will not substitute our judgment for that of the Board, ‘ even though there may also be substantial evidence to support a contrary decision....’ " Aziken v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Bd., 29 A.3d 965, 972 (D.C.2011). Further, " [s]o long as the Board's final decision is based on substantial evidence, this court will not disturb it [,] ... regardless of whether the decision reverses or modifies an earlier Board ruling or announces a new one." Tiger Wyk, 825 A.2d at 308.[3]

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II. Analysis


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