Bethesda Restaurant, Lounge Keeps Alcohol License Despite Protest From Neighbors

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A Latin restaurant and dance lounge in Bethesda will get to keep its alcohol license, despite a challenge from nearby condo dwellers who say the restaurant is too loud and a magnet for drunken behavior.

Residents of the Fairmont Plaza condominium presented a protest petition to the Montgomery County Board of License Commissioners, which prompted a hearing on Thursday to review The Parva’s alcohol license.

An attorney for The Parva owners Juan Carlos Balcazar and his brother Edwin portrayed the restaurant as a law abiding business focused on cuisine more than its upstairs lounge business. The Parva is one of the few non-hotel businesses in Montgomery County that offers bottle service.

“It’s just that we’re accused of being a nightclub,” said The Parva attorney Alan Steinhorn, “I’d like to show you what goes on behind the doors.”

Despite the complaints about booming late night dance music and customers urinating in a nearby alley, The Parva has never been issued an alcohol violation and has not been the subject of a noise violation from the county’s Department of Environmental Protection. It opened in June 2011.

Montgomery County Police officer Mike Schmidt, who works off-duty security for The Parva three nights a week, said the restaurant is far from the loudest or most disruptive in Woodmont Triangle. Schmidt also said many of the residents’ complaints directed at The Parva are actually about patrons of other bars who hang out in Veterans Park around closing time.

Aaron Davis, president of the Fairmont Plaza condo board, and other residents said they worked with county officials from a variety of agencies to try to find a solution, but to no avail. Both sides disputed how willing the other was to meet and work out a compromise. Juan Carlos Balcazar said he did $7,000 worth of soundproofing to the business to deal with the issue.

But Fairmont Plaza residents had about 40 signatures that said the music was still a problem keeping them from sleeping — especially on the weekends.

“Commissioners, you are our last hope. Please send a message to the bars in downtown Bethesda that you will not allow our city to turn into Adams Morgan or Clarendon,” Davis said. “We aren’t anti-nightlife. But enough is enough. There has to be a limit to what a reasonable citizen is expected to endure.”

But without alcohol violations, noise violations and any record of arrests happening inside the restaurant, the Board chose to renew The Parva’s alcohol license.

“I don’t see a basis for not renewing your license but I do see a basis for you being a much better licensee,” said Board Commissioner Fred Silverman.

One of the chief complaints of the residents — that The Parva’s customers come from outside of Bethesda and show little respect for the area — sparked a fiery response from Steinhorn, who happens to live in Prince George’s County.

“I’m personally offended by this protest pointing out Prince George’s County residents frequent La Parva,” Steinhorn said. “I really don’t know if I want to come to Bethesda anymore if the people who live there don’t want people from Prince George’s County.”

Fairmont Plaza residents said they took exception to what they called “race-baiting,” from Steinhorn.

The hearing got particularly heated at a few points. Residents said Juan Carlos Balcazar’s DUI arrest last fall mirrored his attitude toward operating the restaurant.

It was the first protest petition in downtown Bethesda in two years, at a time when Montgomery County is pushing looser alcohol laws and a stronger nighttime economy.

“I think it goes beyond just this restaurant,” said Board Commissioner Susan Heltemes. “I think there are legitimate reasons to believe that there are persons contributing to these problems that do not come from this establishment. It goes beyond the police. It goes beyond the restaurants.”

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