Braving the bar scene

Restaurants that have a vibrant night scene and allow customers under 21 are more trouble than they are worth for managers and owners, area restaurant owners said.

“We have to be babysitters,” said Mo Bousane, partial owner and manager of Tequila Grill at 1990 K St. “If something happens to a kid, I’m responsible.”

Many students at GW fall between the age of 18 and 21. When going out, students may not realize the liabilities, problems and hassles involved with security that managers and owners experience. Customers are often carded at the door and those who are underage often receive an “X” on both hands, and those who are 21 receive a bracelet.

Bousane said “18 and over” nights call for six security guards. This includes two at the door, one at the bathroom and three walking around making sure that no one with marked hands is drinking. On nights restricted to legal drinkers, Bousane hires two guards.

It is difficult to find decent security, Bousane said. He has fired bouncers for drinking on the job and for allowing too many people with fake IDs in the club.

Bousane said he likes the business that 18-plus nights bring, but he could do without the stress and risk involved with the police. He said Metropolitan Police Department officers come to the club about once a week, often on Saturday nights.

“The bouncers are not experts,” Bousane said. “I’ve seen the cops take a couple of people in handcuffs to jail.”

Seven GW students were arrested by MPD in March at several local bars including Tequila Grill and Froggy Bottom, according to an April 5 Hatchet article. Students report increased police presence in bars throughout the area recently.

Restaurants that turn into clubs are such hot spots that even Bertucci’s gave the idea a try five Friday nights last December and January.
“We wanted to draw the kids up here,” General Manager Ghani Niazi said. “We figured out it might help us put a name out there. Basically, we do most of our business with school kids at night.”

Niazi said it did not go as planned. He expected to get a crowd 21 and over but most of the customers were underage, he said.

He said customers of age would order drinks and pitchers and pass them out to the younger crowd, forcing him to ask customers to leave.
Niazi said of the 73 Bertucci’s locations nationwide, the one at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. is the only restaurant in the chain that tried hosting a club at night. He said the reason they gave it a try was because of its large, two-level layout.

Niazi said the biggest concern was that it could take away the name of the family restaurant and said he would never consider trying the concept again.

“We started having a couple concerns with underage drinking and issues like that,” he said. “We didn’t want to take a chance.”

Club Bertucci’s also failed to keep a crowd.

Bertucci’s Manager Bob Rowudari said at first the club was a successful party, but ultimately it became a money pit. Hardly anyone attended the last night it was offered.

“It was fun and in that aspect it was good, but it was not profitable,” Rowudari said. “This year we’re making the same amount of money as when we had the party. It wasn’t constant enough.”

Froggy Bottom Pub, located on 2142 Pennsylvania Ave., is a restaurant and has a bar downstairs that opens at 5 p.m.
Owner Hein Bui said from 5 to 8 p.m. Froggy Bottom gets more of a professional crowd, but as the night goes on the bar fills with college students.

Bui said upstairs at the restaurant customers are only carded when they ask for alcohol. Downstairs, everyone is carded at the door, but under 21 customers are allowed to accompany their of-age friends as long as they do not drink, she said.

“We do have an underage problem (with) drinking, but they know that if they drink underage and we catch them, they’re in big trouble,” Bui said. “Then they won’t have a chance to come here again until they’re 21. I make that clear. And believe me, I remember the faces.”

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