City officials seek to close clubs following violence

Metropolitan Police officials are stepping up their efforts to shut down some nightclubs following a recent spate of violent incidents in and around local hangouts.

Last week’s fatal stabbing near the GW Bhangra Blowout after-party in the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue (see Univ., p. 1) was only the latest in a series of violent eruptions which have frustrated MPD officers and the city government alike.

Three homicides and several other violent incidents that occurred at Club U at 2000 14th St. prompted Police Chief Charles Ramsey to temporarily shut down the club for one night after a stabbing. He is asking the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to revoke the club’s liquor license. Club U is located in the Reeves Center, a D.C. government building where more than 1,000 District employees work.

Ramsey has also asked the ABRA to review the liquor license of Dream, a popular nightclub in northeast D.C. where more than a dozen non-fatal stabbings and fights have erupted since last December.

City Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) introduced legislation that would give the police chief the power to close an establishment for up to seven days.

“Someone was stabbed to death in a government building in the District of Columbia,” said Alan Heymann, Graham’s communications director. “That was what made this case unusual.”

Heymann said Graham’s legislation has been co-introduced or co-sponsored by a majority of council members.

Officer Kenneth Bryson, of MPD’s Public Information Office, said the police chief is attempting to signal a new level of commitment to combating violent crime near the city’s nightspots.

“We want people coming into D.C. to be safe and enjoy themselves. We don’t want people to attend these clubs with the sole purpose of committing criminal behavior,” Bryson said.

In an interview following the March 23 stabbing outside the Post Office Pavilion, MPD Lt. William Farr said the number of violent incidents at clubs has “been pretty much the same throughout the last couple of years.” Farr is a member of the department’s Violent Crimes Unit.

Despite the recent attention drawn to nightclub violence, though, some students said they are not concerned about their safety.

“There’s always going to be violence,” said sophomore Matt Sternberg, who said he goes to clubs often. “I think it’s inevitable.”

The chief of police holds the power to close an establishment for the remainder of the business day. The ABRA then holds hearings to determine if the establishment’s license should be suspended or revoked.

Jeff Coudriet, director of operations for the ABRA, said the hearings could last weeks or months depending on the amount of evidence brought against an establishment. In an unusual move, the ABRA has suspended Club U’s liquor license throughout the duration of the hearing process, which Coudriet said will damage the club significantly. Club U is closed while it awaits the ABRA’s decision.

Coudriet said MPD has recently become much more active in appealing to the ABRA for injunctions when violence at particular nightclubs has escalated.

“It wouldn’t be my observation that (violence) has been any better or worse than in past years,” Coudriet said. “But (MPD) has just really learned the process a lot better.”

-Michael Barnett contributed to this report

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