Diego Arias had already taken out his change, keys and cell phone when he reached the bodyguards outside Fur nightclub for a routine pat-down one weekend night.
As he was checked from the neck down, Arias felt the bodyguard grab his back pockets in search of anything dangerous. Instead, the bodyguard found the one thing Arias forgot to take out.
“I got my ID snapped right in half,” said Arias, a frequent clubber from Woodbridge, Va. “The guy grabbed it so hard it broke.”
Purse searches, pat-downs, metal detectors and other forms of security are frequent at D.C. nightclubs. While several clubs have stringent security, violence has become an area issue after some high-profile incidents.
Earlier this month Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson attempted to close nine nightclubs in the county. The closures were initiated by a spate of violence during which 11 homicides occurred in as many days, two of which were directly connected to nightclubs. While a court order allowed five of the clubs to stay open with provisions, three of the original nine remain closed.
The District has been concerned with violence since a January murder in which 17-year-old Taleshia Ford was shot at the now-closed Smarta/Broadway, also known as Club 1919, at 1919 9th St., N.W.
Ford’s death sparked debate over the presence of minors in clubs and on club security in general. D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham introduced the Youth Protection Bill in early February in an effort to make District clubs safer.
“(Ford’s death) had everything to do with a total lack of requirements on underage persons in nightclubs in D.C.,” Graham said in a statement. “The law unwittingly created the opportunity for a dangerous environment to be established and maintained at 1919 9th St.”
The bill would require minors to have parental supervision after 11 p.m. during the week and after midnight on the weekend in any establishment serving alcohol. It would also allow clubs to beef up security by hiring off-duty police officers as bouncers. Public comment on the legislation was heard Wednesday, but a vote has not yet been scheduled.
The D.C. City Council has closed several clubs over the years in response to complaints about violence and underage drinking.
In spite of recent violent acts, University Police Department reports show GW students have not experienced increased club-related violence. University Police Chief Dolores Stafford said there have been six off-campus assaults since August 2006. While three of those incidents were nightclub related, the chief said this is not an increase from previous years.
Stafford said students need only follow common sense to keep themselves safe.
“Go with a group of friends. Return with a group of friends. Do not drink, or drink in moderation if you are 21. Take a cab or use 4-RIDE,” Stafford said.
Club owners said they take the proper precautions to ensure patron safety. Andre Demoya, co-owner of Eye Bar Lounge at 1716 I St., said his business employs six to eight security guards per night and use other technologies such as ID scanners and cameras to deter violence.
“I think the potential for violence is relative to clubs anywhere. All you have to do is take appropriate measures,” Demoya said.
He said he does not think there are increased incidents of violence in clubs compared to other businesses.
“Nightclubs and bars get a bad rap when someone gets shot, but if it happened at Georgetown or GW is it because of the campus? No, it’s because of unfortunate circumstances,” he said.
Several club-goers waiting in line for Love Night Club earlier this month said they knew people who were involved in fist fights or victims of pick-pocketing in clubs. Most said they appreciated security measures because they knew it would make them safe inside.
Amanda Smith, a frequent clubber from Hagerstown, Md., said she didn’t mind long lines and purse inspections.
“I don’t mind the security; it makes me feel safer,” she said, waiting outside Love in the cold. “As long as I know no one is bringing in weapons, we’ll be all right.”