Area club up for liquor license renewal

A hotly debated Foggy Bottom nightclub will learn its fate next week, when a city agency decides if the establishment can serve alcohol.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board will hear cases both for and against the Shadow Room before determining if the nearly 3-year-old nightclub can retain its liquor license.

Wednesday’s hearing follows a 6-0 vote against renewing the license by the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission last October, which cited noise and issues with crime at the club as reasons against the club’s license renewal. A separate protest by residents was filed in the D.C. Court of Appeals against the club’s owners receiving a second liquor license for a new club to be located a floor below Shadow Room.

The commission’s vote was ceremonial, as the group has no regulatory power, but agencies like the control board often take note of their decisions, as the ANC serves as a voice for the two neighborhoods and can argue its position in front of agencies.

The Shadow Room currently holds two liquor licenses, one for the upstairs level and one for the floor below, which is set to house a second club called Sanctuary 21. The second license pushed the maximum capacity for both the two floors up by another 125 patrons.

ANC chair Rebecca Coder said she is confident the control board will agree with the ANC’s stance.

“The ANC looks forward to presenting its case, and believes the ABC Board will concur and support our goal to limit the negative effects of the establishment,” Coder said.

Shadow Room’s owner Swaptak Das said claims about the club have been highly exaggerated, alleging that some commissioners have a “crusade” against his business.

He said that despite some incidents, Shadow Room has never been accused of any wrongdoing by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration – the District’s regulating agency for businesses selling alcohol.

The ABC Board, a seven-member body under ABRA, will make its decision based on evidence provided by the ANC and other sources.

“I feel good going into [the hearing],” Das said. “ABRA’s very fair, they investigate thoroughly and they give us due process.”

There have been 22 incidents either in the club or on the block outside of it between January 2009 and Jan. 1 of this year, according to records from the ABC Board.

Of the 22 reports, eight were simple assaults, three were misdemeanors – some of which were attacks on officers – three were sick people sent to the hospital, two were assaults with a dangerous weapon and two were fights outside of the establishment.

In 2010, the police responded seven times to the club, compared to 13 in 2009. This year, there have been two cases – a simple assault and a disorderly patron – both occurring Jan. 1.

Last fall a group of five residents, including ANC commissioner Florence Harmon, protested the fact that Shadow Room’s owners were granted a license for Sanctuary 21, citing loud noise and disruptive behavior from Shadow Room. The protest group was not officially connected with the ANC, but the group will be attending next week’s hearing.

Harmon and the other residents live a block away from the club at 1099 22nd St. NW, just off Washington Circle and not far from GW Hospital.

A recent mediation meeting with Das and Harmon, who was representing the ANC, failed to settle the issue. Harmon said at last week’s ANC meeting the organization would like to see a reduction in the club’s capacity.

She said Shadow Room’s owners got a new liquor license for the lower level – planned to house Sanctuary 21 – after it had an “existing license for two floors.”

“I was told by the mediator that I couldn’t bring that [second liquor license] up,” Harmon said.

“So we were at an impasse, and we departed. Now the owner has filed a motion to dismiss our protest on the basis that I wouldn’t mediate,” Harmon said at the meeting.

Harmon declined to comment further for this article.

Das said his daily employment of a police detail explains the high level of reported incidents. The police officers he employs must report all crimes that occur on the block, he said.

Shadow Room received increased attention late December, when an alleged brawl between two Wizards players broke out Christmas Eve. Das said Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee had started fighting outside the club, before they were broken up by police. Both Blatche and McGee were suspended for one game after the incident.

The Feb. 2 hearing will take place at the ABRA headquarters at 1250 U St. A time for the hearing will be announced when ABRA releases the agenda in the upcoming week.

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