With McFadden’s shut down, students pressed to fill Tuesday-night void

Media Credit: Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor

McFadden's will not re-open after a stabbing left five people with serious injuries. Some GW community members say the closing is best for public safety, while other students say they'll miss the campus watering hole.

Updated: Jan. 12, 2015 at 11:41 p.m.

Students for the past decade have seen going to McFadden’s, the sticky-floored college bar just off campus, as a rite of passage – a place to celebrate 21st birthdays, watch people dance on tables and blow off steam on Tuesday nights.

At the beginning of every semester, students lined Pennsylvania Avenue to join one of the first parties back on campus, and for every Tuesday night after that, they said they could always rely on McFadden’s to be the spot where they could meet up with friends – a rarity in GW’s otherwise scattered social scene.

The campus hangout, which opened in March 2003, will not reopen after a stabbing inside the bar left five people seriously injured two weeks ago, and some say that’s best for the neighborhood.

Upperclassmen seeking cheap drinks will now have to look elsewhere. The bar marks the seventh campus hub to close within the past four years, and some students and alumni say this hole will be hard to fill.

“I think it will really change the nightlife for GW students, especially that void that’s left on Tuesday nights,” said Alex Mizenko, a former Student Association finance committee chair who graduated in 2013.

Others have already floated Lindy’s Red Lion, Sign of the Whale and Froggy Bottom Pub as replacements. Brooke O’Connell, who graduated from GW in 2012 and frequented the bar as a senior, said that GW won’t lose its sense of community because of the closing.

“You can’t replace your friends but you can replace a bar,” she said. “After you graduate, you don’t really go back there. I’ll leave it to the younger current students to figure out where they want to go.”

Losing a community watering hole
When Will Ellingson turned 21, he said going to McFadden’s was his “rite of passage.” Ellingson, who graduated last year, said his favorite memory was getting to stand behind the bar one night and make drinks as a guest bartender for an hour.

“It was kind of a cool last kickoff of your college experience,” Ellingson said.

McFadden’s, described as “D.C.’s most iconic Irish party bar” on its Twitter account, was frequented by students throughout the academic year. It hosted an “Extreme Midget Wrestling” event in August, and Complex Magazine dubbed McFadden’s the “douchiest bar” in the District in 2012.

Former Student Association president John Richardson, who graduated in 2013, said he often went to McFadden’s on Tuesday nights for happy hour during his senior year because mostly GW students went.

“If it wasn’t Tuesday night, there wouldn’t be any reason to go to McFadden’s,” Richardson said.

The closing marks the end of one of the few remaining popular student bars near campus. In 2011, Froggy Bottom Pub announced it would change location to make room for the development of a University office building. The pub’s new spot on K Street partially caters to a higher-end clientele.

This year, Panda Cafe and Mehran, two other well-frequented campus restaurants, also moved. And last March, ice cream shop Cone E. Island shut down after 27 years in the Shops at 2000 Penn.

Jacob Thayer, a former president of the Residence Hall Association, said he remembers going to the bar during Senior Week in May to catch up with his friends before graduation.

“Every GW student goes at least one point in their GW career, despite the not-so-stellar reputation of the joint,” said Thayer, who earned his degree two years ago.

Still looking for suspects
The bar’s liquor license will remain suspended until Jan. 28, when the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board makes a final decision about the status of the license. The company has already announced it will not reopen, but that McFadden’s wants to keep its liquor license so that it can be sold.

The board stripped McFadden’s of its ability to serve alcohol Dec. 30 after finding that the bar presented “an imminent danger to the health and safety of the public,” according to the suspension notice.

Two of the victims were sent to a MedStar Hospital, and three others were taken to GW Hospital, according to a police report. All five are expected to survive, and University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said none are GW students.

The Metropolitan Police Department released photos of two people Jan. 2 who could be connected to the stabbing. MPD Lieutenant Sean Conboy said there have not yet been any arrests in the case.

The report found that security personnel at the bar would not initially cooperate with police, and one employee attempted to mop blood off the floor. The venue was also over capacity at the time of the incident.

When police arrived at the scene, one person resisted arrest and hit a police officer in the head, sending the officer to the hospital. Another person attempted to hit a different police officer and was arrested, according to the report.

The report also found that a McFadden’s employee allowed an “unknown individual” who appeared to have blood on his hands and “could have been the assailant” to leave.

Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairman Patrick Kennedy called the bar’s initial response to the stabbing a “flagrant disregard for public safety and order.”

“It was hard to figure out any element of their operation that was taking place at the compliance of the law,” he said. “You can’t hold an alcoholic beverage license if you’re going to throw caution at the wind and disregard regulations.”

An attorney representing McFadden’s, Steve O’Brien, could not be reached for comment.

Before the stabbing, McFadden’s was known for rowdy behavior. The Washington Post found that the bar had been investigated 56 times since its opening, including for simple assaults, assaults with weapons and assaults on police officers, as well as four times for selling alcohol to underage patrons.

“I think it’s a generally positive thing not to have McFadden’s because they have a history of problems,” said Jackson Carnes, another member of the ANC and an alumnus. “This is by far the worst.”

Jacqueline Thomsen contributed reporting.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that all five suspects are expected to survive. There are two persons of interest in the case. All five victims of the stabbing are expected to survive. We regret this error.

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