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Posted at 07:21 PM ET, 08/24/2012

Uniontown closes; owner admits to drug trafficking


Dasher in February 2011, shortly after Uniontown’s grand opening. (Marvin Joseph - WASHINGTON POST)
The story of Uniontown will not have a happy ending.

The Anacostia restaurant that many saw as a spark that could ignite a rebirth of Historic Anacostia was evicted Friday from its corner space on Martin Luther King Avenue SE.

Uniontown’s recent closure comes less than a year after owner Natasha Dasher was implicated in a drug trafficking scheme that federal agents said sent 65 kilograms of cocaine and $1.5 million in cash from Texas to Prince George’s County.

The charges put a damper on what had been a widely touted and outwardly successful enterprise in the economically depressed neighborhood.

In April, the company owning the restaurant was sued in D.C. Superior Court for more than $18,000 in unpaid rent. After the company failed to adhere to a repayment plan and skipped a court date, an eviction writ was issued on July 11.

Stan Voudrie, the developer who owns the building, declined to comment on the specifics of the situation but said the eviction was some time in the making. “Nobody gets evicted in D.C. all of a sudden,” he said.

In what appears to be coincidental timing, court records indicate Dasher, 37, pleaded guilty in Houston Thursday to a pair of federal felonies related to the drug trafficking case — possession with intent to distribute cocaine and a related conspiracy charge. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 8; the charges each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Dasher’s attorney in the Texas case, Mark Bennett, declined to comment, saying he was “not authorized to say anything about that case.”

Now Anacostia residents are left to wonder what’s next for their neighborhood, which has seen increased investment from homeowners and real-estate developers in recent years but few new businesses serving residents.

Charles Wilson, president of the Historic Anacostia Block Association, said Uniontown’s closure shouldn’t discourage entrepreneurs looking to do business in the area.

”It didn’t succeed not because the demand wasn’t there,” Wilson said. “The demand was there. Once that whole drug bust happened, people just got turned off.

Wilson said he was “disappointed but not heartbroken” over the whole thing: “I’m just really hoping that some young, black professionals really, really take a sincere interest in Anacostia.”

Voudrie said the Uniontown space, with its full kitchen and bar, will “more than likely” be leased to another restaurant or tavern. “It would be fair to say that we will do what we can to keep it that,” he said.

By  |  07:21 PM ET, 08/24/2012

 
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