“Who would have ever thought” wrote Ward 5 community activist Kathryn Pearson-West in a July 11 e-mail, “that downtown and 14th Street would get rid of theirs only to get a fabulous new [Nationals Park] area, [and next] see Ward 5 trying to benefit by bringing adult entertainment to the borders of residential communities?”
Observing that it wasn’t long ago that Ward 5 citizens came together to protest the establishment of strip clubs in their ward, Pearson asked, “Where in the vision for Ward 5 are upscale strip clubs?”
A great question that seems to be going unanswered among Ward 5 leaders. The same, however, can’t be said of strip club owners. They have a vision, and it’s focused like a laser beam on a warehouse district bordered by small homes in Ward 5.
And the owners are thinking big. Washingtonians familiar with college fraternal and sorority organizations, especially those founded by African Americans, will find this development especially striking: a new AKA is coming to the nation’s capital.
That kind of announcement would ordinarily bring joy to the hearts of 260,000 nationwide members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the oldest Greek letter organization to be founded by African American women (it was born on the campus of Howard University in 1908). I suspect, however, that most sorority sisters of AKA won’t be too pleased with the new arrival.
That’s because the new AKA in town will go by the name “Club AKA.” Yes, this AKA is not a sorority chapter; it is a million-dollar upscale strip club under construction in Ward 5 on West Virginia Avenue in the Ivy City section of Northeast Washington.
Paul Kadlick, president of Club AKA, told me in an interview this week that his club will have a sports bar and game room to go along with the “100 dancing entertainers and 40 full-time staff” that he plans to employ. “Are the entertainers nude dancers?” yours truly asked. “Yes,” said Kadlick.
It should be noted that when asked about his strip club by a reporter for TBD.com last year, Kadlick reportedly said, “We expect pretty regular blue collar clientele during the day with maybe the prospect of seeing a naked woman or two.”
One thing’s for sure; Club AKA intends to be there whenever the need to ogle women in the raw strikes home. According to documents filed with the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Club AKA will open at 11 a.m. every day to accommodate the lunch crowd, and will remain open until 2 a.m. on weeknights, and 3 a.m. on weekends. The ABC board, over the objection of neighborhood groups, approved Club AKA’s application on Feb. 16.
Asked if he knew that his club in Ivy City bears the same initials as the nation’s oldest African American sorority, and that the group’s symbol is an Ivy, which is also the name that identifies AKA pledges, Kadlick said he was unaware of those connections “until about six people mentioned the similarities to me.”
Club AKA, he said, is “a combination of initials of the three owners’ last names.” He said he had no prior knowledge of the sorority, and intends no disrespect to its members, but that he will keep the club’s name.
WAMU radio reported that D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) has supported the applications of Club AKA and other strip clubs and that he said upscale clubs can be good corporate neighbors. When I spoke to Thomas last week, he strenuously denied having supported Club AKA’s application. “I never wrote, called or spoke with anyone in behalf of Club AKA,” Thomas said. He said the club’s owners were probably culturally insensitive in choosing the AKA name.
Officials of the AKA sorority’s national headquarters in Chicago were in Atlanta last week and unavailable for comment. But AKA alumni with whom I spoke were unhappy with the news.
Full disclosure: my wife is an AKA alumna; I hasten to add that my sister is a member of the rival Delta Sigma Theta sorority, for those who keep track of such matters.
One thing’s for sure: Ward 5, with the arrival of Club AKA’s nudies, is going to be put on the map. But in a good way?