District’s alcohol board clears Adams Morgan bar to reopen after assault

September 4, 2013

An Adams Morgan bar closed Friday by D.C. police after they said a man was critically injured trying to subdue an unruly patron has been allowed to reopen, according to the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

“The board decided that there was not sufficient evidence to establish the high standard of imminent danger to the public,” spokeswoman Jessie Cornelius said.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier’s order to close Rendezvous Lounge for 96 hours expired Tuesday. The board could have extended the closure to determine whether the bar’s license should be revoked. The owners of Rendezvous, in the 2200 block of 18th Street NW, could still face sanctions, such as fines.

D.C. police said James Wood, 37, who lives a block from the bar, threw a glass at a bartender, shattering it against his head, then swung a stool at people. Police said Wood then grappled with another customer on the second-floor landing, and both tumbled down the stairs.

Wood has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and remains in serious condition with a skull fracture at George Washington University Hospital, according to police. His attorney, Frederick Iverson, declined to comment.

The other man — a 45-year-old musician and former middle school teacher — suffered a fractured skull and broken neck, and was hemorrhaging from the brain, according to police. A report from the liquor board said the man is on life support, also at George Washington.

Police said the charge against Wood relates to the thrown glass. Lanier, in her letter asking that the bar’s liquor license be revoked, described the fall: “The second victim had attempted to stop the assault by grabbing the suspect and pulling him backwards. At this time, both individuals lost their balance and fell down the stairs.”

In her letter, Lanier said that club management failed to call police when the patron threw the glass. She also said that the “violent crime can be connected directly to the operations of the ‘Rendezvous Lounge’ establishment and severely endangers the residents and visitors of this city.” The bar owner told a liquor board inspector that she thought she heard other people calling police, according to the board’s report.

Rendezvous owners did not respond to repeated phone calls for comment.

The victim’s family, from Colorado Springs, declined to comment. He had taught in the District’s school system and plays bass in a popular band. He also works in the call center for the Shakespeare Theatre Company, an official there confirmed.

The suspect, Wood, has had several run-ins with the law, including pleading guilty to robbery in connection with a bank holdup in Wheaton in 2007. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended. The case forced him from his Chevy Chase home, where he had lived with his parents, court papers said.

At sentencing in that case, Wood told the judge: “The only way I can describe my behavior is pretty much pathetic. . . . I’ve needed help for a while and I was at that point where I was rock bottom when I did what I did.”

Dan Morse contributed to this report.

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