Violence Threatens NE Club's License
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Sports fans, politicians and celebrities filled the Dream nightclub, eating crab cakes and grooving to a popular rock band at a party thrown last week by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
The event, celebrating the start of the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament, was further proof that Dream is one of the city's premier nightspots, a place that has played host to former presidents. But D.C. police say the Northeast Washington club attracts criminals as well as VIPs and is so dangerous that it might need to be shut down.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey cited recent beatings, a double stabbing on the dance floor and an armed robbery of a Dream patron in a letter urging the city's alcohol board to reevaluate the club's entertainment and liquor license. The "number and severity of the criminal offenses occurring at and around" Dream raise concern, he said.
The owner of the club said such incidents are infrequent, and he added that he is working to prevent violence and improve the area, once a blighted stretch.
Police officials, however, said they must deploy dozens of officers some nights to keep order on side streets. Several officers have even given Dream the moniker "Club Nightmare."
"We don't have to wait for a murder to happen before looking at it," Ramsey said last week. "I'm trying to put this on the radar screen."
His letter, dated Feb. 28, was the latest salvo in a debate over violence associated with the District's nightclubs. It was sent just weeks after the police department asked the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to revoke the liquor license of Club U, a Northwest Washington nightspot. Three homicides and several other violent incidents have occurred in or near Club U, which is housed in a D.C. government building in the gentrifying U Street corridor, police have said.
Officials said they plan to schedule a hearing about Dream in coming weeks. Possible penalties range from suspending and revoking Dream's license to altering the club's hours and security tactics, the officials said.
When he called for action against Club U, Ramsey had vocal support from community groups and a D.C. Council member. But his effort to look into Dream does not appear to be generating a groundswell of backing.
The chief's boss, the mayor, threw the party Wednesday heralding the basketball tournament. Williams's spokeswoman, Sharon Gang, said the mayor was aware of the violence at Dream. Gang noted that Ramsey has not called for the license to be revoked but only "re-evaluated."
"It's a business that is open and operating legally," Gang said. "He respects the chief's position."
D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who represents the area, said he likes Dream and credits its owner with improving the surrounding community.