Hundreds Protest Bill on Strip Club Relocation

Residents Paul Hill and Wilhelmina Lawson were among those who said they do not want the clubs in Ward 5.
Residents Paul Hill and Wilhelmina Lawson were among those who said they do not want the clubs in Ward 5. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)

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By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 31, 2007

More than 300 residents jammed a Ward 5 community meeting last night to protest legislation pending in the D.C. Council that would allow nude entertainment clubs to relocate to their Northeast neighborhoods.

The bill, introduced by council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), is scheduled for a vote Tuesday. It would change regulations for nude bars, whose licenses now prohibit them from moving, and allow relocation if the new sites have the same zoning designation: commercial and light manufacturing.

Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) called the meeting at the Washington Center for Aging Services to rally opposition to the measure. Thomas says the legislation would allow too many clubs, including three in a warehouse district in his ward, close to an area where residents and developers are seeking to improve neighborhood standards.

Thomas rejected charges that the community opposes the clubs because many cater to homosexuals.

"This is not about whether you're homophobic or against straight clubs. It's about developing a community," Thomas said. "We want a fair-shared process that looks at the whole city."

Graham, who did not attend the meeting, says his bill would simply allow the clubs to move from one commercial manufacturing zone to another.

"I'm not sending these clubs to Ward 5," Graham said. Acceptable commercial zones are "in every ward of the city," he said. "This has all become all very personalized. I'm not a real estate agent, nor do I assign bars in any location."

The clubs were displaced after the District decided to build the Washington Nationals baseball stadium in Southeast Washington.

Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) attended the meeting and said he wanted to show his support for Ward 5 residents.

"Kwame Brown does not want nudie bars next to residential homes," he said.

The sites under consideration are along streets with warehouses, but some of the clubs would be close to homes, schools and churches.

One opponent, the Rev. Michael Kelsey, pastor of New Samaritan Baptist Church, said he had nearly 350 signatures.

"In this community, we've been waiting for positive changes for a long time," Kelsey said. "A red light district is not what we consider a positive change."

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