Relocated Adult Club Is Facing Shutdown in NE

By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

District regulatory officials have ordered the shutdown of 2120, a sexually oriented club for gay men in Northeast Washington that has been a target of protests by neighborhood residents.

The club's certificate of occupancy will be revoked next week, according to a letter from Zoning Administrator Bill Crews. The owner, Robert Siegel, will not be able to operate in the District without it after June 26.

In the letter, Crews said the certificate of occupancy was being revoked because Siegel had applied to open "office space" at the location, which was formerly used by a limousine company. The application stated that Siegel would be the property's new owner but implied that he would use it for the same purpose. Crews said the club cannot be categorized as office space.

"You erroneously submitted an application solely for a change of ownership without indicating a change of use from 'office space' to a sexually-oriented business," Crews wrote. The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs "relied on your agent's representation that the reason for the application was a change of ownership without a change of use. Rather than office space, you are using the premises as a sexually-oriented business."

Siegel, who did not return several telephone calls, was served the order last week, an official said. He was given 10 business days to close, and he has 60 days to appeal the administrator's decision to the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

If the club remains open, the owner could be fined $2,000 a day for operating without a valid certificate of occupancy, according to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

"This is very good news for Ward 5 residents," said Debbie Smith, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner. "Now we have as a community the opportunity to go before [the board] and allow them to hear our concerns."

Hundreds of people have attended town hall meetings, led by D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), in recent weeks to protest the club, which relocated to the ward this spring, and to oppose legislation that would have allowed others to move to the area.

The 2120 club and several others were displaced last year when construction began for the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium and accompanying development in Southeast.

Kathy Henderson, another community activist, said she plans to organize a rally to support the decision to close the club.

"We want them out of here," Henderson said. "We will not stand idly by and allow our neighborhood to be dumped on with businesses that nobody else wants."

Henderson and Smith were among hundreds of residents that protested a recent council bill that would have allowed the adult entertainment clubs to relocate to the warehouse district in their ward, adjacent to the working-class communities of Ivy City and Trinidad. The residents said it would create a "red-light zone" in an area of the city that is undergoing revitalization.

Swayed by neighborhood opposition, the council voted to allow only two of six displaced clubs from Southeast Washington to move to any single ward.

Siegel, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 6, purchased the building at 2120 West Virginia Ave. NE for $2.6 million in April 2006. He also bought another property nearby for nearly $4 million.

The order to close the club, which did not need the council's approval to move because it does not serve alcohol, followed a visit last month by officials from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Officials found sex toys and sexually oriented movies on sale. The club has six benches and a large-screen television that plays X-rated videos in a viewing room.

Crews's letter was sent to the club before he revealed this week that he had been placed on administrative leave, in an apparently unrelated matter.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company