There will be less togetherness in the future at Georgetown's Cellar Door.
Following conversations with the D.C. Fire Department, the management of the Cellar Door is reducing the club's seating capacity from the 199 previously allowed in its license to the 124 permitted by the D.C. building code, a department spokesman said yesterday.
After years of accepting the license's fugure of 199, fire inspectors recently checked the club's floor plan, measured the floor space and discovered that the Cellar Door offers its patrons only 1,274 square feet of elbow room. The building code specifies that nightclubs must have at least 10 square feet of floor space per patron,regardless of the number of exits.
The spokesman said that the change at the Cellar Door does not represent a new fire department policy or a tightening of regulations and inspections for night clubs.
Sam L'Hommedieu, an owner of the club, which has been closed since Saturday, said that he hopes to reopen tonight with Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark. He emphasized the word "hope."
"We agreed to abide by a lower capacity," he said. "As soon as the technicalities are worked out, we will reopen. They asked us to submit a new plan for seating 124. We submitted it last week."
L'Hommedieu said that he believes the club's seating capacity of 199 dates from the mid-60s. "When we bought it in 1970, it had 199."
Facing a 35 percent reduction of capacity, he said, he will try to maintain the Cellar Door's status as "one of the leading clubs in the United States - a club where many national acts have begun.?
He said several possibilities are being explored: expanding the club, opening a larger club elsewhere, and/or raising the prices on cover and drinks.
"I would like to hold the line on prices," L'Hommedieu said, "but economically I can''t see any way to do it."
Expanding the present premises would be "a tough proposition; we can't expand out onto M street or 34th street. We'll have to go up or out. And there you're talking about expensive property that the owners aren't particularly interested in selling."
A spot-check of other Washington clubs showed each has had at least one suprise visit from a fire inspector on a busy night during the past month.
"I wouldn't call it increased inspection activity," said John Bunyan, owner of Blues Alley, a few blocks away from the Cellar Door in Georgetown. "I think they're enforcing the code as they see it, and they have every right to."
Blues Alley is presently planning the installation of a third fire exit which will eliminate seating for a few patrons but Bunyan said that was part of a remodeling plan begun last year.
Several employes of other clubs, who asked to have their names withheld, said they thought the fire inspectors were "not being unreasonable," though they sometimes got "worried" when an inspector came by unexpectedly on a busy night.