In a bizarre ruling that has startled virtually all the parties involved, the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board this week denied a liquor license transfer application in part because the applicants had told the board the restaurant-bar would not allow children to watch topless and bottomless go-go dancers.
The board cited the District's human rights law, which bars discrimination based on "race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, physical handicap, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, or place of residence or business."
In addition, the ruling, which has halted at least temporarily the sale of the Godfather Supper Club at 4934 Wisconsin Ave. NW to a corporation headed by two Iranian restaurateurs, notes a section of the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Act requiring a licensed "hotel, tavern, restaurant, ordinary, simple room, tippling-house, saloon or eating house" to admit "any quiet and orderly person or persons."
"True, said the board, "minors are not permitted to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages in restaurants, but surely they must be considered part of the public and are therefore entitled to obtain meals in these restaurants."
The issue arose, ironically, because an attorney for the Godfather's prospective new owners, responding to neighbor's complaints about noise and nudity, asked the ABC board to bear in mind that no minors would be admitted. The board did bear it in mind. The application was rejected, and the three principal reasons cited were neighborhood opposition, the character of the entertainment, and the management's policy of excluding minors.
"This board intends to make it crystal clear to all ABC establishments that they must abide by the law," said board member James W. Hill, elaborating on the apparent intent of the ruling that he co-authored. Hill disavowed any ulterior motive in the ruling, but acknowledged that he and the ABC board support the concept of a "nightclub" license. Such a license, together with possible modifications in the Human Rights law, would create a new foodless class of establishments where minors might legally be excluded.
Under current D.C. law, there is no such thing as a "nightclub" or "cabaret." A profit-making business that sells liquor for on-premises consumption must also offer food and, the law specifies, derive its "chief source of revenue" from that.
"We have a full menu but we can't force anybody to eat," said Maria Willett, manager of the Gold Rush at 821 14th St. NW, which offers topless, though not bottomless, dancing. Willett favors the nightclub license idea, but described as "rotten" the ABC board's ruling on the questiog of admitting minors. "I certainly wouldn't want to bring my children in here for lunch," Willett declared.
In the spring of 1974, the ABC board suspended the Godfather's Class "C" license for 90 days, "because there was physical contact" between customers and dancers, ABC staff director John R. Johnston recalled yesterday. But the D.C. Court of Appeals first stayed and ultimately vacated the board's order."We tried," said Johnston unhappily, "but it didn't work."
One man was stabbed to death and another shot in what appeared to be racially motivated fracas outside the Godfather in November, 1944. Four members of the Pagans motorcycle gang were arrested the same evening, and all were later convicted of first-degree murder.
Dehnad Danny Taiedi, president of the corporation that has been seeking to buy the Godfather, could not be reached for comment, nor could the corporation's attorney, Leonard W. Burka. It is not known if they plan to appeal the ABC board ruling.
Robert A. Evers, an attorney with the General Accounting Office who represented the neighborhood opposition, said yesterday that he was pleased by the ruling, though "certainly surprised" by the way the board handled the question of minors.
Evers attributed his group's victory to Taiedi's frankness in testifying that the Godfather would employ "bottomless as well as topless dancers," a proposition that offended the board he felt.
Meanwhile, the Godfather, which occupies a basement beneath an Indian restaurant and a discotheque, both Class "C" licensed establishments, continues to operate under its old license and ownership.