Yesterday was just another swinging Friday at the Lone Star Beef House, "Washington's Number One Luncheon Club," just up Ninth Street from the J. Edgar Hoover Building.
On the stage, Silkie was doing her number, having shed all wearing apparel above her waist and most of it below. T-Bone was dancing topless on another table. Five beefy men who identified themselves as FBI agents had a ringside table. They seem to be enjoying the show, despite nervous tugs at their suit jackets from time to time to cover the tell-tale budlge of their hand-guns holstered over their right man wandered through, in uniform, while the girls mingled with the customers - al in the spirit of being friendly.
But not to worry. It's all legitimate, on the up and up and perfectly allright.The United States goverment owns the Lone Star - lock, stock and hips. An occasional District police provebial barrel - and has no intention of shutting the place down. The goverment wants to sell it, an operation that one Justice Department official described as a "money-maker."
Judging by the packed tables and the standing-room-only crowd, the Lone Star ought to be the pot at the end of rainbow for some lucky buyer. But for the U.S. goverment, until yesterday anyway, it has been something of a white elephant.
Last August, just before the FBI and Secret Service closed in on him, William C. Sibert. an employe of the Department of Transportation, paid $75,000 in stolen goverment funds for the Lone Star. He gave half to friend, H. Eugene Young, who was to repay Sibert from his share of the Lone Star's profits.
In December, the Justice Department obtained a federal court order giving it control of Sebert's 50 percent share. And yesterday, according to C. William Lengacher, chief of the justice Department Civil Division's judgement enforcement section, Young relinquished "for no consideration" his half of the Lone Star, making the federal goverment the sole owner of a topless and sometimes nearly bottomless go-go restaurantbar at 504 Ninth St., NW, a stone's throw from the FBI's national headquaters.
What goes on at Lone Star is about what one might expect to find at a topless go-go bar. T-Bone, for example, spent part of the time occupying the lap of one of the self-described FBI agents, who put aside the court file he was carrying to make room for her.
When one of the agents was asked about what they were doing, he replied, "This is therapy. Stres s. Stress. Can you imagine what Hoover's doing?" For the record, Hoover died in 1972.
Russell Price, who works for a Maryland bank, explained what makes the Lone Star so popular. "You got other bars in D.C. where the girlsdance nude and topless," he said, "but the clientele is good in this place." Let the record also show that the goverment runs a nice, clean place with satisfied customers. "Every time I come in here," Price said, "it gets better and better."
T-Bone (real Tanena Henry) said dancing topless for the federal goverment is no difference from dancing topless for anyone else. "I don't feel as though I'm dancing for the Justice Department," she said. "It's the same old Lone Star." T-Bone has been at the Lone Star for four years. One reason she stayed so long is because the customers, though lively, do not get out of hand, despite the more than friendly pats on the arm, back, etc.
"The girls are very receptive," one agent explained. "Of course, they don't know who we are or who we work for. That's why we keep our coats on. A lot of people would get freaked out of we took them off."
T-Bone, though, knows when the heat's around. "Quite a few come in here," she said. "You kind of feel it when they're here."
Until yesterday, the first problem with selling off the LOne Star was the problem of dual ownership. But when Young gave up his half, the problem became a $6,860 tax lien slapped on the Lone Star for unpaid witholding and social security taxes back in 1974. The other problem is the lease, which has only about a year to run before the property's owners, Central Liquors, can exercise an option to evict the Lone Star on six months' notice, according to Lengacher.
Since Central may want the land for a parking lot, Lengacher said, the to keep it open. "We think the business long-term lease, banks are reluctant to lead money.
But Lengacher, determined to bring what he described as "top dollar" for the sale of the Lone Star, has striven to keep it open. "We think the business is more valuable as an operating business than if it shut down," he said. If the Lone Star closed, even briefly, it might lose its liquor license and its good will. And the ultimate losor. Lengacher made clear, would be the American taxpayer.
So now, the problem is in the hands of the General Services Administration, which is charged with buying and selling things for the goverment. Gwen Cornell, deputy director of GSA's real property division, said it was "too soon to say" what would happen to the Lone Star. "This is the first property of this type I've seen and I've been here 17 years," she said. "It's a bit unusual. Quitefrankly, I don't know what we're going to do with it."