The D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations has called on the city to step up action against bars that serve liquor to minor and provide a haven for young prostitutes.
The request came in the form of a resolution mailed last week to Chief of Police Burtell M. Jefferson and other leading law enforcement officials here.
Federation president Stephen A. Koczak, who says his organization represents citizens groups with 14,000 members, said the resolution was prompted by newspaper stories early this month on FBI charges against Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.) for soliciting a 16-year-old go-go boy in a gay bar on Ninth Street NW.
But the problem goes much beyond the Bauman incident, Koczak said in an interview. For years, he said, members of his group have known that many bars serve liquor to minors and serve as bases of operations for juvenile prostitutes.
"Law enforcement should shut down these bars or see their liquor licenses withdrawn," Koczak said. The Bauman story got headlines, he said, "but no one addresses the problems of juveniles who are being victimized."
A police spokesman this week said the department responds to complaints involving juveniles in bars, but does not have any unit roaming bars seeking juveniles. The spokesman said the department was not aware that juveniles in bars were a major problem, and added that as of Monday Jefferson had not received the resolution from the federation.
James Boardley, director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said his investigators are "in and out of ABC establishment constantly checking on ages," and that "we have not found it (juveniles in bars) to be a problem."
Boardley pointed out that businesses licensed to serve liquor also are licensed as resturants. "It would be almost impossible to keep juveniles out."
He added, "We are monitoring them and we will continue to monitor them. The Bauman incident alerted us to be extra careful.
If it can be shown that a business harbors young prostitutes, he said, the place could lose its license. But Boardley said it was very difficult to establish solicitation. "You see someone leave but you don't know why they leave," Boardley said. "It's very difficult for us to determine what a person says to another person. For one thing, they whisper."
Franklin Kameny, a longtime activist and leader of the gay community here, was incensed about the federation's resolution and said it raised a nonexistent issue.
The amount of prostitution in gay bars involving people of any age "doesn't occur to any extent that it should ever bother anyone," Kemeny said. "The number is so small it doesn't create a meaningful kind of social problem or legal problem or enforcement problem."
Technically, 16 is the age of consent in the District, so people of that age cannot be considered juveniles, he said. Even so, there are "not terribly many" people between the ages of 16 and 18 in gay bars for any purpose. And he said "there aren't any" males under 16 in gay bars.
As for liquor being served to minors, Kameny said, "Bars have been very conscientious about observing the drinking age. It has been handled in a responsible manner by bar owners, members of the gay community and the ABC. We don't need their [the federation's] resolution."
Koczak said that since the resolution has only recently been mailed out, it is too early to have received a formal response for any law enforcement officials.