About three dozen of residents of the Glover Park area attended a city hearing yesterday to oppose renewal of the liquor license for the Paragon Too, a controversial Wisconsin Avenue disco that neighbors complain has been a focus of noise and rowdyism.
In an interview outside the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board hearing, Robert K. Stumberg, an attorney for neighborhood residents opposing renewal, said the club, at 2233 Wisconsin Ave. NW, is "the eye of the hurricane. All this wild activity is going on around it and because of it."
Particular attention was drawn to the nightclub last month when a 21-year-old man was shot and killed after a 2 a.m. dispute outside the club.
In his appearance before the renewal hearing, Nassar Zolfaghari, the Washington-area restaurateur who owns the disco, challenged opposition to his business as racially motivated because the club is frequented by blacks from throughout the city.
Elaborating in an interview, he said: "I think this is a racial problem. They are protesting against the blacks. I've been in business at the Paragon Too for five years and never had any difficulties.
"When I turned into a soul club, this is when [they] come up to protest. They are just scared of blacks. Some of them have told me this."
Stumberg, who represents a group called Wisconsin Neighbors, denied in an interview that his group was biased.
"I don't think that it's true of this group," he said. "Disco places are by nature loud. And the Paragon Too is in uptown commercial/residential area . . . . The clientele doesn't mix with the area . . . . "
At the close of the session, Larry C. Williams, who represented the club owner, told the hearing that Zolfaghari "has decided to change the clientele and name of the club to alleviate any antisocial behavior . . . . "
However, Stumberg replied that "we don't believe the track record of this establishment merits that type of consideration."
Peter Ridley, chairman of the ABC board, conducted the hearing at 605 G Street NW. He said it would be several weeks before a decision could be expected. The license of the Paragon Too expired on Oct. 1, but the club has been operating under an extension.
In the closing argument, Zolfaghari indicated that he would begin advertising on a radio station known for a predominantly white audience.
However, one of the neighbors challenging renewal said to a reporter earlier that while "race is an issue," he did not believe that race was "the motivating point in our concerns about the Paragon Too."
"The real issue is neighborhood environment," said Steven Leanse, who lives on Hall Place, near the disco.
Another area resident, Sandy Harding, who lives on Wisconsin Avenue NW and testified against the club, indicated afterward that she would not be satisfied with Zolfaghari's offer.
"I don't feel they have a right" to continue operating, she told a reporter. She said she did not consider her opposition racially motivated and objected particularly to what she called Zolfaghari's efforts to "make it a racial issue."