It was a victory, but no cause for celebration, Romona Greene, president of the Upper Georgia Avenue Planning Committee, said last week when she learned that the D.C. Alcohol Beverage Control Board had ordered two nude go-go bars opposed by the neighborhood group to surrender their liquor licenses.
"We'll wait and see. There's still a battle ahead," Greene said after she was informed by the group's lawyers that they had won the $20,000 controversial legal battles against Chances R and The Other Place, located at 7612 and 7708 Georgia Ave. NW.
"They'll probably appeal the ABC board's decision," Greene said. And, she added, the board still has not come to a decision on the challenged liquor license of another, similar establishment in the area.
For the planning committee, founded last November to uproot neighborhood bars that feature entertainment by naked women, the two decisions represent the second and third victories in what it hopes will become a string of four. The committee's first victory came in May when the board ordered that "Sparky's" a go-go bar that opened late last year, relinquish its liquor license.
"We want these establishments out of the community so that we can begin to attract new businesses that cater to our needs," said Greene. "People who live here love this community. Happiness is right here for us. All we need is a high caliber retail district and our community will be complete. That is our goal."
Owners of Chances R and The Other Place said at ABC hearings earlier this year that their businesses have been in the Shepherd Park community longer than many of the people who live there now.
"I'm shocked," Daniel Gallucci, co-owner of both bars with Margie Lopes, said after the board's decision was announced. "We've been here 13 years. We think that all those allegations that we don't fit into the neighborhood are unfounded and untrue. This is my home."
In the two rulings handed down separately last week, the three-member board, led by ABC hearing examiner Peter S. Ridley, said community opposition played a major role in the decision to order the bars to give up their retailer's class C restaurant liquor licenses.
About 38 residents testified against the bars, including D.C. City Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4).
Attorney Emmet Sullivan, who represented the planning committee with his law partner Wendell Gardner Jr., said in addition to the community opposition, their cases rested on "the fact that those establishments are not restaurants within the meaning of the D.C. Code. Nude go-go dancers are not a business incidental to a bonafide restaurant as would be a pianist or a violinist."
Greene, a homemaker, has lived in Shepherd Park for three years with her husband, Guy, a car salesman, and their two children.
She became involved in the fight to oppose the bars after shopping on Georgia Avenue one day last year and seeing a woman dressed only in lingerie go into one of the establishments.
"I was shocked," Greene recalled. "When I talked to my neighbors, they were shocked as well. We didn't know what was going on down there, just blocks from our homes. It wasn't hard to organize into a group to oppose the bars."
Greene said members of the planning committee feared their neighborhood would become a new haven for "sleazy" businesses displaced from the 14th Street NW strip.
Greene said residents also saw the bars as obstacles to economic development. "You can't bring in high caliber business establishments when deleterious businesses are already there," said Greene who has a consumer economics and marketing degree from Howard University.
Gallucci said he and his business partner, Margie Lopes, surrendered their license Monday as ordered. They plan to appeal the decision today, he said.