A South Carolina man was fatally shot early yesterday apparently after a dispute in a packed Northwest Washington strip club spilled onto the street, officials said.
The victim, identified as George F. Barr, 37, of Dillon, S.C., had been shot several times when police were called at 1:28 a.m. to the House, a strip joint in the 3500 block of Georgia Avenue NW in the Park View neighborhood. He was taken to Washington Hospital Center and pronounced dead at 2:01 a.m.
Witnesses said there had been a dispute earlier in the night between groups of patrons who were tussling for a better view of dancers onstage, officials said.
Police said a man approached Barr as he was leaving the club and shot him repeatedly. Barr staggered north to Princeton Place, where he collapsed. No arrest was made. Police described the assailant as a black man in his mid-twenties, about 6 feet tall and weighing 215 to 220 pounds. He had a slight mustache and wore a dark gray sweat suit.
The chairman of the city's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Roderic L. Woodson, said yesterday that the board would look into the shooting. "This is serious business," Woodson said. "The investigation is on."
The shooting came just days after the board held an initial hearing on the club's application to renew its two-year license. Several neighborhood activists, including D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), have protested the renewal and want the club closed. At the hearing Wednesday, Capt. Alton M. Bigelow, who commands a nearby police substation, told the board that residents have complained about crime, trash and offensive literature placed on cars by promoters of events at the club. The matter was referred for mediation, the initial step in such protests.
If the board decided that the nightclub posed an "imminent threat" to public health and safety, it could issue a summary suspension and halt the club's operations, Woodson said.
Neighbors said the shooting has intensified their worries about recent crimes in the area. Fourth District Cmdr. Larry D. McCoy said an armed robbery occurred recently at a Bank of America automated teller machine a block from the club. Graham said Police Service Area 414, which includes the nightclub and the nearby Park Morton public housing complex, recorded nine homicides last year.
"This is the Wild West," said Jim Tolliver, 59, a retired federal employee who has lived in nearby Columbia Heights since 1975 and was buying light bulbs yesterday at an antiques store two doors from the club. "After a certain hour, I don't come over here."
Bill Sims, 50, who opened the store, Mom & Pop Antiques, in 1986, said, "I'd prefer if the club had a little better security and if the police were a little more attentive to conditions at this place."
The neighborhood, where police say heroin sales are frequent, has made strides to improve but remains dangerous, said William R. White Jr., 41, who opened a market, Bill's Seafood Kitchen, three years ago in what used to be a decrepit rooming house nearby. "Every day I have to be careful," said White, who lives above his shop.
The nightclub, known as the Penthouse until it was sued in 2001 by the magazine of the same name, is in a single-story brick building. A sign outside says it is open seven nights a week. Inside, empty beer boxes were stacked on the bar yesterday. Dozens of tables and chairs with red tablecloths and upholstery surrounded a T-shaped stage with two armchairs, an ottoman and a side table with a lamp.
The nightclub license is held by Linda & A Inc. The company was formed in 1979 by Linda H. Allen, and the club's current owner is listed as James W. Allen, but a number listed for the Allens in Upper Marlboro was disconnected. Nightclub employees referred questions yesterday to a woman they contacted on the telephone who identified herself only as Gwen and as the proprietor's fiancee. She said the owners were not available for comment.
The victim's mother, Christeen Barr, 71, said her son, who was single, did odd jobs and was visiting a brother in Maryland who works for the U.S. Marshals Service. "We're coping the best we can," she said.
The club has been the scene of violence before. In December 1983, a District man who lost a bet on a Washington Redskins football game was fatally shot outside the club, where he had watched the televised game. In December 1985, a man who police said had started a brawl at the club died in police custody after he was restrained on the sidewalk outside.
The club is one of fewer than 20 nude-dancing establishments licensed in the city, and Graham said he would like to see it closed.
"This is the last place you would want to operate a strip club that's a magnet for criminal activity," he said.
Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.