Owners of a popular hip-hop club in Northwest Washington "lost control'' of their patrons, leading to the death of a 31-year-old District man in February, officials said yesterday. They voted to revoke Club U's liquor license.
Before the 6 to 0 vote, the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board blamed "lax management" for not preventing a string of violent incidents in recent years, including three homicides.
The license of the club in the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, a city office building at 14th and U streets NW, was suspended after the Feb. 13 stabbing death of Terrence Brown, 31. In addition to the stabbing, a woman was knocked unconscious, two patrons were involved in an altercation and shots were fired that evening, according to testimony.
Chairman Charles A. Burger said that the club's owners lost control and that security personnel were so swamped with other altercations that they were unable to attend to Brown's bleeding.
He said the incident highlighted a lack of adequate staffing and supervision at the club that "poses an unreasonable risk to the safety of its patrons and the employees that work in the Reeves Center because of the rash of recent incidents and the fact that the respondent is incapable of adequately and safely moving patrons in and out of the establishment."
Burger also said the board was not confident that security changes proposed by the club would improve the situation there. "The board does not feel confident that a newly revised security plan will prevent the respondent's establishment from being the catalyst of future violent incidents," he said.
Andrea Bagwell, an attorney for club owners Warren C. Williams Jr., Warren C. Williams Sr. and Paul Gwynn, said her clients are reviewing the board's decision and would comment later.
The board cited a list of violent offenses in or near the club since March 2003, including three homicides, two nonfatal stabbings and at least two assaults on police officers.
The seven-member board acted after hearing 40 hours of testimony and reviewing 2,500 pages of transcripts. Board member Albert G. Lauber abstained, explaining that he had missed some of the testimony.
Brown's sister, Lewan Snoddy of Northeast Washington, said the board's decision helped explain the circumstances behind her brother's death and said she hoped it would help find his assailant. "He got stabbed in the club, and they left him there," Snoddy said. "I blame the club."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, City Administrator Robert C. Bobb and D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) had all said they wanted the club closed.
"We put the ABC board in place to make these determinations, and I support their decision," Williams said.
D.C. Attorney General Robert J. Spagnoletti, whose office led the legal fight to close the club, said, "The District proved to the ABC board that Club U's license must be permanently revoked because the establishment has been the source of a pattern of violence that has plagued the U Street neighborhood."
Lawrence Guyot, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner, said he viewed the club's license revocation as part of a government effort to rid the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of black-owned businesses. The Williamses and Gwynn are African American.
Graham dismissed Guyot's contention in an interview later yesterday, saying the decision was about "a pattern of violence and mayhem over a number of years that led to the police chief to call for its closure. This is not about any group or any type of music."