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D.C. alcohol board upholds suspension of catering license after five are shot at party

The agency that regulates the sale of alcohol in the District has upheld its earlier suspension of a liquor license for a catering company that ran events at a Northeast Washington nightspot where five people were shot last month.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board also said in its ruling that it would refer the case to the D.C. attorney general’s office to determine whether criminal charges are warranted. The board issued the ruling after hearing an appeal last week from the catering company, Roadside Cafe.

The board also prohibited all licensed D.C. caterers from selling and serving liquor at the club in the 2400 block of Benning Road, effectively ending events at DC Soundstage that involve alcohol. A police officer who patrols that area testified at the hearing that DC Soundstage was more like a nightclub than an event hall — with regular hours, live bands and large crowds.

The nightspot, which does not have a liquor license, drew attention after a Jan. 26 shooting at a birthday party. Police said a man angry at being pushed or bumped inside the establishment retrieved a handgun, stood in the doorway and randomly fired into a crowd. Two people were seriously injured. No arrests have been made, but police have released photos of two people being sought as “persons of interest.”

Police and liquor board authorities had expressed concern that DC Soundstage was using the catering company’s liquor license to operate like a bar, but without some of the restrictions that come with legally running a tavern. The report from the alcohol board points to permanent food menus, daily specials and events, and to the fact that the catering company stored alcohol at DC Soundstage, a violation.

At last week’s hearing, the board heard from several victims of the shooting. The board concluded that DC Soundstage acted as a “de facto nightclub” that “poses an imminent danger to the community.”

The owners of the catering company can petition to get their liquor license returned but will have to show steps to comply with the rules.

Representatives from DC Soundstage and Roadside Cafe could not be reached for comment Monday morning.

Peter Hermann covers crime for The Washington Post.

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