Among the bartenders and bouncers of Washington, he’s known as Baby D—, but he allegedly acted like a much bigger one on Monday at Qualia Coffee in Petworth.
Late in the morning, manager Allie Viall says, the suspect walked into the coffee shop on Georgia Avenue NW and, before he even reached the counter, she confronted him. “You were asked not to come back,” Viall told the middle-aged man in the green-and-black lumberjack shirt, a messenger bag fastened around his upper body.
“You referred to me as a ‘ho,’ ” she added, as if the guy needed a reminder about the circumstances behind his banishment from Qualia.
At that point, the man calmly walked over to the water station, filled a glass, took a generous sip and spewed the liquid directly at Viall, as if he were a warm can of beer shaken too hard. It was all caught on the upgraded video camera that Qualia owner Joel Finkelstein recently installed after two break-ins last year at his shop.
Posted on Facebook by Qualia early Monday evening, the video quickly went viral. It was shared more than 100 times, and media outlets from the Washingtonian to Jezebel covered the outrage. It didn’t take long for Qualia’s Facebook followers to finger a suspect. Multiple people, in fact, have now identified the person they believe to be the culprit. The Washington Post will not name the alleged perpetrator because the Metropolitan Police Department has not arrested him or charged him with a crime.
The Post tried to reach the alleged suspect, but he did not return repeated calls.
The online community has shown no such restraint. They’ve lit their torches, ready to hunt down the suspect. Many have clearly had enough of the guy. “I remember this a–hole from when I was a barista 6 years ago in DC! He’s still doing this shtick!?! 86 him now!” one commenter wrote.
Some in the community have even called the man’s last place of employment, as listed on his LinkedIn page. Fritz Siegfried, owner of Matisse restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue NW, said he had received a dozen or more calls and emails, looking for information on the man, such as his home address and contact. Siegfried has refused to pass along any details to strangers.
“It’s sweet that everyone is trying to protect the people,” Siegfried said. “If the police call me and ask me what the last address was, that’s one thing.” It’s another thing, he added, when strangers with unknown agendas want information. Siegfried said the man worked about a year at Matisse before he was fired for allegedly showing up to work drunk.
Peyton Sherwood, a veteran of the Washington hospitality scene, remembered the man from the times the customer frequented Kangaroo Boxing Club, the now-shuttered bar and barbecue joint in Columbia Heights that Sherwood used to co-own. Sherwood said the guy’s behavior became so erratic and belligerent that Sherwood had to ban him.
Sherwood said the man would typically walk in the bar by himself, order a drink and start engaging with strangers. “He’ll sit down at a table and start talking to you, as if he knows everyone,” he said. But then something would inevitably set him off and an argument would erupt. He once pushed a woman off a bar stool, Sherwood said. “Spitting is a common thing for him.”
“The man needs medication more than anything else,” Sherwood added. “He needs medication and someone to talk to.”
The incident that apparently earned the man his nickname, Baby D—, occurred about six or seven years ago at Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights, said general manager Drew Swift. The man had become drunk and obnoxious, Swift remembered, to the point where managers ordered him to leave. He didn’t exit quietly: The man cursed at patrons on his way out the door, then stopped on the sidewalk, pulled down his pants and started urinating into the street.
The doorman then yelled at him, Swift said, and the man turned around. That’s what inspired the famous quip: “A young lady in front of the place said, ‘Oh, look, he’s got a baby d—! Isn’t it cute?’ ” Swift recalled. At that point, the rest of the patrons started chanting the phrase over and over: Baby d—! Baby d—!
“It wasn’t the best day for him,” Swift said.
The man’s bullying and belittling behavior toward women and other patrons frequently put staff in an awkward position, Swift said. They would have to decide when it was appropriate to step in, not always an easy call.
“He’s made more than one bartender feel very awkward on whether they should say something,” the general manager said.“ He’s terrorized service industry members for a long time.”
Sherwood, the former owner of Kangaroo Boxing Club, can attest to how awkward it could get. A former KBC bartender shared an anecdote with him recently via text. They were recounting stories of Baby D— now that one of his tricks had been captured on video. She shared the text with The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns.
“At KBC, he tried talking to some girls,” her text read, “and when they didn’t respond to his advances, he very loudly” made crude comments about their genitalia.
Over the years, said Swift from Meridian Pint, numerous bars and restaurants in Columbia Heights have tossed the man from their establishments.
Allie Viall knew none of this background when the man started appearing at Qualia Coffee. She just knew him as an annoying flirt. During his early visits, Viall recalled that he would come in the shop and ask other staffers about her. He wanted to know her name but wouldn’t ask Viall directly, she said.
She remembered thinking, “Don’t try to find out information about me from my co-workers, because that’s just creepy.”
With Viall actively showing no interest, the man apparently worked his way through the female workers at Qualia, she said. At one point, he stood in the middle of the microscopic coffee shop, addressed one female employee and announced to everyone, “You’re the prettiest girl in D.C.!” Viall said he was such a frequent annoyance that she would warn new female employees about his behavior.
But in the fall, a once-manageable situation deteriorated over the course of two days. The man interrupted Viall while she was assisting another customer and asked to borrow her lighter. She refused, saying she was busy.
“I said to him, ‘I find your entitlement irritating,’ ” Viall recalled. “He kind of stood there for a second, looked angry and walked away.”
The next day, when Viall wasn’t working, the man returned and asked another employee if “the head ho was in.” That was it. A co-worker told the man he was no longer welcome at Qualia.
“You have to draw a line with customers,” said Finkelstein, Qualia’s owner. “Customers can’t come in and yell at my staff. They can’t call my staff names. That’s totally unacceptable.”
Cut to Monday: The man made an unexpected return to Qualia. When Viall said he was no longer welcome at the shop, the man showed no obvious emotion as he made his way to the water station. But Viall said he muttered a comment: “Have it like you like it.”
The manager followed the man’s path to the water station. She offered a comment of her own: “Your actions have repercussions, dude.”
“It was the last thing I said before he spit in my face,” Viall said. “Of course, he waited until I looked away to do it and then he walked out.”
Then she corrected herself: “He scampered out.”
Viall immediately grabbed her phone and called 911 to report the incident. She has since talked to the police and a D.C. detective.
“It’s very surreal,” Viall said about the incident and the attention it’s generated. “I had no idea that it was going to go this way, but I’m kind of glad it happened given that it’s happened to a lot of women and men. … There will be repercussions for his actions. I hope. Ultimately, I hope some good can come out of it.”