D.C. strip club has ties to gangster legend

Liquor license points to link

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In 2003, when W.F.J. entered into a lease with D.C. Tunnel Inc., it was Mr. Jones who signed for both entities. Plagued by violence and investigations for record-keeping failures, D.C. Tunnel closed in 2008.

About the same time, when the HIV/AIDS Administration became the subject of an FBI investigation, Miracle Hands offices were raided. In a 2009 investigation by The Washington Post, city monitors and clients leveled accusations of improper management of city funds. HIV/AIDS housing administrator Debra Rowe, who approved most of the group’s funding, was fired from her job. She later went to work for a different nonprofit founded by Mr. Jones, The Post reported.

Though the FBI confirmed the investigation in 2009, the bureau would not comment for this article. However, since 2009, Miracle Hands has continued to receive city funds in excess of $1.5 million, according to figures released by the chief financial officer’s office, bringing the group’s total city funding since 2004 to more than $5.8 million.

Officials with the D.C. Department of Health and the HIV/AIDS Administration declined to comment.

Nearly a year since the Stadium Club opened as a high-end strip club with a premium steakhouse and private rooms at 2127 Queens Chapel Road, the websites for the Health Department and HIV/AIDS Administration still direct city residents seeking social services to Miracle Hands — at 2127 Queens Chapel Road.

The Stadium Club

Last year, Mr. Jones sold to the Stadium Club’s owners for $2.7 million the part of the warehouse complex housing Miracle Hands. But a review of ABC records and hearing transcripts and documents filed with the zoning board indicate that Mr. Jones had plans for 2127 Queens Chapel Road dating back to the time Miracle Hands was receiving city funds to renovate the property.

In May 2007, Ron Hunt, owner of Nexus Gold Club in Southeast Washington, placed his liquor license in what is known as “safekeeping” for transfer to 2127 Queens Chapel Road in anticipation of his club being displaced to make way for the construction of Nationals Park, ABC records show. Though the ABC board never published its decision, it approved the license transfer in October 2007.

Liquor licenses are valuable instruments, and the sale of Mr. Hunt’s license took time. He testified before the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), which is under the authority of the ABC, in October 2008 that he entertained “cash on the table” bids on the license from investors in New York, Philadelphia and Florida. But he said he decided to sell to a local investor.

“I don’t want to call names on the record, because some of them were not desirable figures,” Mr. Hunt said, according to a transcript of the ABRA hearing. Mr. Hunt assured the board that he would discourage any buyer of his club’s license from allowing “lap dancing” at a club. He said the activity, prohibited in the District, “breeds prostitution.”

In discussing the impact of a strip club on the neighborhood, ABRA Chairman Peter B. Feather noted that the local investor had “a lot of support from Mr. Jones,” who was identified by the prospective buyer of the liquor license as “just the landlord.”

Though the sale of the license fell through, another buyer appeared in May 2009. Again, ABC records show that business negotiations with Mr. Jones were well under way by the time the board heard the matter.

Baltimore, D.C. developers unite

On May 20, 2009, Baltimore businessman James “Tru” Redding appeared before the ABC on behalf of the Stadium Group LLC, a partnership he had formed in March 2009 with Mr. Forney, the D.C. and Prince George’s County developer. Mr. Forney is a substantial political donor to Democratic Party causes and candidates, including former D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Ward 5 Democrat Harry Thomas, now head of the council’s Economic Development Committee.

The business profile for Mr. Redding’s Baltimore-area company, JTR Inc., says it specializes in commercial painting and wall covering. A separate Baltimore company, NLP Enterprises Inc., which also specializes in painting and decorating, lists him as a vice president in charge of field operations. Media reports have described Mr. Redding as a “Baltimore construction mogul” involved in various D.C.-area nightclub and restaurant ventures.

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