- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2001

The D.C. Council's decision to prohibit nude dancing clubs from applying for liquor licenses but allows clubs that are currently licensed to set up shop elsewhere fails to deal adequately with the question of over-concentration of nightclubs into the heart of the city and the potential creation of a red-light district. The actions of council members in many ways was politically self-serving in that downtown is the place that strip clubs will likely have to try to relocate into if such clubs are forced to move, while leaving the council members' wards free from adding such clubs.

Yes, the council's actions do mean that new liquor licenses for venues featuring nude dancing will not be issued, but some 22 currently existing venues with licenses have the option of applying to relocate into the Central Business District, as well as within currently zoned CM or M Districts (industrial and warehouse areas) if the clubs are already located there. Only a handful of clubs are in such zones.

Perhaps the most interesting, if underdiscussed aspect of the council's action is where such nightclubs can't go should they be sold or seek to move for whatever reason. The Ward 3 council member, Kathy Patterson, knows that such clubs cannot move into tony Forest Hills, American University Park, Chevy Chase D.C., or Cleveland Park. The door is firmly shut to any clubs not already in Ward 3. The Ward 2 council member, Jack Evans, knows that these clubs cannot relocate into Georgetown or Burleith. The Ward 1 council member, Jim Graham, knows none will be able to come into Adams Morgan or Kalorama Triangle.

So where have the council members decided is appropriate for nude dance clubs with liquor licenses to move? In addition to current industrial/warehouse areas having such clubs, or other grandfathered locations, their only option will be in the Central Business District i.e., near the White House, near the MCI Center, or the Warner or National theaters, and other nonresidential blocks.

Are these heavily used, visited and touristed areas appropriate locations? While the Central Business District currently has only one such licensed operation, several are close by on M Street south of Dupont Circle. Moreover, downtown already has an over-concentration of nightclubs with secondary impacts since it was designated in the 1980s as the nightclub zone. If one visits the 900 block of F Street on Friday and Saturday nights, the current nightclub scene is such that the police already are closing off the street; police vans are often nearby, with numerous motorcycle police present as well as squad cars. It is clear the police already have all they can handle from the current concentration of numerous nightclubs a situation that will only be strained by new establishments coming in.

The district has some protection against the clubs they can't locate within 600 feet of each other, nor within 600 feet of a residential property. Registered voters within 1,200 feet have a petition option to prevent their entry. Yet this still leaves a number of potential sites for relocation.

What will likely happen? These 22 licenses, 17 of which are currently operating and another five of which can potentially resume operation, will dramatically rise in value, especially when the new convention center opens. It is curious that the infamous "SCORES" business plan seeks specifically to acquire an existing license: "SCORES will acquire an all-nude liquor license located in a residential hot spot in the District and transfer the license to the nightclub zone," according to the business plan.

This type of purchase of an existing license by large, out-of-town operators with the goal of relocating near the new Convention Center is precisely what the council's action will now allow. Where will the big money be made in this industry? Downtown, of course. Perhaps many of the locally owned clubs will pass out of their owners' hands. All the while many of the council members who pushed this action will know that the current clubs can't legally move into their neighborhoods if they are not already there.

Terrance Lynch is executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide