- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

Owners of nude strip clubs who are trying to relocate in Northeast neighborhoods are looking at prospective locations near a church, a food bank and a day care center.

“Right now, we’re going to be a mecca of clubs,” says Leotha Woodson, of Noah’s Ark Ministries Inc., a nonprofit food bank operating out of a warehouse near two proposed strip-club sites in Ward 5. “All of them basically will pose a great problem.”

Club owners have identified at least five properties in the Ivy City and Trinidad communities off New York Avenue Northeast. The clubs were required to relocate from Southeast Washington when the properties became part of the site for the new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals. The clubs would be enabled to relocate to sites off New York Avenue through legislation proposed by D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

The council is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the bill.

Council member Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat, opposes the relocations and is offering amendments to Mr. Graham’s bill, including one that would require a 1,200-foot buffer zone between the clubs.

Community leaders say the clubs will create problems with vandalism, drug dealing, prostitution and parking.

“We don’t want it in our community,” says Richard Oluwasami, a deacon at Christ Apostolic Church, on 24th Place Northeast, adjacent to one proposed site. “As a matter of fact, we never knew there was going to be a . We were told it was going to be a banquet hall.”

One of the sites, on a hardscrabble stretch of West Virginia Avenue Northeast, appears to be within 600 feet of a billion-dollar, 15-acre residential-retail development, which would be in violation city zoning laws if the residential-retail project was beyond the planning stages.

Eric Price, a senior vice president for Abdo Development, says the majority of the property has been zoned for residential use, but the company has yet to acquire a permit for residential construction.

The West Virginia Avenue property a dirt-and-gravel lot next to a Shell gas station is being considered for a nude strip club catering to homosexual patrons. A movie theater catering to this clientele recently opened down the block, at 2120 West Virginia Avenue Northeast.

Mr. Graham’s bill would exempt clubs from the 600-foot minimum distance required between nude-dancing businesses but require them to adhere to other residential regulations.

Karyn-Siobhan Robinson, a spokeswoman for city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, says she is “uncomfortable speculating” about the legality of the strip club’s proposed location, but the agency is looking into such concerns.

“We are in the process of looking into some of the issues that have been raised, and it’s very premature for us to reach any conclusions until those questions have been answered,” she says.

The owners of two other strip clubs Nexus Gold Club and Club 55 have applied for liquor licenses at 2127 Queens Chapel Road Northeast and 2122 24th Place Northeast, respectively.

The proposed Club 55 site is a building next to Noah’s Ark and Christ Apostolic. Down the street, on 24th Place Northeast, stands a building that houses a day care center, a preschool and the headquarters for the D.C. Department of Human Services’ Family Services Administration.

The proposed Nexus site is next door to Club Envy, alternately known as the nightclub D.C. Tunnel. A vacant, litter-strewn lot would be the only buffer between the back of Nexus and the food bank and church.

Mr. Woodson, the Noah’s Ark director, says when a club was open at the proposed Club 55 site, customers and their vehicles often blocked trucks from making night deliveries to the food bank.

He says noise from Club Envy sometimes drowns out nighttime prayer services at the church. “It’s just too much confusion going on in here for what we’re trying to do in the community.”

There is no D.C. law prohibiting clubs from locating on a site near a church. However, the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, when granting a new license or license transfer to a club, is required to consider how close it is to day care centers, public libraries, recreation centers, schools or “other similar facilities.”

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