- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A landlord to nightclubs and strip clubs displaced by the baseball stadium in Southeast already has spent more than $8 million for property in a Northeast neighborhood where officials are debating whether to allow nude dancing clubs.

Robert Siegel bought one property last year near West Virginia Avenue and Mount Olivet Road in Northeast for $1.7 million through his company, 1352-1354 Corp. The seller, developer Winfield Sealander, more than quadrupled the $350,000 that he spent to buy the land in 2004, records show.

Critics of allowing strip clubs to move to Northeast say they’re concerned by such transactions.

“He’s a shrewd businessman. I can’t imagine he would devote this large amount of cash on just pure speculation. Someone must have given him the false hope that this is a done deal,” said Kathy Henderson, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 5.

Others have complained that at least one of roughly five proposed clubs would be too close to a church, food bank and day care center.

Mr. Siegel said yesterday that nobody from the D.C. government had consulted him before he decided to buy the properties.

“I’ve done this on my own,” he said. “In fact, I’ve had an absolute lack of D.C. government resources.

“I want to work with the community,” he said, adding that the clubs don’t attract crime and prostitution.

The D.C. Council today will consider legislation authored by council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, that would allow nude clubs, including homosexual clubs, that have been on the stadium site to relocate their liquor licenses to the area.

Mr. Graham yesterday said he plans to accept a proposal by council member Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat, to permit just two liquor-license transfers to the Northeast neighborhoods of Ivy City and Trinidad. However, more than one business can operate under a single liquor license at the same location.

“I think we’re really on the way to reducing the concerns in Ward 5,” Mr. Graham said. “I think it’s going to be far from a red-light district.”

Mr. Graham said he’s given no assurances to Mr. Siegel or any other club owners trying to move to the area that the District will approve a relocation.

“He might be making these investments for a lot of reasons,” Mr. Graham said of Mr. Siegel’s purchases. “I haven’t spoken to him. I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t even know what’s going to happen here.”

Mr. Siegel said he’s not sure what he plans for the property at Mount Olivet and West Virginia, although he recently received several tenants, including operators of a homeless shelter and tool-and-machinery business.

Months after buying the property, Mr. Siegel paid $3.95 million to Karajoel LLC for a lot at 2046 West Virginia Ave. NE. He plans to lease the property to Ron Hunt, who had run the Nexus Gold club by the baseball stadium. He described Nexus Gold as a gentlemen’s club that had nude dancing.

By selling to Mr. Siegel for nearly $4 million, Karajoel more than doubled its investment of $1.5 million for the land in 2004.

Karajoel is based in Rockville and is run by Richard and Jonathan Genderson, who run Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, a family-owned wine and liquor store.

A third property recently purchased by Mr. Siegel already has opened as an adult movie theater at 2120 West Virginia Ave. NE.

Mr. Siegel said the business has no live entertainment nor serves alcoholic beverages.

Mr. Siegel bought that property for $2.6 million from a group of investors, including limousine company owner Hilmi Aburish.

In addition, Mr. Siegel said he’s negotiating the purchase of a fourth property at 2132 West Virginia Ave., where he is planning a homosexual civic center that would include a computer-resources room, a gym and office space for nonprofit organizations.

Mr. Siegel said he’s aware that his recent investments in the area have provoked criticism among some Ward 5 residents.

He said he was recently invited to talk at Bethesda Baptist Church and was told by those in attendance: “Take your money and go away.”

“But I don’t planning on retiring,” he said. “Nobody’s going to tell me to take my money and go away.”

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