- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Dupont Circle restaurant that was the site of a deadly melee in November will be allowed to reopen this month under the condition that outside promoters stop throwing parties at the venue.

The ruling that Heritage India can resume alcohol sales on Dec. 21 was made Tuesday by the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board after board members issued a number of conditions that restaurant owners will have to meet.

“This set of conditions will allow this licensee to begin operating and no longer be a threat,” Interim ABC chairman Nick Alberti said.

One man, 34-year-old Jhonte Coleman, was killed and six others injured — either stabbed, shot, or beaten — outside Heritage India in Northwest on Nov. 27 after a late-night party ended. Two fights broke out inside the venue that night, leading staff to shut down the “Black Out” party thrown by Mel Productions early, according to investigators reports. As patrons crowded onto the sidewalk out front, shots rang out.

While Heritage India owners have been summoned before the ABC board previously to address violent outbreaks at the restaurant, Andrew Kline, an attorney with the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, noted that those incidents have not occurred while the venue was operating as a restaurant but rather during special events.

“If this establishment returns to its roots as an Indian restaurant, there aren’t going to be any issues,” Mr. Kline said, speaking on behalf of Heritage India’s owners.

Owner Sangeev Tuvi declined to comment Tuesday.

The Connecticut Avenue restaurant’s concession to close its doors at midnight, install extra security cameras, and cease hosting outside promoters’ late night parties comes at a time that the District is looking to reign in event promoters. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, introduced legislation this month that would for the first time create a set of rules to regulate promoters who throw events that go on past midnight.

“The biggest issue has always been the promoters,” said Phil Carney, a Dupont Circle area Advisory Neighborhood Commission representative who attended the hearing. “This incident is our worst-case scenario.”

The details of the proposed bill, which have yet to be discussed, would need to be negotiated before Mr. Carney said he would fully support it.

“We don’t want to penalize the good restaurants,” he said.

In neighboring Prince George’s County, officials have also sought to crack down on club promoters who have a history of hosting events that end in violence. Legislation passed this summer states that promoters as well as venue owners can be criminally charged for violating the county’s new dance-hall regulations.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s hearing, the ABC board recommended that District’s Office of the Attorney General investigate the November incident to determine whether charges should be filed against Heritage India’s owners.

“We have a responsibility to the victims, families and neighbors to find out what happened,” ABC board member Mike Silverstein said. “This is the beginning of the process, not the end.”

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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