- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Northwest nightclub that was the site of a double stabbing was ordered closed indefinitely after officials concluded employees of the club tried to hinder an investigation of the assault.

Two men, listed as a performer and promoter who were at the Mood Lounge that night, were stabbed near the Ninth Street club early Friday after a fight broke out inside, according to a report released Wednesday by the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Among the problems documented by investigators, a security guard working at the lounge told investigators that “copious amounts of blood spilled immediately outside the establishment” was just “cranberry juice.” The owner of Mood Lounge also told investigators from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration that security cameras inside the club were not working that night, which is a violation of the club’s security plan.

Mood Lounge spokeswoman Shirrell Adams said the club was hosting a karaoke event the night of the stabbing and that club owner Abeba Abye Beyene decided to close the club after a man who did not have an ID got into an argument with employees who refused to let him inside.

“He was making a scene and because of all the problems we’ve had prior, the manager got nervous and decided to shut it down,” Ms. Adams said, adding that the club was closed by 12:30 a.m. “If [Ms. Beyene] suspects something might be wrong, she turns on the lights because that’s how she is.”

Police were alerted to the stabbing at about 1:30 a.m. when the two victims, including one who was not yet 21, were taken to Howard University Hospital.

The ABRA report states that after the altercation at Mood Lounge, which requires patrons to be 21 years old or older, security staff asked all the customers to leave. The ABRA report faults club employees for not notifying police of the incident. The stabbing occurred shortly after patrons exited the club, and one of the stabbing victims even returned to the venue to get a ride to the hospital, the report states.

Ms. Adams said employees were unaware that the stabbing took place until police officers knocked on the Mood Lounge’s doors at about 1:30 a.m. as employees were completing paperwork for the night.

“We didn’t hear or see any disturbances outside of the club,” Ms. Adams said.

In reference to the “cranberry juice,” Ms. Adams said she was unsure what was found by investigators on the ground outside the front doors but said the individual who made the comments was a bartender, not security staff.

“We don’t know why the bartender thought it was cranberry juice,” she said.

The fact that between five and 10 security cameras inside were not recording the night of the stabbing was a malfunction caused when the tapes filled up, Ms. Adams said, adding that the owner is now working to fix the problem.

Police have fielded 61 calls related to Mood Lounge in the past year, including 31 calls classified as disorderly conduct, according to the ABRA report.

Citing numerous complaints from neighbors, Ward 2 D.C. Council Jack Evans called for the club’s permanent closure last week following the report of the stabbing.

Ms. Adams said the club has been unfairly scrutinized by nearby residents who want the lounge shut down.

“We want to help rejuvenate this corridor of Ninth Street, but it’s like we’re talking to deaf ears,” she said, adding the majority of the club’s customers are black but the most vocal neighborhood critics of the club have been white.

“We were told if we wanted to maintain our establishment here we would have to change our clientele here.”

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

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