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Late last month, in a status hearing for the suspended liquor license of Anacostia’s Uniontown Bar & Grill, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board found its continued operation “remains an imminent danger to the public.” Nonetheless, the board permitted the neighborhood watering hole to re-open.
In the most recent outbreak of violence, an off-duty police officer working security during a March 17 go-go performance on the venue’s second floor was slashed across the face and punctured in the arm as he broke up a fight. A week before, there was a hearing to get to the bottom of fighting that spilled into the street after the bar’s failure to follow its security plan. But despite neighborhood chatter of a recent stabbing and official documents reflecting a knife attack, co-owner Gabriele Tripodo insists otherwise.
“Something happened that can happen anywhere,” Tripodo says. “They are making a big deal out of it. It wasn’t a stabbing. The person came in with a chain and … used their chain and its medallion as a weapon.”
ANC 8A Commissioner Greta Fuller becomes exasperated when hearing about the latest incident at Uniontown. “Somebody needs to tell these guys the Super Fly era is over!”
Official documents reflect a repeat history of assault with deadly weapons, gun possession, and the recent assault on a police officer. Tripodo does not foresee further problems from “immature” patrons attending go-go shows. “People in the neighborhood wanted the go-go. It is a part of popular African-American culture, but we won’t be doing that any longer. Just R&B and jazz from now on. Mature audiences.”
There’s a growing fury among homeowners on W Street, with many hoping the bar’s liquor license is eventually revoked. Angela Copeland, moderator of the popular Great Ward Eight Facebook Group, wrote, “‘Imminent danger to the public,’ but keep doing what you doing?”
“They have not followed through with who they said they would be to the neighborhood, and I’ve had many complaints,” says Greta Fuller, who lives up the street from Uniontown.
Others see deeper and more powerful forces at work. Aiyi’nah Ford, a self-described “published intellectual revolutionary,” maintains the angry neighbors “are trying to get rid of all the competition for the upcoming Busboys and Poets. It is also important to note there are repeated fights in Adams Morgan’s establishments weekly. Because the patrons are mostly affluent and/or white, they are able to stay open and continue entertaining.”
In late summer 2013, Tripodo re-opened Uniontown Bar & Grill after it had been closed for nearly a year following the arrest of its previous owner on conspiracy charges. Natasha Dasher served her debt and has returned to the city, speaking at local events and panels about her experiences. Dasher remains respected in the neighborhood for initially opening the restaurant and “running it right,” according to multiple residents.
Seeking to monetize its underutilized upstairs space, Uniontown, under Tripodo, sought an entertainment license and received the go-ahead in late 2014. Noise from the live performances could be heard for blocks until the wee hours of the morning.
Last year a patron was stabbed by a man who entered through an unguarded rear entrance. In an emergency hearing in May before the ABC, Zachary Shapiro, with the Office of the Attorney General, expressed concern that “MPD wasn’t called, the crime scene was contaminated, and medical care wasn’t rendered to the victim.”
As the mercury rises, Uniontown is expected to bustle again as one of less than a handful of sit-down restaurants across the river. But if you plan on visiting for an evening with friends, expect to be wanded. Its security plan also prohibits patrons from wearing white T-shirts, sunglasses, backpacks, flip flops, or hoodies.