Friends in High Places: Cardinal?s Nest open during construction, controversy.
Friends in High Places: Cardinal?s Nest open during construction, controversy. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Since its opening last year, neighbors of the Cardinal’s Nest, a Brookland club, have complained about the booming live music and rowdy crowds. On the morning of Saturday, May 17, the club’s elevated noise level was punctuated by gunfire. At approximately 2:30 a.m., a gunman fired repeatedly into a vehicle stopped a short block from the club, killing one man and injuring two more.

The Cardinal’s Nest is owned by Darrell Green, a former D.C. cop who keeps in touch with his ex-colleagues. But whatever ties the owner maintains with the city’s blue crew, they didn’t—at least initially—appear to help his Brookland bar.

On Sunday evening, May 18, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier temporarily closed the club, citing a provision of the D.C. Code that allows her to shut down an establishment for up to 96 hours in the interest of public safety. In a letter to Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) Director Maria Delaney, Lanier mentions that one “ABRA Investigator Phillips” was on the scene of the shooting.

Though it’s a rare night one of ABRA’s 18 investigators is physically present for a shooting, it’s an even longer shot that “Investigator Phillips” was an eyewitness. “For the record, we have no Investigator Phillips,” Delaney says.

On May 20, Lanier rescinded the closure of the club in another letter to ABRA. This time, she got warmer with her details, referring to an investigator actually employed by the agency. “Significant weight was given to the statements provided by ABRA investigator Dwyne Shoemaker that supported [the closure]…it now appears that there may have been a misinterpretation of the information provided by Investigator Shoemaker that was so critical to my determination that the homicide was linked to the establishment and that the establishment needed to be closed,” wrote Lanier.

In a 5th District Citizens’ Advisory Council meeting last week, Assistant Chief Diane Groomes explained that the ABRA investigator in question had “recanted one of their statements.”

That’s news to Delaney, who insists that Investigator Dwyne Shoemaker never recanted any statement, and furthermore “never informed anyone that an altercation or an argument had taken place, inside or out.” Despite this disconnect between the D.C. police and their on-site ABRA source, the new order stood: The Cardinal’s Nest was again open for business.

Now that the cops have re-opened the bar, Cardinal’s Nest is free to resume serving its most loyal clientele—other cops. Green worked in the 4th District, and the Nest, along with another Green-owned place, Adams Mill Bar & Grill in Adams Morgan, are, on some nights, cop bars. Green served in the 4th District for 10 years; he resigned from the force in 2002—under circumstances the police department won’t disclose.

Is Green benefiting from some blue solidarity?

“The 4th District cops are parked outside the Cardinal’s Nest all the time,” says Tim Janning, who lives a short distance from the bar, which is located under 5th District jurisdiction. Janning, like many residents of adjacent Perry Place NE, can hear the sounds of the Nest’s late-night shows and intoxicated patrons from his home. Six months ago, when Janning’s wife fended off a mugger on their own porch, the off-duty police presence really started to irk him. “There were four different 4th District police vehicles parked around the Cardinal’s Nest that day, and none of them responded,” he says. “The other day, I saw a 4th District patrol car parked illegally on our street for three hours,” he says. “Are they there on official business? If not, what are they doing there?”

D.C. police spokesperson Traci Hughes insists that the Cardinal’s Nest’s police friendliness doesn’t afford it any special treatment. “Absolutely not,” Hughes says. “Every business establishment is treated the same.” Says Andrew Kline, attorney for Brookland Restaurant LLC, Darrell Green’s official entity, “Being improperly shut down by the chief of police, do we include that as ‘special treatment?’” When the bar reopened, Klein says he heard the news from ABRA, not Lanier. “She doesn’t even bother to notify the party that was affected by her order,” says Klein. “Does that speak to special treatment?”

But allegations of a chummy relationship with local cops have plagued Green’s establishments over the years—and the Brookland shooting victim is not the first victim of violence outside one of Green’s bars. In May 2004, Rumba Café owner Boris Canjura was found unconscious outside of Adams Mill Bar & Grill, his skull fractured, his ribs broken, and his lung punctured.

ANC commissioner Bryan Weaver called for an investigation into an after-hours club purportedly running in the space above the bar—a space, he later discovered, also owned by Green. In an e-mail sent out after the incident, Weaver wrote, “many prominent members of the Latino community expressed their concern that people from this ‘alleged’ after hours establishment are intimidating other witnesses to this attack and that this club is running under the nose of MPD (Or as one person alleged with the help of some officers).…I would like to suggest that we look into these allegations quickly and separate the truth from rumor over what actually goes on at 1815 Adams Mill.”

But Weaver says that his subsequent appeals to the department, ABRA, and Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham fell on deaf ears. “None of the official bodies we contacted ever did anything,” Weaver says. In February 2005, when a man was found murdered outside the bar, Weaver—along with ANC Commissioner Mindy Moretti and Canjura’s friend Leyda Molina—spoke up again. After the murder, “Everything came out of the woodwork,” says Weaver. According to an e-mail from Delaney, ABRA found that Green had been subletting the space to an Elizabeth Maldonado and a Lorenzo Casanova of Photo & Video Studio; Green claimed that the pair abandoned the space following the incident. But Weaver still wondered whether the operation went further than the apparent subletters. In another e-mail sent to Councilmember Graham, Weaver wrote:

<9.000000>Now our greatest fear has happened—someone has been murdered in the ‘club’.

After the murder, both ABRA and Graham referred the issue to the police. For Moretti, it wasn’t enough. “I really do believe this is going to need to go above their heads,” she wrote in an e-mail to Graham. “Honestly, I’m not holding my breath about this situation changing if left to 3D.” And from Weaver’s perspective, nothing did change. “No one

was ever charged with anything, not for the murder or for the after-hours place. And Green was never cited,” says Weaver. “It was a total breakdown of the system.”

In last week’s 5th District Citizens’ Advisory Council meeting, Groomes, who had previously served in the 4th District with Green, insisted that the police would continue to look critically at Green’s establishments: “Even the perception that the 4th District is protecting an establishment that we’ve had problems with is unacceptable.”

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