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Running parallel to several attractions along D.C.’s Southwest waterfront, Maine Avenue SW is a pretty popular place for visitors to park.
And to litter. On the weekend-closing evening of July 17, the parking-meter-and-rusty-guard-rail-lined sidewalk between 7th and 9th Streets SW was strewn with all sorts of discarded items: crumpled cigarette packs, Slurpee cups, shards of glass, bottle caps, pine-tree-shaped car deodorizers, pop tops, empty alcoholic-beverage containers.
Lots of empty alcoholic-beverage containers—a total of 24, by S&T’s count, including two smashed cans that once encased booze-infused Sparks energy drink, a 750-milliliter Ketel One Citroen bottle, and one Steel Reserve High Gravity Lager 24-ouncer, which, it turns out, still had a few drops of backwash left in it.
Then there were all those colorful pieces of paper scattered about the streetscape—more than 90 fliers of various shapes and sizes, advertising such don’t-miss events as pro-basketball bad boy Allen Iverson’s Celebrity Weekend Grand Finalé and Waterfront Afterparty at Georgetown’s Paper Moon and the Illusion Sunday Champagne Brunch at Northwest restaubar Cada Vez, hosted by local female impersonator Shi-Queeta-Lee.
The pamphlets are the sort of slick propaganda that party promoters typically pass out to patrons as they exit a packed club after last call, the kind you often find cluttering up your windshield before you drive home. Some neighborhood residents allege that these promotional materials constitute something of a paper trail leading to nearby Water Street SW nightspots H2O Restaurant & Lounge and Zanzibar on the Waterfront.
If only they could prove it. “You can’t really trace ’em as to where they’re coming from,” nearby condo owner Perry Klein says.
And the clubs, Klein says, aren’t exactly owning up. “H2O denied that they were putting out the little cards that we’d find on the street,” he claims, “until we started finding some that said ‘H2O.’” (S&T similarly found a card offering “COMPLIMENTARY ADMISSION” to H2O along the sidewalk.)
Wherever it comes from, the stuff left along the roadway is a nuisance to neighbors. But Klein, an active member of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, thinks he has the solution: In an e-mail to Zanzibar manager Ola Foot last fall, he suggested that “it would be excellent if Zanzibar would ‘adopt’ Maine Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets, S.W. This involves mostly picking up trash and debris along Maine Avenue on a regular basis.”
Such an adoption would be “a win-win both for Zanzibar and the community,” wrote Klein, whose own company, Washington Cable, had previously signed up for the city’s Adopt-a-Block program and assumed litter-patrol duties along nearby 7th Street.
The picking-up program has its perks, Klein noted: “The City will recognize Zanzibar by placing a ‘This block has been adopted by Zanzibar’ sign at the ‘adopted’ location.”
Nine months later, however, no such sign has been erected. Klein is still waiting to get some type of cleanup commitment from the nightclub. “They said they’d look into it,” he says. “I don’t know if they have.”
Perhaps Klein simply asked the wrong club. Next door to Zanzibar, H2O owner Abdul Khanu says he’s more than willing to get with the program. “I’d love to participate,” Khanu tells S&T—especially, he adds, if it’s “a co-share situation,” with Zanzibar also chipping in on the cleanup duty.
If Khanu seems a bit eager to appease the neighbors, he has a good reason: H2O is presently wrangling with local residents, including Klein, who are protesting the renewal of its liquor license. If picking up a few empties outside the club will keep the drinks flowing inside, he’s interested. “I had no idea that this proposal was on the table or even available,” Khanu says.
On the table, yes. Available—well, maybe. Despite Klein’s avid support of the concept, the city’s Adopt-a-Block program is currently out of service. “We had one a while ago,” says Merrit Drucker, coordinator for Mayor Anthony Williams’ Clean City Initiative. But the program “essentially halted,” he says, following the exit of Drucker’s predecessor, Mary C. Williams, in early 2004.
“I’d like to bring back the Adopt-a-Block program,” says Drucker, who’s presently working on a plan to relaunch the litter-control effort.
First on the agenda: Obtaining adequate signage. “I wanna get a better-quality sign than we had previously,” says Drucker. The old ones, he explains, were made of plastic and “didn’t hold up well.” Drucker hopes to have some more durable signs ready for new block adoptions as early as mid-August.
In the meantime, however, the trash continues to collect along Maine Avenue.
Who’s responsible for the mess?
When violence is the issue, city officials are required by law to determine “that there is a correlation between increased incidents of crime within 1,000 feet of the establishment and the operation of the establishment” before imposing sanctions against a club.Why should litter be any different? With that question in mind, S&T recovered various pieces of refuse from the 700 and 800 blocks of Maine Avenue to examine whether any correlation exists between increased incidents of grime and the operation of the establishments nearby.
empty 750-milliliter Moët Nectar Imperial bottle
Location: left in the grass near a parking meter
Correlation: Zanzibar offers the French champagne for $75 a bottle, according to a wine list posted on the club’s Web site. But the popular bubbly is also sold at wine shops and liquor stores across the city. Perhaps the sensual suds strayed from a rendezvous at the adjacent Channel Inn Hotel, which, according to its own site, often caters to “that special holiday for two.”
“VIP ACCESS” wristband
Location: discarded beside an overturned orange parking cone on the sidewalk
Correlation: Sure, it’s a common nightspot accessory, designed to separate the Kanye Wests from the Coolios. But maybe the ’band came from a nearby Phillips Flagship restaurant, which also bestows the VIP treatment upon big spenders who use its Friends of Phillips Frequent Diner Card. According to Phillips’ Web site, “Once you earn 400 points or more, you become a Phillips VIP!” Benefits include priority seating and a “10% Discount on Souvenirs.”
broken pair of bulky brown sunglasses
Location: abandoned along a concrete barrier
Correlation: This is the kind of eyewear that you might expect to see on an elderly member of the congregation at Southwest’s Riverside Baptist Church. Or perhaps even on a tourist fresh off an Odyssey cruise of the Potomac River. But don’t let off the clubbers just yet: H2O has been known to attract such funky-shades-sporting celebs as P. Diddy and JC Chasez.
empty 8-ounce Pimp Juice energy drink can
Location: left under a tree along the curb
Correlation: It seems suspicious to find remnants of “The #1 Hip Hop Energy Drink” not far from either H2O or Zanzibar, both of which spin hiphop, among other club-worthy musics, every Friday and Saturday night. But keep in mind that Pimp Juice isn’t just for Nelly anymore; it also “represents the new and improved energy drink for today’s active and health conscious consumer,” according to its Web site. “Providing 100% of the body’s needed vitamin C, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12, Pimp Juice works
to increase the drinker’s energy supply.” So maybe the litterbug was en route to Gold’s Gym & Aerobics Center on 3rd Street SW.
asphalt roofing shingle
Location: stuffed into one of five black trash bags left along the curb
Correlation: Probably the byproduct of some nearby home-improvement project, the shingle certainly doesn’t appear to have come from the sleek metallic-looking tops of H2O or Zanzibar. But then again, maybe this was the result of some George Clinton–loving
clubgoer’s overzealous desire to give up the funk and, yes, tear the roof off the sucker.
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