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Cada Vez isn’t only “a Full Service Restaurant, Lounge and Bar with Live Entertainment and Dancing,” according to its Web site, but also “a state of Art facility” that’s “available for special events every day of the year.”
From birthday parties to business meetings, the two-level venue on U Street NW has hosted such kickin’ shindigs as last year’s D.C. Department of Public Works retirement luncheon and the Martha’s Table Mother’s Day reception.
But when it came time for what one online notice called “The Rawest Hip Hop Event of 2005” last month, Cada Vez suddenly became unavailable.
The Vez was scheduled to host “A Pre-Inauguration Protest From the Stage” on Jan. 19, featuring performances by Chicago hiphop duo the Primeridian; D.C.’s own Head-Roc, Haze, and D Mite; and, according to promotional materials, “Dj Unda Dog on the wheels of steel.”
For weeks, organizers had promoted the show as “an effort to link local/national/global human rights organizations together against the current administration’s policies toward education, healthcare, jobs, the environment, and the occupation of Iraq.” A share of the proceeds collected from the suggested $10 cover charge would benefit local affordable-housing advocacy group Empower D.C. and the People’s Video Network Youth Camp, a nonprofit cultural-enrichment program for kids.
But just hours before showtime, Cada Vez abruptly canceled.
General manager Charles Zhou initially told promoters that bad weather was to blame. “The snow was really bad,” says Zhou. “I could not get anybody to come through it to even run this event.”
But Pre-Inauguration Protest organizers Pam Parker and Daynna Dixon didn’t buy it. “I didn’t understand, because it wasn’t snowing that much,” says Dixon, a D.C.-based singer who performs under the stage name Spirit. “I mean, it was snowing a little bit,” adds Parker, “but all the forecasts predicted it was gonna be over by rush hour.” And the doors weren’t scheduled to open until 8 p.m.
Dixon suspected that the snowfall was just an excuse. Given the benefit’s “controversial” anti-inaugural theme, she says, she figured that somebody probably had called Cada Vez and complained.
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But the biggest reason for the cancellation was probably neither meteorological nor political. Most likely, it was musical: Cada Vez isn’t supposed to have any hiphop these days. At least not until the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board says dat’s gangsta.
A licensed restaurant, Cada Vez got the ABC Board’s OK back in 2001 to offer a variety of entertainment: “Video and Web cast programming, comedy performances, poetry readings, and theatrical performances,” according to its ABC-license application. “Music offerings will include big band, jazz, folk, ethnic, ballroom and classical,” the application notes, “but not rock, hip-hop or go-go.”
“If we even turn on the radio and a hiphop song comes on, technically I am violating my ABC license,” says Zhou.
Since original owners Earnest and Kathleen Simo handed the place over to present proprietors Xiu Jing Lui and Sang Jin Hwang in 2003, the venue has sought to expand both its hours of operation and its musical selection—specifically, staying open until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends and crankin’ the hiphop.
But before a place like Cada Vez can adopt those kinds of changes, it’s supposed to make a formal proposal to the ABC Board. And if the former owners seemed a bit out of touch with their preference for the likes of Benny Goodman, Peter Paul & Mary, and Frankie Yankovic, then the new management is only slightly more down with tha shiznit. According to the venue’s Updated Operations & New Management Proposal, which was filed with the board last summer: “Hip-Hop artists include Bonyce, Fifty Cents, Usher, and a host of other popular tunes heard on top radio stations around the country.”
By tapping into the broad pop genre presently epitomized by soulful R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles and rapper 50 Cent, Cada Vez hopes to attract that all-coveted “high-end professional” demographic, according to the proposal. But instead, the suggested changes have drawn opposition from some community groups, including Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B.
The two sides are presently mired in mediation. While the dispute drags on, the hiphop must wait. “Until the board approves such a change, they are supposed to stick to their approved format,” says Jeff Coudriet, director of operations for the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. And if they don’t? According to D.C. regulations, Cada Vez could get fined—or see its license suspended or even revoked.
“We don’t want no headache,” says Zhou, who claimed he was unaware that the Jan. 19 event would include hiphop performers until the last minute. Zhou calls it “a misinterpretation” in booking. “It sounded like a kind of fundraising thing,” he says. “It didn’t sound like it was a big blowout of a hiphop event.” (Perhaps he didn’t see the organizers’ Jan. 4 press release that called the show “The Rawest Hip Hop Event of the Year.”)
The abrupt cancellation left Parker and Dixon scrambling to find another location. A friend recommended Dynasty Ethiopian Restaurant, located just a few blocks away on 14th Street NW. (Records indicating that venue’s permitted entertainment were unavailable at press time.) Dixon describes the substitute space as “about half the size” of Cada Vez. “We just winged it,” she says. “We stuck the sound man at the front and did a makeshift stage.”
Outside Cada Vez, promoters posted signs reading, “HIPHOP/CHANGE OF VENUE” and providing a cell-phone number for patrons needing “shuttle service.” (“One of our friends had a van,” explains Parker.)
Despite the site debacle, the event still drew about 250 concertgoers and raised about $1,000. But the strong turnout did little to lessen organizers’ hard feelings toward the other venue. “I’ve been telling all my friends,” says Dixon, “not to book at Cada Vez.”
IN THE REDS
For a place that promotes itself as “The Next Level of Upscale Nightlife,” D.C.’s Zanzibar on the Waterfront doesn’t keep a whole heck of a lot of fine wines in stock.
Of the 30 vintages featured on Zanzibar’s wine list, which is posted on its Web site, 19 are presently “Not Available.”
No Dom Perignon? No Cristal? C’est affreux!
Perhaps that’s because Zanzibar isn’t keeping up with its wine bills.
In fact, the Southwest hot spot is being sued by New York–based distribution giant Winebow Inc. over $5,589 worth of unpaid shipments. According to D.C. Superior Court documents, those included such intoxicating brands as French chardonnay Latour Maison and Chilean syrah/cabernet-sauvignon mix Big Tattoo Red.
It’s not the first time that Zanzibar has been taken to court for nonpayment of services. A Superior Court judge recently awarded $39,894 to Clear Channel Communications to resolve its “Complaint for Collections.” The venue also settled a claim last year with D.C.-based OSS Consultants, agreeing to compensate the company for $11,102 worth of unpaid-for office furniture. Oh, and in 2003, Zanzibar settled a $16,173 debt for electrical work by D.C.’s Power Source LLC. Zanzibar offered no written defense in any of those cases and has yet to answer Winebow’s complaint from November.
Zanzibar general manager Michel Daley did not return phone calls. Winebow attorney Mitchell Rubenstein declines to comment specifically on the Zanzibar case, offering only, “I’ll let the record speak for itself.”
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