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SLASH ON THE WRIST

After a bloody fight last month that turned the downtown tavern So Much More into a chaotic crime scene, the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board took decisive action: On May 28, regulators moved to shut down the embattled bar.

For about a week. The tavern, located at 1428 L St. NW, is now back in business.

Seven patrons were stabbed there on May 12—either inside or outside the establishment, depending on whom you ask—when a dispute over a $5 cover charge turned ugly. Nearly a month later, one victim remains hospitalized.

That night, the venue was hosting a video-premiere party for Hollowpoint Records’ latest release, rappers Kato and Young Diesel’s “Bounce.” Witnesses say that some of Hollowpoint’s guests refused to fork over the cover after noticing that a select few from the local label, as well as attendees from D.C.-based Black Hollywood Entertainment, which produced the video, didn’t have to pay.

“An altercation ensued,” reads the regulators’ case report, “between the bouncers and the patrons. The bouncers produced knives and seven patrons received lacerations.”

So far, no criminal charges have resulted from the incident. A grand-jury investigation, police say, is ongoing. But on June 2, at a hearing before the ABC Board, prosecutors accused the bar’s owners, Deryck Alexander and Rose Knox, of having “absolutely no security,” exhibiting “a lack of control” over their establishment, and posing an “imminent danger to the public.”

Defense attorney E. Douglass Ellis downplayed the fracas as “an isolated incident” in which “the greatest violence took place outside.” The incident, he said, stemmed from “a private function” for which independent promoters had pledged to provide their own security: The “bouncers,” as investigators called them, were actually the event’s promoters, not employed by the bar but collecting money to recoup expenses.

“These licensees have to do a better job,” said Ellis, noting that once the fight began, So Much More management ordered everyone out and closed the bar down. He urged the ABC Board to “show some proverbial mercy.”

After eight hours of testimony from investigators, the club’s owners, and the event’s promoter, the board did exactly that: It suspended the owners’ liquor license for just eight days, including the six already served since regulators initially closed the venue. The board had imposed a much stiffer penalty on Between Friends Nightclub on U Street NW, where three patrons were stabbed, one fatally, on March 13. That club received a 17-day suspension and was specifically prohibited from having “live or recorded Go-Go music” on the premises.

“The board does find that the licensee did not exhibit control over its establishment,” ABC Board Chair Charles Burger stated. But, he added, So Much More’s owners seemed willing to make amends. In addition to the eight-day suspension, the board ordered Alexander and Knox to keep the venue’s upper floors off-limits to patrons until an ABC-approved security plan is developed.

After reopening the bar on June 5, Alexander said that a security plan is already drawn up and ready for the board’s review. “We didn’t have to do much,” he said. “Just have a security team for special events.”

And just in time, too: This Saturday, June 12, according to a flier, So Much More will host a BET video shoot and release party for Mobuzz Records’ new single “Make That Pussy Pop.”

CANDY FROM STRANGERS

In case you missed it: The Majestic 20, Consolidated Theatres’ newest multiscreen cineplex, opened in downtown Silver Spring on May 7.

Compared with last year’s glitzy grand opening of the nearby AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, the Majestic’s “soft” unveiling came with significantly less fanfare: Ned Kelly, anyone?

Well, at least someone took notice. At the Whole Foods Market located just across Fenton Street from the new cineplex, “all sorts of healthy snacks,” including organic chocolate bars and fat-free candies, are prominently displayed at check-out counters 5 and 6 under a vibrant yellow sign that reads, “Take us to the Movies!”

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Organic gummy worms, priced at $1.49 per bag, cost about half as much as the Majestic’s $3 box of Care Bears Gummi Bears. And you can buy three whole packs of organic peanut-butter cups (99 cents each) for less than one bag of Reese’s Pieces ($3.50) at the movie house.

“All these items we’ve always had and they’re the same everyday prices,” says Steve Fader, the Whole Foods store’s team leader. “We just got them together—

easier for our customers to find.”

The competition from Whole Foods comes as news to concessioneers at the Majestic, which is vying to corner the Silver Spring snack market, at least among its own audiences. Like many cineplexes, the new theater strictly prohibits patrons from bringing in outside food or drink—even bottled water.

“We don’t tackle people in the hallway, remove their McDonald’s bags, and lock ’em away,” says Marie McClafin, marketing director for Consolidated. “Our policy is no outside food or beverages. We prefer you to not bring them.

“But if you do,” she adds, “and it’s not visible, there’s really not a lot that we can do about it.”

In fact, Whole Foods isn’t the first retailer to try and lure snackers away from the Charlotte, N.C.–based chain’s own concessions. “I could quote you probably four or five instances,” McClafin says, “where we have moved into a market and the local department store, grocer, or retailer near us has brought out a line of boxed or larger-sized quantity candy to compete with us.”

That’s an approach Consolidated isn’t unfamiliar with: After all, another one of the Majestic’s nearby neighbors is the aging AMC City Place 10.

But it looks as if the Majestic’s ready to give Whole Foods a run for its money. “We are considering,” McClafin says, “a new line through Tropical Fruit & Nut,” which is “like a trail mix.” Take that, crunchy grocery store.

ECHO OF THE

BUNNY MAN

For fans of cult films, evil rabbits, or Jake Gyllenhaal, Visions Cinema Bar Noir has good news. Coming this July: Richard Kelly’s twisted 2001 tale of disturbed adolescence, Donnie Darko.

Wait. When did Donnie Darko ever leave the Florida Avenue NW theater?

Beginning in January 2003, Visions screened the freaky flick at midnight every single Friday and Saturday night for more than a year. “It was something that was running strong for a really long time,” says Visions Marketing Manager Heather Huston. “And it didn’t take a lot of new grassroots promotional work each week. It just sold itself by reputation.”

But this past April, Visions pulled the plug on Darko. Not by choice, however.

“The distributor pulled it from all locations across the country,” says Huston. Newmarket Films, she explains, plans to rerelease the movie in theaters this summer, complete with 20 minutes of never-before-seen footage—well, never-before-seen unless you own the DVD.

“We expect it to hit D.C. in July,” Huston says. “We just don’t know the date yet.”

A JADED RESPONSE

Even the Smithsonian Institution, it seems, isn’t above a little shameless insect-related self-promotion: On May 28, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery unveiled “Silent Cicadas: Jades From Ancient China.”

The timely yet tiny exhibition features a single display case—located right beside the gallery’s gift shop—that contains eight arrowhead-sized bugs carved from green and white jade. Made as amulets, the bug-shaped charms date back to the Shang (1600–1050 B.C.) and Han (206–220 B.C.) dynasties—and they just happened to be hanging around unused amid the Smithsonian’s vast collection of art and other stuff. Lucky coincidence!

“It was just a last-minute idea on our part,” says gallery spokesperson Irene Nemitsas. The case of jades, she says, will remain on display only until June 13, expiring at about the same time as the real bugs.

Surprisingly, the Sackler gift shop offers no cicada-related merchandise to capitalize on the display. But that doesn’t mean that the Smithsonian isn’t cashing in on the cicada craze: Around the corner and upstairs, in the adjoining Freer Gallery of Art, another gift shop offers a clay cicada-themed teapot and cup set (list price: $45).

Store manager Vicente Umali reports that the Freer has sold 60 of the tea sets since January, with a daily-sales record of eight purchased on May 31—right at the height of the actual bug boom. Like the jades, Umali says, the tea sets had been sitting around for some time.

“It just happened,” he says, “that cicadas are big right now.”

—Chris Shott

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