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D.c.space, Food for Thought, State of the Union: For generations of D.C. residents, these venues cultivated nationally recognized underground music scenes, nurtured strong and lasting communities, and helped our city build a thriving cultural life. As venues for live music, dancing, and DJs, these Alcohol Beverage Control Board-licensed restaurants were not, as Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans would have us believe, breaking the law or acting irresponsibly by “masquerading as nightclubs” (Loose Lips, 5/15). These dual-use establishments and hundreds of others similarly licensed form part of D.C.’s rich and vibrant cultural history. Sadly, if Evans and various civic associations have their way, we’ll lose even more of the venues and dance spots at which many of us connect, share music, and build community.
This is not a confrontation about one group’s right to party vs. another’s right to a good night’s sleep, as Loose Lips glibly implies. The abuse of voluntary agreements (“Raising the Bar,” 5/2) and the anti-nightlife agenda pushed by many of our politicians and resident associations illuminate a troubling local trend. Increasingly, small groups of people dominate our city’s civic processes, working to extend their privileges and impose intolerant, exclusionary ideas about city life on vital urban communities and subcultures. They’ve had a dramatic impact on D.C.’s cultural life, public spaces, and public-policy priorities. There are fewer and fewer places for people to make and share local grass-roots culture in downtown neighborhoods. The mariachis in Mount Pleasant have been lost; the number of venues for underground hiphop artists, local jazz musicians, and punk bands is shrinking; the Logan Circle advisory neighborhood commission has essentially banned new live music, dancing, and DJ spots from opening in that part of town.
Evans proudly declares that he’s the worst enemy of the many D.C. residents (and voters) fighting to preserve such spaces. At the same time, important local news sources ignore or trivialize this story and its implications. Nevertheless, we who have taken up this battle will continue trying to build a vibrant local cultural life. We will also fight to end the abusive practices that have enabled tiny groups of residents and politicians to inflict their impoverished vision of city life on the rest of us.