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Residents of the new Lofts at Adams Morgan, bothered by the sounds of the 18th Street strip behind their luxury condominiums (“Suite Deal,” 1/10), have one fewer source of noise to stress about: The Tom Tom club, at 2335 18th St. NW, was shuttered on Feb. 21.
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) closed the club until further notice, citing it for having restrooms located off the immediate premises, at 2333 18th St., the building next door. But Tom Tom general manager Tony Kowaleski says that the closure was brought on by pressure from the club’s recently arrived residential neighbors.
“They were looking for a reason to shut us down, and they finally came up with one,” Kowaleski says. “Ever since the noise complaints started, we’ve had everybody out here[the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA)], DCRA, the fire marshals, the police. They’ve probably been out here 50 times since November. Before that, we’d see somebody maybe once a month, if that often.”
Frank Jolley, co-owner of the Blue Room, at 2321 18th St., says his club has also seen stepped-up enforcement. “The frequency and intensity of inspections is up noticeably,” Jolley says. “It’s pretty easy to tell when you have four inspectors in two weeks, especially after you barely see one in a year.”
DCRA customer-service manager Gwen Davis denies that her agency has cracked down on 18th Street. “They don’t have any more investigators than anybody else across the city,” Davis says. “They’re not being targeted.”
But Maria Delaney, director of ABRA, confirms that the liquor agency has become more active in investigating Adams Morgan clubsbecause, she says, her office has been inundated with complaints. “There have been a high number of complaints about those places, particularly on the noise issue,” Delaney says. “Our job is to investigate any and all complaints.”
Kowaleski says that various District inspectors had been repeatedly checking for underage patrons, inspecting the building for structural faults, and measuring the noise level in front of its doors.
On Jan. 17, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham personally turned the music in the Tom Tom club to full volume, so that Lofts residents standing on their balcony across the alley could get a noise reading. He then crouched beneath the bar and struggled to check in with the residents on his cell phone. They were unable to pick up noise from the club, Graham says.
“We don’t want any businesses harassed,” Graham says. “But for the first few months, they thumbed their noses at us. It’s not unreasonable for the residents to want clubs to generate tolerable noise levels. We just want everyone to be able to coexist.”
Condo owner Carol Erting says that clubs can’t ignore the complaints from the Lofts. “There’s a lot of diversity and night life in Adams Morgan, and the neighborhood is not going to be damaged if one particular establishment gets closed down,” Erting says.
Tom Tom’s owners, Iraj and Soleiman Askarinam, are working to remedy the restroom problem by combining the addresses of the adjoining buildings. In the meantime, Kowaleski says, the club has lost about $30,000 in revenue, and he worries that his 30 now-unemployed workers will look for other jobs.
“We took them all out to dinner and asked them not to give up on us,” he says. “We’re trying to be optimistic.” CP