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In its last two issues, the Washington City Paper published a number of letters in support of Diversite, a nightclub on 14th Street NW. The letters were in response to Loose Lips’ column of July 16, wherein LL described the history of violence in the surrounding neighborhood committed by club patrons. LL quoted a Diversite manager who denied any link to the club, then accused the neighborhood of racism. The manager should have spoken with Diversite’s own bouncer, Eugene Wimbush. A quick check of the Washington Post’s online archives would turn up a story dated Nov. 3, 1998, reporting on the trial of the four members of the Mara R gang accused, and ultimately convicted, of murdering the “Good Samaritan” Warren Helm, a young black theology student. According to the Post, Wimbush testified that the accused, after a night of drinking and dancing at Diversite, were ejected from the club after a fight broke out. The group proceeded to beat up a homeless person, then chase Helm up 14th Street, where he was kicked and stabbed to death. The Post archives contain numerous stories about the murders. In addition, trial records may be reviewed at D.C. Superior Court for verification of the facts.
Diversite opened five years ago, long after most of us moved to the neighborhood. When it opened, Diversite, the restaurant, received the strong support of the neighborhood, including an award from the LCCA, which one of the co-owners, Martin Mendelsohn, mentioned in his letter of July 23. His points relating to gangs and violence, however, don’t ring true. The D.C. police have already testified before the ABC Board that gangs are known to patronize the club. Also, Diversite itself filed a report with the police on March 13, 1999, claiming destruction of property after a patron, who had been removed from the club for striking another patron with a bottle, broke two windows. Testimony and copies of police reports are on file with the ABC Board.
Police Chief Charles Ramsey sent a letter to the ABC Board on Aug. 2 requesting revocation of Diversite’s liquor license. The chief’s letter specifically cited the Warren Helm murder, the murder of 19-year-old Matthew Muir, and violent confrontations inside and outside the club in recent months as evidence of a correlation between criminal activity and the operation of the Diversite restaurant. Chief Ramsey invoked, for the first time, a section of the D.C. Code passed in response to the violence and murder surrounding the Ibex nightclub.
The letter writers who so easily threw racist charges at this neighborhood do not know the facts. None of them appear to have witnessed any of the violence, and therefore, in their opinions, none of it occurred. Chief Ramsey has clearly established the facts to be otherwise. Furthermore, we note that none of the writers live in the Logan Circle neighborhood. To them, it is just a place they visit of an evening and then leave, rather than the place they make their homes.
The protest pending before the ABC Board is not about race, culture, class, or anything else these writers claim. It is about an establishment that came to the community as a restaurant, then evolved into a nightclub, with certain late-night events that draw a violent element to the community. It’s about the peace, quiet, and safety in our neighborhood, a neighborhood that is as culturally and ethnically diverse as Diversite claims to be. Perhaps if the writers feel so comfortable with Diversite, they should invite the “club” into their neighborhood. It is no longer welcome in ours.
Alfredo Villaldo, Joan Ferraris, Bonn Macy, Jacob Clark,
Jon Norenberg, Shirley Neff,
George Galt, Wayne Dickson,
Kristen Truitt, and Carol Felix
Residents of Q Street
via the Internet