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Your article concerning the controversies and complaints about the Heart & Soul Cafe on Capitol Hill (“Disheartened Soul” 11/27) presented a thoroughly distorted view of the situation. First, and most egregiously, the article gives the impression that the noise problem about which the local residents complained happened on Saturday nights. In fact, the most annoying noise problem occurred on Wednesday nights (Thursday at 2 a.m., to be precise). Since I’m a night owl and don’t have to be up and at work at a particular time in the morning, I personally witnessed the crowds and noise that would pour out onto residential streets on several Wednesday nights prior to the night that the murder occurred, which your article suggests was not related to Heart & Soul but which has heightened the current attention to apparent liquor license violations at Heart & Soul.

Your article acknowledges that for months “Capitol Hill busybodies” had been sending e-mails to neighbors and otherwise complaining about the noise Heart & Soul was creating in the community. Why are none of these people quoted in your article? You say nothing about whether you even attempted to talk with any of them, save Councilmember Sharon Ambrose.

I hope my neighbors who are more informed about the Heart & Soul situation will write to you to help set the record straight, but here are a few facts as I understand them that your article either ignored or misstated:

First, the “busybodies” e-mail tells me in a Nov. 5 communication—well before your reporter’s deadline, I would think—that Heart & Soul was fined $1,500 by the ABC Board as a “result of apparent violations, such as staying open two hours longer than their license stated and offering music that did not conform to their application of ‘easy listening, light jazz, and poetry readings.’ Also, they may not have permission to use the current space for these functions, but that issue was not settled.”

According to a communication from Councilwoman Ambrose, as quoted in the neighborhood e-mail system, “The ABC Board determined that the activity at Heart & Soul during its nightclub events has not been consistent with what the owners of the restaurant originally entered on their application for a CR-Restaurant liquor license. That application asserted that alcohol would be sold Sundays through Wednesdays only from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., and that entertainment would be limited to ‘live easy listening jazz, poetry and dinner music.’ The ABC Board has issued a $1,500 fine to the Heart & Soul Cafe and has suspended its liquor license for four consecutive Wednesday nights, for operating in a way that is inconsistent with the original application.”

Although your article does quote Ambrose as saying, “This is about responsible exercising of an ABC license,” it says nothing about what Heart & Soul’s ABC license actually permits it to do. Were the e-mail messages I received inaccurate, or was your article misleading? From what I know, I place much more confidence in the e-mails I’ve received for accurate reporting.

I would like to go on concerning information I read in e-mails and the Washington Post that is inconsistent with your reporting about the murder, but I think I’ve said enough about the factual problems in your article. I must, however, comment about the racial angle that your article focuses on. As a white man, I know I have to acknowledge that I live in a racist society, and that my neighborhood is not—and indeed I myself am not—immune to the racism that pervades our society. I will also acknowledge that, unfortunately, white residents on Capitol Hill would probably be slightly more forgiving if noisy patrons exiting the Heart & Soul at 2 on a Thursday morning were white. This is a sad fact that we all must work to change. But the difference in the treatment of white patrons vs. black patrons in this particular case would be of the smallest degree. Noise at 2 a.m. on a weekday night when you’re trying to sleep is noise, be it white or black. I think your paper has done a disservice to race relations in the city by emphasizing the race angle in this story rather than the facts.

Capitol Hill

via the Internet