Last Monday afternoon, Taste of D.C. organizers at Freedom Plaza received a visit from their Pennsylvania Avenue neighbor: A White House staff member asked that festival organizers lower the sound a decibel or two. President Clinton, the representative explained, was holding a press conference in the Rose Garden and was being drowned out by festival music. Workers passed the message onto the real culprit—the main Taste of D.C. soundstage at 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Funk performers the Brothers Johnson soon got word of the presidential request. “The president has asked us to turn down the music,” the funkmasters told the audience. “We say, ‘Get the Funk Out Ma Face’”—a song that they immediately began playing, albeit at a slightly lower decibel level.

No Guarantees After hearing whispers about another fast-food joint invading “the new U,” Cardozo-Shaw Neighborhood Association Vice President Paul Williams hopped on the Net and zapped a quick inquiry to the Papa John’s Web site. “Thank you for your interest in Papa John’s!” replied Papa John’s representative Karen Lenhart via e-mail last Friday. “We are planning on opening the 1330 U Street NW store on February 20, 1999. Hopefully, this location will be convenient for you.” Lenhart obviously doesn’t know that Williams and his neighbors find nothing convenient about Papa John’s proposed incursion. In July, residents got the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) to designate 1330 U a historic landmark—which means that developer Marvin Jawer’s renovation plans must pass HPRB muster. And Lenhart doesn’t know something else: The pizza chain decided to pull the plug on the U Street location, according to Diane Comer, Papa John’s director of corporate communications. “I would like to think it’s because we were going to organize against them,” says Williams.

Legal Sparring Last Thursday morning at D.C. Superior Court, two security guards were passing time by the metal detectors. “Hey,” one guard said to the other, “when was the last time you saw two lawyers duke it out down here?” The second guard thought for a minute, then replied, “Oh, it’s been a while.” The first, eyeing two attorneys bickering behind him, said, “Well, we gotta keep an eye on those two over there. They’re getting ready to go at it. And I got 25 bucks on the guy on the right.”

Tipped Off Six former employees of the Ark Restaurant Corp., which owns chichi Washington eateries B. Smith’s, America, Center Cafe, and Sequoia, filed a class-action suit last spring claiming the restaurant group had denied its employees proper wages and overtime pay. Restaurants are legally obligated to pay wait staff the “service rate minimum,” a sub-minimum hourly wage that factors in projected tips. Richard Stoper, an attorney for the plaintiffs, says Ark failed to pay the proper wage and inform employees of their wage rate when they started work. The plaintiffs are now looking for other D.C. Ark Restaurant employees who have been wronged; the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union is pursuing a case involving similar violations by Ark in New York. Ark Restaurant Corp. President Michael Weinstein contends the suit is merely a restaurant union war tactic. “It’s a sheer fiction that this is motivated by any violations in D.C.,” Weinstein says, though he does admit to a few overtime oversights, most of which, he notes, have been corrected.

Spinning Your Wheels Two weeks ago, Adams Morgan resident Nathan Means rode his bike uptown to do some shopping in Tenleytown. Instead of pedaling home with a big shopping bag, he opted to take Metro part of the way to Woodley Park. Unaware of Metro regulations, Means carried his bike down the station’s 371-foot escalator to the mezzanine level and was all set to pass through the turnstiles and descend the 30 or so more feet of escalator when a Metro attendant put on the brakes. The attendant explained that bikes weren’t allowed on escalators, where they constitute a safety hazard. He proceeded to make Means carry his bike all the way back up the escalator so he could catch the elevator, which would ferry him back down. “I thought about explaining that it was even more hazardous that way,” says Means. “But then I realized that this was kind of like my penalty.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Murdock, Amanda Ripley, Michael Schaffer, and Elissa Silverman.

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