D.C. veterans looking to bend an elbow with the guys at the Legion hall had it pretty easy. All they had to do was head over to the American Legion Post #8 at 3rd and D Streets SE and hop their cars over the curbthere was always plenty of parking between the sidewalk and the building. From there, it was just a few paces to the nearest bar stool. The convenient parking was just one of the entitlements of honorable service. The only parking restriction binding on the vets was spray-painted in orange letters on the Legion hall wall: “Please Do Not Block Door.”
Legion hall regulars are losing a perk they’ve been enjoying as long as discounted movies and access to the local commissary. The agent of this bold, perkless future came equipped with a pen and pad. “All of a sudden, boom! Boy, they hittin’ those tickets, you know,” explains a veteran, who requested anonymity. “We had a party down there one night, and a couple people got $100 tickets.” He suspects that a disgruntled neighbor requested the crackdown.
Although a rusty “No Parking” sign has long stood guard at the curb, parking officials had never before taken issue with the vets. After all, the cars weren’t actually on the street. And when flush with the wall, they didn’t obstruct the sidewalk. Besides, the Legionnaires had done it that way since before anyone could remember. While the notion of tipsy vets backing over the sidewalk unnerved neighbors, there were no run-ins, so no one protested.
Not until St. Patrick’s Day, anyway.
After a fundraiser in the rented second floor, a pissed-off partygoer drove her car down the entire length of the sidewalk, according to neighbor John Madigan. Why? To curse and threaten a parking officer who was writing citations. When Madigan intervened, the renegade lashed out at him, too. Madigan called the cops.
Afterward, an angry Legionnaire confronted Madigan at his home. “We tried to talk to him, you know,” the anonymous veteran says, “and he just said, ‘No, no, no, you talk to the police,’ and he walked on back into the house. I guess he’s got a sad life. I dunno.”
A dialogue began, facilitated by the office of Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose. Says Vickey Wilcher, executive assistant to Ambrose, “We went over and met with some members of the Legion hall and one of the neighborsactually a couple of the neighborsand we walked the property to try to figure out what our office might be able to do in terms of coming up with alternative parking.” As it turns out, the spaces the Legionnaires had always claimed are, in fact, public propertynot a free-parking zone.
Ambrose has written a letter to Cell Bernardino, director of the Department of Public Works, and all the parties seem confident of reaching a solution. Post #8 vets are looking into the redesignation of a nearby loading zone, the availability of metered parking, and the off-hours rental of spaces from a neighboring business.
Madigan isn’t so sure they even need a fix. “There’s [parking] problems between 8 and 6. But as far as I know, when their bar is openafter 6there’s parking spaces [on the street]. Right now, I’m looking out the window of my house here, and there’s virtually no one parked across the street.”
Perhaps that’s because Madigan has scared everyone off, suggests a regular patron. “[Madigan] said he wouldn’t call the police no more,” says the anonymous veteran. “But that don’t help us now. He’s ruinin’ our business, really. Nobody comes in there no more now.”CP