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On Saturday, Feb. 7, Robert V. Richards Sr. was spending a quiet evening at home. Eager to scare up a little excitement, he turned on his police scanner and started listening in to some calls. Around 10:30 p.m., Richards, who is a commissioner on Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 4B, overheard a 4th District police unit respond to a call about trouble brewing over at Felicity’s Cultural Center, a neighborhood establishment located at 6210 Chillum Place NE, in Richards’ ANC district.
Richards had heard an earful about Felicity’s from some of his neighbors, especially those active in the Lamond Riggs Citizens Association. The association draws its members from part of ANC 4B, which stretches from the northernmost part of the District border on Eastern Avenue over to upper Georgia Avenue. They argued that, its name aside, Felicity’s was nothing more than a go-go club that brought unruly crowds and heaps of trouble to the quiet residential area.
So Richards decided to head over to the joint and see for himself. When he arrived on the scene, he found the police outside chatting in their squad cars. “From what I could see there was nothing wrong,” recalls Richards. “They even had a person parking cars.”
Not all of Richards’ neighbors, though, share his assessment of Felicity’s. When news got out that Felicity’s owner Aaron Adade had applied to the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board for a liquor license, the association organized a protest and hired a lawyer to make sure Felicity’s’s wouldn’t serve anything stronger than lemonade.
Lamond Riggs residents have reason to be skittish about bars. The neighborhood used to be home to two of the city’s most notorious go-go clubs, the Ibex and D’Cache. For more than five years, complaints about stabbings, shootings, and car thefts around the Ibex deluged the 4th District brass. Nobody paid too much attention until a year ago, when officer Brian Gibson was gunned down by an Ibex patron while sitting outside the club in his squad car. Neighbors voiced similar gripes about D’Cache, the site of a shooting spree that injured eight people last year. The club closed soon after.
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Adade’s defenders say that the neighborhood busybodies have little ammunition against Felicity’s. On the whole, they claim, Felicity’s has been a good neighbor. Three years ago, Adade opened up Felicity Public Hall as a space for cultural events including lectures, concerts, and performances. He has contributed to community events and invited his neighbors to many of the center’s activities.
Not everyone has accepted the invitations, though. “Felicity’s was a problem,” says Alan Morrison, who lives a block away from the establishment and works in the office of Ward 4 Councilmember Charlene Drew Jarvis. “During the summer months, you could hear the bass blasting.”
Morrison says that Adade listened to community complaints and decided to soundproof the warehouse building in early 1996. But while the bass from Felicity’s may no longer shake the asphalt, local activists are still making plenty of noise about the center. They continue to complain that the establishment attracts an unruly bunch who routinely throw bottles, piss on their lawns, and steal their parking spaces. “The club has events that are advertised to take place at a specific time but with no close time,” says Doug Fierburg, an attorney hired to represent the Lamond Riggs Civic Association.
Though Fierburg says he’s willing to talk to Adade in hopes of working out an agreement, Felicity’s neighbors aren’t in a mood to compromise. The Rev. Graylan Ellis-Hagler, minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, which is also in the neighborhood, says that “the ideal situation would be for them to close up shop.” Ellis-Hagler is teaming up with a group of locals to protest the club’s liquor license at a March 11 ABC Board hearing.
But the neighborhood hasn’t exactly established a united front against Felicity’s. “They don’t have a legitimate complaint,” says ANC 4B commissioner Paul Montague. “All they have is prejudice against African people.” Adade is Ghanaian and sponsors many events catering to D.C.’s African community.
In addition, supporters point out that Felicity’s hosts merely one go-go act per month, and it usually features performers like Chuck Brown, who attract an older audience. “The things that the community said they’ve seen him doing I just haven’t seen,” adds Morrison.
But angry neighbors don’t care about specifics. “There’s nothing to meet about,” says Ellis-Hagler. “We’ve got too many liquor outlets….This is a neighborhood where people have lived in their homes for 30 or 40 years. We don’t need to be subject to these type of attacks.”
But where Ellis-Hagler sees attacks, Montague sees a respectable club doing legitimate business. “I don’t care what lies they make up,” says Montague. “Felicity’s is
entitled, and they’re gonna get that license.”CP