On Feb. 5, 1997, a Metropolitan Police Department officer, Brian Gibson, was shot and killed outside the Ibex Club at Georgia and Missouri avenues in Brightwood. Police quickly arrested 23-year-old Marthell Nathaniel Dean, who had just been escorted out of the club, which was hosting a go-go event that night. Dean was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
The city responded by forming a special liquor task force, comprised of police officers, fire-code inspectors, and health safety inspectors, headed by then-MPD chief Larry Soulsby. Tasked with enforcing local liquor laws, the task force tended to descend, 15-men strong, on D.C.’s gay bars and go-go clubs. The Edge and Bravo Bravo, two clubs that hosted go-go, even canceled events following a task-force visit.
Some questioned the effectiveness of the task force. As Washington City Paper’s Jason Cherkis wrote on April 18 that year:
Sure, the task force has embraced Soulsby’s zero-tolerance policing binge by hassling bar owners all over town for not having liquid soap in their bathrooms and using illegal extension cords. And the squad has made numerous appearances at local gay clubs to crack down on illicit bar sex. But the task force has made little progress toward its charter goal: to shut down clubs that attract thugs.
Scandalous liquor-license violations take place every night in District nightclubs. At a downtown gay club on a recent Sunday night, for example, a buff male stripper gyrates before a mob of eager admirers. The club’s liquor license authorizes the show, but not the action it inspires: men grabbing at the dancer, caressing his penis. The District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) regulations mandate a 3-foot buffer zone between stripper and would-be groper.
And it’s just the sort of violation that tops the task force’s priority list.
As Mark Jennings wrote that June in City Paper, “Mayor Marion Barry, D.C. councilmembers, and community activists have hailed the go-go crackdown as an overdue effort to restore order to a musical nook of the city that had gotten out of control.” But is also caused go-go gigs to evaporate around town. “With the shows dried up, [Backyard Band’s Genghis] Glover now works day shifts to support his 3-year-old son, Javon-Shaquille, and to avoid backsliding into his previous life as a street tough.”