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Dancing Crab, the D.C. landmark whose website says it serves the “finest Hard Shell crabs from Maryland and Louisiana,” has been accused of serving something else: Minors.
On Wednesday, the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board held a hearing regarding two investigative reports about the eatery, located at 4615 Wisconsin Ave. NW, submitted by liquor cops. The reports accuse the establishment of selling booze to three underaged customers. The three were students from nearby American University. The restaurant attracts attendees of the school—an entry on the AU website says the “establishment offers inexpensive seafood.” But the board seemed convinced the place had been offering more than that, so it socked the business with a $6,000 fine and a 23-day liquor license suspension. Though the business can probably afford the fine, 23 days without the ability to serve alcohol will definitely hurt its bottom line.
Reached by phone, Dancing Crab manager Chris Leach says the “heavy fine” and the suspension are a “nightmare,” and that “all reasonable efforts were taken to to keep alcohol out of the hands of the underaged.” “You do your best to look at the I.D.,” she says. But a tick later, Leach admits the Dancing Crab’s nighttime business leans heavily on AU students, and that business has slacked off ever since authorities began descending on the place to check identifications and make arrests. “Word has gotten around,” she says.
The raids that led to the fines began last spring. On March 28, investigators from ABRA and MPD entered the Dancing Crab and “observed two females who appeared very young in age sitting at a table consuming what appeared to be alcoholic beverages,” say documents. “Upon checking the identification of the females Detective [Dave] Carter determined both patrons were under 21 years of age and were consuming Vodka and tonic drinks.” Investigators discovered the two AU students had used fake IDs to get in. The pictures on the IDs weren’t of the students.
In a May 1 incident, in which an underaged female student was caught drinking a beer in the establishment, things went similarly, according to documents—except that when investigators arrived at the Dancing Crab to check on things, an employee of the place appeared to try to warn the underaged customer by whispering in her ear.
AU spokesperson Rob Hradsky e-mails that “there have been several incidents in the past in which underage students have been served alcohol at the Dancing Crab.” He adds that “ABRA has been a strong partner with the university in working with neighborhood establishments to curb underage drinking.”
Photo by T o n y via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic