By the time the argument started in the early and dark hours of Friday morning, the two well-built and expensively dressed professional basketball players might have consumed one too many. Swaptak Das, the owner of a ritzy club at 21st and K streets NW called The Shadow Room, where the men had been partying, says his establishment was closing up for the night when things got out of hand between Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche and center JaVale McGee as they headed home. He also claims that like others at his club, the incident has been blown way out of proportion.
Das has been told by his security personnel that Blatche and McGee didn’t throw haymakers at each other. Instead, they wrestled some. “It was an unfortunate pushing and shoving match,” he says. Friends pulled the two apart. “Bottom line is, they separated and they all went home.” Because of the tussle, the two had to sit out of a game on Sunday, and have apologized. In the NBA, the incident will probably be forgotten by the end of the week.
But Das is worried the bad publicity will haunt Shadow Room. He and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A have been battling over his club for years now. The ANC calls his establishment “rowdy” and has voted to protest its liquor license renewal. The group has pointed to police reports to prove the club is out of control. (Members of the ANC did not respond to requests for comment.)
The luxury lounge, equipped with crystal chandeliers, video game consoles, and touchscreen menus, has had 10 reports of assaults or fights since the beginning of 2009, according to an Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration investigative history.
But according to Das, all isn’t what it seems. The club’s investigative history has to do with the fact that it has hired off-duty Metropolitan Police Department officers as security. Those officers document small incidents that might not otherwise show up on law enforcement’s radar, Das says. “Has there been a couple of instances where punches were thrown? Yes,” says Das. But he says the club has always handled those situations professionally. ABRA, he says, has “never, ever, found fault with us.” He claims his ANC critics are just negative. “All they want to do is start and cause problems.”
Starting and causing problems may get easier now because of the two star jocks Das insists normally behave like brothers. Reportedly, neither was arrested for the ruckus they caused. But there was an arrest outside the club that night. According to a police report, there were “several physical altercations” at about 2:45 a.m. A 26-year-old man, who was neither Blatche or McGee, and who had a “strong odor of alcohol emanating from his person,” was cuffed for assaulting a police officer who tried to break up one of those altercations. Das says that was 15 minutes after Blatche and McGee had their row, and it’s impossible to control what people do after they leave.
If things sometimes get out of hand among homeward bound Shadow Room patrons, maybe it’s the streamlined service, City Desk suggests to Das. The place is not only equipped with eight touch-screens that can be used to alert bartenders and waitstaff of your urgent need for alcohol; it’s possible to text a drink order from your iPhone. Couldn’t that convenience make otherwise friendly NBA players more likely to swig enough drink to become unfriendly?
Das pshaws the theory. Though his club offers e-drinking, he estimates only about 1 percent of his customers ever bother to use it. Even if customers do elect to take advantage of the convenience, he argues his staff is trained to quickly spot customers who’ve had too much, and cut them off.
Still, it’s hard to believe that media-savvy athletes would be stupid enough to get into a public scuffle without being completely blasted. And the way the Wizards are playing this year, would you blame them for drinking away their sorrows?