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The flyer on the front door at DC9 still reads “Roof Deck Open Tonight,” but in light of the death of 27-year-old Ali Ahmed Muhammed early Friday morning outside of the club, that hardly seems likely. And while the truth of what happened is still unclear, the incident is having an effect on the surrounding community.
Derge Zewdie, owner of the Habesha Market & Carry-Out across the street from the club on 9th Street NW just south of U Street. Zewdie says that he already deals with issues of homelessness and drug use outside of his business, and is concerned that this most recent incident will only worsen people’s perceptions of the area.
“The economy is already bad enough,” Zewdie said. “Things like this can be dangerous for business.”
Still, Zwedie, who also owns a photography studio on 9th Street, doesn’t feel that Friday morning’s events are emblematic of the larger U Street corridor. While he said that Muhammed’s death is tragic, he hopes that it will not deter people from visiting the area.
“Things can happen anywhere. Things can happen in front of your house. If this happened at your front door, are you not going to go home?”
Michelle Witte, who lives less than a block from the indie venue, said she was shocked to hear the news. For her, the incident hit especially close to home because she regularly visits DC9 and is close with a number of the club’s employees.
“It’s a shame,” she said. “I’m just waiting to hear more, to find out if those guys I’m friends with were really involved with beating somebody to death.”
Beletesh Ogbe has mixed feelings about DC9. For the past 11 years she has owned Serv-U-Liquors, a liquor store directly across the street from the club. Since DC9 opened in 2004, she’s appreciated the extra customers that concerts bring in, but isn’t always the biggest fan of the crowds they attract.
“They come to buy cigarettes and beer, and I always ask where they’re from,” Ogbe explained. “Because lots of them, they look like junk people. They look like homeless people. Then they tell me they’re here for a show. They bring in different kinds of people from all over and sometimes they cause problems.”
Her reservations about the patrons aside, Ogbe had no complaints about DC9 itself. She feels that the two businesses have helped each other over the years, and says that DC9 employees that visit her store have always been friendly.
“They are very good neighbors, and I feel sorry this happened to them,” she said. “It’s very tragic.”
All of this comes in the wake of another distressing act of violence, the shooting death of 21-year-old Jamal Coates on Sept. 28 at the corner of 13th and U streets NW. As the details of what happened Friday morning on 9th Street become more clear, the feeling in the neighborhood is that this was one more needless death borne out of alcohol and anger in an area that has seen too much of that already.