The sale of Love Nightclub won’t be going through quite as quickly as the people involved in the transaction were hoping.
Love, on Okie Street NE off New York Avenue, shuttered for three months earlier this year after a non-fatal stabbing inside the club on New Year’s Day. Since reopening, the club has only catered special events. Owner Marc Barnes filed bankruptcy for his club earlier this month. The plan had been to sell to Dean Smothers, owner of The Scene, on Adams Place NE.
But the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board refused to allow transfer of the liquor license involved after a hearing on Wednesday.
“Clearly when you acquire arguably the largest nightclub in D.C., that has a history [of] having large events, lots of people, lots of activity, clearly it’s interesting to us who’s going to move in,” said ABC Board Chairman Charles Brodsky at the hearing.
Smothers plans to acquire the 3,500-capacity venue for $7.3 million–encompassing the property, the trade name, Love, and all assets within the property.
A firefighter by day, Smothers does not run The Scene’s day-to-day operations. The venue already has a history of at least four appearances before the ABC Board since it’s opening a year and a half ago, said board member Mital Gandhi, who worried about the management of Love. (And who will not be moving on from the ABC Board to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.)
Although Smothers has hired Mohmmad Jahan, who’s run various properties for Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club, as the general manager and two assistant managers, to handle Love’s day-to-day activities, alongside 60 security personnel, Gandhi expressed concern.
“I’m trying to figure out [how] you, with the full-time job and a lot going on, how you’re going to be able to run not only The Scene, but also the largest night club in the District,” he said. “And I’m still not comfortable with that, especially given the track record you have with The Scene.”
On questioning, Smothers was asked how Love would differ from The Scene, a live entertainment venue. He said the venue will host patrons 21 and up, adding there’ll be live entertainment, but no drum sets or guitars.
“If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, than it’s a duck…whether he doesn’t have a bongo or a banjo, I personally don’t give a crap,” Brodsky responded.
After a 10-minute recuse with attorney Makan Shirafkan, Smothers clarified, live entertainment of all sorts will happen, but there won’t be any go-go to avoid certain crowds. (Presumably, crowds of young black go-go listeners, who the ABC Board and the Metropolitan Police Department believe attract trouble.)
Brodsky admonished, “We appreciate your representations that you will not produce go-go music in your night club, [but] I think you’re foolish to do that. Go-go brings in money, and it brings in people, and it’s the epicenter of…Washington, D.C.”
The ABC Board also announced they’d received a letter from the Office of Tax and Revenue opposing the sale to Smothers. The letter read, “Based on the research of our tax records, The Scene is not in compliance with the tax laws of the District. As such, we’d currently object with the transfer.”
“[I] didn’t know we had those issues until we got the letter today,” Smothers who’d also just received a copy that morning said. “That issue will be resolved today.”
Smothers didn’t help his case when he noted recently hiring a new accountant, and then couldn’t recall whether the new accountant was hired six months ago or two weeks ago. He also said the tax issues probably had to do with $4,000 worth of tax delinquencies from when The Scene first opened—but he couldn’t be sure.
Once Smothers paid his owed taxes and provides the board with a slew of other documents, the ABC Board says they’ll take a second look.
Photo by enviziondotnet. Creative Commons Attribution License.