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A city liquor-control agent on Wednesday pointedly accused managers of a swanky Dupont Circle nightspot of hindering his investigation into the club’s handling of unruly patrons.
At a hearing before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, investigator Tyrone Q. Lawson testified that operators of club Midtown, located at 1219 Connecticut Avenue NW, have been less than forthcoming in turning over security tapes that city regulators have requested.
Lawson has been trying to determine what precipitated two reported incidents at the popular party spot: one involving a fight between female revelers just outside the club’s entrance and another concerning an ejected male patron found unconscious in the alley out back. Both incidents occured on the night of January 29.
The club, which advertises stylish bottle service, starting at $300 per table, and private “sky boxes,” starting at $600, is one of several D.C. venues operated by impresario Michael Romeo (Fur, Lotus Lounge, Tattoo Bar).
During testimony on Wednesday, Romeo’s vice president of operations, Reese Gardner, suggested that neither incident was entirely the club’s responsibility. “We’ve been instructed not to interfere with things outside our ropes,” he told the liquor board, explaining that D.C. police have advised the club to only intervene in situations within its own velvet-roped confines.
It’s certainly not uncommon for D.C. club-goers to wind up passed-out in a back alley, or brawling along the sidewalk. Nor is it unprecedented for nightclub operators to emphasize the external element of such events.
Investigator Lawson says he requested footage from all of Midtown’s security cameras, including feeds from an interior stairwell and both front and back doors, to better find out exactly what went down and where. But the club’s managers have been rather selective with the video, he says, initially turning over only footage from the front door.
When the investigator subsequently pressed for additional footage from other vantage points, management turned over a second disc, which turned out to be entirely blank, he says.
Lawson claims his requests about the missing footage have been repeatedly rebuffed, adding that a club manager once ducked out of a scheduled meeting with the investigator, claiming he was stuck in traffic.
“As I requested information, it became obvious that they were avoiding me,” Lawson told the ABC Board. “They have a culture of being evasive.”
Contacted after the hearing, Midtown general manager Richard Garabedian, known professionally as “Richard G.,” blamed the video snafu on a “series of miscommunications.” Two hours after the hearing, he says he provided three additional DVDs, encompassing all the footage from that night.
Garabedian says club management has tried to cooperate as best it can. “There have been nights when I’ve spent an hour with [investigators] during peak business hours to make sure they get everything they need,” he says.
“It was a very aggressive environment,” he says of the liquor hearing. “If I’d known it was going to be like that, I would have brought a lawyer.”