Depending on whom you ask, Denis James is either Adams Morgan’s biggest hero, constantly crusading for peace, order, and quiet along the nightlife saturated strip of 18th Street NW—-or its biggest nuisance.
Bill Duggan, owner of Madam’s Organ, says he’s the latter. “Everyone else lives and lets live…This guy is such an asshole.”
James is president of the Kalorama Citizens Association. As such, he keeps watch over neighborhood bars and clubs to make sure they’re not too noisy or open too late. On behalf of his group, he often protests liquor license applications and then brokers voluntary agreements with establishment owners, regulating everything from trash pickup to when the businesses can have their windows open.
“Denis, he’s protested every license,” Duggan says. “He’s the original deputy dog.” In fact, says Duggan, James recently attended a meeting on the subject of insufficient food sales at area “restaurants,” and said it was time for the businesses to be punished for breaking the law. That’s ironic, Duggan says, because all the while, James has been doing “illegal construction.”
Earlier this week, James was served with a stop-work order for not having the necessary permits for construction at his Kalorama Road home. “Obviously, he believes he’s above the law,” Duggan says. Then again, he says, maybe it was an oversight. “I can understand why he doesn’t have time to get permits, because he’s always at the ABC Board.”
Not so, James says. “I’ll say this. I have not done any illegal construction.” He says the stop-work order is still posted on his door “because I obey the law. I haven’t taken it down.” But, he says, the matter “is being looked into,” and declined to say more on the advice of his lawyer.