Opponents and supporters of the proposed Be Bar at 1318 Ninth St. NW [map], which would cater to the gay community with a lounge and dancing, packed the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) hearing room Wednesday morning. The crowd, seeming primarily to be a mix of Scripture Cathedral church-goers on one side — including the church’s leader and vehement Be Bar opponent, Bishop C.L. Long — and fashionable, young gay men on the other, easily filled the room’s 40 audience seats and the remaining standing area, and then continued to pour into the hallway.
While Be Bar owners Tom McGuire and Mike Watson sat with attorney Andrew Kline at the front of the room to address the board, their allegiance obvious, the protestants’ table was a confusing mix of both allies and enemies of this proposed venue across the street from Scripture Cathedral, the D.C. Convention Center and ANC 2C. This included Leroy Thorpe, chair of ANC 2C, opposing the bar’s liquor license; Christopher Dyer, representing ANC 2F, in which the bar sits, who supports Be Bar but has filed a ”voluntary neighborhood agreement” protest as a matter of form; Harold Davitt of the Blagden Alley Association, apparently a supporter of the bar, but who was not recognized due to his association’s not being incorporated; and Devarieste Curry, an attorney representing a group of eight D.C. residents aligned with Scripture Cathedral protesting the license.
The thrust of the hearing, set to establish the protestants’ legitimacy, was largely a tug-o-war between Curry and Kline. Kline took issue with ANC 2F’s procedures during that ANC’s 3-1 vote against Be Bar, as well as the distance — nine blocks to five miles — between Be Bar and Curry’s protestants’ residences. Curry used her time to defend her group’s standing and to argue the proposed venues proximity to a school. After all the bluster, the hearing came down to technicality.
”This is all a matter of process,” Charles Burger, chair of the board, told the assembled mass, and Thorpe in particular, explaining that Kline’s point that ANC 2C’s meeting procedures may have been unorthodox and unfair to Be Bar needed to be determined absolutely to prevent any legal uncertainty before moving forward. ”We have rules to follow. We have to ensure that everything is done properly.” Adding that ABRA would ensure the district took accurate measurements regarding Be Bar’s distance from the Immaculate Conception School at 711 N St. NW, he continued the meeting to Wednesday, May 3, at 1:30 p.m.
The close of the hearing was marked by the capacity crowd fighting for the elevators, and an impromptu press conference in the hall with Long, pressed on gay issues by reporters from a variety of local media. The answer to that question, said Long, was in the Bible.