License for Ladies

Edge-Wet owner hopes to open venue in NE with female dancers

As the redevelopment juggernaut of the Southeast waterfront steams ahead, fueled by the Washington Nationals baseball stadium construction, the fates of shuttered adult businesses catering to the gay male community have lingered in limbo. One adult business from the area, however, seems to have found a new home. But don’t look for D.C.’s infamous nude male dancers to return to the stage anytime soon — the business in question will offer nude female dancers in a ”gentlemen’s club” setting.

Ron Hunt, the entrepreneur behind the move, was an owner and manager of two former venues near the proposed stadium: Nexus Gold, offering nude female dancers; and Edge-Wet, offering nude male dancers. As reported recently in the Washington Post, Hunt is trying to sell the nude-dancing liquor license associated with Nexus Gold. The Edge-Wet license is, however, coming with him to 2046 West Virginia Ave. NE, in Ward 5. Hunt says that despite using the license associated with Edge-Wet, his new venture will cater to a straight-male clientele with female dancers.

While Hunt’s effort may not be of much obvious interest to the gay community, Bob Siegel, his new Northeast landlord may be. Back in Southeast, Siegel served as landlord for most of the gay-oriented adult businesses closed by the city’s redevelopment land grab. Siegel, who also serves as an ANC commissioner for the same Southeast neighborhood, counted The Follies Theatre, Heat, Secrets and Ziegfeld’s, and an adult theater as his tenants. He also maintained a residence within this complex of businesses situated at Half and O Streets SE. When his tenants — and his own business, the Glorious Health and Amusements adult cinema and shop — were evicted last year, Siegel told Metro Weekly he hoped to relocate to Northeast D.C., along with all his former tenants. Instead, it’s Hunt and Siegel who have partnered in this new location.

”Believe it or not, all the other businesses have been unable to even find any money to relocate,” says Siegel of his former tenants, mentioning a co-owner of Secrets and Ziegfeld’s, in particular. ”Allen Carroll is crying the blues to me.”

Months ago, Siegel met with community resistance in Ward 5 with word that he would attempt to bring adult-oriented gay businesses to the area. Hunt met similar resistance, in the form of protests filed with the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. In all, five protests were filed against Hunt’s relocation to West Virginia Ave. NE. The protestants were ANC 5B, in which Hunt’s new club is to be located; the South Central Community Association; Rev. Carl F. Dianda, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church at 2021 Rhode Island Ave. NE; and two neighborhood residents. The ABC Board either denied or dismissed each protestant for not protesting by the procedural deadline of Nov. 27, 2006; for not being a recognized as an incorporated organization; of for not appearing at the Dec. 13, 2006, roll-call hearing to discuss the license. The protestants cited ”peace, order and quiet,” as well as over-concentration of nightlife venues in Ward 5 as grounds for their protests. Jeff Coudriet, director of operations for the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, says final approval for Hunt’s move is pending.

Hunt and Siegel both seem confident that all major obstacles have been successfully overcome.

”Everything is fine. The reality is that I run a clean business,” says Hunt, adding that he hopes to employ many of the Edge-Wet and Nexus Gold employees he laid off when those businesses closed to make way for development.

Siegel also seems excited about his new partnership with Hunt: ”Ron Hunt is going to improve my building. He’s 99 percent done with the transfer of his license. Everyone else on O Street has apparently given up.”

Despite his assessment of his former tenants, Siegel says that he, on the other hand, has no intention of acting simply as a landlord in the this new part of town, adding that he has purchased other properties in the Northeast neighborhood. He’s also reserved the ground floor of the 2046 West Virginia Ave. NE property for his own interests, he says, though he’s not yet certain what businesses he may open himself. He’s confident, however, that D.C. will again see nude male dancing as part of the city’s nightlife offering — albeit in a non-alcoholic setting.

”In fact, I don’t have to have a liquor license to have nude dancing,” says Siegel, adding that district zoning regulations against sexually oriented businesses hoping to locate within 600 feet of residences, schools, churches or similar should not be an issue. ”If I wanted to, I could have a theater. I could have anything I want, because I’m 700 feet from anything.”

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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