When Town Danceboutique closed last summer, the beloved nightclub left a noticeable void in D.C.’s LGBTQ nightlife. But even before Town was forced to close its doors, its owners — Ed Bailey, John Guggenmos, and Jim “Chachi” Boyle — have been hard at work trying to find the perfect spot for their next nightlife venue.
“We knew Town was going to close about a year before it did,” says Bailey. “So for two years, we looked and looked and looked, and just hadn’t found the right space. We’ve now found a place that we think is a possible new location. We’ve taken the important step of applying for a license, just to see if we can move forward and make this a reality.”
That new location is perhaps not what you might think: a former Baptist Church, situated at 1001 North Capitol Street NE, in D.C.’s Swampoodle neighborhood.
“It’s a spectacular space,” says Bailey. “It’s got a remarkable interior and exterior, which we intend to restore completely. First of all, it’s a church. That’s just an ‘ah’ moment from the get-go — the fact that it is an architectural gem of a church with these buttresses, these ceiling trusses, that are incredible. It’s got 50-foot ceilings in the main room that are awe-inspiring. It’s got a gigantic pipe organ. It’s got incredible original stained glass windows. The bell tower is overwhelmingly gigantic.
“It’s probably the first time that we have had the opportunity to work with a space like that,” he continues. “We’ve certainly created nightclub spaces that have been great, but I don’t know that there have been any that you just walked into and you just were stunned at the way it looked. This is a space like that. It’s an exciting proposition, and new territory for us, frankly.”
Using the company name Town 2.0 LLC, the former owners of Town are applying for a nightclub license that would allow the venue to hold dancing, live entertainment, a DJ booth, and snacks for sale, as well as a sidewalk café area. The food and dining site Eat DC reported on Tuesday that the license requests a total occupancy of 524, with 125 seats outside.
“There is a space directly next to the building, which will allow for us to create a patio space outside,” says Bailey. “In a day and age when you have a nightclub that might have a very large crowd, you’re going to have a number of people that are going to smoke. You can have a place for smokers to be, where you can keep that noise in a controlled environment. I think it would be hard to imagine spaces in D.C. that are truly substantial that don’t have some sort of outdoor elements to them.”
Town 2.0 LLC has already negotiated a lease with the landlord, who Bailey says is supportive of the partners’ vision for the space. But before anything can be finalized on paper, they’ll have to wait and see if their application for a license is approved.
If Town 2.0 LLC is able to obtain the license and successfully navigate the various regulatory obstacles to opening a nightclub, the new venue — which has yet to be named — would be one of the largest LGBTQ nightlife options in Washington, D.C. Bailey foresees it filling a role within the nightlife scene similar to the one Town occupied, even though the character will be different.
“Every space is its own thing,” he says. “We have certainly had a lot of ventures in the past and have learned very valuable things from operating each one of them. We then take all that information and we try to use it to create a new, different, and interesting space.”
Bailey says club-goers shouldn’t expect the new club to open anytime this year, due to the length of time the licensing and refitting process can take. But he’s optimistic that he and his partners will be able to make significant progress in turning around the space — which will require a substantial amount of work, given that the structure dates back to the 1800s.
“We’ve already started to take some steps with engineers to try to figure out what we need to know about this building,” Bailey says. “We’ve already walked through with architects. We’ve already had some basic ideas about the structure of the building and how we’re going to have to work with that. We’ve worked with sound engineers already.”
Still, there are more steps to go before the space can be opened up to the public.
“There will be a posting period,” he says. “Those placards will be up on the building to inform the general public that this is happening. That’s a couple months of paperwork and review. Then there’s a substantial period of time in which we submit plans and the city approves them or sends them back to be reworked. All of that is certainly fine when it leads to something spectacular, which is what I’m expecting.”
Bailey also promises to establish positive working relationships with the club’s neighbors — including some condos next door — and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C, which oversees regulatory and development-related decisions that affect the neighborhood, as well as any other nearby ANCs who might be affected by the new venue.
“I believe we’ve always been seen as a valuable part of every community that we have operated a business in, and we look forward to doing that again,” he says. “We’ve been very proactive about making sure we know everybody, we hear everybody’s concerns. It’s going to be no different here.”
At this point, Bailey and his partners are “cautiously optimistic” that they will be able to move forward with their plans.
“We’ve been parts of plenty of deals and opportunities that for one reason or another just haven’t been able to come to fruition,” he says. “We’ve landed at this point and this building because we feel very positive about what it could be and we feel very confident in our ability to work through whatever hurdles there might be.”
Bailey acknowledges there will be challenges with the space, not the least of which is dealing with issues related to historical preservation and the ability to renovate the space inside the structure. “We recognize that you can’t predict every twist and turn, but we certainly are looking at this as a very substantial opportunity,” he says. “In fact, I would say this: We look at this as a potential legacy moment for us. We look at this as a crowning achievement-type moment to a very long career.
“We look at this as an opportunity to do something really spectacular. That means we’re not going to skimp on anything. … We’re going to build it the right way and we’re going to create the foundation and we’re doing all of that right now to make sure it’s set up to have the best opportunity to succeed for a long time.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to clarify the size of the proposed new location.