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'Exorbitant' rent forces MOVA to move

Owner now ‘looking at different locations’



D.C. gay bar MOVA, formerly known as Halo, is planning to move to a new but undetermined location in D.C., according to owner Babak Movahedi.

Movahedi dismissed as “silly” and untrue rumors that he planned to close the bar this summer.

“We’re not closing down MOVA, that’s for sure,” he told the Blade. “I don’t know where that came from. But because of the exorbitant amount of rent that we pay, we are looking to move the location to a different area.”

Movahedi said his rent exceeds $25,000 a month and his landlord has declined to negotiate a more affordable rent, even though MOVA paid the full cost of a major renovation of the interior space at 1435 P St., N.W., where the bar is located.

“No one can survive on that,” he said. “So we are seriously looking at different locations to move MOVA, not to close MOVA.”

Movahedi said he has three possible locations in mind and will make an announcement as soon as “the signatures are on the paper.”

David Lett, the local female illusionist and drag show host who goes by the name Lena Lett, is Movahedi’s landlord. He disputed Movahedi’s assertion that he declined to enter into discussions over a possible change in the lease.

Lett said he holds the master lease on the building and worked out a sublease with Movahedi when Movahedi bought the shares of the old Halo bar from his then three business partners. Lett was one of the partners.

According to Lett, Movahedi violated the lease when he failed to pay the property tax on the building, which was a requirement of the lease. He said he has since filed suit against Movahedi in the city’s landlord-tenant court alleging a lease violation.

Lett’s attorney, Roy Kaufmann, said in an e-mail to the Blade that he and his client are hopeful that differences between MOVA and Lett can be resolved before the case comes before a judge.

“I would only point out that Mr. Movahedi, himself a confident attorney and seasoned businessman, was part-owner of the business when the lease was negotiated and, presumably, he knew the business,” Kaufmann said. “He was also ably represented by a well-reputed law firm. The final version of the lease (after almost a dozen iterations over several months) reflects thorough, informed, and deliberate negotiations between knowledgeable businessmen who signed an agreement and expected it to be honored.”

Movahedi could not be immediately reached to respond to the accounts of Lett and his attorney.

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  1. Jamie

    July 23, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Wow what an investigative and thoughtful piece. If you’re nice to me I’ll give you the list of seven other blogs predicting things about local businesses shutting down. Gotta love the “?” in the headline.

  2. Duane S.

    July 23, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Reduce the prices, make the drinks larger. You will get more customers…

  3. C-dog

    July 24, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Whatever. 12-15 bucks for a sugary cocktail is too much. Not to mention a bunch of uncalled for attitude. These foo foo bars come and go. While the regular guy and dive bars stay forever. They might want to see what
    keeps the Fireplace, the Eagle and JR’s open so many years.

    • Frankie James

      July 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm

      Don’t forget the now Classic Omega – formerly known as the Frat House… Been there for decades.

    • Daniel M. Laenker

      July 29, 2010 at 3:29 pm

      “They might want to see what keeps the Fireplace, the Eagle and JR’s open so many years.”

      What, getting in early before gentrification hit?

  4. Michael

    July 31, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Gentrification, over-priced drinks, foo-foo bar…: What, no one is going to mention the not-so-subtle racism that was on display, when they still had crowds there on Friday nights? Where, for whatever reason, the 1st-floor crowd was predominantly African-American and then the velvet rope goes up, allowing guest-list-only access to the 2nd floor? I mean, short of a “Whites Only” sign on the chain restricting access to the 2nd floor, how much more obvious could it have been….?

    • Juantana

      August 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

      I know! that was so bizarre to me that it could happen in DC in this day and age – also dont forget they *did* used to have cheaper drinks, 2 for one, etc, and then when African Americans started coming the prices virtually doubled – coincidence? I don’t get it.

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Missing gay man found ‘alive and well’

Police say Richard ‘Rick’ Woods found in good health



Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man, was found alive and well.

D.C. police announced on Friday that Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man who police said was reported missing and last seen on July 14, has been located. But the announcement doesn’t provide information on where he was found or why he went missing.

Friends who know Woods say he operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business in various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, friends said, was in Georgetown a short distance from where police said he was last seen on the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.

“MPD does not publicly disclose the circumstances surrounding a missing person and how they are found, however we do release their flyer as well as a notification when they are located,” said D.C. police spokesperson Brianna Burch. “Mr. Woods was found in good health,” Burch told the Blade.

Police sought help from the public in their initial announcement that Woods was missing. The announcement said he was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23.

Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate John Fanning, who said he has been friends with Woods for many years, said he was delighted to hear Woods was found in good condition.

“Rick is known by many in our community,” Fanning told the Blade at the time Woods was reported missing. Fanning said he and others who know Woods stand ready to provide support for him should he be in need of such support.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Woods for comment.

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Some D.C. gay bars to require proof of COVID vaccination

Action prompted by mayor’s order reinstating masks indoors



Adams Morgan’s A League of Her Own is among the area queer bars requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

At least four D.C. gay bars announced this week on social media that they will require patrons to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted to the bars.

They include the Logan Circle area gay bars Number Nine and Trade, which are operated by the same co-owners, and the Adams Morgan gay sports bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, which are also operated by the same owner and share the same building.

The four bars, which also offer dining service, announced their proof of vaccination requirement shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday issued a new order reinstating the city’s requirement that facial masks be worn inside all businesses and other public establishments.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two. It was scheduled to take effect 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

At a July 29 news conference, Bowser pointed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued two days earlier recommending that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in places where transmission of the coronavirus is considered “substantial” or “high.”

The mayor said that, at the advice of her public health experts, she decided to issue the new order to help curtail the rising number of COVID cases in D.C. over the past month or more due to the rapid spread of the virus’s delta variant, which is surging throughout the nation. Like other parts of the country, Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit said people who are unvaccinated in D.C. make up nearly all of the newly infected cases.

“I know D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines, and they will embrace this,” Bowser said in referring to the new mask requirement.

The four-page order released by the mayor’s office, similar to the city’s earlier mask requirements, allows indoor patrons of restaurants and bars to remove their masks while “actively” eating or drinking.

But some representatives of restaurants and bars have pointed out that other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia, have followed the CDC’s initial policy of making mask wearing a recommendation rather than a requirement.

“Mayor Bowser’s announcement that nightlife hospitality patrons must wear a mask indoors when not ‘actively eating or drinking’ renders the reinstated mandate essentially unenforceable and results in the rule being reduced to a largely theatrical requirement,” said Mark Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a local trade association representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife related businesses.

“The greatest disappointment for many venue operators and staff, however, is that the mayor’s decision does not allow an option for establishments to admit only fully vaccinated patrons and be exempt from the mandate, as a number of other jurisdictions across the country have done,” Lee said.

John Guggenmos, co-owner of the bars Trade and Number Nine, told the Washington Blade he and his co-owners adopted the proof of vaccination policy as an added means of protecting the safety of both patrons and employees of the two bars.

“We’re hopeful that this will be in effect for just a few weeks or a month or two,” Guggenmos said. “Our patrons have always been very supportive,” he said in referring to the city’s public health directives last year and early this year in which masks were required up until May of this year.

Guggenmos said Trade and Number Nine will allow an alternative to the vaccination requirement if patrons provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the previous three days of their admission to the bars.

In its social media postings, Pitchers and A League of Her Own said their proof of vaccination requirement was based on the concern for the health of their patrons and staff.

“We will require proof a COVID vaccination until further notice at Pitchers/ALOHO and masks per the mayor,” a Facebook posting says. “We take guidelines and the health of our patrons and staff very seriously. We will accept a picture or hard copy of your COVID vaccination card,” it says. “No exceptions, no arguing, no talking to the manager.”

Tammy Truong, owner of the gay bar Uproar Lounge at 639 Florida Ave., N.W., told the Blade the bar has no immediate plans to require proof of vaccination as a requirement for admission, but Uproar will fully comply with the mayor’s order requiring indoor masks.

Justin Parker, co-owner of the nearby gay bar The Dirty Goose at 913 U St., N.W., told the Blade he and his staff decided on Friday to also put in place a requirement that patrons show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past five days. He said a 5-day window for the COVID test, which the CDC allows in some cases, was chosen rather than a three day requirement to accommodate people who may not be able to get tested during weekends.

Owners of other D.C. gay bars couldn’t immeidately be reached. But the Blade could not find any announcements by the other gay bars as of Friday afternoon that they planed to put in place a proof of vaccination requiremenet. 

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit



Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

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