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D.C. gay clubs ponder mayor’s proposal to extend bar hours

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Vince Gray, safe-schools, bullying, gay news, gay politics dc

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has proposed allowing nightlife venues to extend the time they may serve alcoholic beverages from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. during the week and from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. on weekends. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Customers and owners of the city’s gay bars and nightclubs have joined other city residents in discussing a proposal by Mayor Vincent Gray to allow establishments serving liquor to stay open one hour later each night of the week.

Gray surprised many of the city’s civic activists and Advisory Neighborhood Commission members by attaching the proposal to his fiscal year 2013 budget rather than making it a freestanding bill.

The proposal would allow bars, nightclubs, restaurants and hotels to extend the time they may serve alcoholic beverages from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. during the week and from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. on weekends.

“I think there are probably some who like it and some who don’t,” Gray told the Blade last week at a budget briefing he held in Ward 5. “A lot of people who like nightlife are very supportive of it. There are people who say let’s make this a kind of city that has a global and international feel.”

According to Gray and the city’s chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, the proposal would yield a projected additional sales and excise tax revenue of $3.21 million for fiscal year 2013 and $12.84 million over a four-year period. Gray said the additional revenue would come at a time when the city faces a possible budget shortfall that could result in cuts to important social services programs.

The proposal must be approved by the 13-member D.C. City Council, which is expected to take up the matter later this month or early next month as part of its consideration of the city budget.

Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who chairs a Council committee that oversees the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), has come out against the proposal. At a committee hearing Tuesday night, Graham said he agrees with concerns raised by civic groups and a number of ANC commissioners that allowing bars and clubs to remain open another hour would have a harmful impact on many neighborhoods throughout the city.

Opponents testified at the hearing that bars and nightclubs in certain parts of the city, especially in Adams Morgan and Georgetown, would result in noise, heavy traffic congestion, and sometimes disturbances and crime in those neighborhoods. Extending by one hour the closing time for such businesses would only prolong the noise and other problems associated with such businesses, several ANC commissioners said.

Among other concerns, Graham said the city’s public transportation system, especially Metro rail service, would not be operating at the time bars close. Thousands of people who consume alcohol and many who are intoxicated might seek to drive home, putting the public in jeopardy, Graham said.

A clear majority of the more than 40 witnesses that testified before Graham’s Committee on Human Services Tuesday night expressed opposition to the proposal. Most of those opposing the proposal were members of neighborhood civic groups and ANC members.

Gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) has yet to take a position on the mayor’s proposal, according to spokesperson Brendan Williams-Kief, who said Catania is assessing the potential impact of extending bar closing hours.

The D.C. Nightlife Association, whose members include many bars and restaurants, including gay bars, strongly supports the proposal, saying it would boost the city’s economy by strengthening a nightlife industry that accounts for a large number of jobs in the city.

Nightlife Association Executive Director Skip Coburn testified that extending the hours of bar closing times would decrease the problems cited by opponents by staggering the times customers leave and ending the current situation where thousands leave the clubs at the current 3 a.m. closing time on weekends.

Gay nightlife advocate Mark Lee, who also testified before the committee, told the Blade that he and others supportive of the proposals don’t believe civic activists and ANC commissioners always represent the sentiment of a majority of the residents in their districts.

“Those testifying in opposition are the traditional opponents to alcohol licensing regulatory reform and are the relatively few individuals and representatives of small civic groups and ANCs who protest liquor licensing applications and battle to impose so-called ‘voluntary agreements’ and operating restrictions on establishments,” Lee said.

“I, for one, did not find the level of participation by opponents at the hearings to be that significant, as they represented only portions of the city, including only a few areas of the city with prominent dining and entertainment districts,” said Lee, who writes a Blade column on city business issues.

Similar to Coburn, Lee said extending closing hours would create a “calming effect” in high-density entertainment areas.

Other nightlife advocates testifying said not all bars and clubs would choose to stay open until 3 a.m. during the week or 4 a.m. on weekends.

Lee, similar other nightlife advocates, urged the Council not to restrict the extended closing hours to certain parts of the city, such as the downtown business district, as some have suggested.

“Not only will doing so impose a distinct competitive disadvantage to businesses outside a targeted zone, but the benefits of naturally staged patron departures will be eliminated by artificially limiting eligibility,” he said.

Ed Bailey, part owner of the D.C. gay nightclub Town and the gay bar Number 9, said he was especially concerned about allowing the extended hours in some locations but not others.

“That would be an unfair advantage to our competitors,” he said.

Bailey said Town, located at Florida Avenue and 8th Street, N.W., already has permission under the terms of its liquor license to stay open until 5 a.m. on weekends as long as alcohol service stops at 3 a.m. He said the club usually stays open until 3:30 or 4 depending on how late customers decide to stay. But he said the extended hours prevent problems faced by other clubs where large numbers of people leave at the same time.

He said Town has yet to take an official position on the mayor’s proposal.

“We want to provide the best possible event for our patron,” he said. “But we also realize we need to respect our neighbors. We want to make sure we don’t step over any boundaries that are inappropriate for the neighborhood.”

An informal survey by the Blade found that most gay bars in the city favor the mayor’s proposal to extend the closing hours, with a number of them saying they may only choose to remain open an additional hour on certain occasions.

Mark Rutstein, general manager of Cobalt, said Cobalt and JR.’s support the mayor’s proposal to extend the time nightlife venues may serve alcohol. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“It would come in handy when we need it,” said Greg Zehnacker, owner of the gay bar Green Lantern near 13th and L streets, N.W. “We would do it at times like Gay Pride week.”

Mark Rutstein, general manager of Cobalt, a gay bar on the 17th Street, N.W. entertainment strip near Dupont Circle, said Cobalt and nearby gay bar JR.’s, which are owned by the same company, support the mayor’s proposal. But he said he and other bar and club owners in the popular 17th Street neighborhood are concerned that existing voluntary agreements with the Dupont Circle ANC could lead to serious financial hardship for those clubs.

Rutstein and other club representatives noted that city officials have said ANC voluntary agreements, which are ratified by the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, would take precedent over the mayor’s proposal for extending bar hours if the ANC agreements call for closing at an earlier hour.

If competing bars and clubs in other parts of the city are not bound by earlier closing hours imposed by ANCs, those establishments could likely draw away customers from the clubs that must close earlier, Rutstein said.

Jerry Griswell, manager of the Dupont Circle gay bar Fireplace, was the only gay bar representative reached who expressed opposition to the mayor’s proposal.

“I don’t like the idea of people drinking another hour at night,” Griswell said. “I don’t think our employees would want to spend another hour at work. I don’t support it.”

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District of Columbia

Accused drug dealer charged with fentanyl distribution leading to deaths of two D.C. gay men

June 13 indictment links previously arrested suspect to deaths

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(Bigstock photo)

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. has announced that federal prosecutors on June 13 obtained an indictment against one of two D.C. brothers previously charged with multiple counts of illegal drug distribution that now charges him with “distributing cocaine and fentanyl” on Dec. 26, 2023, that resulted in the deaths of D.C. gay men Brandon Roman and Robert “Robbie” Barletta.

In a June 13 press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Jevaughn ‘Ledo’ Mark, 32, is charged in a new “secondary superseding indictment” linked to the Roman and Barletta deaths. It says he and his brother, Angelo Mark, 30, “previously were charged on April 9 in a 17-count superseding indictment for participating in a conspiracy that distributed large amounts of fentanyl and cocaine in the metropolitan area.”

The press release says Jevaughn Mark is currently being held without bond on charges that include eight counts of unlawful distribution of fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin and distributing 40 grams or more of fentanyl between Jan. 10, 2024, and March 13, 2024. According to the press release, the charges were based on six illegal drug purchases from Jevaughn Mark by undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and undercover D.C. police officers.

Court records show that Angelo Mark was charged in a criminal complaint on March 22 with multiple counts of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and is also being held without bond.

D.C. police and Fire and Emergency Medical Services reports show that Roman, 38, a prominent D.C. attorney and LGBTQ rights advocate, and Barletta, 28, a historic preservation expert and home renovation business owner, were found unconscious when police and emergency medical personnel responded to a 911 call and arrived at Barletta’s home on Dec. 27. The reports show that Roman was declared deceased at the scene and Barletta was taken to Washington Hospital Center where he died on Dec. 29.

A police spokesperson told the Washington  Blade in February that police were investigating the Roman and Barletta deaths, but investigators had to wait for the D.C. Medical Examiner’s official determination of the cause and manner of death before the investigation could fully proceed.

Both men were patrons at D.C. gay bars and their passing prompted many in the LGBTQ community to call for stepped up prevention services related to drug overdose cases, even though the cause and manner of death for the two men was not officially determined until early April.

In April, the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disclosed that the cause of death for both men was an accidental consumption of several drugs that created a fatal “toxic” effect. The Medical Examiner’s office said Barletta’s death was linked to the consumption of at least four different drugs and Roman’s death was caused by the “combined toxic effect” of six drugs. The Medical Examiner’s office disclosed that cocaine and fentanyl were among the drugs found in the bodies of both men. And for both men, the manner of death was listed as “Accident/Intoxication.”

When the cause and manner of death were disclosed by the Medical Examiner, D.C. police spokesperson Tom Lynch said the police investigation into the deaths remained open but said, “There are no updates on the investigation that we are ready to release to the public.”

But the Medical Examiner’s findings prompted Johnny Bailey, the community outreach coordinator for HIPS D.C., an LGBTQ supportive organization that provides services and support for those who use recreational drugs, to say he strongly believed that Barletta and Roman did not intentionally consume some of the drugs found in their system.

“I’m going to say I do believe this was a poisoning,” Bailey told the Blade. “I think it is unfair to call some things an overdose because an overdose is when you do too much of a drug and you die from that drug,” he said. “This is like if you have a few glasses of wine every night and someone puts arsenic in your wine, no one would be like, ‘oh, they drank themselves to death.’ They were poisoned. And that’s what I think is happening here,” he said in referring to Barletta and Roman.

In announcing the new charges against Jevaughn Mark that link him to Barletta and Roman’s deaths, the U.S. Attorney’s press release discloses that he supplied fentanyl in the drugs he sold unknowingly to the undercover DEA and D.C. police officers when one of the officers, posing as a drug buyer, did not ask for fentanyl.

“In each instance, the DEA/MPD agents requested to buy ‘Special K’ or Ketamine from Jevaughn Mark,” the press release says. “In every instance, Jevaughn Mark supplied a mixture of fentanyl and other substances, including heroin, but not ketamine,” it says.

The release says that after the earlier indictment against Jevaughn Mark was issued, law enforcement agents conducted a search of his Southeast D.C. home and “recovered two firearms, cocaine, fentanyl, about $38,000 in cash, body armor vests, and drug trafficking paraphernalia.” It says on that same day authorities executed another search for a second residence linked to Jevaughn Mark, where they located a bedroom used by his brother Angelo Mark.

“From Angelo Mark’s bedroom, law enforcement recovered seven firearms, 900 rounds of ammunition, dozens of pills, cocaine, fentanyl, drug trafficking paraphernalia, and about $50,000 in cash,” the press release says, adding, “Based on the evidence, both brothers were indicted in the first superseding indictment.” 

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Delaware

Delmarva Pride to feature drag, dancing, and more this weekend

Easton and Cambridge to host events

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A scene from Delmarva Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Delmarva Peninsula will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend, including drag shows, a festival, and much more. 

The Delmarva Pride Center will put on the annual Pride celebration starting on Friday, June 14, and it will go until Sunday to celebrate queer love and acceptance in Delmarva.  

The weekend kicks off on Friday with a free legal clinic in partnership with FreeState Justice at the Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, Md. Free legal services including name and gender marker changes, criminal record expungements, and peace and protection orders are just some of the services being offered. For more information visit freestate-justice.org.

Then on Friday night, the third annual Pride Drag Show will be at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., in Easton. Bring your cash as four drag queens and host Miranda Bryant put on the fundraising show, where 100% of ticket sales go to the Delmarva Pride Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performance begins at 7 p.m. For tickets visit avalonfoundation.org.

On Saturday there will be the Pride festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at  S. Harrison and E. Dover Street, in Easton. This free community festival will include vendors, live performances, and more. 

Saturday night the party gets going as Delmarva Pride will host its 2024 Pride Dance. There will be a DJ and drinks available for purchase. This event is for 18 and up and will include a cash bar for anyone 21 and up. No tickets are required. 

To round out your Pride weekend, on Sunday the Delmarva Pride Brunch will be held at ArtBar 2.0, 420b Race St. in Cambridge, Md. Tickets include food, access to the mimosa bar, and a drag performance. Tickets are available here

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Baltimore

People of Pride: Five Marylanders making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community

Baltimore Pride is this weekend

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Jabari Lyles poses for a portrait in East Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore on June 10, 2024. (Photo by Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | One hosts movie nights, karaoke and other events that provide a safe space for LGBTQ people. Another has become a sounding board for customers at his gay bar dealing with pressures of the outside world. And a third beats the pavement to promote political awareness about LGBTQ issues.

These are just some of the things five Baltimoreans the Baltimore Banner is profiling in honor of Baltimore Pride Month are doing in the fight for visibility, support and acceptance of their peers.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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