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Nightlife advocate Skip Coburn dies at 70

Veteran was executive director of D.C. Nightlife Association



Skip Coburn, gay news, Washington Blade
Skip Coburn, gay news, Washington Blade

Skip Coburn (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Dick Edward “Skip” Coburn, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who worked for the past 12 years as executive director of the D.C. Nightlife Association where he’s credited with improving relations between bar and nightclub owners and regulators who oversee the city’s booming nightlife businesses, died March 18 at Howard University Hospital. He was 70.

His close friend Marge Francese said the cause of death was complications associated with double pneumonia.

“It is a loss for the city,” said Francese. “He would help anyone in the world. There was nobody I knew who would help so many people.”

Frederick Harwood, founder and president of the D.C. Nightlife Association, said Coburn’s desire to help people and the city he loved prompted him to bring about dramatic change for the better in the way bars and nightclubs interact with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, D.C. police, and citizens who live near nightlife businesses.

“It’s a devastating loss for nightlife in Washington,” Harwood said. “He was such an advocate, and an advocate in the best sense that he developed relationships on both sides. He was a neighborhood activist.”

“He went out of his way to develop a relationship with the chief of police, with many of the police commanders, with the Fire Department, and with the building inspectors,” Harwood said. “He was so dedicated to his job. People understood how committed he was to nightlife.”

Added Harwood: “The whole atmosphere has changed because of the work that Skip did to bring the regulatory authorities and the police and the owners together to understand each other’s needs.”

Coburn, who identified as bisexual, was born in Richmond, Va., but grew up on military bases in the U.S. and Europe as the child of a military family, Francese said.

A resume Coburn prepared shortly before his death says he graduated from the Paris-American High School in Paris in 1964 and received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado in 1967.

The resume says he entered the U.S. Air Force in 1967 as a commissioned second lieutenant and was stationed in multiple locations in the U.S., Europe, and Asia until the time of his retirement in 1990 as a lieutenant colonel.

A biographical write-up of his military career says he flew airborne reconnaissance missions during the Vietnam War, served as an instructor and manager at the Defense Intelligence College at Bolling Air Force Base in D.C., and later was assigned to the Pentagon.

After retiring from active duty service Coburn served as a civilian operations officer for the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Squadron at Bolling Air Force Base from 1990 to 1998, his career write-up says.

Francese said Coburn joined the staff of then-D.C. Councilmember Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 8) in 1998, where he served as a researcher until the time of Ambrose’s retirement in 2002.

Harwood said Coburn’s impact on the city’s nightlife scene began shortly after he started in his job as executive director of the D.C. Nightlife Association in 2002. Others who knew Coburn said he provided important advice and assistance to the city’s gay bars and nightclubs on regulatory matters.

“The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Skip Coburn,” said ABRA Director Fred Moosally in a statement to the Washington Blade. “Skip was passionate about nightlife issues in the District. He played a significant role in representing the nightlife community before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and was dedicated to helping promote public safety in the District.”

Local nightlife advocate and business columnist Mark Lee called Coburn a “tireless and dedicated advocate” for D.C. nightlife as well as for community businesses.

“As the hospitality industry became even more important to the economic and development success of D.C. and enjoyed growing support from both longtime residents and new arrivals, he helped city officials understand how critical it is to create a better business environment,” Lee said.

Francese said Coburn’s brother, Dale Coburn, arranged for Skip Coburn’s remains to be cremated, with his ashes to be interred at his parents’ gravesite in Orcus Island off the coast of Washington State.

A Requiem Mass for Coburn has been scheduled to be held 11:00 a.m. Saturday, May 2, at St. Mary Mother of God Roman Catholic Church, 727 5th St., N.W., Washington, D.C.

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Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766



transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Hyattsville mayor dies by suicide

Kevin Ward and husband adopted son in D.C. in 2012



Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward (Photo courtesy of the city of Hyattsville)

The city of Hyattsville released a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing that their city’s openly gay Mayor Kevin Ward had died one day earlier by an apparent suicide.

“The city of Hyattsville reports with great sadness that our beloved Mayor Kevin Ward passed away yesterday, Jan. 25, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the statement says.

“Mayor Ward was a valued and trusted leader and a fierce advocate for all the people of Hyattsville,” the statement continues. “We are heartbroken at this loss and extend our deepest sympathy to the mayor’s family,” it says.

“No further information is available at this time,” the statement adds. “Details about services and remembrances will be shared when they are available.”

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Park Police disclosed that Ward was found deceased in Fort Marcy Park in McLean, Va., with a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Ward, 44, became acting mayor of Hyattsville on Jan. 1, 2021, following the resignation of former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. He was next in line to become mayor under the city’s political system in his then-position as president of the Hyattsville City Council.

He won election to complete the remainder of Hollingsworth’s term through 2023 in a May 11, 2021, special election, receiving 57.8 percent of the vote in a three candidate race, according to the Hyattsville election board. His closest opponent, Joseph Solomon, received 31.7 percent of the vote.

Nearby fellow gay mayors — Patrick Wojahn of College Park and Jeffrey Slavin of Somerset — said they got to know Ward through Maryland political circles and thought very highly of him.

“He was insightful, smart and dedicated,” Wojahn said. “He always seemed very confident and together as a person. And he had a great sense of humor.”

Slavin said he shared that remembrance of Ward, adding that he found Ward to be a “very nice person” dedicated to the people he served both as mayor and during his two terms on the Hyattsville City Council.

“There was noting in his public life that would have predicted this,” said Slavin in referring to Ward’s sudden passing.

The Washington Blade first reported on Ward in 2012 in a feature story on Ward and his then-domestic partner Chad Copeland when the two attended a ceremony at the D.C. Superior Court to complete the process of adopting their then-5-year-old son Norman. Ward and Copeland were among several gay couples who had their adoption papers signed by a judge at the ceremony.

On the website for his mayoral election campaign last year Ward said he and his family made Hyattsville their home in 2014 after he and his husband adopted their two sons.

“I am a pretty straightforward person,” he said in message to voters on his campaign website. “I believe in listening more than talking. But when I talk, I am not one to mince words or tell people what they want to hear,” he said. “I believe in doing the work. I believe that if I can help someone, then I can change her or his life,” he continued.

“This is why I dedicated my career to providing the best technology to education and to human services, to help as many people as I can,” he said.  

Ward was referring to his career in the field of educational and human services technology.

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District of Columbia

ANC supports license for Capitol Hill LGBTQ bar

Lesbian owners back ‘settlement agreement’ with restrictions on hours



AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel are the bar industry veterans behind As You Are Bar. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)

The Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a liquor license for the LGBTQ-owned As You Are Bar, which plans to open in a two-story building at 500 8th St., S.E. in a commercial section of Capitol Hill known as Barracks Row.

The ANC’s decision to support the license took place at a virtual meeting attended by nearby residents and supporters of the bar after its owners, lesbian activists Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike, agreed to the terms of an ANC settlement agreement that calls for restrictions in the hours the bar can offer dancing, entertainment, and music from a DJ.

The agreement means the ANC will not file a protest against the license before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a development that would have delayed a decision on the license by the ABC Board by as much as seven months. A protest by the ANC could have cost the bar thousands of dollars in legal fees to contest the protest by providing legal arguments seeking the approval of the license.

The ABC Board makes the final decision on whether to approve all liquor licenses in the city.

McDaniel and Pike have said they plan to operate an upstairs dance bar during evening hours and a café on the first floor during the day as well as in the evenings that will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture.”

The two, who are business and life partners, say As You Are Bar will welcome people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities as well as drinkers and non-drinkers as customers.

They have also told the ANC and nearby residents they have taken steps to soundproof the building, which they are renting, to ensure their plans to operate a dance bar with music from a DJ on the second floor will not disturb nearby residents.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, which was posted on the ANC’s website prior to the start of the meeting, the bar’s operating hours will be from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Under D.C. law, bars are allowed to remain open for the sale of alcoholic beverages until 2 a.m. during weekdays and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Settlement Agreement further calls for As You Are Bar to restrict the hours of consumption of alcohol from 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It calls for allowing live entertainment and dancing (indoors only) from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

However, the agreement says DJ and amplified music will not be permitted after 8 p.m. on weekdays.

 McDaniel told the Blade that at the request of As You Are Bar’s attorney Richard Bianco, the ANC agreed to modify that restriction at the Tuesday night meeting to allow the bar to play “conversational” background music after 8 p.m. until closing time on weekdays.

 Among other things, the agreement requires the bar comply with a noise mitigation provision to “ensure that sound, noise, and vibrations are not audible or felt beyond the curb or any other premises at any time.” It also calls on the bar to provide an “appropriate number of staff” to monitor patrons as they leave the bar through the 8th Street entrance to “prevent loud voices and littering.”

Under rules established by the ABC Board and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration or ABRA, if a settlement agreement is reached between an applicant for a liquor license and the ANC, a protest against the license by groups of five or more citizens is not allowed. Protests could still be filed by community-based civic groups and residents of an “abutting” house or residential facility.

In the case of As You Are Bar, no citizens group has emerged to oppose the license. There is just one abutting townhouse on E Street whose owner has expressed general support for the settlement agreement, according to McDaniel. But the resident has indicated she will not rule out a possible protest until Feb. 7, which is the deadline for filing a protest under ABRA’s rules.

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