August 7, 2019 at 8:20 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Town owners plan new nightclub in former church
new gay bar, Town, gay news, Washington Blade
The former St. Phillips Baptist Church at 1001 North Capitol St., N.E., is slated to be the new home of a nightclub. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Owners of the former LGBT D.C. nightclub Town Danceboutique announced in a Twitter post on Tuesday night plans for opening a “spectacular” new club in a former church on North Capitol Street about a half mile north of the U.S. Capitol.

The announcement came shortly after the online food and dining news site Eat DC reported that the Town owners had applied for a liquor license under a company name Town 2.0 LLC for a space inside the former St. Phillips Baptist Church at 1001 North Capitol St., N.E.

A notice issued by the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration for a public hearing on the license application, a copy of which the Washington Blade has obtained, says the new establishment, using the trade name TBD, plans to operate as a nightclub “offering entertainment, DJ, and dancing with snack offerings” along with a sidewalk café.

“After two full years of searching for a potential new space for a nightclub for the LGBTQ community, we are excited to confirm that we have found a space that has remarkable potential,” the Town owners said in their Twitter post.

“It is a former church located at the corner of North Capitol and K streets which is truly spectacular, and while it is no small undertaking, we look forward to creating a brand new, dynamic nightlife experience for D.C.,” the posting says.

“We intend to take the vast amount of knowledge that we have acquired in the last 30 years of owning and operating nightlife venues in D.C. to create something that we are hoping to be the crowning achievement of our careers,” it says.

“We took our time to get to this point, looking for the right opportunity and passing on many other options, and while we understand that the city has been yearning for a substantial nightlife option, we are now going to take all the right steps, forge all the right relationships, and tackle the engineering challenges…and hopefully soon, we will be able to bring something new and exciting back to Washington’s nightlife.”

Property records from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue show that Jemal’s Sanctuary LLC, an arm of the Douglas Development company, one of the city’s largest real estate development firms, purchased the church building in March 2017 for $3.2 million. At the time of the purchase the local business news publication Biznow Washington reported an official with Douglas Development said the company planned to turn the building into a synagogue.

But the city property records site shows that Jemal’s Sanctuary LLC was still the owner of the church building as of this week, indicating the company dropped its plans for a synagogue and will lease the building to the Town owners for use as a nightclub.

The public notice by ABRA, the city’s alcoholic beverage licensing agency, says a placard announcing the liquor license application will be posted at the site presumably on the church on Aug. 9. It says members of the public who wish to oppose the license must file an official “protest petition” by Sept. 23 and that a public hearing for such a protest would be held Dec. 4.

The notice states that the Town 2.0 LLC application says the hours of operation planned for “inside the premises and for sidewalk café” would be 12 p.m. to 4 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday. It says the hours of “alcoholic beverage sales, service, and consumption” inside the premises and for the sidewalk café would be 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The ABRA notice says the application calls for live entertainment only inside the premises during the hours of 12 p.m. to 4 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The former St. Phillips Baptist Church building is surrounded by commercial establishments and office buildings on all sides except for one attached building immediately to its left, the John and Jill Ker Conway Residences. That building is a modern high-rise structure with 124 “micro” apartments for homeless and disabled veterans.

It couldn’t immediately be determined how residents or the management of that building will react to the news that a nightclub would be their next-door neighbor. D.C. nightlife advocates have complained in other parts of the city, including in the Dupont Circle area, that protests filed against liquor license applications have sometimes caused long delays and high legal expenses for those seeking to open bars, restaurants or nightclubs.

The three principal owners of the former Town nightclub, John Guggenmos, Ed Bailey, and Jim “Chachi” Boyle, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. But people who know them say they have reached out to nearby residents and others in the neighborhoods where they have opened clubs in the past to address the concerns of their neighbors.

The website for St. Phillips Baptist Church says the church, which held its services at the North Capitol Street building since 1948, sold the building “after much prayer and planning” in 2017 and has moved to a new church in Temple Hills, Md., where it currently holds its services.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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