Editor’s note: There is more than one ‘Jessica Lavin’ in D.C. A Smithsonian employee by the same name is NOT the same woman who initiated the complaint against Deviant.
The organizer of a Jan. 18 circuit party catering to mostly black gay men that was held at a restaurant and bar in the city’s H Street, N.E., entertainment area says a nearby resident has falsely accused the event of being “an organized sex party” in a complaint sent to city officials, including D.C. police.
The event, which was held at the RedRocks Neapolitan Bistro at 1348 H St., N.E., was promoted as a “Deviant Mid Atlantic Leather Weekend” circuit party, according to its lead organizer Micah Roseboro.
Although it took place during the same weekend as D.C.’s annual Mid Atlantic Leather events, which were held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel near Capitol Hill, it was not one of the official MAL events.
“Deviant is wherein queer people of color may gather safely and freely,” Roseboro said in a statement responding to the complaint. “We flirt and dance and dress scandalously. We wear harnesses and thongs and jockstraps and lace just to defy and redefine masculinity,” his statement says.
“Deviant is black, brown, yellow, (some white) and queer,” the statement continues. “Deviant is a place free of violence, shaming and ridicule…We celebrate one another’s differences, and appreciate one another on the dance floor.”
His statement says the event provides a place for participants to check their clothes and “we make sure that everyone shows up and leaves fully covered.”
Roseboro told the Washington Blade he learned about the complaint from the management at RedRocks Bistro, which received it in the form of an email signed by someone identifying herself only as “Jessica.” But the email, which Roseboro forwarded to the Blade, has an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, leading those who received it to believe the sender’s name is Jessica Lavin.
The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration known as ABRA, “did receive a complaint about a party hosted at RedRocks at 1348 H Street, N.E. over the weekend,” said ABRA spokesperson Jared Powell. “The complaint has been assigned to ABRA enforcement for investigation,” Powell told the Blade.
ABRA is in charge of regulating all establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. It has the authority to suspend or revoke a liquor license for a bar or restaurant if such an establishment violates the city’s liquor law or liquor related regulations, which do not allow sexual acts in such establishments.
D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, said members of the department also received the email with the complaint about the circuit party event at the RedRocks Bistro.
“Upon reviewing the email, there are no allegations of criminal activity,” Parson said, prompting police to decide the matter doesn’t require any action by police.
The Blade sent its own email to the email address of Jessica, the sender of the complaint, requesting an interview by phone to provide her a chance to respond to Roseboro’s assertion that her allegations were false. She had not responded to the Blade’s email as of Thursday afternoon.
In his own statement responding to the email complaint, Roseboro says the event was a “circuit party curated for and by the celebration of queer people of color.” He said the event encouraged participants to dress in a provocative way but sexual activity was not allowed and did not take place.
He was referring to an allegation in “Jessica’s” complaint that people she knows “reported seeing multiple men in very provocative outfits including mesh thongs and leather harnesses walking throughout various residential streets in the neighborhood during and after the event.”
She added in her complaint, “Several of my neighbors also witnessed various attendees of this event engaged in sexual acts inside the venue and outside the venue.”
Roseboro calls those claims “blatant lies that may be quickly dispelled.”
“This last event on Saturday, Jan. 18th, held temperatures close to 27 degrees Fahrenheit, and it snowed earlier in the day,” he wrote in his statement. “No one was walking around outside in the provocative garments she speaks of,” he said.
“Lastly, I’d like to dispel her lie about neighbors having witnessed sexual acts inside of the venue,” Roseboro says in his statement. “That was impossible to do, as windows were completely blacked out on all floors. Again, we are proud of the work we are doing in providing a safe space for our patrons, who are queer people of color, so the blackout windows are not to hide them, but rather to protect them from bigoted, hateful onlookers.”
Roseboro also noted that D.C. police came to the RedRocks Bistro while his event was taking place on Jan. 18 to investigate what turned out to be a false report of a stabbing at the event. He said officers walked through the entire establishment and left after determining no one was injured and that there were no problems or illegal activity – a development he said further dispelled Levin’s allegations in her complaint.
Parson confirmed Roseboro’s account of the police visit. He said members of the LGBT Liaison Unit also stopped by the event “as part of their routine outreach activities” and did not encounter any problems.
Tavarus Brandon-Flores, the general manager of RedRocks Bistro at the H Street, N.E. location, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Roseboro said Brandon-Flores and the entire RedRocks staff, who are all straight, have been supportive and friendly to him and the circuit party patrons at both the Jan. 18 party and a previous party Roseboro organized at the bistro in November.
He said Brandon-Flores wants him to go ahead with another Deviant circuit party Roseboro had planned for Feb. 15 at RedRocks, but Roseboro said he is looking for another location for the February event.
“As much as I want to fight the good fight, I am looking to move the event to another venue,” he told the Blade on Wednesday. “I feel it may no longer be a safe space for my people. I don’t want to subject them to hostility generated by Jessica.”
In her email complaint “Jessica” said she and other residents in the neighborhood were “horrified” that RedRocks had begun advertising for the Feb. 15 event.
“We do not appreciate having this kind of activity in our neighborhood,” she states in her email complaint.