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Liquor board refers Nellie’s case to D.C. attorney general

Report says fights began before Black woman was dragged down stairs

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A screenshot of Keisha Young being dragged down the stairs by her hair at Nellie’s on June 13.

The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Wednesday asked the Office of the D.C. Attorney General to continue an investigation into allegations that a security officer at Nellie’s Sport Bar dragged a Black woman down a flight of stairs during a fight between security officers and other customers during the early morning hours of June 13.

The ABC Board made its referral to the office headed by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine after it received a lengthy report about the Nellie’s incident from the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), which conducted its own investigation into the incident.

The 24-page ABRA report, which includes 19 pages of addendums, including D.C. police reports and summaries of witness interviews, accuses Nellie’s of being in violation of the D.C. Code pertaining to its liquor license by failing to follow proper procedures during an outbreak of violence on its premises.

ABRA spokesperson Aaron King told the Washington Blade the Office of the Attorney General will make the final determination on whether Nellie’s and its staff violated D.C. law or regulations pertaining to the Nellie’s incident. King said that if the OAG finds that violations did occur the ABC Board could then hold a Show Cause Hearing to determine whether to impose a monetary fine and/or suspend or revoke Nellie’s liquor license.

The public version of the report released on June 30 by ABRA includes dozens of blacked out names of witnesses and the names of one or more investigators who interviewed them.

The report and the investigation that prompted it came about after the release of a video by a Nellie’s patron on Instagram that captured the Nellie’s security guard dragging customer Keisha Young, 22, by her hair down a flight of stairs. The video, which went viral on social media, prompted expressions of outrage by LGBTQ activists and local LGBTQ and racial justice organizations, several of which joined forces to hold protests outside Nellie’s over the following two weeks.

Nellie’s released a statement Thursday night pointing out that the ABRA report also found the altercation began when “Nellie’s staff” were assaulted after they asked a group of patrons who reportedly brought in their own bottle of liquor to leave the establishment.

“Consumption of outside alcohol is against Nellie’s longstanding policy,” the statement says. “We don’t condone what followed and we terminated the security company responsible, closed the establishment for a period to further investigate and move forward with additional training and a new security company,” according to the statement, which adds, “We fully cooperated with ABRA on its investigation.”

Some of the groups participating in the protests outside Nellie’s in the weeks since the June 13 incident are calling for Nellie’s to close permanently regardless of what, if any, action ABRA or the ABC Board takes against Nellie’s, which has long been considered one of D.C.’s popular LGBTQ bars.

And some of the groups, including Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a Black-led community defense group headed by Makia Green, who describes themself as a “queer trans non-binary Black liberation organizer,” have alleged that Nellie’s has a history of bias against people of color despite the fact that many of Nellie’s customers have been African-American men and women, LGBTQ and straight.

Preston Mitchum, a D.C. attorney and co-chair of the board of the local group Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), said that as a former Nellie’s patron he observed practices by the Nellie’s staff and management that he believes were racially biased against Black customers long before the incident involving Keisha Young.

On the day following the incident, Nellie’s issued a statement saying it had immediately dismissed the private security company whose employee was shown on the video dragging Young down the stairs. Nellie’s also apologized for the incident, but did not specifically apologize to Young, prompting further expressions of concern by activists and Young herself, who said she was injured during the incident.

An attorney representing Young said he expected to file a lawsuit on her behalf against Nellie’s seeking damages for the injuries and emotional distress to which she allegedly was subjected during the incident.

The ABRA report states that an ABRA investigator, whose name is blacked out in the public version of the report, “determined that on Sunday, June 13, 2021, Nellie’s Restaurant & Bar, located at 900 U Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., was in violation of D.C. Official Code 25-823(a)(2).” The report adds, “Specifically, multiple assaults occurred inside the establishment while the licensee was engaged in a method of operation conducive to unlawful conduct. This determination was based on a review of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) PD-251 reports, staff interviews, and surveillance from the establishment.”

The report also includes detailed accounts of statements made to ABRA investigators by Nellie’s customers, employees and the Nellie’s owner, who is not identified in the report but is widely known to be Douglas Schantz, a D.C. resident who lives within walking distance of Nellie’s.

In addition, the report includes a detailed description of video surveillance footage taken from Nellie’s own security cameras. It says the Nellie’s video shows that Young, who is not identified by name, had been involved in a fight with at least one other Nellie’s customer before she was dragged down the stairs by the security guard.

“The complainant of assault identified as [redacted name] wearing a blue outfit and long blond braids is seen at 1:29:32 a.m. at the bottom righthand corner of the frame,” the report says. “[Redacted named] is observed having words with another patron and then pushing [redacted name] and then punching him multiple times in the back of the head.”

Brandon Burrell, an attorney representing Young, has told media outlets that the security officers and Nellie’s employees appear to have mistook Young for another woman who reportedly brought into the bar a bottle of liquor, which prompted security to demand that those involved in drinking the outside liquor leave Nellie’s.

Burrell has also said that prior to her being pulled down the stairs Young got into an altercation with another security guard in an attempt to stop the guard from assaulting her cousin.  

The ABRA report says the action by the security officers and a Nellie’s bartender to eject the patrons who reportedly brought in a bottle of Bacardi Limon and who were “consuming shots blatantly in front of the bar” from that bottle triggered the altercation that led to Young being dragged down the stairs.

Included in the ABRA report is a copy of a June 16 letter that D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III sent to ABRA Director Fred Moosally expressing concern about Nellie’s handling of the altercation and calling on Moosally to open an ABRA investigation. Contee told Moosally in his letter that he learned details about the incident from patrons and others who filed police reports about the altercation, including a police report filed by Young on June 14 at the department’s Third District Station.

“Most concerning about this incident is that at no time did Nellie’s Sports Bar staff, management or ownership make any effort to contact the MPD to report the incident or to self-report the ABRA-related incident,” Contee states in his letter. “Instead, Nellie’s Sports Bar carried on with business as usual,” his letter says.

“Later that day, the incident apparently prompted an unscheduled First Amendment assembly in front of the establishment, which drew over a hundred protesters,” Contee wrote in his letter. “During this demonstration, Nellie’s Sports Bar ejected all patrons, locked their doors and closed for business.”

Later that day, Nellie’s announced it was temporarily closing while continuing to pay its employees and while contemplating how best to respond to the incident involving Young and the protests. The establishment has remained closed since that time.

The statement released by Nellie’s through its attorney Andrew Kline on Thursday night disputes Contee’s claim that Nellie’s didn’t call the police during the June 13 altercation.

“According to the ABRA report and contrary to published reports, and even MPD, Nellie’s personnel DID immediately notify MPD as this incident was occurring,” the statement says. “We will continue to work to identify and address all factors which may have given rise to this incident so that Nellie’s will be a safe and welcoming atmosphere for all,” says the statement.

It concludes by saying, “We plan to meet privately with several groups who have expressed concern about our operation so we might best understand all of the issues involved.”

The police report filed by Young lists the incident in which she was dragged down the stairs at Nellie’s as an “assault with significant bodily injury.”

 Gay nightlife advocate Mark Lee said the action by ABRA and the ABC Board in response to the Nellie’s incident is standard practice seen when altercations surface at other establishments. 

“ABC Board referral to the Office of the Attorney General is a commonly standard procedure in cases of this type and does not represent a finding or judgement in the matter,” Lee told the Blade. “As unfortunate as on-premise patron altercations are, they do sometimes occur at local establishments and are subject to review by both the ABC Board and OAG,” Lee said.

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Delaware

AIDS Walk Delaware to be held in Wilmington, Rehoboth

Events will raise money for HIV testing, treatment

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This year’s AIDS Walk Delaware will be held Sept. 17 in two locations: Brandywine Park in Wilmington, and Grove Park in Rehoboth Beach. The annual event seeks to promote awareness surrounding HIV and raise money for HIV testing, management, and education programming through the state.

Hosted by AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium, AIDS Walk Delaware is the oldest and largest HIV fundraiser in the state, drawing more than 600 attendees in previous years, according to an Aug. 9 press release. The theme of this year’s walk is “Step Up, Step Out: Remove Stigma, Eliminate HIV, Improve Lives.”

Check-in will begin in each park at 9 a.m. with walks beginning at both locations at 10 a.m. Registration for the event is free, and those who raise $30 or more will receive a complimentary commemorative T-shirt.

In the press release, John Beckley, director of development and marketing for AIDS Delaware, noted that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected those living with HIV, who might have especially vulnerable immune systems.

“Many are struggling with isolation, depression and anxiety,” Buckley said in a statement. “This year, we walk with those folks in our hearts.”

“AIDS Walk Delaware is more important than ever,” the press release continued. “It is more important for people who have lived with compromised health for a long time. People who have just learned they are HIV-positive. People who love someone who is HIV-positive. People for whom the best and broadest prevention efforts still elude them.”

Those interested in participating in the walk, making a donation, or learning more can visit aidswalkdelaware.org for more information.

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District of Columbia

Will D.C. host World Pride 2025 after Taiwan cancellation?

InterPride organizers mum on selection of new host city

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(Photo by Andy Lain 多元的台灣 2014彩虹大遊行)

A surprise announcement last week by Taiwanese organizers of World Pride Taiwan 2025 that they have withdrawn their agreement to host the international Pride event has raised the immediate question of whether the event will be moved to Washington, D.C., which lost its bid to host the event to Taiwan.

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Pride events, submitted a bid for D.C. to become the host city last September with the support of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and city agencies that help organize large events.

World Pride Taiwan 2025 is the group that won its 2021 bid to host World Pride 2025 in the Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung. The group said in a statement that it decided to cancel its role as the host for World Pride following a dispute with InterPride, the U.S.-based international organization that founded and administers World Pride, and that selects the host city.

World Pride, an international event that takes place every two years, draws thousands of participants from throughout the world to the host city. 

Although disagreements had surfaced over whether World Pride Taiwan had the economic capacity to host an international event like World Pride, the group said in its statement that the issue that prompted the cancellation was InterPride’s insistence that the name “Taiwan” could not be used in the title of the event and only the name World Pride Kaohsiung 2025 could be used.

According to the statement, the name “Taiwan Pride” has symbolic significance for the Taiwanese LGBTQ community, among other reasons, because all the island nation’s Pride events since 2003 have used the name Taiwan Pride.

In its own statement, InterPride said all past World Pride events have used the name of the host city rather than the country in which the city is located. In its statement, it said it offered a compromise allowing Taiwanese organizers to call the event “World Pride Kaohsiung, Taiwan,” a claim Taiwanese organizers dispute.   

The Washington Blade couldn’t immediately reach an official or spokesperson for InterPride to determine whether it plans to reopen the bidding process to select another city to host World Pride 2025 or whether it would invite D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance to host the event on behalf of D.C.

Capital Pride Alliance submitted what it said was a comprehensive bid last September calling on InterPride to select D.C. as the World Pride 2025 host. Capital Pride and the Taiwanese group were the only two organizations to submit a bid for World Pride 2025.

When InterPride announced last November that it had selected the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung to host the international event, Capital Pride issued a statement congratulating Kaohsiung Pride and World Pride Taiwan 2025 for winning the bid.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride Alliance executive director, told the Blade on Wednesday that as of early this week InterPride had not contacted Capital Pride Alliance about the Taiwanese group’s decision to cancel the event. He said Capital Pride learned about the cancellation from news media reports.

Asked if Capital Pride plans to reactivate its bid to host World Pride 2025, Bos did not offer a direct answer.

“We definitely need to have conversations about it,” he said. “We definitely would be open to the conversation. Our team put in a lot of time and effort to put together a very comprehensive and strong bid,” Bos said. “D.C. is a worthy destination, and we can truly make a major impact on the world stage by hosting an event such as this,” Bos said. “So, we would be open to entertaining the conversation.”

Bos pointed to Capital Pride’s announcement at the time it submitted its bid to host World Pride 2025 last September that hosting the event in 2025 would come at a time when Capital Pride plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D.C.’s first LGBTQ Pride event in 1975, which began as a block party near Dupont Circle.

“So, though we were not selected last fall, we have been moving forward in organizing an international Pride event for 2025 on the world stage for our 50th anniversary,” Bos said. “So, regardless of what happens, we will be continuing down that path.”

Bos said Capital Pride Alliance officials will also be attending InterPride’s annual international conference this October in Guadalajara, Mexico, which is held each year in connection with InterPride’s role as an association of LGBTQ Pride organizations throughout the world. Bos said the issue of selecting a new host city for World Pride 2025 could emerge as a topic of discussion at that conference.

World Pride Taiwan 2025 organizers said in their statement that InterPride did not insist on leaving out the name Taiwan in the title of the event during the bidding process last year and at the time InterPride decided to select the Taiwanese group to host the event in Kaohsiung. The group also disputes InterPride’s claim that it offered a compromise to include the name Taiwan along with Kaohsiung in the event’s title.

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Delaware

Delaware to open monkeypox vax clinics in Rehoboth, Wilmington

State expands access per CDC recommendations

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CAMP Rehoboth is hosting a vaccine clinic next week. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rehoboth and Wilmington, Del. will host monkeypox vaccination clinics next week after the Delaware Division of Public Health authorized the administration of one-fifth of the original vaccine dosage — per federal recommendations — on Monday.

On Aug. 23 CAMP Rehoboth, a local LGBTQ organization, will host a vaccine clinic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in its community center at 37 Baltimore Ave. An additional vaccine clinic will be held on Aug. 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Wilmington on the ground floor of the city’s Community Service Building at 100 West 10th St.

According to a Tuesday CAMP Rehoboth news release, individuals “engaging in high-risk activities” should consider vaccination against monkeypox, namely men who have sex with men or anonymous sexual partners, trans and non-binary individuals assigned male at birth who have sex with men, sex workers, and staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs. 

To receive a vaccine at the Rehoboth clinic, individuals must register in advance by calling 302-227-5620 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To receive a vaccine at the Wilmington clinic, individuals must register in advance by calling 302-652-6776 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Two hundred slots are available at each clinic, and second doses will be administered on Sept. 20 in Rehoboth and Sept. 22 in Wilmington at the same time as the initial vaccination appointment.

The two-dose vaccination series is not considered effective until two weeks after the second dose, CAMP Rehoboth noted in a Tuesday news release. The vaccine, JYENNOS, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but may not provide protection to those who have received a smallpox vaccine more than three years ago, the news release added.

In addition, as of Monday, individuals living with HIV or taking pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV are eligible for vaccine access, and can contact their healthcare providers or DPH at 866-408-1899 to receive a vaccination appointment.

The state’s decision to expand vaccine access follows national trends, and comes after local and national organizations advocated for increased action from the Centers for Disease Control to combat the spread of the virus. On Aug. 12, more than 150 LGBTQ centers and organizations across the country, including Delaware’s Sussex Pride, signed a letter to the CDC in favor of “increasing the number of available vaccines” and expanding current data and testing on the virus nationally. As of Aug. 5, Delaware has administered 33 doses of the monkeypox vaccine, according to a DPH news release.

For more information, individuals can contact the DPH hotline for monkeypox-related questions and concerns on weekdays from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 866-408-1899, or email [email protected]. Information concerning monkeypox prevention programs and resources can be found at de.gov/monkeypox.

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