News & Politics

U Street Bar Nellie’s Gets a Seven-Day Liquor License Suspension for Pride Weekend Incident

The bar was found to be without a safety plan when a Black woman was mistreated by security this June.

Nellie’s, the 14 year-old gay sports bar on U Street, has agreed to pay a $5000 fine and serve a seven-day liquor license suspension for mishandling safety during an incident that happened there over the Capital Pride Celebration’s opening weekend in June, when a security guard dragged 22-year-old Keisha Young out of the bar by her hair. An ABRA investigation found that the bar did not have an appropriate security plan in place at the time of the incident.

ABRA is requiring that Nellie’s submit such a plan within ten days. The bar will have its liquor license suspended from December 20 to December 26; if it gets another infraction in the next year, it will face an additional 17 day suspension. Andrew Kline, an attorney for Nellie’s owner Douglas Schantz, said in an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board hearing on the matter yesterday: “We think [the suspension’s] excessive, but Mr. Schantz has a desire to put this behind him, perhaps heal with the community and move on.”

The investigation found that, on the night of the incident, the bar’s rooftop was overcrowded, and that “multiple assaults occurred inside of the establishment while the licensee was engaged in a method of operation conducive to unlawful conduct.”

ABRA investigator Mark Ruiz noted in the hearing that “a patron was able to enter with a bottle of liquor.” When the bartender notified security, “altercations took place between security and patrons and establishment staff on the way out of the exit door.”

After the incident, Nellie’s voluntarily closed for 35 days, fired its security company, and brought in Ruby Corado (founder of Casa Ruby, an LGBTQ support organization in the District) as its new director of community engagement. Activists have questioned whether the hiring is performative, and have expressed doubts the changes will be enough to create a safe space for Black LGBTQ patrons.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.