Planned downtown strip club nixed over legal violation

The strip club Effigy was proposed for 1720 I St. NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/July 2017)

Plans for a large new downtown strip club have been withdrawn after opponents demonstrated that the proposal violated D.C. law.

Attorney Stevan Lieberman had hoped to open the Effigy club at 1720 I St. NW across the street from his law office. Addressing skeptics at recent community meetings, he pitched Effigy as a “sophisticated” gentlemen’s club that would feature full meal service in addition to nude dancing.

But opponents raising concerns included multiple advisory neighborhood commissions; nearby commercial interests; and even local Metropolitan Police Department officers. Andrew Kline, an alcohol attorney representing some of the opponents, discovered that the proposed club would be within 600 feet of the nearest residential building — AKA White House, 1710 H St. NW, a cross between a luxury hotel and a furnished apartment house. That proximity violates a city law intended to keep new nude dancing establishments away from residential property.

Jessie Cornelius, spokesperson for the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, told The Current that the owners conceded that the site was not viable and withdrew the application last Tuesday. Lieberman and his alcohol attorney, Emanuel Mpras, did not respond to messages from The Current about their decision or any future plans.

Patrick Kennedy — chair of Advisory Commission 2A (Foggy Bottom, West End), one of the groups to protest Effigy’s application — said the community is relieved that the Effigy plans appear dead.

“We had a lot of concerns stemming from our last meeting,” Kennedy wrote in an email this week. “Personally, l left the meeting more concerned about their application than when I entered — especially due to MPD’s representations that the establishment would tax already-stretched police resources in an area with a large concentration of clubs.”

In addition to crime and other safety issues, opponents had also raised concerns that a strip club with a 500-person capacity would affect the area’s property values. Although some community members intended to negotiate a settlement agreement that would govern Effigy’s operations, Kennedy said that many others just wanted the plan to be nixed.

“In any case, it’s all counterfactuals at this point,” Kennedy added. “I think it was a lucky break for all involved on our side of the proceedings. Moving forward, hopefully the property owner can find another tenant for this space that is more community-friendly.”

Kline, the alcohol attorney for some of the Effigy opponents, attracted some attention because he normally represents license applicants. “I’m not used to working on the same side of a license case as he, but I certainly appreciate the fact that he saved everyone a large amount of time and effort in getting to the conclusion that we were all most comfortable with,” Kennedy wrote.

Kline didn’t respond to The Current’s requests for comment, but told the Washington Business Journal that he didn’t expect to represent opponents again in the future.

“I would never say never, but I think it’s probably a one-off,” he told the Business Journal. “There was a coalescing of interests of a lot of different businesses, groups or organizations that we work with. That is how this came about.”