Arts Desk

Bohemian Caverns Closed Pending Sexual Assault Investigation

When I dropped by Saturday night, the doors to Bohemian Caverns and its ground-floor restaurant, Tap & Parlour, were sealed off by a police cordon. A notice was posted on the Caverns' door that the evening's performance, by saxophonist Tim Warfield, had been canceled. Bohemian Caverns later tweeted that Monday's concert was canceled due to "unforseen [sic] circumstances." Last night, the Washington Post reported on those circumstances: The U Street jazz club was ordered closed Saturday by D.C. police, pending an investigation of an alleged second-degree sexual assault. ABRA is investigating possible violations of alcohol regulations.

According to the official letter of closure signed by Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier, a female Pleasant Plains resident phoned the police early Saturday and claimed she'd been sexually assaulted at Tap & Parlour, where she had attended a gathering after the business's 2:30 a.m. closing time. In a press release, owner-operator Omrao Brown said that the gathering was hosted by two employees of the Tap & Parlour without his knowledge or authorization—"a clear violation of company policy."

The party was drinking downstairs at the Caverns, but when the woman became tired she went upstairs and fell asleep on the bar at Tap & Parlour. She awoke to find a strange man assaulting her. The police took her to Washington Hospital Center for treatment, and Lanier issued the letter of closure on Saturday night, effective for 96 hours.

"We are obviously shocked and disappointed," Brown said in a statement to the press. "While this incident certainly is the result of two individuals acting outside of their scope of employment and breaching the trust of ownership, it is ultimately ownership's responsibility to ensure that our business is a safe and responsible place within the D.C. community." The club is cooperating with MPD and ABRA's investigations.

"There's not much else we can say—because there's not much we know," Brown tells Washington City Paper. "While the investigation is ongoing, we're not even allowed in the building."

Because Tap & Parlour and Bohemian Caverns technically operate on the same business license, one cannot be open while the other is closed. However, Liv, the nightclub on the second floor of the building, operates as a separate business and as such remains open.

According to ABRA spokesman Bill Hager, the matter will be reviewed by the ABC Board during their normal session tomorrow. The club will likely reopen Wednesday night—meaning that tonight's performance, by December artist-in-residence Herb Scott, will also be canceled. The Caverns is offering refunds to any patrons who bought advance tickets to the shows scheduled during its closure.

Read Lanier's letter of closure below.

Note: Page 3 of the letter of closure refers to a "brazen shooting on the streets of the District of Columbia." There was no shooting related to the incident at Bohemian Caverns. "It appears to be a typo," acknowledges MPD public information officer Gwendolyn Crump. "We should have said 'sexual assault.'"

Photo by Ally Schweitzer

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