City Desk

Dancing Crab in Big Trouble

Dancing Crab in Big Trouble

Dancing Crab, the D.C. landmark whose website says it serves the "finest Hard Shell crabs from Maryland and Louisiana," has been accused of serving something else: Minors.

On Wednesday, the District's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board held a hearing regarding two investigative reports about the eatery, located at 4615 Wisconsin Ave. NW, submitted by liquor cops. The reports accuse the establishment of selling booze to three underaged customers. The three were students from nearby American University. The restaurant attracts attendees of the school—an entry on the AU website says the "establishment offers inexpensive seafood." But the board seemed convinced the place had been offering more than that, so it socked the business with a $6,000 fine and a 23-day liquor license suspension. Though the business can probably afford the fine, 23 days without the ability to serve alcohol will definitely hurt its bottom line.

Reached by phone, Dancing Crab manager Chris Leach says the "heavy fine" and the suspension are a "nightmare," and that "all reasonable efforts were taken to to keep alcohol out of the hands of the underaged." "You do your best to look at the I.D.," she says. But a tick later, Leach admits the Dancing Crab's nighttime business leans heavily on AU students, and that business has slacked off ever since authorities began descending on the place to check identifications and make arrests. "Word has gotten around," she says.

The raids that led to the fines began last spring. On March 28, investigators from ABRA and MPD entered the Dancing Crab and "observed two females who appeared very young in age sitting at a table consuming what appeared to be alcoholic beverages," say documents. "Upon checking the identification of the females Detective [Dave] Carter determined both patrons were under 21 years of age and were consuming Vodka and tonic drinks." Investigators discovered the two AU students had used fake IDs to get in. The pictures on the IDs weren't of the students.

In a May 1 incident, in which an underaged female student was caught drinking a beer in the establishment, things went similarly, according to documents—except that when investigators arrived at the Dancing Crab to check on things, an employee of the place appeared to try to warn the underaged customer by whispering in her ear.

AU spokesperson Rob Hradsky e-mails that "there have been several incidents in the past in which underage students have been served alcohol at the Dancing Crab." He adds that "ABRA has been a strong partner with the university in working with neighborhood establishments to curb underage drinking."

Photo by T o n y via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

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  • Truth Hurts

    College students have been using fake ID's to buy alcohol at restaurants/clubs forever. If the Dancing Crab checked ID, as it appears, why is it at fault for not knowing the ID's were fake?

  • Jack

    And why are we so intent on "protecting" 19-20 year olds from alcoholic beverages? This is something out of the 1950s. A 19-year-old can vote, but mustn't drink a beer, being -- what, a child? It's time our laws caught up with modern reality.

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  • Rick Mangus

    Let see the ABRA get their panties in a twist, but not if EMPLOYEES of a bar beat the shit out of a patron, interesting!

  • drez

    Most of the people who are prosecuting this case were likely of legal drinking age (in DC) when they were 18.
    Just saying.

  • bobbly!

    rend - you missed the story here. it was a plea compromise between usao and the dancing crab. do your homework bro! abra never even had a hearing on this!

  • Rend Smith

    @bobbly, in my experience, most ABRA cases are resolved via an "offer in compromise." The board has to approve these compromises by vote,though, and the order that follows comes from the board. As for the hearing, though it was brief, it took place:

    Show Cause Hearing
    Case# 10-251-00126 & 10-251-00098
    Lemlee Corporation, t/a Dancing Crab
    4615 41st Street, NW
    License#: 889
    Retailer CR
    Served an Alcoholic Beverage to an Underage Person , Failed to Take Reasonably Necessary Steps to Ascertain whether the Person to Whom Alcohol Was Sold to Was of Legal Drinking Age

  • seDCdude

    This is the type of HYPOCRISY that keeps the bull coming!

    Now, I think the legal age requirement is as antiquated as the hypocrisy itself, which leads me to comment on the obvious double standards......if this had been, let's say Ben's Chili Bowl CIRCA 1995 or Florida Avenue Grill, both would have been no longer MINORITY BUSINESSES!

    The fine is not excessive in retrospect, but the shitty notion that a college kid can't have a beer at a family oriented, ultra cool neighborhood hangout is utterly ridiculous, just as ridiculous as grown ass "snitches" and po po hanging out there to enforce this stupidity while banks are being robbed and homes broken into!

    Yeah, the laws definitely need to catch up to MODERN REALITY!

    19...can vote, get blown to pieces in Iraq/Afghanistan, work, pay taxes, child support, GET CHARGED AS AN ADULT and DRIVE!