Troubled Northwest Nightclub Remains Shuttered

WASHINGTON — A phone call to Heritage India/Zanzibar only results in a dial tone.

A visit to the lounge yields similar results; a locked door.

The empty restaurant and nightclub sits lifeless at 1901 Pennsylvania Ave. NW and hasn’t seen much movement since a nighttime brawl closed its doors in early January. What was once occupied by foodies, college students and D.C. residents is now a ghost town.

On Jan. 3, the restaurant and lounge was ordered closed by the Metropolitan Police Department, MPD, after a stabbing took place on the premises. Following the initial 96 hour suspension, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, ABC, extended that indefinitely at a hearing on Jan. 15.

Joseph Ricardo Johnson, 35, was arrested and charged with assault with intent to kill at the scene of the crime, police said. The victim sustained serious injuries and was transported to the hospital immediately.

“Since the stabbing, there’s been no one coming in and out of that building,” says Nate Hayes, an employee at the neighboring CVS, “Absolutely no one.”

While Heritage India/Zanzibar is still awaiting formal charges from the Attorney General, the ABC determined that its liquor license will remain suspended until itprovides an enhanced security plan. Even after the approval of these plans, the Board will permanently ban Heritage India/Zanzibar from offering entertainment in future.

This means no DJs. No live entertainment. No cover charges. The ABC has stripped the establishment of its full operational rights and has diminished it to a mere shell of what it used to be; a dimly lit clubhouse.

“There’s no longer any pushback from us,” said Patrick Kennedy, chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC). “Even with the entertainment restrictions, they’ve been given the greenlight to operate.”

Whether or not they will is the question at hand.

On Jan. 21, the ANC, voted the owner, Sanjeev Tuli, unfit to hold a liquor license.

“This is not the first time Tuli has been faced with this problem,” said Patrick Sacco, member of the ANC, “A shooting at their previous location on Connecticut Avenue resulted in similar consequences.”

The shooting Sacco refers to occurred in November of 2011 and resulted in the death of one man. After closing temporarily, the restaurant reopened at its present home on Pennsylvania Ave. and Tuli kept it operational as a standalone restaurant until last May when he approached the ANC about adding nightlife again. The addition of nightlife was contingent on the approval of new security measures; the very security measures that failed in January.

“It’s hard to be sympathetic,” Sacco said, “January’s incident is indicative a larger trend.”

According to Kennedy, a small group has formed to protest the decision, writing letters to ANC, but have made no significant gains.

“There are, of course, people who aren’t happy with the decision,” Kennedy said, “but it seems that they are more content with protesting than working within the new guidelines.”

There’s no word when Heritage India/Zanzibar will reopen, but their formal hearing is scheduled for April.