Longtime Adams Morgan club Heaven and Hell is so named for its dual-bar concept: Climb the stairs for an angelic dance club, or descend below for a more infernal vibe. But now, the latter part of its moniker is just as apt in describing the fine it received from the Alcohol Beverage Control Board—a whopping $90,000—as well as a 90-day liquor license suspension.
The punishment stems from two main incidents: One involved outsourcing club security to a third party during a music event in August 2018 and the other has to do with serving a customer a Long Island iced tea that used toxic cleaning fluid in lieu of sour mix last November.
The ABRA decision, first flagged by local nightlife blog Barred in DC, outlines five claims against the bar, three of which resulted in a $30,000 fine and 30-day suspension apiece, one that resulted in a warning, and one which was dismissed.
For some comparison, the fine levied against beer garden Dacha’s Shaw location for operating above capacity was considered among the largest in ABRA history—it totaled $42,500 and a 21-day liquor license suspension. As Barred in DC notes, Halftime Sports Bar, over on H Street NE, never reopened after receiving a $60,000 fine last December.
The club’s security plan requires having two security staffers at the front entrance to check customers’ IDs. However, on the evening of August 17, 2018, ABRA investigators found two men sitting at a table on the sidewalk outside Heaven and Hell, per the decision, who were drinking beers from inside and collecting money to allow people to enter. They identified themselves as working for an event promoter, not for the club itself, according to the decision, and the investigator did not observe other security personnel throughout the establishment.
ABRA found that Heaven and Hell unlawfully permitted the event promoter to control security, rather than employees, and “failed to maintain ownership and control” of the club that evening, which resulted in two of the three violations.
The third stems from a customer who ordered a Long Island iced tea last November. However, the man behind the bar—Heaven and Hell owner Mehari Woldemariam—mixed the drink with toxic cleaning fluid nicknamed “Yellow Death” rather than sour mix. He called 911 after realizing what he had done, and the customer survived.
“It was a mistake,” Woldemariam told Fox 5 at the time. “Why should I have somebody poisoned? The customer comes to pay me and I’ve been in this business for the longest time in Adams Morgan.” Police passed along the case to ABRA, who found that Woldemariam neglected to fill out an incident report, as his security plan requires. That violation also resulted in a third of the total fine and suspension.
Heaven and Hell’s liquor license suspension begins on November 1 and will end January 29.
Woldemariam, who also owns Adams Morgan jazz spot Columbia Station, has come before the board a number of occasions prior to this one. The decision notes that ABRA took into account Heaven and Hell’s “history of prior violations” in reaching its decision for a fine and suspension.
“I remember the first time you came across here, I had some difficulty in pronouncing your name,” said Chairperson Donovan Anderson at a hearing on August 1, 2018, prior to the most recent violations, according to a written transcript. “I’m too comfortable in pronouncing your name. That tells me that you are coming in front of me too often and I don’t like that.”
The phone number listed for Heaven and Hell has been disconnected.
Source: DCist Rachel Kurzius