Nellie’s Sports Bar faces $5,000 fine, liquor license suspension

Published December 10, 2021

Illustration by John Woolley

CW: This article references violence to Black and LGBTQ+ individuals and communities.

After a contracted security guard violently assaulted a Black woman at Nellie’s Sports Bar, a well-known U-street gay bar,  in June, the establishment is facing a $5,000 fine and one-week liquor license suspension.

A Twitter video (cw) with more than 129,000 views shows the security officer pulling a Black woman down a staircase by her hair and arm. In the video, patrons yell, and the family of 22-year-old Keisha Young pull the security guard away. Nellie’s has since come under criticism for the attack, its lack of felt response, and long term concerns over how the bar treats its Black, queer clients.

Community members joined a weekly protest outside Nellie’s over the summer, encouraging patrons to boycott the sports bar. In addition to calling for “Justice for Keisha,” community members also pointed to the bar’s history of taking Black patrons’ money without providing for their safety. 

On July 16, Nellie’s reopened and released a statement about the assault including an apology  over a month after the attack. Community members found the statement inadequately addressed the institution’s past behavior toward Black patrons, which includes allegations of treating white, drunk guests better than Black clients, and did not fulfill other demands. Residents called for a public listening session, payment of staff during the boycott, and the release of the full footage of the assault. After the reopening, protests continued with weekly human chains around the establishment on Friday nights.

The violent incident in June led to a hearing with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which found the bar in violation of District code. The Board then handed the case to the D.C. attorney general’s office, which announced the fine and liquor license suspension in October. This month, Nellie’s is suspended from serving alcohol between Dec. 20 and Dec. 26. The bar is also required to pay its $5,000 fine within 120 days or face an indefinite suspension of its license. The attorney general’s order also contains 17 additional days of a suspended alcohol license that will be removed if there are no additional infringements. 

In addition to the fine and license suspension, Nellie’s was required to create a new security plan to be presented to D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. The plan includes updated policies on handling conflict resolution, responding to violence, and the bar’s procedure for admitting patrons inside. 

A popular Ward 1 gay bar located on the corner of U St and 9th St., Nellie’s is in a historically Black and Latinx economic hub that has faced rapid gentrification with richer, mostly white residents moving to the area. U Street also saw the closure of two popular bars, the Velvet Lounge and Dodge City, which shut their doors during the pandemic. 

A new LGBTQ-friendly bar, Kiki, will open across from Nellie’s by the end of the year. Kiki is being developed by Keaton Fedak, the outgoing general manager of the Dirty Goose, another nearby gay bar. Community members who advocated against Nellie’s have urged locals to patronize other establishments instead.

We want to create a safe space for the LGBTQ community and offer something a little new D.C.’s lacking on lately,” Featon said in an interview with the D.C. Eater.

Sarah Watson
Sarah is the former Spring 2022 Editor-in-Chief and a senior in the SFS studying Regional and Comparative Studies. She is a national park enthusiast and really just wants to talk about mountains.

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