I came across a very interesting article in WaPo this morning about a teen club that the DC government is shutting down. You can find the whole story here: http://tinyurl.com/57lvyc but in summary, about 500 teens have been gathering at what used to be Platinum in Chinatown on Saturday nights for an 18 and under party. After receiving complaints from neighbors and out of concern about the potential for violence to break out, the city has decided the best way to proceed is to shut the club down in its present location.
The most common response I get when I tell people I live in Adams Morgan is something along the lines of, “oh, it‘s so crazy over there.” My response is that five days a week, Sunday-Thursday, it really isn’t. With the exception of Friday and Saturday nights, it’s a pretty low-key, yuppie, urban area. Then a million other people come in to party, the sidewalks become virtually impassible with people standing in line outside bars and drunk guys yelling lurid things at every passing woman, occasional fights erupt, and it becomes the “crazy” place people who only visit to party see. Recently, much has been made of the uptick in crime (including gunfire a block from my building), which just adds to that perception.
However, despite all this, the one response you never hear is “let’s close the bars so these people don’t invade our neighborhood every weekend.” Much like Chinatown, it’s an entertainment district — what else does one expect? Even within Chinatown, I’m unaware of a push to close any other establishments simply to make the area more “livable” for residents. It seems ludicrous to single out this one club because there are teenagers involved.
Does the city really think that by prohibiting this gathering in its current location, it’s encouraging these kids to stay at home? Having been in that age group myself not so many years ago, I feel I’m on firm ground in predicting one of two things is likely to happen: they will sneak into clubs (where alcohol is served and they are interacting with adults instead of people their own age, hardly a safer option) or this particular group will continue bouncing around to other locations within the city (which is acknowledged as the probable outcome in the article). I don’t know how the second option is better for the city or the kids. If there is a permanent location, the city can be prepared to deal with any exigencies that usually arise from large gatherings of people of any age, thereby minimizing risk and disruption to the community where possible. Also, if it’s in one spot, it creates a sense of continuity and community for those who attend.
It is stated in the article that the city just can’t spare the extra cops to police the area. Obviously that is a question of priorities. This “club” was started by a mother and her teen daughter at a time when a cursory reading of WaPo’s metro section is enough to know the city is hard pressed to provide recreational facilities, structured job-training opportunities (witness the recent meltdown of the summer jobs program), after school activities, or an outlet of any sort for teens. Although this club might not be the perfect model, the least they could do is try to work with and support private initiatives like this when they spring up instead of squashing them with no better alternative.