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Town Nightclub Plans To Reopen In Former Church In NoMa

The St. Phillips Baptist Church at 1001 North Capitol St. NE

A popular LGBTQ nightclub plans to reopen in a former church building in NoMa, but one neighborhood leader has concerns. 

Town Danceboutique announced on Twitter Tuesday evening it plans to open in the former church at the corner of North Capitol Street and K Street. 

The nightclub's owner applied for a liquor license, first reported on Twitter by Eat DC, for a club with an occupancy of 524 with 125 seats outside. 

Town's former Shaw location, which had been D.C.'s largest entertainment venue catering to the LGBTQ community since 2007, closed last summer. Jefferson Apartment Group is redeveloping its former home into a 132-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail. 

Its new NoMa home was previously the St. Phillips Baptist Church. Douglas Development Corp. bought the property in 2017 for $3.2M, and Douglas principal Norman Jemal said in 2017 it planned to convert it to a synagogue. 

Town said in its announcement it passed on many other options before deciding to reopen the club in the church building. 

"While we understand that the city has been yearning for a substantial nightlife option, we are now going to take all the right steps, forge all the right relationships, and tackle the engineering challenges and hopefully, soon, we will be able to bring something new and exciting back to Washington's nightlife," the announcement said. 

Despite this call for community engagement, NoMa BID President Robin-Eve Jasper said she had not heard from Town prior to Tuesday's announcement. 

"They say they're going to be reaching out to the community, but to date nobody has seen any plans," Jasper said. "Announcing before having conversations with the community is a little worrisome."

She expects the community will welcome the nightclub if it is operated responsibly, but she said some in the neighborhood are cautious because of past experiences. Two former NoMa nightclubs that have closed, Ibiza and Fur, both violated the terms of their permits and were the scene of violent incidents that spilled out into the neighborhood, Jasper said. 

"The neighborhood would generally embrace a responsibly run operation that was a net benefit to the community, but I think the longer-term residents who have had to live through the previous challenges, as well as some of the businesses, are going to need to be reassured about the seriousness and competence of the management to maintain a safe environment," Jasper said. 

Town and Douglas Development didn't respond to requests for comment. 

Jasper said she hopes Town's owners follow the community engagement examples set by Wunder Garten and Red Bear Brewing, two drinking establishments in the neighborhood. Red Bear opened in March as D.C.'s first 100% gay-owned brewery, and the company was quick to welcome Town to the neighborhood. 

"Look forward to having ya nearby in NoMa! Swing by and have a beer during construction," Red Bear tweeted in response to Town's announcement.