Saturday, December 10, 2005

Mawonaj update

Concei from Café Mawonaj has sent out an "Open Letter to the Community" that goes beyond what I have written previously.

This update includes a US Department of Justice link about what the café was like under previous owners:
Rick's Pool Hall
624 T Street, N.W.
(PSA 305) (Ward 1)

This Nuisance Property was originally a business, operating under the name "Rick's Billiards". Despite its purported operation as a pool hall, the Nuisance Property served as a base for the sale and use of heroin, which resulted in large amounts of foot and car traffic and numerous arrests for heroin and other drugs in and outside the property... In 1999, a search warrant was executed on the property resulting in three arrests and a seizure of heroin from inside of the building. In short, community members and police officers watched for years as drug transactions and drug users operated in and around the nuisance property without regard for the negative affect on the community. The United States Attorney's Office Nuisance Abatement Team contacted the property owner and informed him of its intention to file a civil suit under the Nuisance Abatement statute. The owner promptly sold the property which is now operating as Café Mawonaj, a coffee house.

Concei´s open letter also raises the possibility of the recent fire being an arson, saying "It appeared that the place was torched with gasoline, judging from the patches of burns in more than one area." This claim is, of course, difficult to evaluate, but Concei also suggests that the Fire Investigators and police involved in the case have not been responsive in his concerns that an investigation of the fire is necessary.

Most concerning is the quotes attributed to Chip Ellis, who "bought the property last month." He appearantly showed up at 9 AM the morning after the fire (and it is unclear to Mawonaj workers how Mr. Ellis so promptly knew about the fire) and said
“I’m glad this happened. I want you to get the F**K out of here and take your business someplace else. We are going to tear this building down and do something else with it.”

This was said in front of witnesses. I didn’t know what to think about these words. I responded that we were going to stay. We still have several years on our lease agreement and there is no way that is not going to be honored. That response really did tick him off because he became very angry and started to swear. His words:

“We f***ing own this building now. I’m not going to allow it to be rebuilt and you can bet on my words.”

Paul Schwartzman of the Washington Post got a hold of my first blog post and has been talking to Concei about possibly writing a story on Mawonaj and the fire. We will see if anything comes of that.

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