Soccer game street closing blocks access to gay nightclub

By : Lou Chibbaro Jr. of the Washington Blade, Courtesy of the Natioan LGBT Media Association
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As more than 20,000 fans exited Audi Field, the newly built stadium for the D.C. United soccer team on its opening night on July 14, D.C. traffic control officers temporarily blocked cars from entering the street leading to the nearby gay nightclub Ziegfeld’s-Secrets.

Among the motorists that the traffic control officers attempted to prevent from entering the section of Half Street, S.W., on which the nightclub is located, was its owner, Alan Carroll.

“I kept yelling that I work over there on this street and I have to get in there,” Carol told the Washington Blade.

The uniformed traffic control officers, who work for the D.C. Department of Transportation known as DDOT, let Carroll drive through a temporary roadblock they set up barring access to the 1800 block of Half Street.

But other customers of the club that contacted the Blade said the traffic officers ordered them to turn away from that section of Half Street, preventing them from getting to the club. At least two regular customers said they were able to gain access to the club about 90 minutes later when the mass exodus of vehicles leaving the area of the stadium subsided and the traffic officers departed.

Another customer said the driver of the Uber car he was in found an alternate circuitous route on the other side of the stadium to get to Ziegfeld’s-Secrets.

“This could be really bad for our business,” said Carroll, who noted that no one from DDOT or other city agencies contacted him in advance to alert the club about the temporary street closing. He said he wondered whether the DDOT officials in charge of traffic control know his club has operated out of a building two blocks from the new stadium at 1824 Half St., S.W. since 2009 and is struggling to stay in business.

In response to an inquiry from the Blade, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian said in a statement that his agency was reviewing its procedures for traffic flow around Audi Field to determine whether changes should be made.

“Large crowds were drawn to this weekend’s Sports Capital festivities and it was the job of all District agencies to keep fans, residents, and motorists safe and maintain smooth traffic operations,” said Marootian, who is one of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s high-level LGBT appointees.

“We will continue to strongly encourage the use of all modes of transportation to get around during these types of events, including Capital Bikeshare, a special Circulator Bus route that is in effect on game days, in addition to Metro and ride sharing,” Marootian said.

“We are conducting an after-action review and are receiving feedback about our transportation operations plan for the area and around Audi Field to determine if there are opportunities for changes going forward,” he said.

Ziegfeld’s-Secrets employees and customers have said the three-block section of Half Street leading to the club was riddled with deep and potentially vehicle damaging potholes beginning more than two years before construction for the stadium began. Carroll said his requests for repairs of the potholes were largely ignored.

Now, after enduring further road closures and detours during the period of construction of the soccer stadium, the club’s employees and customers said they were hopeful that things would settle down once the stadium was completed.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said the club’s general manager Steven Delurba. “Nobody tells us anything,” he said in referring to city agencies involved in the soccer stadium project.

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