The city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board said it referred the case to the OAG on Wednesday.
On June 13, cellphone video surfaced on social media showing a Black woman, later identified as 22-year-old Keisha Young, being dragged down the steps by security. The video, which was posted on Twitter, also shows multiple other patrons at the bar getting into a physical confrontation at the bottom of the stairs.
The incident sparked several weeks of protests outside the bar on U Street in Northwest D.C. and prompted an investigation by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), the government agency that issues and renews liquor licenses.
In a lengthy report, ABRA details a chaotic scene in the early hours of June 13, when brawls allegedly broke out among patrons, security personnel and employees.
It said that multiple assaults occurred inside the bar while Nellie’s “was engaged in a method of operation conducive to unlawful conduct.” The report cited crowded conditions on the rooftop as contributing to the mayhem.
According to witness interviews, police reports and surveillance footage, a bartender called security that Saturday night because a group of patrons had brought in a bottle of Bacardi Limon and were drinking shots in front of the bar.
Security personnel took the bottle and asked the people to leave.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) manager on duty told investigators that about seven people began punching security personnel as they approached the stairwell. He said he also saw the woman who was pulled down the stairs punching security just before the incident.
According to the report, footage from around 1:30 a.m. shows a man “being shoved around and out the doorway” before he goes down the stairs. Several other patrons are seen “shoving and pushing, throwing hands at each other while employees are observed pushing the patrons to the stairs.”
Minutes later, the report said the woman — who has since been identified as Young — is seen punching a man “multiple times in the back of the head” before she’s pulled down the stairs by security.
At the bottom of the stairs, people swung at the security officers and the scuffles spilled out onto the street. Young and another man later reported to police that they were assaulted by security officers, which Nellie’s had contracted out for Pride Week.
After cell phone video of Young being dragged down the stairs was posted on social media, about 100 protesters came out to demonstrate outside the sports bar the following night on Sunday, June 13. There have been periodic weekend protests since then as well. Young has also started a GoFundMe page seeking $75,000 for legal fees and therapy.
In response to the incident, Nellie’s fired the company it had hired to provide security. It also released a statement that said it was “incredibly upset and disturbed to see the unfortunate event that took place at Nellie’s” and that it was “undergoing a full investigation of the situation.”
But that did little to quell the furor. D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee wrote to ABRA urging it to launch an investigation.
“Most concerning about this incident is that at no time did Nellie’s Sports Bar staff, management or ownership make any effort to contact the [Metropolitan Police Department] to report the incident or to self-report the ABRA-related incident. Instead, Nellie’s Sports Bar carried on with business as usual,” Contee wrote.
He added that when the initial protests broke out, Nellie’s “ejected all patrons, locked their doors and closed for business.”
In its report, ABRA said video surveillance footage showed “the rooftop area to be overcrowded with minimal space to safely move around.” It also said investigators saw “the difficulty Nellie’s staff, and security, had attempting to remove patrons through such a crowd, causing pushing and shoving into other patrons and getting involved in altercations.”
A review of ABRA records revealed that Nellie’s does not have a settlement agreement (which aims to address concerns of the neighborhood) or a security plan, the report said.
The investigation now goes to the District’s Office of Attorney General, which is headed by Karl Racine. If the OAG decides to press charges against Nellie’s and the establishment is found liable, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board can impose fines and/or suspend or revoke the bar’s liquor license.
WTOP reached out to Racine’s office for comment but has not heard back.