14 Jul 2021


The ongoing saga of 319 Pennsylvania SE

Update: The official name of the LLC named in the lawsuit is PENNSYLVANIA 319 LLC, not 319 PENN LLC. The attorney representing HANDLE 19, INC has been made aware of this error.

You may recall that 319 Pennsylvania Avenue SE has been a lot in the news lately. The space has been home to some beloved neighborhood watering holes— most notably PoliTiki, which in retrospect is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime synergy that needs to come back… somewhere. The Pour House and Top of the Hill made their home at 319 for a decade, until they closed in April of 2014. In March 2015, Stanton and Greene opened, a beautiful Art Deco-ey phoenix ready to rise with much glitz out of the divey ashes of its predecessors. Unfortunately, the concept (or the price tags) did not take, and by November of 2018, the space was unceremoniously closed after the owners filed for bankruptcy. Since then, the space has been waiting for its next reinvention.

319 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Photo by Maria Helena Carey

Briefly, it appeared that the reinvention would arrive as a cozy, comfortable American restaurant with sports betting. The brainchild of Shane August, a Black entrepreneur from the Virginia Beach area, Handle 19 promised to have a relaxed vibe, but with the possibility of betting on the game you’re enjoying on TV. Although other restaurants in the area have since been able to obtain betting licenses, neighbors and ANC 6B banded together to stop August from opening. ANC 6B engaged a lawyer to the tune of $14,000 to block the liquor license for Handle-19.

They needn’t have bothered– Handle-19 was denied a class B betting license by the D.C. Office of Betting and Gaming in February of 2021, for reasons that have yet to come to light. And here is where our story continues.

While August was allegedly “weighing his options” at this point and planning to resubmit permits for a betting license, PENNSYLVANIA 319 LLC. and Scott Spector wanted to move on. According to a lawsuit brought by Handle 19, INC. on June 4, 2021 in D.C. Superior Court, while Handle-19 was trying to figure out whether it made financial sense to open without a betting license, the landlord “refused to provide H19 with a payment plan application or engage in any good faith discussion concerning same.”

The rent for March, 2021, went unpaid while August and Handle-19 considered what steps to take. According to the lawsuit, the landlord changed the locks on the property– apparently, a standard procedure when someone appears to default on rent payments.

And so, while new businesses, such as As You Are, a queer bar and safe space, sought to bring their concept into the space, the lawsuit –which names “any and subsequent tenants of 319 Pennsylvania Avenue SE” as defendants in the lawsuit– makes it very difficult to move forward until this dispute is resolved.

We only know one side of the story. Hope to hear from the landlord or from August on any resolution of this saga.

You can read the text of the lawsuit here.

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