A locally-owned restaurant that many were hoping would help revitalize the long neglected Anacostia neighborhood has closed after its owner pleaded guilty to selling cocaine.
Late last week, Uniontown Bar & Grill owner Natasha Dasher pleaded guilty to two felonies and may face up to 20 years in prison. According to the Washington Post, she pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and a conspiracy charge. Then, on Friday, her landlord evicted her and the restaurant, which was housed at 2200 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, because Dasher owed $18,000 in back rent.
The eviction comes more than than nine months after Dasher was charged with dealing cocaine. Drug Enforcement Agency records showed that authorities tracked a tractor-trailer with 65 kilograms of cocaine from Texas to Dasher's office in Fort Washington last autumn.
DEA officials say that duffel bags filled with $1.5 million in cash were also found at the office.
When Uniontown opened in early 2011, hopes were high in Anacostia that the restaurant would spur even more development in the area.
"I was hoping we could work together to build something like U Street," Mike Sterling, the owner of the nearby Big Chair Cafe, said.
Instead, residents and business owners in the community say the closure of Uniontown Bar & Grill will hurt because it drew people to the neighborhood.
"We just need to have more people here and we need to get our employment numbers up," Mike Wallach, the CEO of the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, said.
It hasn't stopped others from investing in the neighborhood, though.
For instance, Grubbs Pharmacy, a District of Columbia staple for generations, opened up a new location in the area a few weeks ago. The store's co-owner, Bill Fadel, says that businesses shouldn't be reluctant to invest in Anacostia.
"They need to come down and take a second look, because Anacostia is changing very fast," Fadel said.
In the meantime, the closure of Uniontown leaves another hole in a market that has a dearth of sit-down restaurants and is leaving residents lamenting its loss.
"For the first time in 20 years, we had an eat-in, sit-down watering hole," Anacostia resident Akili West.