Stabtown

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JAY: Saturday, December 27, 2014.

(Music drop)

JAY: Nestled by the riverside in the District of Columbia is an affluent neighborhood. It’s decked with rowhouses bearing Greek letters, brutalist concrete architecture, and the occasional rat skittering from expensive house across the street to expensive dorm. In the summertime, it’s best known as the swampy depths of our Nation’s capital. Or, as locals call it, Foggy Bottom.

CRISTALY: The neighborhood - home to such strange bedfellows as the White House, the Watergate Hotel, and the private research institution George Washington University, is used to the sound of police sirens from the occasional motorcade. But on this cold December night, the police sirens are heading north of the President’s quarters, and instead to K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

JAY: Up here, under an apartment complex where a studio alone costs seventeen hundred a month - the staff of a seedy Irish pub are wiping down after a long night of partying.

CRISTALY: But what they’re wiping is not just sweat, tears, and your standard bodily fluids -- Tonight, they’re wiping up blood.

JAY: Barely an hour before police arrival, the pub - McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon - had become the site of a stabbing.  

CRISTALY: And under the condemning eyes of God - and of George Washington, who looked on from his oversized bust at the Foggy Bottom Metro Station - McFadden’s closed their doors for the last time.

JAY: I’m Jay Fondin.

CRISTALY: I’m Cristaly Mercado.

JAY: And this… is StabTown.

(THEME MUSIC)

(Happy birthday plays very slowly and scarily)

JAY: Birthdays are a curious thing. They’re normally a time for celebration - not a time to have your favorite gross college bar close unexpectedly after a stabbing.

CRISTALY: McFadden’s was most frequently home to students from the university, but given the time of year, it was instead packed with locals from the community. Only serious partiers stuck around the District during winter break.

FAITH TESTIMONIAL: It’s very loud. Like, that is the biggest thing I can tell you about McFadden’s - it’s loud.

JAY: That’s Faith, a former student at GWU and once patron of McFadden’s.

FAITH TESTIMONIAL: And wall-to-wall giant televisions with college football on them. And a lot of loud… yo-pro college student people. Everywhere. And it’s like, packed to the gills. And you can’t hear anything…

(Music changes)

JAY: It was a typical Saturday night - the bar was, as they say, “popping”, the drinks were flowing, and they were almost certainly playing Smash Mouth or “Wonderwall.” And amid the regular weekend activity, a group of friends stopped by the pub to celebrate. It was someone’s birthday.

CRISTALY: According to Wikipedia, quote, “A birthday is the anniversary of the birth of a person or an institution. Birthdays are celebrated in numerous cultures, often with birthday gifts, birthday cards, a birthday party, or a rite of passage.” End quote.

JAY: A rite of passage indeed. Because tonight would not only mark the passing of years for one of the partygoers, but also the passing… of McFadden’s itself.

CRISTALY: Things were going about as well as they could for party at a cheap Irish pub. But unfortunately, violence loomed on the horizon.

JAY: We don’t know much beyond the security footage, but at around 12:30 AM, two partygoers bumped into one another. Whether it was an orchestrated bumping, we’re just not sure - but, as things do in a bar at half past midnight, a fight broke out. The following is a hypothetical approximation of what that night might have sounded like.

(Fight sounds layered over Smash Mouth’s “All Star”)

CRISTALY: The fight, at first, seemed typical - a jab from the left, a kick from the right - but someone brought a knife to the punch fight. And soon, it became clear they were out for blood.

(Music swells)

JAY: Chaos ensued. Patrons shoved one another in every direction - shouts of “ELVIS” rang through the dance floor - a code word meant to alert staff that emergency help was needed - and one person escaped the scene through the loading dock.

(Screams of “Elvis” ring in the background)

CRISTALY: But, wouldn’t you know it, the one headed to the loading dock was not one of the stabbing victims in search of medical attention, but rather… the stabber themself.

JAY: As if ripped from an early 2000s monster hunter show, the stabber’s eyes glint in the security camera footage, a haunted, pixelated gray and white. They’re wearing a shabby suit, and on the footage, they make their way to the loading dock alone and attempt, unsuccessfully, to open the door.

CRISTALY: But then, just when all seems hopeless for our McStabber, they receive a gift from on high - and by “on high,” we mean from McFadden’s itself. (Pause for emphasis) Two men join the suspect in the footage and open the loading dock for them. They escape, and the two men return to the bar. The manager on duty would later identify these two as an off-duty bouncer and a security guard - both McFadden’s employees.

(Dramatic music swell)

JAY: All in all, five people were stabbed - none of them fatally - but one was left with a punctured kidney, and another was underage. The manager on duty called the police straightaway, but it was too late to save McFadden’s reputation.

CRISTALY: The following day, a sign hung on the front door of the pub: a notice of closure from the DC Police. For the next 96 hours, at least, McFadden’s had been shut down.

JAY: The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board - or ABC - sent a statement to the bar, concluding that quote, “the continued operation of the licensed establishment presents imminent danger to the health and safety of the public.” And following an investigation and a quick liquor license removal, frequent McFlyers were dismayed to learn that McFadden’s had closed… for good.

(Music comes to a brief end)

CRISTALY: But a lot of things didn’t go right that night.

(Different music begins)

In fact, frequent patrons of McFadden’s would note that this was just one of many nights that saw the club operating at minimum efficiency.

JAY: For one thing, bouncers didn’t use clickers to count patrons entering and exiting the bar. On the night in question, the manager on duty said he wasn’t sure how many people had been there - but a rough guess was about 215, while the bar’s certificate set the maximum occupancy at 136.

CRISTALY: Security also wasn’t checking partons before they entered the bar, making it all to easy too disguise a stabbing instrument - or, as we like to call them, stabstruments - on one’s person. And according to one female patron, not everyone was charged a cover before entering the bar - not unusual for unpleasant sports bars, especially to let women in for free, but one less security precaution that could have prevented the McStabbing.

JAY: The ABC later criticized McFadden’s for having 16 security cameras present in the bar, but none of them with footage quality good enough to help identify the stabber. DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier also criticized the mere three security staff on duty, admonishing that none of them had any experience with crowd control.

CRISTALY: And THEN, to top it all off, once things had calmed down and the manager called 911, a barback started to wipe blood off the floor, thereby disturbing the crime scene. Whether this disturbance was intentional is still unknown.

(Music changes)

JAY: McStabben’s didn’t exactly have a history as a respectable pub and eatery, either. The night of the stabbing wasn't the first time they let underage folks in the bar - in fact, GW students raved that the pub was a hotspot specifically because they were almost never carded.

TESTIMONIAL (in distorted voice): I think it will really change the nightlife for GW students, especially that void that’s left on Tuesday nights.

JAY: That's former GW student Alex Mizenko. That is a real quote, but we don't know what his voice sounds like, so we just… took a stab at it. … Get it?

CRISTALY: And in a slightly more damning comment, another student was quoted as saying that if it wasn’t Tuesday night, there wouldn’t be any reason to go to McFadden’s.

JAY: In 2012, it was voted the Douchiest Bar in Washington DC by Complex Magazine. And if their regular “Ladies Nights” and use of scantily-clad women as promo girls wasn't enough to prove this, they also held events like “extreme Midget Wrestling” - problematic, to say the least - the same year the bar was shut down.

CRISTALY: But was McFadden’s an isolated incident of douchiness, or just one... in a chain of doucheries? McFadden's Restaurant and Saloon, as it turns out, is actually a chain establishment run by parent company East Coast Saloons, who bought the first McFadden’s in New York in 1998. The DC location was opened in October 2004, but the same magazine also awarded Douchiest Bar to the Philadelphia, Chicago and New York locations.

JAY: Several other locations have closed their doors due to controversy and litigation. In 2011, the Nashville location was sued by Broadcast Music Inc. for hiring DJs who did not acquire licensing rights to several songs used at the bar, including "Baby Got Back,” by Anthony L. Ray (Not to be confused with “Baby Got Backstabbed,” written by Cristaly Mercado).

CRISTALY: The first of three Philadelphia locations closed their doors after being sued for racial discrimination. Evidence presented in the trial included texts between management, one stating rather explicitly, "We don't want black people we are a white bar!"

And in December of 2008, two firefighters visited the New York City McFadden's - but instead of battling flames, they battled a civilian wearing a shirt with the Fire Department's initials on it. Firefighters seem to frequent McFadden’s, but not because the bar is a particular fire hazard; in 2005, two firefighters were also arrested for fighting a film producer.

JAY: When asked about the bar’s reputation for brawling, Stephen McFadden, the founder, said he would rather focus on more are honorable stories about the establishment that don’t get enough press. He boasted of a man and woman who met in McFadden’s, a story worth noting because the man’s last name was also McFadden. They were later married, then celebrated their son’s baptism at McFadden’s.

CRISTALY: Mr. McFadden claims that the couple’s son, Ryan McFadden, was named after the bar.

MR. MCFADDEN (allegedly): “I mean, nobody calls their kid the Empire State Building.”

CRISTALY: Again, a real quote, a bit of a guess on the voice.

JAY: And a bit of misdirection from Mr. McFadden. Given the reputation of the chain, it’s possible that the DC McFadden’s… just had it coming.

(Music ends)

CRISTALY: When we come back, we ask an expert how to lower your stabbability.

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TRANSCRIPT TO BE COMPLETED SOON.