Anacostia hit hard by news of Uniontown owner’s drug charges
To those familiar and unfamiliar with the everyday struggles of Historic Anacostia, news that the proprietor of Uniontown Bar & Grill has been charged in a federal drug trafficking case in Maryland and Texas couldn’t hit harder. The thunderclap of attention is a calamitous development for a neighborhood still on the periphery of a revitalized city.
“Uniontown,” says Charles Wilson, President of the Historic Anacostia Block Association, “is a glimmer of hope. Even though this had nothing to with Anacostia people are going to wonder.”
From within the ranks of Historic Anacostia’s working class community and emerging group of young professionals, Uniontown’s opening earlier this year and subsequent success was solid evidence the neighborhood could support commerce. Unlike crosstown areas where craft brew abundantly flows from the taps of multiple watering holes, Uniontown thrived because of its exclusivity as the only traditional sit-down restaurant in the neighborhood. Senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security rubbed elbows with community activists, both cheerful to toast a symbol of progress in the neighborhood. Cognizant of Anacostia’s unrealized retail potential, many hoped Uniontown’s success would attract new investment.
Multiple sources in the neighborhood said they feel baffled, confused, and betrayed. Apparently, Natasha Dasher, the owner, had been seen as recently as Friday at the restaurant. Two separate Facebook pages have been active within the past week, and their Twitter was last updated Friday.
“I don’t know anything about that,” said the Saturday night bar tender when asked about the staff reaction to the news of Dasher’s drug trafficking arrest. Speaking over a packed house, he said a reporter from The Post had been in the restaurant waiting for Dasher earlier that afternoon, but left after she hadn’t shown. The bar tender did not know the reason for the reporter’s presence.
Over the past year there was no indication of any insidious activity at Uniontown, at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue and W Streets SE. Officers from the Seventh District were a regular presence. During a visit earlier this year a patron took his beer outside, drinking illegally on the street. He was kindly asked to leave.
Further down Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, towards the intersection with Good Hope Road, one of the area’s many vacant buildings speaks softly, yet presciently. “WE CAN JUST PRETEND” is etched on a glass panel, since broken, of a former furniture store. Similar phrases adorn buildings throughout the area’s commercial district.
When the facts emerge and circumstances are more fully explained, the worst could be confirmed against the better hopes of the community. Let’s hope not.