I spoke with Michael Aniton, an assistant Attorney General from the DC Office of the Attorney General about the Riyad, the inconvenience store at the corner of 8th and Upshur St NW. Mr. Aniton has been working with MPD, DCRA and residents for the better part of a year to get this store to either conduct business above board or to close. After a recent hearing and a failed mediation, the Riyad looks to be headed for an eventual closure.
The Riyad used to be Dudley’s Beauty Products and Supplies, a rarely open storefront for cosmetics and other products. It closed down about two years ago, and the Riyad opened in its place.
At first, the store looked nice, if basic. That block of Upshur Street already had one convenience store (the Town & Country), and after a few weeks, the Riyad took a turn toward the less respectful. After becoming known as a place to purchase synthetic drugs and three robberies, the owner’s next step seemed to be to cover all the windows and put the Grand Opening signs back up along 8th Street.
With clouds of incense wafting out the door, gang tags on the outside and a poorly done paint job, the store looks like a perfect example of neighborhood blight and neglect. With the covered windows, it seems like they’re trying to obfuscate what they’re doing inside. As an MPD officer once said to me, “When a store covers all their windows, they’re trying to hide what happens. If they wanted greater safety, they’d have big windows that make it easy to see what’s going on inside.”
The building the Riyad occupies at 800 Upshur Street is still owned by the Dudley family, who also own other properties around the city, and have owned this particular building for years. The OAG’s office served the tenant and store owner, Osman Mohammed, with a Notice of Unlawful Activity after MPD raided the store and removed boxes and boxes of synthetic cannabinoids.
The police are going to great lengths to ensure people understand that these synthetic drugs, with names like K2, Scooby Snacks and Bizarro, are not low-key incense, potpourri or synthetic “marijuana,” they are an ever-changing mix of synthetic chemicals designed to provide a long high for cheap ($4-5 dollars a bag). The effects of the drugs are intense, which is why they’re often used as a substitute by heroin addicts, according to MPD Chief Lanier. The other effects, says MPD, is what has led to a dramatic rise in ambulance calls and violence like the stabbing death of Kevin Sutherland on the Metro on July 4th.
The DC government and MPD is taking a firm stance on the synthetic cannabinoids. Mayor Bowser signed a new “Sale of Synthetic Drugs Emergency Amendment Act of 2015” into law on July 10th. From the press release on the new law:
The new law states that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) now has the authority to shut down a first-offender for up to 96 hours, with a $10,000 fine for its first violation. MPD has also been given the authority to shut down repeat offenders for up to 30 days, with a $20,000 fine, while the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) will move to permanently revoke its license.
The side effects of these drugs are severe and may include seizures, suicidal behavior, erratic and violent behavior, and even death. These drugs can render a person to be incoherent, disorderly, aggressive, and unconscious.
(NBC4 carried a story on Friday, July 24th about several overdoses occurring throughout DC, including four at the Columbia Heights metro. Don't be fooled by a fool on the local listservs, this stuff is bad news and Chief Lanier and Mayor Bowser deserve credit for acting quick to try to deal with this issue.)
After numerous resident complaints and the raid by MPD, the OAG conducted an eviction hearing on July 14th to have the tenant removed from the building. The judge ordered the Dudley’s and Mohammed into mediation to try to get Mohammed to voluntarily move out. He refused to leave the building and terminate his lease, so the judge has scheduled a new hearing for August 28th to rule on the eviction order.
According to Mr. Aniton, the Dudley’s have been very cooperative with the OAG’s office, and are looking forward to having the tenants out of the building.
“I’m confident this is going to work out well for the community,” said Assistant Attorney General Michael Aniton.
At this point, I'd wager Mohammed is likely delaying the inevitable for as long as possible. But it seems their eviction is coming soon.
I couldn’t be more thrilled to see this establishment, which so clearly disrespects the neighborhood, close as quickly as possible and make room for a business that does want to partner with the neighborhood.
I understand that the Dudley’s, who own the entire building that sits on the corner of 8th and partway down Upshur, may have some big changes in mind for the building. Hopefully, they’ll lease this building out to a local business who wants to be a part of the community and thrive along with all of us.