Uniontown drug charges stymie Anacostia's hope for renewal
Residents of Anacostia, hopeful that a sit-down restaurant represented a turning point in their neighborhood's longstanding struggles, were shaken by news that the proprietor of that restaurant was charged in a federal drug trafficking case in Maryland and Texas.
The Washington Post reported that Natasha Dasher, owner of Uniontown Bar and Grill, was charged after federal agents found 65 kilograms of cocaine they'd been tracking from Texas to her Fort Washington, Md. office.
For 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, and it thrived in part 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 groups 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.
"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."
Multiple sources in the neighborhood said they feel baffled, confused, and betrayed. Apparently, Dasher 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 bartender 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 Washington Post had been in the restaurant waiting for Dasher earlier that afternoon, but left after she hadn't shown. The bartender said he 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 are 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.
When the facts emerge and circumstances are more fully explained, the worst could be confirmed. If an indictment arises, we can only hope it doesn't hold back Uniontown or the surrounding Historic Anacostia community.
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