DC bar owner says TikToks about underage drinking were a 'joke'
WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - A "joke" is behind TikTok videos allegedly promoting underage drinking in D.C.
Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather
"From my heart, I always intended to be a joke," said William Seth McClelland in a virtual board hearing held last week with the agency that regulates liquor licenses in the District of Columbia.
McClelland is one of the owners of a Northwest DC bar called "Never Looked Better," which became the focus of several salacious allegations.
The complaints were first raised in an email to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city leaders back in Sept. by the Blagden Alley Naylor Court Association. However, there is another group on Instagram that more recently reigniting outrage.
"OK here’s what to get if you’re drinking underage — if you’re drinking underage at a bar --- first of all — what not to get," is part of what you hear in what appears to be a compilation of TikTok videos posted a few days ago to the Instagram account @SaveBlagdenAlley.
The group’s post said the videos belong to [William] Seth McClelland, an owner of "Never Looked Better," who the group claims is guiding minors on how to order at the bar so that bartenders don’t suspect they’re underage.
READ MORE: DC bar facing scrutiny over underage drinking reports, social media videos
"Our first video got 3.3 million views, so we wanted to do ‘What to order when you're underage part 2," is what you also hear in the post.
"Never Looked Better" is located on Blagden Alley NW, not far from the D.C. Convention Center. Local leaders tell FOX 5 the popularity of this alley has grown exponentially over the past several years with new businesses, such as bars and restaurants, opening in the alleyway. This also means a growth in nightlife in the area.
Part of the concerns raised with the Blagden Alley bar at this Dec. 8 Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) board hearing included posts from a 15-year-old on social media, purporting to show himself inside the bar — and with alcohol.
An Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) investigator described the 15-year-old as a DCPS student and "TikTok Influencer" with 37.7k followers, who goes around posting about different establishments.
Another "Never Looked Better" owner testified that several of the photos shared on the teen’s "DC Speakeasies" post were not actually from within their Blagden Alley bar.
ANC 2F Chairperson John Guggenmos was hesitant to name some of the other more salacious allegations made by neighbors at the ABC hearing, but said he made the complaint in "service to the constituents."
Some other concerns raised included trash, noise and public drunkenness. But a major part of last week’s hearing focused on McClelland’s at least three TikTok videos that discuss how to order alcohol with a fake ID or what to say if underage and caught with booze.
Board members voiced their displeasure with the videos.
READ MORE: Restaurants charging added fees in attempt to rebound from COVID-19 pandemic
When asked what the purpose of the videos was, McClelland said it was more of a joke, a way to pass time during the pandemic lockdowns while also making references to pop culture.
"It’s modeled off a thing Dr. Seuss used to do in serving in World War II called, ‘What not to do in the military.’ So basically when you have a grenade, you throw the pin and drop the grenades — it’s an old joke. So what we were doing, what I was doing, was, ‘What to do — what not to do in a restaurant.’ And some of the jokes were what to order on a first date, what to get if it’s busy, what to get if you’re, you know, not drinking that night — and it was just these jokes," said McClelland.
"One thing that was kind-of on my mind during lockdowns was our formative years, just sort of growing up that kind and it was a joke. And the full [video] says, since you guys couldn’t hear it, says, ‘What to order if you have a fake ID, a Gin Gimlet because no one under the age of 30 even knows what that is.’ So it was a quick joke. I understand now that as a licensee, I need to hold myself to a higher standard," he added.
An area ANC Commissioner called the social media videos "distasteful" and "irresponsible." He also told FOX 5 he did refer certain serious allegations to ABRA for investigation.
When asked what’s actually going on here, the ANC leader also noted that there’s been a lot of tension between longtime neighbors and "Never Looked Better," that’s gotten to a "bad place."
"What happens when you have neighbors literally living on top of bars on the second or third floors or across the alleyway and there’s tons of reverberation? I don’t think there’s been thoughtful conversation about how each can coexist and I don’t, you know, I don’t think ABRA is being very proactive about solving those issues," said ANC 2 Commissioner Ian Simon.
Simon told FOX 5 some of the matters raised, like the noise complaints, are real issues that the ANCs are trying to remediate.
"Never Looked Better has been an extremely disruptive and irresponsible business in Blagden Allen — a historic residential location that is not suitable for any nightclub," read part of a statement sent to FOX 5 by the Blagden Alley Naylor Court Association.
FOX 5 did reach out to the owners of "Never Looked Better" and was told they are not interested in litigating the matter in the media. No official statement on the accusations or social media videos was provided.
Guggenmos did say McClelland apologized to the ANC chair about the videos. He called McClelland "communicative" and "responsive."
McClelland told the board he would take down the videos that day and that he did not delete them beforehand because he did not want to appear as if he was hiding something from the board.
SUBSCRIBE TO FOX 5 DC ON YOUTUBE
A spokesperson for ABRA confirmed for FOX 5, the "ABC Board determined there was insufficient evidence to take further action."