For over a year, the residents of Miller Park--a neighborhood on the east end of Capitol Hill--have been rallying against Deano's Cafe and Lounge, a bar on East Madison Street. They've held neighborhood marches, written letters to the city, and even invited officials like City Attorney Tom Carr to tour the neighborhood. Prostitution, violence, drug sales, and drug use are rampant on the stretch of Madison around Deano's, neighbors say (and they are backed up by police crime statistics). The problems frequently spill into the residential neighborhood just behind the bar.

At last, the neighbors are getting a response from the city attorney and the state attorney general. Both the city (representing the police) and the state (representing the Washington State Liquor Control Board) are taking a hard look at Deano's liquor license, which expired in July. The liquor control board may not renew the license (Deano's has a temporary one until a decision is made), and if they do renew it, the city is ready to step in and appeal the decision.

Weirdly, the neighbors are now cautious about throwing their support behind the legal actions against Deano's, even though they asked the city to take action in the first place. They want Deano's and Madison Street cleaned up, but neighbors are afraid of garnering a reputation as racist NIMBYs who are targeting a black bar in their neighborhood.

Miller Park residents have plenty of reason to dislike Deano's. Large crowds congregate around the bar every night. The people who hang out under Deano's large red-and-white awning are often selling drugs or working as prostitutes, neighbors claim. Many residents say they've been offered drugs or sex when they walk down the stretch of Madison surrounding Deano's.

The residents have organized twice-monthly neighborhood marches down Madison, toting signs with slogans like "Drug Dealers Go Home." The Miller Park Neighborhood Association (MPNA) has talked to the mayor about Madison Street, and residents even gave City Attorney Carr and City Council Police Committee Chair Jim Compton an eye-opening tour of their neighborhood in June ["Miller Time," Amy Jenniges, June 20]. They've also written letters to the liquor control board, saying that Deano's is "obviously a problem spot," and calling it "that nightmare that is the center of most (if not all) of our serious problems around here."

Now the city and the state have stepped in to scrutinize the bar's liquor license. The city and the liquor board seem to have a strong case. Assistant City Attorney Ed McKenna sent a note to the MPNA this summer, outlining the police department's objections to Deano's license. He cited ongoing criminal activity at the club, problems supervising employees, alcohol being overserved, drug dealing on the site, and neighborhood exposure to violence. And the liquor control board has recorded several administrative violations, including confusion over who holds the license, according to the city attorney's office.

The city and state are going after the bar's liquor license (asking neighbors to write statements and possibly testify), so the neighbors are stuck with supporting that plan, or keeping a low profile. So far, many are choosing the latter, staying quiet and waiting to see what happens.

Most statements against the bar on the MPNA's website are unsigned, and many neighbors--when asked by The Stranger about the legal action--point to the MPNA's official position statement instead of voicing their own opinions. The toned-down statement, written last week, says the neighbors' primary concern is the safety of the neighborhood, and they're looking to the liquor control board, the city attorney, and the police to "legally and sensibly take any actions toward that end."

Neighbors are worried that action against Deano's might look like a repeat of an earlier Miller Park brouhaha, in which a black bar was targeted for closure. "It's very easy to accost us in that manner," says MPNA head Andrew Taylor.

When the police and the liquor board teamed up against a "nuisance" bar several years ago--Oscar's II, another Madison Street spot--the process backfired, and it made the cops and the neighborhood (residents testified against the place) look racist. The lawyer for Oscar's in that case was staunch civil rights advocate David Osgood.

Guess who's fighting for Deano's? The bar's owner, Jack McNaughton, secured Osgood in his fight to keep the liquor license. Not only will Osgood make it tough for the city and the liquor board to get the club's license, but he'll give the neighborhood and the cops hell for going after a black bar.

Osgood says cops have told the owner of Deano's--and the owners of other popular black hangouts he's represented, like Oscar's II and Jersey's All-American Sports Bar--to get rid of the hiphop music and turn their bars into Starbucks coffee shops.

"The stuff that the city cites is problems in the parking lot, and problems on the street," Osgood explains. "Deano's has cut the doors down in the bathroom to deter drug dealers, alarmed the place, installed video cameras, and painted No Loitering signs along the walls." Osgood even goes as far as saying the neighborhood's problem with crowds on Madison Street is the police department's fault: He says the cops have pointed lawbreakers to the Deano's area and allowed illicit behavior in Deano's vicinity, while the bar's owners try to keep things under control inside.

When he represented Oscar's, Osgood proved that cops used illegal drug buy-busts, sending in both a drug buyer and a drug seller to build a case against the bar. Earlier this year, Oscar's II owners Oscar and Barbara McCoy won a $1.2 million settlement from the city and the liquor board for the embarrassing and illegal moves against their bar.

Miller Park resident Julianne Andersen wants to make it clear that the neighborhood isn't arbitrarily going after black bars.

"This is not Oscar's," Andersen says. "We want the world to know that we're pretty well informed on this one."

The neighbors, it seems, would be happy if the city or liquor board just required Deano's to control the crowd that loiters outside. "It's about trying to figure out how to make this neighborhood work better," Andersen says. "We just want the city to do their job, and do it right."