Monday, August 31, 2009

"Look, I'm Stealing This Bicycle"

Spotted in Georgetown on Sunday afternoon...(click on the image to zoom in and read the handmade sign taped to it)

We're not sure what to make of this--it looks like it could be a plant, or it could be someone just having their jollies. Perhaps the MPD are using a bit of reverse psychology, or it's someone's clever way to prevent their bike from being lifted? We're not sure. But I do know this much: it reminds me very much of the set-up for one of my all-time favorite Trigger Happy TV moments.

Back to the Grind: ANC Meeting This Wednesday-ABRA Matters and ARTS Overlay Committee Report

We hope everyone has had a good summer, and while we can't believe that it's drawing to a close, the pace of neighborhood news right now tells us otherwise.

Back from vacation, we're proud to remind everyone that it's ANC meeting week. And since the ANC didn't meet this past month, this month's agenda is chock full of interesting tidbits. The full agenda can be found here, but I'll pull out some of the highlights below.

The ABRA matters are always fun, and this month we get no fewer than six of them. Some are rather innocuous--1409 Playbill is petitioning to add lunch hours, a good thing as far as we're concerned (the more businesses open during the daytime, the better), and the application for soon-to-arrive wine retailer Cork and Fork. But there are also a few that stand out.

The Ghana Cafe (pictured at left), set to relocate to 14th Street from Adams Morgan, will be before the ANC to begin work on a voluntary agreement for their operations. The sticking point? The 2 am weekday and 3 am weekend closing time. Yeah, we know Saint-Ex has those hours, but we can't all be Saint-Ex, can we? Also, rumors of live dancing abound. Be very afraid.

Next up, the rather interestingly named American Sacrifice Foundation. You may not be familiar with them, but you are likely familiar with the club that previously occupied the location now held by the Foundation--The Space. The Space's problems with its neighbors were well-documented here and elsewhere, so there's no need to rehash them. Suffice to say, expect the ANC to tread quite carefully here, seeing as how some people point to the lack of a voluntary agreement with The Space as one of the reasons the problems persisted for as long as they did.

Finally, Wednesday night may very well bring a conclusion to the longstanding saga of the voluntary agreement for the Vegas Lounge on P Street. Seems negotiations for this one were quite tense, with the Lounge bringing in their counsel and ANC2F commissioner Charles Reed making accusations of negotiating in bad faith. No one wants to see the Vegas Lounge go anywhere, so hopefully things will get wrapped up tomorrow evening.

In non-ABRA related happenings, Wednesday night will also mark the public unveiling of the zoning plan recommendations as put forth by the Arts Overlay Zoning Review Commission. Committee chair Andrea Doughty will be on hand to present the Committee's recommendations, which seek to guide and shape the direction of development of 14th and U streets during the coming years.

There has been much discussion recently over the future of the corridor--what kind of businesses should be here, do the arts have a future on 14th street, and so on. The Committee took an in-depth look at many of these issues during the course of a number of public meetings throughout the summer, and present the initial phase of their recommendations on Wednesday. The recommendations deal largely with zoning-related issues, and specifically look at the mix of retail (bars and restaurants, arts-related businesses, etc. and the types of developmental incentives that can be offered to projects that incorporate arts uses.

I am aiming to have a sneak preview of the Committee's recommendations up sometime tomorrow, but unfortunately can make no guarantees.

For those who miss Ms. Doughty's report on Wednesday evening, there will be a repeat performance at Thursday evenings ANC1B meeting.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

See you in a couple of weeks...

The 14thandyous are headed off for a (much needed) vacation, so updates to the blog will be pretty much nonexistent. Hope everyone enjoys the rest of their August, and we'll be back soon.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mid City Caffe: A First Look

This morning, the 14thandyous headed down the street to check out the neighborhood's latest venture, the Mid-City Caffe. The coffee shop's opening has been anticipated for a while now and, despite some setbacks, they were finally able to open their doors above Miss Pixie's to the public this morning.

The decor in the space is very much shabby-chic. They've kept the original flooring of the space, and built around it with warm colors that give the cafe a very relaxed feel. The view from the second story windows out onto 14th street is nice, and despite a relatively small space they've done a good job with the seating arrangements.

As far as the product goes, the latte that I had was prepared wonderfully--not acidic at all, but with a rich flavor nd jut the right amount of foam (in other words, not the dense, burnt-milk taste one frequently gets with Starbucks lattes). Mrs. 14thandyou enjoyed a cup of tea, and both of us also had a bagel with cream cheese.

As was expected, the service was a bit slow and haphazard, although things weren't that disjointed. There did seem to be some inventory issues (most of pastries appeared to be gone when we waltzed in around 11 AM), and we had to twice remind the kind people working behind the counter of our bagel orders.

The prices were a bit steep, although not outrageous: $3.75 for a latte, and an extra 95¢ for "extras" such as soy milk or vanilla shots. The bagels ran about $2 ea; cups of tea and French press coffee also came in around the $2. In other words, slightly hire than the prices at chain stores, but the quality of the drinks appears to be far better.

So, to others who have had a chance to stop in: what do you think? Our feelings are that, with a bit of time to iron out the kinks, Mid-City has the potential to be a great addition to the neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mid-City Caffe to Open This Saturday

This evening, we received word that the long-awaited Mid-City Caffe, located in a second floor space above Miss Pixies on 14th Street between Corcoran and R, will officially open for business this Saturday at 8:00 AM.

Mid-City is clearly attempting to put the focus on its product: the spot will serve only Counter Culture Coffee, using either a French press of pour-over brewing method. The cafe will also offer a selection of fresh pastries, cakes and breakfast items from local bakers.

There has also been a focus on the design of the space, which will also feature outdoor seating. According to the release, individuals visiting the cafe will encounter designer Mick Mier's "a cozy coffee house that draws upon art deco motifs and the vintage auto industry."

Mid-City Caffe will be open from 6a - 8p Monday-Friday, 8a - 8p on Saturday, and 8a - 7p on Sunday. More information can be found at their website,

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Week Later, a Look Back at Dog Days; Plus, Imminent Opening for the Mid-City Caffe

I had hoped to have a brief recap of last week's successful "Dog Days" event up sooner, but family obligations and the always-present "life" continued to get in the way.

Last week's Mid-City "Dog Days" celebration--the annual event showcasing artists, businesses and nonprofits located in the 14th and U street area--was a resounding success, featuring more participating businesses, and attendees, than ever before in the 10 year history of the event. Mr. and Mrs. 14thandyou spent a couple of hours wandering up and down 14th and U, doing some window browsing, enjoying some of the confections from local establishments (Cork's lemonade was a winner) and generally taking in the ambiance of the afternoon.

The attendance at this year's event was of particular importance for local retailers, many of whom could use the boost in sales for what has been, to date, a down year.

"There were more people in/through the store on Saturday of 2009's Dog Days Sale than on any single day of Millennium's 17 year history that we can remember," exclaimed a representative from Millenium Decorative Arts.

Scipio Garling of Big Monkey Comics noted that ""Everything put out -- and we put out a lot -- at the Sidewalk Sale sold. Every single thing. In one day!"

Area restaurants saw a significant uptick in business as well.

"We were so excited to see so many of our regulars out enjoying the day," said Cork's Khalid Pitts. "People even lined up to try Cork's lemonade."

Eric Nelson of ACKC noted that ice cream sales were certainly up at his chocolate shop. ""Dog Days was great for us at ACKC--particularly with sales of ice cream desserts. Given the heat that weekend, [it was] a huge hit."

A small bit of news to pass along: those of you who participated in Dog Days might have noticed that the MidCity Caffe was up and running that day. Alas, it was but a soft pre-opening.

According to Caffe manager Judith Mandel, an opening for the much -anticipated second-floor purveyor of "fine coffee and pastries" is imminent. "At this time we don't have a firm date, but it is looking to be within [the next] week" she said.

As to the Dog Days experience, Mandel thought that it portends of good things to come for the Caffe. "The customers were so warm and receptive to our business and the weekend setup of Dog Days was a great medium for us to quietly host a pre-opening."

We'll be certain to alert our readers when Mid-City is officially up-and-running.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What's Coming to the Dry Cleaners Space? At Least One Person Has a Plan

Ever since the recent announcement that dry cleaners at 14th and Q streets would be closing, rumors have been swirling about what may swoop in to take its place. A recent poll over at Borderstan presents a snapshot of the pulse of the neighborhood, and the type of businesses that people would like to see here (affordable food, please).

Recently, 14thandyou caught up with Linda Welch, self-proclaimed "serial entrepreneur" and owner of such neighborhood businesses as Green Pets and Big Monkey Comics, about what she would like to do with the sought-after space at 14th and Q.

After the closing of Sparky's in 2007, Welch told us, she aimed to replace its presence in the neighborhood with a breakfast/sandwich-type establishment. There's no shortage of places to have a glass of wine and a plate of gourmet cheese, but as Linda said, "I just wanted a place I could have pancakes any time of day!" Mr. and Mrs. 14thandyou would be in hearty agreement there.

Thus, Linda sought out to explore the interest in such a neighborhood gathering spot. What she found, largely through the development of online community Elements (with help from friend Neil Takemoto), was strong community interest in the development of a neighborhood-themed establishment serving vegetarian/vegan/raw food.

The plans for the project are quite substantial: over 6500 square feet in total along with an outdoor space and a LEED-certified building, featuring the aforementioned vegetarian/raw food menu, "holistic" pet food, a "teaching space" including books about gardening and cooking, and a non-alcoholic "night bar" featuring organic juice and coffee.

In addition, Welch says, she would like to make the spot a true "community space," including serving as host to programs for inner city youth.

Welch recognizes that taking the project from paper to reality will require more than just big plans. To begin, the dry cleaners space is a premium location in the neighborhood, and competition for the space will be heated. Welch has held conversations with building owner John Assadoorian about her idea, who is--according to Welch--"interested in the project." However, others rumored to be interested include Constantine Stavropolous, owner of The Diner in Adams-Morgan, who was reportedly looking at the spot as a potential location for a new diner.

Others aren't certain that any kind of restaurant will open up in the space, which will require environmental cleanup due to the fact that a dry cleaners occupied the site for so long--which is further hampered by the presence of a creek running underneath the property, which will make clean-up that much more costly. (Local restauranteur Barton Seaver indicated that he rejected the space due to, among other factors, the anticipated clean-up costs.) Some feel that a non-restaurant national retailer may in turn be a better fit for the space. (Walgreens, anyone?)

Still, Welch is undeterred. She is currently searching for funding sources for the project, and plans to continue drawing interest through the Elements website.

"I think [this project] is sorely needed in this area," she said.

What ultimately happens at the site is, for now, anyone's guess.

Mugging Confirmed at 13th and R Streets

On Monday, a commenter left the following message in another post:

Just wanted to let you know there was a brazen and odd assault/robbery attempt on the 1300 block of R St. tonight. At about 9:00 p.m. a black male and black woman, both appeared to be late teens-early 20s, attempted to rob a woman by spraying her with mace. They fled the scene in a silver car (possibly Nissan Versa) parked just up the street when neighbors responded. Be on the lookout.

We've since received confirmation of the attack via a report from the MPD which indicates an "assault w/ intent" took place at 9:15 PM on Monday at the corner of 13th and R Streets.

This bit of news, coupled with the recent news about an increase in gun crime in the neighborhood, is certainly cause for concern. But is this part of a larger trend, or merely yet another "typical" summer in the city? Time will tell. In the meantime, please be careful and maintain an awareness of your surroundings. And don't hesitate to contact the MPD should you see anything suspicious.