Wednesday, October 27, 2010

[Breathless Tone] ROGUES STATES IS COMING TO 14TH AND U (or are they?)

Goodness, we step away from the blogosphere for one day, and what happens? Well, for one, the feds arrested some kook who thought he was doing some scouting for Al Queda by videotaping some Virginia Metro stations. (Hint: target the Arlington Cemetery stop after 8 PM).

But what REALLY had people going was today's announcement that recently evicted Dupont burger place Rogue States would be relocating to 1931 14th Street NW, in the vacant space formerly home to Bargain World.

Well, OK, the announcement wasn't made today, per se. It was actually made about two weeks ago, in a statement made under oath by Rogue States' owner during their legal battle with mega-law firm Steptoe and Johnson regarding the ventilation--or lack thereof--from their restaurant. Rogue States, you may recall, was forced to close that location.

But still, Holy Belated Restaurant News, Batman, there could be a new burger joint on 14th Street! If this move pans out, the guys over at Desperado's can't be too thrilled at yet another deceased cow purveyor only a block or so away.

It should be noted, however, that Rogue States' move isn't quite a done deal. According to comments made to the Washingtonian, Rogue States owner Raynold Mendizabal indicated that he was counting on revenue from the Dupont location to pay for the opening of the 14th Street location. With the Dupont location now sucked into the grease trap of history, it's unclear whether Mendizabal will be able to move forward with the 14th Street location.

Even if he doesn't, another burger/hot dog joint is destined for 14th Street anyway, with the eventual opening of "Standard" in the former Garden District spot at 14th and S.

LivingCocial UnCorks Confusion with Coupon Deal

In some respects, Logan Circle residents have an embarrassment of riches: numerous top-rated restaurants and bars, great shopping options, a thriving arts scene, and two similarly named wine retailers. Recently, that last one led to a bit of confusion for people who didn't read the fine print--or, in this case, the name of the establishment.

A few weeks ago, local Deal of the Day purveyor LivingSocial announced a deal that many Logan Circle wine lovers couldn't pass up: $25 worth of food and wine at a Logan Circle wine merchant with the word "Cork" in the name for only $10. Sounds like a great deal, and it was snatched up by a number of area residents eager to get a deal on their favorite wines and gourmet foods at local wine merchants Cork Market.

A slight problem arose when these purchasers went to Cork Market to redeem their coupon: the coupon was actually for Cork and Fork, an entirely different retailer located a few blocks south of Cork Market's 14th and S street location. The situation presented a dilemma to Cork Market's owner Khalid Pitts.

"People started coming in expecting to redeem this coupon they had purchased for what they thought was our store," Pitts said. "When we realized what had happened, we kind of had that moment of awkwardness where no one is quite sure what to do."

Ultimately Pitts decided to accept the coupons at his store.

"When they learned that the coupon they had purchased wasn't for us, people were saying things like 'Oh, we wouldn't have bought it if we realized it wasn't for your store.' We're very grateful to have such loyal customers, so we decided to accept the coupons anyway."

In all, Pitts estimates that "at least 30" people made the mistake but were allowed to redeem their coupons at Cork Market. So, is this the latest chapter in a rivalry between the two closely named 14th Street wine merchants?

"Well, we both know that the other one is there...but really we're just trying to be good neighbors. I think the biggest difference between them and us is that Logan is our neighborhood--we live here. So it means a lot to us to have relationships with our neighbors and customers."

Pitts also mentioned a couple of upcoming events at Cork Market, including its first-ever beer tasting next month.

As for the LivingSocial subscribers: next time, you might want to read the offer a bit more carefully.

Street Sweeping Ends October 29

Car owners and clogged gutter fiends, rejoice: street sweeping, and its attendant alternate-side parking restrictions, will cease on Friday, October 29.

This means that, according to DPW's website, "“No parking/street cleaning” restrictions will be lifted and motorists may park along posted, alternate-side, daytime street sweeping routes without being required to move their cars on street-cleaning days."

Street sweeping is ending nearly a month earlier this year than it did last year, and some astute observants may point out that the cessation comes during a year when the District is facing a significant budget shortfall and may be looking for ways to reduce costs. Not so, says DPW.

By suspending the street sweeping program, DPW personnel can focus on leaf collection, which will begin November 8, as well as the upcoming snow removal season. The 2010-2011 leaf season will run November 8, 2010, through January 15, 2011. During this time, leaves will be vacuumed from each street at least twice.

So there you go. DPW will send an announcement around when street sweeping resumes next spring. Until then, enjoy a a season replete with unfettered parking restrictions.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Development Round-Up: 16th and U getting a makeover; Dupont Underground plans announced

Earlier in the year, we wrote about a City Paper piece that discussed forthcoming changes to the building located at 1610 U Street, which currently houses a Results Gym and Bang Salon, among others. Shortly (read: within the next week or two) building owner David von Storch expects to break ground on a radical redesign of the building which, when finished, will feature a 51,000+ sf VIDA Fitness, Bang Salon, Aura Spa and a Capitol City Brewing Co.

Altogether, von Storch is designing what he calls a "desirable urban lifestyle center." Or, as we prefer to call it, a Big Building With Stuff.

DCMud has all the details about the new development, including the big plans for the roof:

"...the new complex will be outfitted with a "rooftop club including a 60-foot pool, resort cabanas, communal fire pit, outdoor waterfall, sundeck and a membership lounge with full food and beverage service.""

Egads. I, for one, can't wait to observe the wild-eyed protests that a "communal rooftop fire pit" will engender.

For those wondering about the history of this development, I would encourage you to read the aformentioned City Paper article. Oh, the drama.

All of the approvals are in place, so at this point a few permits and 10 months are all that is standing in the way of you and this Desirable Urban Lifestyle Center.

* * * * *

A little farther west and south, big plans were announced for the creepily abandoned Dupont Underground space. (Warning guys: your site is delivering a 404 error. As the error explains, "it's dark down there.")

For those who have been living in a cave, or perhaps an abandoned streetcar tunnel, the Dupont Underground project is the District's effort to redevelop a nearly eight block-long streetcar tunnel that runs underneath Dupont Circle. This has already been attempted once, during 1997, when a disastrously planned food court opened up and promptly shut down only months later.

This time the District is determined to get things right. As Borderstan reports, the winning proposal submitted in response to the District's RFP--in fact, the only proposal deemed legal--was submitted by an organization calling itself the Arts Coalition for Dupont Circle. Their proposals calls for them to transform the vacant and dilapidated space into an "important cultural institution" consisting of an art gallery showcasing local artists, a "top-tier" dining establishment (of course), and potentially a wine-themed operation (ditto).

The project, which must still be approved by the District Council following the completion of the public comment period in November, will be completed in two phases: an initial 40,000 sf phase that will include the gallery, restaurant and perhaps another operation and will deliver sometime in 2013, and a second 60,000 sf phase that will deliver two years later.

The Arts Coalition, which is comprised of a large team of architects, developers, artists and businesspeople, includes individuals and organizations involved in some of the District's most high profile projects in recent years, including the Spy Museum and GALA Hispanic theater at the Tivoli Theater.

Hopefully, with the amount of time and effort invested into this project, its shelf life will be a bit longer than the food court. Although I maintain that it would be nice to have a Sbarro nearby...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meet the man who wants Ramon Estrada's ANC seat

For the past eight years, Ramon Estrada has represented the constituents of ANC2B09. During that time he has cultivated his share of admirers and detractors for his strong positions and occasionally outspoken views. Love him, loathe him, or feel ambivalent, there's no denying that Estrada has played an integral role in the ongoing transformation of the 14th and U Street corridors throughout the past decade.

Now, however, Estrada finds himself in somewhat unfamiliar territory, for himself and most ANC commissioners: he's in a contested race.

Sunit Talapatra, a resident of the 1400 block of Swann Street NW, will be challenging Estrada for the ANC2B09 seat on the November 2 election. Given that Estrada has been something of a lightning rod in neighborhood politics over the past eight years, you might expect his challenger to be something of raging anti-Estradaite: pro-liquor license, anti-voluntary agreement and generally less confrontational. The differences between the two candidates, however, are a bit more subtle. Recently, 14thandyou had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Mr. Talapatra over coffee at the Mid-City Caffe to find out why he's running, what he'd do differently, and what he thinks about nightclubs with rooftop decks staying open until 5 AM. (Hint: he's not a fan.)

14thandyou: What initially drew you to the neighborhood?
Sunit Talapatra: In 2002, I was looking for a new place to live in DC, and I had narrowed by choices down to Georgetown, Adams-Morgan and Logan Circle. Georgetown felt a bit too established, while Adams-Morgan felt like a place I had passed in my life. In Logan however, I found a neighborhood that was being revitalized, wasn't unsafe, was walkable and central to everything. It had all of the aspects i was looking for in a neighborhood. I ended up buying a place near 14th and P, where I lived with my wife until we had children and needed more space, which is why we moved up to Swann Street.

14th: Why elect to run for the ANC2B seat now?
ST: Now that I've lived in the neighborhood awhile and have gotten to know the history, it's so much more interesting watching the things change, and I want to be a part of it. I want to be involved in the back-and-forth between the residents, businesses and the city, to foster partnerships between those group. And I want to be informed.

14th: Ramon Estrada seems to invoke rather strong feelings from those who have observed neighborhood politics over the years. Are you running against Mr. Estrada, or are you simply running for a seat that happens to be occupied by him?
ST: There's nothing that Ramon has done that makes me want to say "stop". In fact, I admire his years of civic service to the residents of the neighborhood. There's not much substantively different between us; ours is really a difference of style. I'm not challenging him because of who he is, there are simply some things I would do differently. For example, the ANC plays such a substantial role in the experience of residents in the neighborhood, but there's so little reporting on what the ANC is doing or why it's doing it. My focus is going to be on communication between residents and the ANC--to hold regular meetings with residents of my single member district (SMD), which is currently not being done; to own and operate a blog communicating what the ANC is doing; and so forth.

14th: A question that gets discussed frequently, on this blog and elsewhere, is the proper role of ANCs in the regulation of commerce in the neighborhood. What do you think is the appropriate role for an ANC commissioner to play in regards to regulating businesses in the neighborhood?
ST: I believe that the role of the ANC commissioner is to communicate the viewpoint of the SMD as a whole. One, two or three people should not be able to hijack an ANC, and a commissioner should be able to separate his or her own personal views from those of the SMD. If, for instance, I polled my constituents and discovered that they were supportive of a nightclub having a rooftop deck open until 5 AM, I would vote to support it. Although you can believe that I would be at every ABRA meeting as a neighborhood resident opposing it.

14th: Reading the candidate's statement on your Facebook page, you made a comment that I found interesting. You stated that you are "literally up at night thinking about ways to keep the noise and traffic off our streets." Can you expound on that?
ST: Actually, think I said that the traffic is keeping me up at night. (Ed.note: it is in fact the former.) But there's really not much you can do to keep noise and traffic off of 14th Street. I would like to increase the use of public transportation--Metro, MetroBus, the Circulator line--which would help keep fewer cars off the street. And I'm very supportive of the 14th Street streetscape project, with wider sidewalks that will hopefully increase foot traffic.

14th: In your candidate statement, you discuss the importance of building "healthy, respectful relationships" between businesses and residents. What do you think are the hallmarks of a healthy, respectful relationship?
ST: Well, for one, "no" is not an acceptable answer. You cannot go to a business owner who has the lawful right to do something and simply tell them "no." You should adopt a posture of cooperation. Businesses can help raise property values and improve the quality of life in a neighborhood, whereas restaurants need residents to patronize their establishments if they are going to succeed and prevent the neighborhood from deteriorating. If you say "no" to a proposed restaurant, you need supporting evidence beyond simply proximity. You need to take the pulse of the residents of your neighborhood when making a decision. It's not easy--this takes work.

14th: Speaking of restaurants, one thing that I've increasingly heard from people is that they feel the voluntary agreement process is flawed. So, do you think VAs work?
ST: Well, with VAs, it's pretty clear that most residents like them, and most businesses don't, mainly because they don't view them as "voluntary." I think there are aspects of the VA process that need to be changed. Otherwise, we risk losing businesses throughout the neighborhood.

14th: I don't know how much you have been following the efforts to brand the neighborhood as an "arts district." (Note: more info here.) Do you have any thoughts on that?
ST: Honestly, I haven't been following it very closely. However, I do believe that branding can help establish a community's identity.

14th: What would your message be to someone considering a move to the 14th and U street area?
ST: I would tell them that it's a fantastic neighborhood with everything you could want in an urban neighborhood: wide sidewalks, boutiques, restaurants, farmer's markets, professionals, artists. It's a very diverse neighborhood--i think the word I would use is "bohemian." It's a great neighborhood for people who don't want to live in the suburbs!

14th: Any final words you'd like to share with people regarding the upcoming election?
ST: I think the neighborhood needs a commissioner who can harness the wave of excitement surrounding our neighborhood. And I'd encourage people to visit my campaign website,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Restaurant News: Work Underway at "Italian Shirt Laundry", No Sandwich Shop (for now) at S and

At long last, work appears to finally be getting underway at the vacant "Shirt Laundry" building at the corner of 14th and Q streets. This summer, it was announced that the building--which for many years had housed the Shirt Laundry Dry Cleaners store--was going to be converted into an Italian restaurant and bakery called the Italian Shirt Laundry. The group developing the property, The Whisk Group, will also be opening a a second Italian restaurant a bit further down 14th Street called The Italian Cinema.

We had heard that the site may have some environmental remediation issues to contend with, which appears to be true with the current "Asbestos Removal" project going on at the building. Never fear though, as that part of the project will be over with very quickly, and come spring diners should be able to enjoy asbestos-free pasta and charcuterie.

The Italian Shirt Laundry will be the slightly downmarket of its ritzier cousin, Italian Cinema. The arrival of both restaurants will mean three Italian restaurants within a few blocks of each other along 14th Street (with Posto currently in operation in the Viridian building). Having three Thai restaurants within close proximity seems to be working out so far, so perhaps the market for Italian cooking is not yet saturated in Logan.

One thing that most CERTAINLY is not saturated is the desire for a good sandwich shop in the neighborhood. Yes, yes...having an embarassment of Italian riches from which to choose for a night out is a nice problem to have, but what about those times when you just want a nice roast beef and havarti? Sadly, those of us who live in Logan and have experienced that craving have not had much satisfaction. We had a glimmer of hope back in May that a deli might be coming to the corner of S and 12th street, but unfortunately, as U Street Girl reports, it seems like that is longer in the cards.

The space is still vacant, and the owner of the property indicates that the gentleman who was going to open and operate the deli will not be moving forward with the project. For shame.

Still, the building's owner indicates a strong desire to get a business opened in the building, which appears contingent upon a rezoning of the property. Meanwhile, those of us looking for a nice chicken salad on rye will have to be content to wander over to the Dupont Market on 18th. Which, if you haven't been, makes a very mean sandwich.

Two Deadlines Upcoming in Arts District Branding Initiative

As the initiative to brand the "arts district" (the area bordered by 16th Street, Florida, U Street, 7th and Massachusetts) continues, two deadlines are quickly approaching--one this week, and one next week.

If you are an area artist and would like to have your work considered for use as one of the street graphics (i.e. banners) that will appear throughout the district, the deadline for submission of artwork is tomorrow, October 15.

The competition is open to artists throughout the city. Judging for the winning submissions will be completed by November 3, winning entries will be on display throughout the area by November 7th, and the banners will be installed by December 1 - in time for the holiday shopping season. More info can be found on the Arts District blog,

The second deadline pertains to the naming of the district. If you have attended any of the arts district public meetings, you know that the subject of the name of the district has been a point of much discussion. Until October 22, everyone will have the opportunity to submit his or her choice for the name of the district. Simply go to and register your favorite name there. The winning name will be announced shortly thereafter.

If you're looking for additional background information on the arts district project, you may view the ANC2f Arts Overlay Committee report here, or read our previous posts on the topic here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Green Pets and Dogs By Day Moving, Changing Names

Last year, we reported that local pet store Green Pets, which used to be located at 1722 14th Street (next to Cork), was searching for a new home. Although they hoped to stay in the neighborhood, Green Pets owner Linda Welch was uncertain as to whether a suitable location could be found.

We're proud to report that they in fact have found a new home, and happily will be staying in the neighborhood. Green Pets will reopen soon under the name Planet Pet in the former Mar Del Plata space at 1410 14th Street, just a few blocks south of their (old) location. Green Pets' companion shop, Dogs By Day, is also relocating, albeit farther north. It will also be named Planet Pet and will be located at 1711 Florida Avenue in Adams Morgan, in the ground floor of The Park condo building.

As reported on Borderstan, the Adams-Morgan location opened last week, while the boutique at 1410 14th Street is set to open in November.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Area ANC Candidates to Appear at October 14 U Street Neighborhood Meeting

Candidates for area ANC races in both ANC1B and 2B will be at the upcoming U Street Neighborhood Association meeting on Thursday, October 14. Details are below. Meetings take place at the Source Theater (1835 14th Street) in the second floor rehearsal room.

Additional information can be found on the USNA's website.

Want to find out more about the folks running to be your ANC Commissioner? All of the candidates that are running within the boundaries of U Street Neighborhood Association will be speaking at our October 14th (Source, 1835 14th Street, NW; 2nd Floor Rehearsal Room) meeting including:

ANC 1B01 - Myla Moss;
ANC 1B02 - Peter Raia, Tucker Gallagher, Aaron Spencer;
ANC 1B04 - Deborah Thomas, William Girardo;
ANC 1B11 - Gail Hollness; and
ANC 2B09 - Ramon Estrada, Sunit Talapatra.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Saloon Owner Threatens to Leave U Street Due to Liquor License Dispute

The 14thandyous love the Saloon. We really, truly do. How can you not love a bar that refuses to have a TV, forbids patrons from standing, and will toss you and your party out if you get too noisy?

But The Saloon has gotten themselves into a bit of hot water, and it has to do with DC's oft-maligned liquor license laws. The Saloon, which is owned by Kamal Jahanbein, operates under a "Restaurant Class" liquor license which, among other stipulations, requires that it derive at least 45% of its sales from food.

As the City Paper reports, Jahanbein was given a good talking-to during a recent Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board hearing because The Saloon only generates food sales in the neighborhood of 35%. In order to operate without a food restriction, Jahanbein would need to transition to a "Tavern Class" license, only neighborhood residents tend to flip out whenever a business does that.

The problem, as Jahanbein sees it, is that DC doesn't officially recognize the type of establishment The Saloon is--a pub.

Now, we hate to say that we called this one, but this is a point we made way back in the day (March 2010, to be exact) we raised this very issue, and how a third classof license for alcohol-serving establishments--a Pub License--needed to be created. This would address those types of establishments that do not sell enough food to be a restaurant, but may not operate as an out-and-out bar.

Or, as Jahanbein put it, "If they want to call us a tavern, we are a tavern. But we are a pub."

Indeed they are. Only DC has no Pub Class license, leaving Jahanbein in a bit of a quandary--he can pay a $1,000 fine and submit to ongoing monitoring of his establishment, or he can pursue a Tavern Class license. According to the CP article, he's not happy about either situation, but would be willing to pursue a Tavern license if he thought it would be successful. If not, he mentions that he might pack up and move his bar to a more accommodating neighborhood.

I'm not inclined to get on my soapbox about this again, so I'll keep my rant here simple: the city is shooting itself in the foot by refusing to acknowledge that there is a class of licensee that exists between a restaurant and a bar. Anyone who has visited London, for instance, could tell you this. By refusing to acknowledge this, the city is creating two unhelpful situations: businesses who do not wish to be beholden to the food service requirements (such as having a chef on premises up to two hours before closing time) must either seek to convert to a tavern license (and thus leave the city with no recourse to regulate them via a food service requirement), or risk being shut down or levied with fines.

As this issue begins to crop up more and more, you'll likely see more businesses advocating for this type of thing. As it stands, time will tell whether U Street residents have the stomach for another "tavern" along the corridor.