Friday, January 30, 2009

DC Encouraging Restaurants to Go Green

A District of Columbia agency is embarking on an effort to consult and assist with neighborhood restaurants--including those in and around Logan--who want to "go green" as part of a Greening DC Restaurants initiative.

Restaurants who are interested in participating in the program, which includes an operations assessment followed by in-depth workshops, may contact the program's manager at the Department of Small and Local Business Development.

We think that this is an excellent, proactive initiative on the part of the DC government (one of many progressive initiatives that our city is leading) and hope to see a number of restaurants taking advantage of it. As area places such as Commissary have shown, taking steps to be environmentally responsible doesn't have to involve significant cash expenditures or changes in operations.

The full text of the press release on the initiative is included below.

DSLBD Launches Greening DC Restaurants Project

The Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) has begun
assessing restaurants to help DC's neighborhood restaurants as part Greening
DC Restaurants, a project that offers free technical assistance to
restaurants operating in District neighborhoods. Restaurants located in the
central business districts also may participate if space permits.

A pilot project made possible by a partnership between DSLBD and GreenHOME,
Greening DC Restaurants begins with an initial assessment of business
operations in January and February, and continues with in-depth workshops
and consultations from March through May.

Through these assessments, workshops, and consultations with a green expert,
participating restaurant owners will learn how to reduce their operating
expenses, increase customer sales, and positively impact the environment by
making a minimal to moderate investment in changing their energy/water
usage, product and equipment procurement, and front-of-house operations.

An accompanying how-to guide will help DC restaurants implement both short-
and long-term changes that can significantly impact their bottom line,
reduce a business' ecological footprint, and improve the dining and working
environment for customers and workers.

To schedule an initial assessment and sign-up for the workshops, contact:

Camille I. Nixon, Project Manager
Department of Small and Local Business Development
(202)741-0894 or camille.nixon@

Just Ignore the Unconscious Bleeding Guy Over There

Courtesy of DCist, from WJLA this morning comes a story that, while rare, seems a little too familiar. Seems that a homeless man got into a scuffle with a couple of other homeless men over a beer up in Columbia Heights. The argument escalates, and the next thing we see is the man laying motionless on the curb in front of a grocery store, knocked unconscious after being pushed into a parked van and striking his head. The man is not expected to survive his injuries.

That by itself would be bad enough, but as the video posted to the WJLA site shows, the man lay motionless on the ground for over 20 minutes before someone called for medical help. In the video we see people walking past, some noticing and others not. Even the owner of the van arrives with groceries, proceeds to load them into his car, and ignores the man laying there.

I've no real commentary to add to this, other than to remark on the obvious: this is a sad example of humanity.

For those who are wondering, the perpetrators have been caught and may be charged with homicde if the man dies.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Is DC "Cool"?

As always after a lull in posts, we feel compelled to offer up some explanation...alas, all I can say is "life". Busy at work and at home, and with a trip to the hospital to boot, makes for not a lot of time to keep the blog updated.

So that's why we thought it would be interesting to come back from our post-cation with a rather simple question: Is DC cool?

We only ask because the Post was asking this question over the weekend. It seems that with the arrival of President Obama, there is talk that DC might become a "cool" city, on par with places like New York, San Francisco or Chicago. But will we, really? And do we want to?

Consider, for instance, some choice quotes from "coolness experts" from the Post article:

"On a recent Washington vacation, he thought the city seemed too empty. "I spent a typical museum week in D.C. with my kids and you walk and walk and walk and it never feels dense," Gloor says. "In Times Square, you could walk on the heads of people."

"The buildings of official Washington make it feel too planned, too stretched out, too grandiose, too impressive. It's not organic enough, according to Gloor."

"...if this cool president manages to make the coolest people want to work for him and flock to the bureaucracy of Washington, he can change the city."

OK, these demand some kind of response. To begin, how can someone classify him or herself as an "expert" in cool? Doesn't that follow the if-you-have-to-ask-you'll-never-know line of thinking?

Next, since when is Times Square the definition of cool? As Mrs. 14thandyou so eloquently put it: "Letting a bunch of advertisers come in and take a dump in the middle of your city isn't cool." No, it's not. Granted, a lot of people flock to Times Square...but they're also typically the type of people bunching up at the bottom of Metro escalators with maps unfolded trying to figure out how to exit the damn Metro station.

And criticizing the feeling of being in a planned city seems a bit absurd, considering that DC is, well, a planned city. We have a Metro stop named after the French guy who laid out our streets after all. Slamming DC for being too "planned" is like getting all up in San Francisco's grill about being too hilly, or Chicago for being too windy. It's part of the city's character; to be rid of something like that would rid the city of much of its charm. It certainly doesn't help the density, but it does help make the city unique.

As to the last quote...well, I'll only say that I have a sneaking suspicion of the type of person being referred to as the "cool person" who might want to come work in our city now that Obama is here. Yeah, they would be the Democratic version of the Late Night Shots crowd, and this city needs more of them like it needs more exploding manhole covers.

Now, perhaps I sound a bit defensive, but that would be a misinterpretation of my stance. Personally, I've never thought of DC as a particularly hip or trendy city. Fashion trends don't begin here, musical movements aren't born here, and no one would mistake Logan Circle for Chelsea. But, come on. We've got the Capitol building and the White House; the National Mall and the Washington Monument; Dupont and Georgetown and Logan and U Street and H Street and Capitol Hill. We've got the National Cathedral, the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian; lots of very educated people doing educated (and not-so-educated) things, cultural opportunities galore and some great restaurants. In other words, we've got a lot. And we've got a lot that other cities don't.

So, is DC cool? Well, it's not New York-cool, or LA-cool, or Miami-cool. But DC has a coolness about it that existed long before Obama got here. It's probably what brought a number of people--such as myself--to the city in the first place. And while I could make do with a few fewer Asian fusion restaurants in Penn Quarter, there's not a whole lot about the culture of the city I would be quick to change. Especially not to meet some coolness expert's arbitrary definition of "cool".

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

NY Times Ponders the "Real DC"

For those who may not have seen it, the NY Times ran an article today discussing the revival of certain dilapidated DC neighborhoods, with a focus on the quality restaurants that are opening there. All in all, it's a pretty balanced portrait of our city.

Still, it seemed that the article might have missed its mark a bit by focusing only on restaurants that have opened within the last couple of years. It's great that places like Cork and Marvin have been successful and are getting good press, but what of the establishments that predate them? Reading the article, one might think that Logan and U street, for instance, were barely habitable until 2007...which of course leaves out the growing number of restaurants, pubs and shops that have been opening up here over the last decade. And are we the only ones that feel Cakelove is waaay overrated?

On the flip side, it's refreshing to read an article about our neighborhood that doesn't mention Ben's Chili Bowl. Don't get us wrong, we enjoy Ben's greasy half smoke-fest as much as anyone, but our neighborhood has grown so much that it no longer needs to be defined by the one business that has managed to survive the neighborhood turmoil.

Our favorite quote in the article?

"She’s consulting on the Mexican menu for the H Street Country Club, which is supposed to open in February. It will feature an irony-laden miniature golf course that requires putters to work through the swinging briefcases of K Street lawyers and shoot around Marion Barry, the former mayor and councilman.“The D.C. culture has evolved now to a point where we can be proud of it,” said Lee T. Wheeler, the artist who designed the course."

Shooting golf balls at Marion Barry? Who wouldn't love that?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The January ANC Meeting: Inauguration Madness!

It was a dark and stormy night, but that didn't stop a standing-room-only crowd from attending the first ANC2f meeting of 2009, and with good reason: with the inauguration now less than 2 weeks away, and a multitude of questions surrounding issues related to parking, business operating hours and security the community has a lot of interest in the discussion and decisions that will be coming down this evening.

We've already written about the decision by the ANC not to protest the applications of businesses in good standing with the ANC who wish to partake in the extra hours for the inauguration, so I'll cover some of the other issues that came up at Wednesday night's meeting.

People Who Live Near the Convention Center Are $%#@ed

Sorry to be Debbie Downer here, but that was really my only take-away from the information we were getting this evening. It seems that, due to the 400-or-so inaugural balls that will be held at the Convention Center, the Secret Service will be setting up security checkpoints around the Convention Center and areas where Obama will be showing up (such as Union Station); residents in these areas must provide proof that they live in area: a driver's license, utility bill, mail, etc. will suffice. If you have people from out of town staying with you, you will need to stay with them, otherwise they won't be allowed into the secure area. Mike Bernardo mentioned that during past inaugurations there have been problems with residents getting to their own homes without IDs. In other words, don't expect the Secret Service to follow you back to your house and watch you try your house key.

The official line from the city is that they are now anticipating 2 million people coming into District--better than the 4 million we had been hearing earlier, but about four times the number of people that typically show up for the 4th of July celebration. The District will be closing several bridges and making one all bridges pedestrian- and bicycle-only into and out of Virginia.

Also, if you live in Logan Circle--or pretty much any place in the central city--parking is likely going to be a nightmare for you. In case you've been living in your cave (or poorly lit English basement) for the last three months, you've probably heard that the parking restrictions in the central city will run north to P Street, which is bad news for the people who live south of P and will need to relocate their cars, and for those of us who live north of P who will likely be the recipient of said cars. Our suggestion: park your car by next Wednesday, and don't touch it. Otherwise, you may end up having to park in Deanwood or something. And nobody wants that.

Believe it nor not, there were other topics addressed other than inaugural/end-of-life-as-we-know-it issues, including

Dustin Cole's Vendetta Against Whole Foods

OK, we'll admit that "vendetta" might be a tad strong, but really--the oddest point in the night had to be when Commissioner Cole interrupted the otherwise-routine approval of the agenda to request that an item be added to discuss Whole Foods' "violation of the District's single-sales ban." Visibly perplexed, ANC Chairman Charles Reed inquired with Commissioner Cole how he knew tht Whole Foods was violating the single-sales ban.

"Because I've seen them." came the response.

At this point, two things were noted by Reed and Commissioner Matt Raymond: that the ANC and Whole Food were parties to an agreement that allowed Whole Foods an exemption to enforcement of the single-sales ban, and that ABRA was respecting that agreement.

It's unclear whether or not Cole was aware of the agreement before moving to have the item added to the agenda, but at this point it should have been obvious that a discussion on the matter that evening would serve no real purpose. Undeterred, Cole pressed on, asking for the item to remain because we wanted a "discussion" followed by "possible action" against Whole Foods. Reed inquired as to whether a representative from Whole Foods had been notified that Cole was planning on raising the issue this evening; Cole responded that he had spoken with the store manager, but had not specifically notified them that a potential for action against the store would arise at the ANC meeting.

More back-and-forth continued, with Raymond reminding the Commission of the importance of "due process" and of having a representative from Whole Foods at the meeting to answer any charges that may be leveled. Reed reiterated that he wasn't sure why there needed to be a discussion to begin with. Still, the discussion pressed on, eating up nearly 15 minutes of time at the meeting.

Ultimately, the issue was tabled until the February meeting. It was truly one of the odder events I've seen transpire at an ANC meeting--and I've seen a number of them. Maybe Cole had a similar experience at Whole Foods as we did, getting a "fresh" turkey for Thanksgiving that ended up being frozen?

"The Space" Is Not a Good Neighbor

"Imagine coming home on Thursday evening and knowing that you won't sleep again until Sunday."

That was testimony from one of the many neighbors of Shaw nightclub "The Space" who came to protest the club owner's behavior--and ABRA's lack of enforcement against it.

It seems that the "private" club operating at 9th and and N streets isn't quite so private. The club is over-capacity most evenings, ignores noise regulations and, perhaps most annoyingly, operates an illegal outdoor deck the resides mere feet from the bedroom windows of its neighbors. The owner of the club is an Australian with a bad temper (he has been arrested for assaulting one of the neighbors whom he thought called the police against him) who doesn't--or doesn't care to--have a good grasp of the protocol necessary for keeping his club operational. (For instance, he failed to show at an ABRA hearing on the aforementioned deck, leading to a dismissal of the application.)

Even more infuriating was the fact that an ABRA inspector visited the property over the summer, took pictures, admitted that there appeared to be violations, then...nothing.

Unfortunately, problems arose when the discussion turned to potential actions that the ANC could take against the club. The voluntary agreement that the residents brought with them was between their building's landlord and the club owner--the ANC was not party to it. It could not be determined whether or not the ANC had an agreement with the Space.

Everyone agreed that the current situation was untenable, and the ANC agreed to move forward to find out if they did have a VA with the club, and also to explore possibilities for filing an emergency protest to get the club's liquor license pulled immediately. Chairman Reed however was not optimistic about this line of action, and wanted the ANC first to determine the existence of a VA with the club and to follow all proper channels so that ABRA "wouldn't have a reason NOT to follow through on a protest."

This matter will certainly be raised again, likely at the February meeting. In the meantime, The Space's neighbors are looking at a minimum of several ore weeks of obnoxious and antagonistic behavior from the club. We'll be following up with a later post on this issue as things develop.

There were other matters addressed at the meeting, but by this point Mr. 14thandyou--who hadn't yet had dinner--needed to excuse himself from the proceedings. It was certainly a fun night for all involved...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

ANC2f Votes For Across-the-Board Exemptions on Inaugural Weekend Hour Restrictions

Lots of interesting happenings at last night's ANC2f meeting that I'll get to in another post, but for now I wanted to pass along what was likely the biggest news of the evening.

Last night, the Logan Circle ANC voted unanimously that they would withhold any protests against most neighborhood establishments who have voluntary agreements with the ANC who petition ABRA for an operating hours extension during the inaugural weekend.

Not every establishment might be able to benefit from this vote however, as the ANC indicated that they would reserve the right to protest any establishment located north of L Street that had outstanding complaints filed against it (by the ANC). Additionally, the ANC singled out oft-criticized Shaw nightclub "The Space" and indicated that they would file a protest should that club file for an hours extension. (More on that in a later post.)

This is very good news for area businesses who won't be forced to operate at a disadvantage against other District establishments. Additionally, kudos to the ANC for maintaining some perspective and using common sense in deciding this.

The decision didn't come without some controversy, but not from the angle you would expect. It seems that businesses who had applied for an hours extension through ABRA were told that they should show up at the ANC meeting in order to obtain the ANC's blessing and a letter indicating that a protest would not be filed against them. Upon learning that the ANC was prepared to move forward with motion that would cover essentially ALL neighborhood businesses, and not just those in attendance at the meeting, several objections were raised. Be Bar's representative was the most vocal; he practically through a fit during an exchange with Chairman Charles Reed where he complained that he had to spend his time at the meeting while others who did not would enjoy the same benefits. Life just isn't fair sometimes, but it seems some people haven't gotten the message. (Strangely, ANC Commissioner Dustin Cole took up this ridiculous argument, unnecessarily prolonging the discussion by at least 5-10 minutes.)

In the end, common sense prevailed and it seems that most Logan Circle establishments will be allowed to keep their lights on and their taps flowing for a few extra hours over the inauguration weekend. So, cheers to that. [clink] [clink]

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

ANC 2F Monthly Meeting Tomorrow

The monthly ANC meeting for Logan Circle is coming up tomorrow night. View the agenda and location information here. Of particular importance this month, the ANC will be considering whether or not to waive business hours restrictions during the inauguration for alcohol-serving establishments stipulated in voluntary agreements. As for our thoughts on "voluntary" agreements, IMGoph pretty well summed it up in a recent DCist comment:

voluntary agreements—one of the most orwellian terms in DC governance.

there's nothing voluntary about these things. the neighborhood groups figuratively stick a gun to the head of the establishment's owner and say "meet our demands, or we will make sure you are not able to function as a business."

it's a shame that, yes, these bars, restaurants, what-have-you should be able to go to the neighborhood and say, "please, could we stay open an hour later for a couple nights," and promise to make sure things stay quiet, etc., but that's basically impossible. there will always be at least one NIMBY that screams "no!"