Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Burgers, Steaks and Music Coming to 14th and U

You may have heard rumblings recently of what's coming at the long-neglected corner of 14th and U streets. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Local 16's Salvatore Rosa to learn more about the plans for the building at the NE corner of 14th and U. Although negotiations for a voluntary agreement for liquor licenses for the two establishments (yes, two)--something that is always, as they say, "delicate"--he was able to share some details with me about the plans for the space.

According to Rosa, the basement of the building will be an as-yet-untitled "music and arts" space, which will feature a bar area as well as a performing arts space which will host live music as well as potentially other events, such as fashion shows. (This is not to be confused with the U Street Music Hall, a completely different venture from the ESL guys further down at 1115 U Street.)

Though there will be a bar space (separate from the performing space), Rosa is quick to point out that the venue is not a "nightclub". "There will be a bar, yes, but the focus will be on the performing arts space," he said. Rosa made a point of distinguishing the arts space from a 9:30 Club or Black Cat-type of venue. "We will have bands that perform there, but we also want to open it up to the community--as a practice space for local acts, for charity events and so forth."

Rosa and his team are currently negotiating a voluntary agreement with ANC1B commissioner Peter Raia. 14thandyou will be intrigued to see how this plays out; Raia heads up the ANC's Liquor License Committee and isn't typically confused with someone who is overly supportive of new alcohol licenses in the neighborhood. To that end, Rosa's insistence that the music space is not a "nightclub" may prove to be an important distinction. Although it's difficult to understand how a venture at the corner of 14th and U streets could disturb the "peace and quiet" of the neighborhood, it doesn't mean that some wouldn't try. (After all, apparently some move to the 14th and U area looking for a little peace and quiet.)

Rosa's team doesn't have a lease on the first floor of the building--that space hasn't been finalized, but it looks likely to be a bank--but he, along with Policy owner Omar Miskinyar, do have a lease on the top two floors, which they are looking to convert into an as-yet-unnamed restaurant focused on serving high-end burgers and steaks (the current working name, Cafe Society, is likely to change.)

The unnamed establishment, which Rosa indicated he hopes to have opened by July 2010, will be open Monday to Friday for dinner only, and Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. The most striking feature of the establishment however will be on the third floor, will have a bar and roof deck--providing patrons with views of downtown Washington and well-known landmarks.

Rosa calls the concept "Retro Classic Steakhouse"--even if the prices aren't exactly retro. With burgers in the $16 range (and a wagyu beef and foie gras burger going for $22), this will very much be a contemporary DC establishment. Other items tentatively scheduled to be on the menu include classic steaks such as New York Strip and Hanger ($25 for a 12 oz. NY Strip, $21 for the Hanger), sides such as mac and cheese and mashed potatoes and a selection of appetizers and desserts.

Rosa indicated that the search for an executive chef for Cafe Society remains ongoing, but that they hope to have a decision soon. With an expected opening of July 2010, Rosa and Miskinyar are hoping to have their rooftop deck open for the 4th of July--which is sure to be a hot ticket on U Street.


A couple of other notes to pass along:

Next door to the Music Space/Bank/Steakhouse on U Street, another building is currently undergoing renovation. We've been told that the space is going to be occupied, at least in part, by a restaurant serving Jamaican cuisine. Though the build-out of the space is ongoing, details about the restaurant are scarce at this time.

A block down 14th Street, I learned from Rosa that the previously announced Table 14 has been delayed due to some structural issues with the building. While that's being worked on, the concept for the restaurant remains in development. Rosa recently learned that the space was previously occupied by the Ware's Department Store. According to the District's office of planning:

When it opened in 1915 at 1832 14th Street, NW,Ware’s Department Store was the city’s first African-American owned and run department store. Originally founded as a shoe store by Richard Ware, the specialty store was transformed into a department store as Ware recognized the community’s need for such an establishment.

That's what is so fascinating about the neighborhood--so many buildings have an interesting (and, occasionally, culturally significant) history. Rosa indicated that he's currently searching for ways to incorporate the "Ware's" theme into the restaurant's concept.

Monday, December 21, 2009

MPD Release Statement on Snowball-gate as (Inter)National Media Pick Up the Story

Greetings, fellow 14th and U-ers!  I hope everyone is enjoying the wintry festivities...which, near as I can tell, involve significant amounts of snow shoveling, driving either entirely too fast or too slow, and observing DC police officers brandishing weapons at a snowball fight.

Unless you've been living in an igloo during the past 24 hours, no doubt you've heard the story by now about the DC police detective who brandished his gun because his Hummer got hit with a few snowballs during yesterday's snowball fight at 14th and U streets.  There have been some conflicting reports about what precisely transpired, but here's the timeline of events as best we can distill them from the various media outlets now reporting this story.

It seems that the snowball fight, which was widely announced via Twitter and elsewhere (including, I noticed, DCist) was humming along quite well, with the exception of the quality of the snowballs themselves--powder snow doesn't pack, people.  (Unless you bring your watergun, in which case you are just not a very nice person.)  Some cars were hit with snowballs as they drove by, others were helped out of a snowy rut by some of the snowball fight participants (including, it seems a police car).  

But someone finally hit the wrong vehicle--that would be the Hummer driven by an off-duty MPD officer self-identified at the scene only as "Detective Baylor".  It seems Det. Baylor did not take too kindly to having his Hummer struck by some powdery snowballs, so he did what any right-thinking police officer might do:  he stepped out of his vehicle, brandished his weapon, and began threatening to make arrests.  Shortly thereafter, several other patrol cars showed up, apparently responding to reports of a man with a gun (ostensibly Det. Baylor who had not, according to any reports, identified himself as a police officer when he exited his vehicle.

The reason why Det. Baylor pulled his weapon was a matter of some dispute yesterday, until this video surfaced of Baylor angrily proclaiming that he had pulled his gun because he had "been hit with snowballs."  At least one person whom Baylor identified as having been the snowball hurlers were briefly detained and issued warnings

Clearly, this is some bad press for the MPD--and it has been drawing the attention of national news outlets, local blogs, and even international news agencies such as the BBC.  So how does the MPD respond?

By issuing a statement this evening acknowledging the officers who responded for "deescalat(ing) the situation quickly without incident or injury" and barely mentioning the fact that the off-duty officer pulled his weapon at all:

"The Metropolitan Police Department is looking into the circumstances involving the report of officers 'pulling their guns' on a crowd that had been throwing snowballs in the area of 14th and U Streets, NW.

On Saturday, December 19, 2009, an off-duty MPD member was reportedly operating his personal vehicle in the 1400 block of U Street, NW, when the vehicle was suddenly pelted with a barrage of snowballs. The member who was in plainclothes, stopped his vehicle to inspect for any damage that may have occurred. He then reportedly identified himself and went to investigate a crowd that had gathered as being the possible origins of the projectiles. Due to the number of individuals in the crowd and developing traffic conditions, the member called for assistance.

Arriving officers from the Third District responded to the scene for the report of a possible man with a gun incident unfolding at that location. Responding officers cautiously approached the scene as is protocol with a potentially dangerous assignment such as an armed individual, but at this time there is no evidence that they pointed any weapons in the direction of the crowd or at any individuals. Those officers were quickly able to ascertain that the individual in question was indeed a fellow sworn member and were able to deescalate the situation quickly without incident or injury.

The original videotape footage shown yesterday by a local media outlet did not appear to visibly show the off-duty member drawing his weapon during the course of his actions. However, the department has subsequently received additional images and statements that would seem to support the allegation that the off-duty member did pull a gun. The Metropolitan Police Department is intent on conducting a full investigation in determining all of the exact circumstances surrounding this incident.

The Metropolitan Police Department has truly appreciated the cooperation from the community as we all team together to tackle the many challenges encountered during these severe weather conditions."

Now, 14thandYou wasn't there for the fight, and we aren't in a position to take sides here. But there is documented proof that the Detective exited his vehicle and drew his weapon because he had been hit by snowballs. We can all agree that hitting any cars--particularly those carrying MPD officers--with snowballs shows very poor judgment. But does the MPD view the Detective's actions to be an appropriate response? Their statement merely re-states the obvious, so no clues can be drawn from that. Clearly, some at the scene were frightened enough to call the police regarding the Detective's actions. And so, we're left waiting for another statement by the MPD, including an official identification of the officer in charge.

What's interesting is that people are in near-universal agreement over how this situation could have been easily defused: either the officer could have simply continued on driving through. Or, he could have gotten into the spirit of a city that had ground to a halt in light of an historic amount of snow, gotten out of his vehicle, and hurled a few snowballs back. That is, if he could have found some snow of the non-powdered variety.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Homeless At Risk of Hypothermia

I hope everyone is enjoying the snow and staying safe. If you do venture out and happen to see someone at risk of hypothermia, please call the shelter hotline at (800) 535-7252. The hotline provides transportation to shelters with available space. For those who refuse transportation, hotline wokers will offer blankets and do their best to continue to check on the well-being of the at-risk person.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fear the White Death

Update 11:24 AM:  If you're reading this now, you're too late.  Godspeed.

Cover your children! The Capital Weather Gang is calling for anywhere from 7"-14" of snow this weekend to blanket our fair city. As a transplanted Ohioan, all I can say is "Wheeee!"

However, this is DC, and I have noticed that things are done a bit differently here. With that in mind, I present a few items of preparation which you should immediately embark upon in order to ensure the survival of yourself and your loved ones throughout the coming White Plague:

  • A foot of snow might create a mild inconvenience for those attempting to get to the grocery store. Thus, be certain to head out tonight and purchase ridiculously huge quantities of milk, bread and toilet paper. This will be useful for creating milk & TP sandwiches when your power goes off and all of your other food is destroyed.
  • Do you have enough batteries for your flashlight? Do you have a flashlight? Make a beeline for your local hardware store and purchase at least one flashlight for every room in your house, along with 2-3 spares. Then, purchase at least a dozen batteries of every type in order to ensure appropriate periods of light for the inevitable dark weeks ahead.

  • Do not, under any circumstances, expect to rely on candlelight for your home lighting needs during the coming storm. You will need to save your matches in order to ignite the pieces of flooring you will be ripping out in order to make a fire to stay warm. Pine flooring tends to burn quite well, I am told.

  • Have you noticed that people who live in hurricane-prone areas of the country tend to board up and/or tape their windows in advance of an approaching storm? You should do that too. We are, after all, talking about 7"-14" of SNOW, for god's sake. Who cares if you perceive no real risk to your home's insulated windows? The white death can attack in many different ways. Better to be safe than sorry.

  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, please head immediately to your nearest gas station and fill up your tank. For added peace of mind, bring along several gas cans and fill them up, too. After all, with a foot of snow expected, you never know when your local gas station might reopen--and you do not want to be stranded without an adequate supply of milk, bread and toilet paper when the White Death comes.
As for myself, my preparations will include ensuring that I have an adequate supply of Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, and a well-positioned seat on the sofa to watch Armageddon. Flashlights are nice and all, but beer is better.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Was the Commotion on S Street This Evening?

Anyone walking along 14th or 15th streets at S Street between 7:30 - 9:00 pm this evening no doubt noticed the significant collection of police cards, ambulances, fire engines and other EMS vehicles surrounding S Street.

Based on reports we received at the scene, it seems that an individual was seen breaking into a car along 15th street this evening by a man and woman. The man gave chase while the woman called the police; police responded quickly but were unable to immediately apprehend the suspect, who broke into an unoccupied house along the 1400 block of S Street by crashing through a skylight, and climbed into a crawl space. Police, not knowing whether or not the suspect was armed, and unable to determine with certainty whether or not others were in the house, blocked off the street and broke through the back door of the house with a battering ram. At that point, they were able to successfully apprehend the female suspect.

So, yes...basically the response we witnessed this evening was the result of a breaking and entering. Borderstan has more details.

Image courtesy of Luis Gomez.

Third Thursday Tomorrow: Finish Your Holiday Shopping

If you're anything like me, you're probably just about ready to start thinking about purchasing holiday presents for this year. Or, perhaps you're almost finished and simply need to pick up a couple of gifts to complete your shopping.

Whatever your situation, tomorrow night is the Mid-City Third Thursday event, where you have the opportunity to shop late at local retailers along 14th and U streets. From 6p - 9p, stores along both corridors will keep their doors open, with many providing specials for procrastinators such as myself. For example, Rue 14 will have a live DJ on-site as well as a bin set up to take donations of coats for Martha's Table. At the other end of the spectrum, you can stop into Bang & Olufsen to enjoy a glass of champagne while browsing hideously expensive audio components.

For more information, visit the MCBA's website. See you out and about tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shaw Crime Meeting Yields More Finger Pointing Than Results

Howdy, folks. This is Mrs. 14th & You temporarily coming out of blogger retirement. (I’m on break from grad school and need something to do other than study for the two standardized tests I must take in the coming month.)

Last night Council member Phil Mendelson hosted a forum on crime in Shaw, which was attended by between 30 and 40 residents. Though Mendelson holds an at-large seat, he is concerned about Shaw because he chairs the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. Also present were representatives of the Metropolitan Police Department, Albert Herring of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ward Two Council member Jack Evans, ANC 2C Commissioner Kevin Chapple, and ANC 2F Commissioner Mike Bernardo. In the scope of city events, it was a small gathering, but a reasonable cross-section of stakeholders was in attendance.

Here’s the really quick summary of some of the solutions proposed by Shaw residents:

  • Anti-loitering laws
  • Assurances that criminals once caught will stay locked up
  • Accountability of public officials

And the really quick summary of Mendelson’s responses:
  • Anti-loitering laws have not proven effective in other jurisdictions, such as Richmond. In both DC and CA, anti-loitering laws have been limited by the courts so as to not infringe on the constitutional right to assembly.
  • The civil gang injunction legislation was poorly written and almost surely would have violated due process and individual liberties.
  • Current laws and mandatory minimum sentencing have not proven to be deterrents to crime.
  • Whether someone is convicted and incarcerated rests with the United States Attorney’s Office and judges. DC voters and elected officials have no say over U.S. Attorney or judge appointments.
  • He would like Fenty to reinstate the position of Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. Mendelson believes that it is the executive branch that has the greatest power to “knock heads” and hold others accountable.
  • A number of arrests do not result in indictments. Of the indictments that DC does get, a number of those suspects go free. Mendelson would like to study DC arrest, indictment, and conviction rates in order to determine why so many repeat offenders are free. He reports that he and Evans want to work to secure funding for such a statistical study.
Having now attended the meeting, I’m not sure why Mendelson would host it. Perhaps with an election year coming up he’s feeling pressure from Clark Ray, who this September announced his intent to challenge Mendelson. From statements made at the meeting, it also seems that some area residents and members of the blogosphere have been emailing him lately about their crime concerns. In any event, Phil Mendelson is known for having stated previously that there is no legislative solution to crime in Shaw. Yet, the City Council’s role in crime prevention is, by definition, legislative. This quandary did not miss residents. They wanted to hear that someone somewhere in the DC government could control the situation in Shaw and was going to try to do so. Residents requested that the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary subpoena the USAO’s office. (For the record, Mr. Herring states that his office is asked to testify all the time on proposed legislation and someone always appears or provides written testimony.) Another resident also wanted the Committee to lobby the feds to ensure a greater rate of convictions.

As much ire as Mendelson attracted from residents, Jack Evans should have garnered more for his obnoxious behavior. He used this meeting as a chance to dig into Mendelson for not supporting civil gang injunctions, though it sounds like the legislation as introduced was really poorly written. Evans also shouted down USAO representative Herring, demanding answers for crime in Shaw. Well, Mr. Evans, you came to the meeting with no solutions to the problem. How is a non-elected official with no control over funding, departmental coordination, the MPD, social services, or any other factor other than prosecution supposed to come up with an innovative answer in under thirty seconds? It was unfair petty politicking.

Something that was mentioned twice in the meeting, once by Evans and once by Mendelson, is that, though statistics show drops in crime citywide, even in Shaw, residents perceive a higher crime environment. This was not raised to challenge residents’ assumptions about crime, but rather to validate concerned residents. In my next post, I’ll go ahead and critically examine those assumptions because I’m not an elected official.

DC Council Votes for Same-Sex Marriage

Yes, I know this isn't a Logan/14th Street-specific issue, but this is a topic too big to pass up. This afternoon, the DC Council voted 11-2 to approve same-sex marriage in the District. With the vote, the District joins four states as jurisdictions where same-sex licenses can be granted.

Though we don't typically take stands on political and social issues, on this we're more than happy to express tremendous pride in the Council's decision, which once again shows the District to be one of the nation's most socially progressive enclaves. (As a District resident, I take no small amount of pride in the fact that the District has beaten states such as New York and California to the gay marriage alter).

So, in spite of some of the usual rhetoric from the likes of Harry Jackson et al about how this will certainly bring about the end of society as we know it, today is a day of celebration for many in the District.

*clink* *clink*

Monday, December 14, 2009

TONIGHT: Councilmember Mendelson Holds Crime Summit

DC Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who chairs the DC Council's Committee on Public Safety will be leading a forum discussion on crime in the Shaw and Mt. Vernon Square neighborhoods this evening. The event will take place from 7 - 9:30 PM at the New Community Church at 614 S Street.

According to Mendelson: "The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss what the Council has done/can do to improve public safety in the Shaw and Mt. Vernon Square neighborhoods. I have asked that the MPD and U.S. Attorney's office send representatives, and intend that the bulk of the meeting with me devoted to answering questions from those who attend."

This should be interesting, although the cynic in me doesn't think anything substantive will come from this ("Yes, we'll work to bring down gun crime...") and that this is only taking place because Mendelson has an honest-to-god challenger for his seat, in the form of Clark Ray.

Borderstan and Life in Mount Vernon Square have more.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

U Street Neighborhood Association Holiday Party Tomorrow

Looking for something to do on what promises to be a lovely Thursday evening? Plan to join friends, neighbors and local businesses at the U Street Neighborhood Association's Annual Holiday Party and Silent Auction. From the USNA:

The time is here us to celebrate another successful year of working for and in our neighborhood! Join your friends and neighbors at the U Street Neighborhood Association’s Annual Holiday Party and Silent Auction on Thursday, December 10, 7 pm, at Town Danceboutique, 2009 8th Street, NW. Many thanks to Town for their generous support of the neighborhood by hosting this year's event!

More information can be found at the USNA's website.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ANC2F Notes: Contentious Liquor License for Estadio; Church to Lose Tax Break?

A bit late on the follow-up to last week's ANC2F meeting, I know, but better late than never I suppose. The most contentious issue of the evening dealt with the liquor license for the forthcoming Estadio at the corner of 14th and Church Streets. Estadio, you may recall, is the new restaurant from the team at Penn Quarter wine bar Proof.

Surprisingly (or not), the residents of the building in which Estadio will be located are not thrilled with the idea of a liquor-serving establishment opening beneath them--and they came to the ANC meeting to make this point. Now, I can understand the concern--this is, after all, the former location of the Garden District, which is about as benign a neighbor as you are going to find. So it's understandable that concerned residents would want to ensure that a strong voluntary agreement is put into place to address issues such as noise, operating hours, trash removal and so forth.

However, the aim of the residents was, apparently, to see to it that the ANC not "grant" the license to Estadio. Never mind that the ANC has no liquor license-granting authority. In the end, the issue was resolved in the way these issues typically are--both parties agreed to sign a voluntary agreement that will be negotiated by the ANC. So, wine lovers, never fear...Estadio will be coming. And residents of the neighborhood, plan to enjoy what will most likely be a fabulous establishment opening up near you, and be thankful that we've got paying tenants willing to lease all of this commercial space in this market.

Also on the docket was a liquor license for local chocolate confection purveyors ACKC. The ACKC team plans to introduce wine tastings and similar fare to their location near 14th and Q streets. The ANC also agreed to enter into a voluntary agreement with ACKC; hopefully amaretto-infused hot cocoa is on the way. Mmmmmm.....

Finally, we've received some inquiries regarding the status of the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church property issue; specifically, the revocation of the church's vacant property tax exemption status for the property they hold at Vermont and Q streets. The Church has owned the property for some time, and throughout that time the property has been a dilapidated eyesore. The District has a way of incentivizing owners of blighted properties to either improve the property or sell--the vacant property tax rate.

Basically, if your property gets hit with this tax rate--which is $10 per $100 of assessed value, or 10%--it's bad news for you, because you're going to be paying a lot of money to keep your property in crummy condition. The Vermont Avenue Baptist Church had received a vacant property tax rate exemption for its Q and Vermont property because, it claims, it had started work on rehabbing the structure. However, the Church has run into some economic difficulties, and thus renovating the property has been placed on the back burner. Which brought us to last Wednesday's meeting.

At the meeting, the ANC voted to send a letter to Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) withdrawing its support for the continuation of the vacant property tax exemption for the Church. This now places the matter in the hands of DCRA, which will need to determine whether the Church has met the criteria to obtain the exemption for another year, or whether it has forfeited it.

Without the ANC's support, the Church faces an uphill battle in maintaining its exemption. Then again, a certain church in nearby Shaw has managed to avoid the vacant property designation for numerous properties it owns, so maybe the guiding hand of the Lord will steer DCRA towards a favorable decision for the VABC.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mid-City Holiday Party Tonight at Local 16

If you're looking for something to do on this chilly Monday evening, you might consider dropping in on the annual Mid-City Business Association's Holiday Party. Taking place from 6p-9p this evening at Local 16 (1602 U Street), the party will feature a lamb roast along with other food, a silent auction featuring items donated from a host of local businesses, and (perhaps most importantly) an open bar.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by clicking here. Proceeds benefit the MCBA and small business assistance programs.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Neighborhood News: "View 14" opens for leasing; Garden District on UK TV

I hope everyone enjoyed the Logan Circle House Tour this weekend. Below are a couple of neighborhood news-related items to pass along.

View 14, the new mixed-use condo apartment development at 14th and Florida, has opened its leasing center--which means you can now reserve your swanky new apartment at the swanky new development. Prices for the units (which, according to developer Level 2 Development reflects "the current concession of two months free [rent] being offered") are $1650 for studios, $1750 for 1 BRs, and $2400 for 2 BRs.

Based on info I received, it seems that these prices will only last until the end of the month (or perhaps sooner), which means that soon, a 2BR at View 14 will set you back roughly $2,880 per month. Expensive, yes...but anymore par for the course for new unit construction around Logan/U Street.

View 14, by the way, is the project of Universal Gear owner David Franco. There has been much speculation about potential retail tenants in the property--including Green Pets, the longtime pet supplies store currently located on 14th Street between Riggs and S Street. Nothing official has been announced yet, but I'm told that some news will be forthcoming.


On the subject of 14th Street retail, unless you are an avid follower of UK tabloid journalism, you might have missed the story featuring Logan's very own Garden District on the Sun's website which addressed the difficulties that small businesses in the U.S. are facing. Can 1300 Christmas trees save a store? Watch the clip and find out.

Garden District owner Joe Carmack has also officially confirmed that his planned project at the Garden District's prior location--"Crepes on the Corner"-- has been shelved. Carmack acknowledged that the project was distracting him from his goal of keeping Garden District a going concern, and that's where his energies are currently focused.

So, it looks like "Point Chaud" will have a monopoly on Logan creperies after all.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cork Market Opens Today

To those of you waiting with breathless anticipation for the arrival of Cork Market--the new gourmet wine and cheese market from the owners of wine bar/restaurant Cork--you may rejoice. As of today, they have officially thrown open their doors for business.

The opening was a bit behind their long-ago anticipated opening in October, but hopefully it will be worth the wait. To celebrate their grand opening, owners Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross have lined up a series of special tastings throughout the weekend. On Friday from 5-7 PM, Ed Addiss of Wine Traditions and Lisa Guifre from Elite Wines will be on hand to kick off a weekend of tastings from France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere.

Cork Market, located at 1805 14th Street (between Pulp/Rue 14 and Home Rule) will be open M-F from 10a - 10p, on Saturdays from 9a - 10p, and on Sundays from 9a - 8p.