Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Restaurant Update, Thai Edition: Teakwood Headed for 14th Street

Has Logan reached saturation on Thai restaurants yet? The team from Alexandria's Galae Thai don't think so. Soon, they will be moving forward with longstanding plans to open up a new restaurant on 14th Street called Teakwood, which will be located at 1423 14th Street NW, south of Rhode Island Ave., next door to the BioScrip Pharmacy--and practically across the street from Thaitanic.

Teakwood (named after the teak trees found in southeastern Asia) will serve Thai cuisine and also house a sushi bar. Plans for the restaurant have existed for some time, but it has only been recently that plans for the space are shaping into reality. It's unclear how much of the menu will be brought over from the Alexandria location, but that location's menu can be found here. Plans currently call for the restaurant to be open seven days a week from 10a - midnight, and it will house just under 150 people.

The arrival of Teakwood continues a busy development pace along 14th Street between Thomas Circle and P Street. As noted by Borderstan earlier this week, Logan 14 Salon and Spa will be opening in August. It's arrival also poses another question: how many Thai restaurants can the neighborhood support?

As mentioned above, longtime 14th Street Thai restaurant Thaitanic is located practically across the street. Ironically, they have plans to expand to a second floor location and to add a sushi bar, although those plans are currently held up in negotiations with the ANC and ABRA, who several weeks agorejected the voluntary agreement between both parties. The VA will eventually be accepted, allowing Thaitanic to move forward with their plans--but it seems that it will be a race with Teakwood.

Meanwhile, a few blocks north, you may have noticed that the neighborhood's other Thai cuisine-serving establishment, Rice, has been closed for the past couple of days as they undergo an interior renovation. By the looks of things this evening, everything is set for a reopening tomorrow evening, replete with a "refreshed" interior.

So, no excuses for not being able to get your pad prik sod on--especially considering that you can also head up to Sala Thai on U, or Bua over at 17th and P (a personal favorite of the 14thandyous). Now...how about that bagel shop?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Voluntary Agreements" - Necessary or NIMBYism?

EDIT (7-22-2010): Seems the residents of Bloomingdale aren't very happy with their ANC's refusal to support the liquor license application of the Big Bear Cafe. Fits in quite well with the theme of the post below.


That simultaneously loved and loathed peculiarity of DC regulatory law is back in the news again--I am speaking, of course, about the "voluntary agreement".

For those new to these proceedings, a quick primer: when an alcohol-serving establishment wishes to open in a neighborhood, residents of that neighborhood (or the neighborhood's ANC) have the right to "protest" the granting of the liquor license to the establishment. And with a few exceptions, they pretty much always do. In order to get the protest removed, the establishment typically negotiates with the protesters for the establishment of a "voluntary agreement" that places restrictions or conditions on aspects of the business such as operating hours, noise levels, trash pick-up, and more. In other words, the intent of the VA process is to give residents potentially affected by the establishment a voice in the proceedings, to prevent businesses from running roughshod over the neighbors.

I'll state up front that I typically support the VA process. More often than not, the agreements are sensible and provide for an environment where both the business and neighborhood residents are satisfied. But there is tremendous potential for abuse. In a letter that appeared in this week's Dupont Current, Bill Duggan, owner of Madam's Organ in Adams Morgan, penned a scathing diatribe attacking the VA process, pointing out the tremendous cost to both businesses and taxpayers when an ANC or group of protesters manipulates the VA process. (By way of example, Duggan points to the fact that Madam's Organ's liquor license renewal was protested for 15 months, through 7 different hearings, by the Kalorama Citizens Association before it was finally tossed. For an example a bit closer to home, Saint-Ex's struggles last year to obtain a change in classification for their license turned into an exercise in immense frustration.)

Interestingly, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which is tasked with granting approval to all voluntary agreements, appears to be staking out a position that no longer includes automatic approval of any VA placed before it. Last week's Current discusses the case of popular 14th street restaurant Thaitanic's attempt to expand its operations to a second story. ANC2F Commissioner Charles Reed negotiated the VA with Thaitanic which included, among other stipulations, that the establishment must close by 1 AM--an hour earlier than allowed by DC ordinance on weekdays, and two hours on weekends. In an uncharacteristic move, the Board rejected the VA on the grounds that the closing hours stipulation appeared to be arbitrary--a move which suggests a change in policy for the Board, which was confirmed in later statements by Board spokesperson Cynthia Simms.

The decision angered Reed, who accused the Board of changing the rules without notice. To which many restaurant and bar owners might respond: good. Although I stated above my general supportiveness of the VA process, some changes to the structure would bring balance to a tilted system. As Greater Greater Washington's David Alpert recently noted, liquor license protests that lack sufficient grounds, or that amount to little more than the badgering of a local business by agenda-driven residents or ANC commissioners, serves only to harm the process and stoke anti-VA sentiment amongst city residents.

Alpert took issue with a recent vote by the Dupont Circle ANC to protest the liquor license application for P.J. Clarke's, who wanted to host a sidewalk cafe at 16th and K, in the space formerly occupied by Olives. Despite support for the license from several commissioners, including Jack Jacobson, Will Stephens and Victor Wexler, the ANC voted to protest the license anyway, apparently simply because they can. It's hard to imagine the New York-based restaurant chain, which would be filling a space in the center of a major city that had been previously held by a restaurant with outdoor seating, in an area dominated by office buildings and hotels, could possibly be a threat to the neighborhood's "peace, order and quiet". We aren't in Pleasantville, after all.

But why let a little common sense get in the way of a good protest?

Alpert is entirely correct on this issue: this kind of behavior on the part of the ANC is simply unnecessary and unwarranted. (It is worth noting that the Logan Circle ANC, 2F, has a policy of not protesting any liquor license applications for businesses within the central business district.) When abused, it's tantamount to bullying, and serves no purpose other than to provide certain individuals with the ability to exert control over an establishment's operations because the process allows them to do so.

If the ABC Board is set to enact policy changes that address this type of behavior, it is an unequivocally positive step towards bringing balance to this process. For example, the notion of protesting licenses on the grounds of "peace, order and quiet" has been used so frequently, it barely retains any real meaning. Alcohol-serving establishments opening in primarily residential neighborhoods have a duty to be respectful of their neighbors, but those in predominantly commercial or business corridors shouldn't be held to the same standards. Likewise, the ability to drag out a protest for months, and even years, should be curtailed. In much the same way that U.S. citizens are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial, license applicants negotiating fairly and reasonably should be able to resolve protests within a timely manner. And, a certain amount of consistency should be applied to VA stipulations, such as operating hours and outdoor seating.

To be sure, the VA process is a useful one and shouldn't be dispensed with completely. (Those clamoring for unfettered rights for business owners would be advised to speak with neighbors of establishments that weren't quite so respectful to area residents.) But it is past time for the ABC Board to examine this process and take appropriate steps to correct what can be a rather one-sided affair. A clearly articulated policy that addresses these issues fairly and transparently will truly be advantageous to all parties--and in practice, not simply in rhetoric.

TONIGHT: Mayoral Straw Poll for Ward 2 Democrats

For our readers in the Logan/Shaw/Dupont area (which is probably most of you), there is an opportunity to participate in the Ward 2 Democrats mayoral straw poll this evening at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Thomas Circle.

Both Vincent Gray and Adrian Fenty have been invited to attend, but neither have been confirmed. The event runs from 7 PM - 9:15PM. Full details are included below. For more information, visit the Ward 2 Democrats website.


TONIGHT: Ward 2 Mayoral Candidates Forum & Straw Poll!

July 21, 2010 7:30pm - Wash. Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Cir. NW)

The Logan Circle Community Association (LCCA) and the Ward 2 Democrats are hosting a Mayoral straw poll Wednesday, July 21st at the Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas Circle. All of the candidates who filed papers to run have been invited, including current Mayor Adrian Fenty and current Council Chair Vincent Gray.

Everyone is invited to attend, but only registered Democrats will be able to participate in the straw poll. Registration begins at 7pm, and guests will have the opportunity to talk to any candidates who are present at that time. The presentations will begin at 7:30, and voting will close by 9:15. (Times subject to change if needed.)

Each candidate will be asked to speak on several topics. Following the presentation, registered Democrats will have the opportunity to vote. For more information, please contact Ward 2 Democrats President Pat Allen at 202-296-0720 or LCCA President Bob Maffin 202-301-2125.

UPDATE: Please stay tuned this summer for additional candidate fora - including a forum for Council Chair candidates in collaboration with the Dupont Circle ANC!

What are the key issues you'd like to discuss in 2010?

Let us know your hot-button Ward 2 & District issues!

The 2010 elections offer lots of exciting opportunities for Ward 2 Democrats to discuss and weigh in on the candidates and issues that affect our streets, homes, work, families, schools, and neighborhoods here in the District.

The Ward 2 Democrats officers would like to hear from you about what key issues and topics you'd like to debate, discuss, learn about, and weigh in on as Ward 2 Democrats. Affordable housing ... city services ... public safety... parking ... development ... others?

Please contact Chairman Patrick Allen (pallen39@verizon.net) with your ideas.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Catching Up on Restaurant News: Estadio Opens, no Protest for Hank's, Burgers for 14th Street

I hope everyone has been having a good summer. The 14thandyous just returned from a (much-needed) vacation, and ever-so-surely have been catching up on goings-on around the neighborhood. (I've also got to add: considering the ongoing drop in violent crime throughout the neighborhood and city, it's nice to be writing in July about new restaurant openings and not, for example, double homicides.) So, in case you missed it like we did, here's an abbreviated round-up of restaurant-related news and openings around the area:

Estadio, the much-anticipated Spanish eatery from Proof owner Mark Kuller, opened last week in the former Garden District space at 14th and Church streets. In addition to serving traditional tapas in the $5-$11 range, along with entrees priced from $12-$19, Estadio will also feature pinxtos--basically small snacks--in the $3-$6 range. Think of pinxtos as the mini-courses you get served in between courses at fine restaurants, I suppose.

During our recent walks by the restaurant in the evening, the space has been packed--and with seating for over 110 people in such a relatively small space, we have to wonder about the noise inside (although could not imagine it would be louder than Posto, one of the loudest restaurants we have been to). Metrocurean has posted a number of photos of the interior.

Speaking of much-anticipated restaurants (expansions, that is): At last week's ANC2B meeting, the ANC decided *not* to protest the expansion plans of popular Dupont eatery Hank's Oyster Bar. You may recall that there had been some concerns raised over a potential protest of the plans, with owner and chef Jamie Leeds insinuating that she might elect to reconsider her Dupont location in such a situation. Fortunately, things won't be getting that far: after ensuring that all concerns related to accessible restrooms and a single entrance were addressed, the motion to protest was withdrawn. Thus, the expansion plans of one of 17th Street's brightest restaurant stars will be able to move forward.

In terms of new restaurants: you remember Polly's, right? Sure you do. It was that place up on U Street that served greasy hangover food and featured cutesy tables and a somewhat surly waitstaff. Oh, and its abrupt closure earlier this year led to some, ahem, "reactions" by certain people. Well, Polly's space won't be empty much longer: as U Street Girl reported, it will soon be home to Desperado Burgers and Bar. For those of you clamoring for more "cheaper" food options in the area, and who were disappointed at the likely demise of "Standard", the proposed burger joint for the former Garden District space at 14th and S streets, this may be good news to you.

Also, it seems that they will have free delivery. But will your shoes still stick to the floor?

Finally: it seems that a new tacqueria will be opening in the long-vacant space next to the Black Cat on 14th Street. The space is directly adjacent to the rock club and, I have heard, there has been difficulty finding a tenant for the space due to noise concerns. Clearly, the owner(s) of the forthcoming Mexican eatery that will include a summer garden and sidewalk cafe is undeterred.

...and, yes, with a summer garden and sidewalk cafe, you can rest assured that the voluntary agreement negoatiations will be interesting.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th from the 14thandYous

Hi everyone--we hope you're having a great Fourth of July weekend in our nation's capital. We're taking a couple of weeks away to head off on a (much-needed) vacation, and so...no blog updates during this time. We hope you are enjoying your summer, and will be back soon with more ANC meeting updates, city services discussions, pontifications on the next small plate restaurant to open on 14th Street and all of the other great neighborhood stuff.

While we're away, perhaps you would enjoy the Five Most Ridiculous Internet Memes Ever. And boy, they aren't kidding.