Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Adams-Morgan comes to T Street, Courtesy of the Post Office Bistro

Here's an exciting piece of news that you may have missed over the last couple of weeks: T Street has become Adams-Morgan.

Thart's right! The four block stretch along 18th Street notorious for its late night bars, nightclubs and restaurants has packed up shop and relocated south, to a commercial space near the corner of 14th and T streets. Adams-Morgan will henceforth be known as the Post Office Bistro, and will be reborn as a casual restaurant serving an extensive weekend brunch with a patio and summer garden. The neighborhood/restaurant will also be owned by someone with ties to New York, which unfortunately does not coincide with the arrival of a decent bagel shop.

Skeptical? So were we, until we saw this flyer (courtesy of Prince of Petworth) and its attendant exclamation points, noting that the arrival of the Post Office Bistro meant the end of T Street as we know it.

Some of the highlights of the flyer, which was put together by Elwyn Ferris, partner of ANC2B commissioner Ramon Estrada, and another neighborhood resident, include:

"URGENT! A New York investor plans to turn the Old Post Office building on T Street into a destination, special events venue under the guise of a "restaurant"! DO NOT BE FOOLED!"

"T Street will never be the same again"

"Only massive, unified opposition from by us (the residents who have to live here) has any hope of stopping this disaster!"

"The Post Office Bistro wants to eat your children and destroy your flower garden!"

OK, that last one was mine--I guess I was just a little caught up in the moment. But the rest of those hyperbolic statements were taken directly from the flyer itself.

Now, here's the thing: anyone who has read this blog over the years knows that we tend to fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to negotiating voluntary agreements with area liquor license holders. These businesses absolutely impact the lives of nearby residents by the very nature of their operation, and thus the residents have a right to at least attempt to mitigate some of the potentially negative impacts.

But there is a process for that: the negotiation of a voluntary agreement, frequently through the local ANC. A well-designed VA helps mitigate factors such as noise, trash and parking, which can have significant impacts on nearby residents, while encouraging the opening and success of a business that will continue the growth of the 14th Street corridor into the vibrant, energetic corridor that many of us enjoy.

Needless to say that vitriol and hyperbole, such as that found in this flyer, are tremendously unhelpful. Not only does it poison the negotiation process and serve to harden most neighborhood residents (and ABRA) against anything that involves a "protest" against the establishment, but it is written to portray all neighborhood residents as being vociferously against a business that a) many residents likely support, and b) helps build the character and dynamic of our neighborhood.

If you support the opening of the Post Office Bistro, and want to ensure that the process of negotiating a sensibile agreement with the establishment is not hijacked by a handful of loud, resourceful opponents, then make plans to attend tonight's ANC2B meeting, being held at the first floor of the Brookings Institution at 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW at 7:30 this evening.

Additional information can be found on ANC2B's website.


billyhacker said...

I live a couple blocks away and am really looking forward to this place or at least hoping that it will be a good relaxed minimally corporate addition to our cafe culture.

What do we do at the meeting to support them?

Anonymous said...

I think its an awesome idea and support 100% the opening of this bistro. DC is still so "small town" and for the most part, boring and uninteresting. We desperately NEED more cool places!!! Stylish restaurants and cafes are so hard to find in this town.

Riki said...

It's a club, folks, a club. The restaurant is a front for another loud-DJ late night hard liquor club. We don't need another one, particularly a two-story one right on T. Come protest with us "nuts" tonight if you don't think we really need a club/bar/nightclub on T.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

The owners of the restaurant say otherwise, Riki. Are you privy to information that says otherwise?

Lance said...

The threat of a restaurant morphing into a club is of course a threat worth looking at ... But in this case there's a simple solution, ask the applicant to change their application to not request an "entertainment endorsement" on its liquor license application. If they're serious about having put it there because "they were led to believe they should apply for everything available for a liquor license", then they won't be opposed to modifying the application to remove it. The last thing you want to do though is just take their word that "there are no plans to have a DJ or to turn the bistro into a nightclub". This application (along with the voluntary agreement) is like a contract being made between the legal entity and the neighbors. The people who own this establishment can change, just like the neighbors can. And just like any contract, don't leave important matters to 'promises' ... 5 years from now when the owners/managers have changed ... or the neighbors changed, no one will remember the oral promises made. Actually, correction, 6 months from now no one will remember the verbal promises. And the VA? Well, now we have a precedent in the neighborhood for a VA being vacated after a period of time ... Which means VAs are now only good for a defined time period. So best just to not let them apply for the entertainment endorsement, period. If they find they need one in the future, they can always come back and ask for it.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Lance, I assume that the "precedent of a VA being vacated over time" of which you speak is for Hank's, which was done in response to what basically amounted to out-and-out harassment from a cadre of nearby residents, and was fully within the bounds of the law. VAs are only as useful as the individuals and groups who are party to them--they aren't "forever," nor should they be. And it is precisely why I and others feel that the histrionics and hyperbole of the flyer in question actually do more to harm the neighborhood than to help it.

Fortunately, more thoughtful discussion occured at last night's 2B meeting than what is seen in this flyer--Mr. Ferris, interestingly, did not see fit to speak out at the public meeting on this issue which he apparently feels so strongly about.

CJ said...

@ Lance,

There's no reason that a restaurant shouldn't ask for an entertainment endorsement. It's not a night club just because they bring in performers. I'm a neighbor who would greatly appreciate live music in the establishment, and I support their application for an entertainment endorsement. I also support a 12PM close on weeknights and later on weekends. I even support their outdoor seating.

I'm not interested in a neighborhood that rolls up the sidewalks at 10PM and only plays muted occasional music from a PA system in it's bars and restaurants.

As for a comparison to neighborhoods, I'd much rather T street be more like Adams Morgan, than Mt Pleasant. I left Mississippi to get away from folks who would ban dancing and live music.

CJ said...

@ Mr. 14th,

I've had a round of discussion with about 12 residents of the 1500 block of T and we would all like to support Post Office. I'm very sorry I was not at the ANC meeting last night, but any guidance you have for residents who would like to weigh in in favor of this business would be appreciated.

David said...


Easy for people in the 1500 block of T Street to voice support for this establishment since it won't negatively impact their quality of life. It is the people who live in the 1400 block who should have a say about what type of business is allowed to open on their residential street.

My personal opinion is that I really don't care what opens on 14th Street since that has always been a commercial corridor. But I oppose the "creep" of commercial establishments -- especially restaurants and bars -- into the adjoining streets.

The old post office building has long been used for storage by the used furniture store that fronts on 14th. That is a quiet, daytime business that doesn't attract a large, noisy, alcohol-fueled crowd. The new business will be dramatically different, and the folks who live nearby will have to deal with the noise, trash, rodents, parking issues, and occasional stabbing.

They deserve a say in the outcome and I support their right to rally against this business.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

CJ: ANC2B directs all area residents who wish to voice support or opposition to the ANC commissioner in which the project resides--in this case, Ramon Estrada. You can also request to join the protest yourself.

David: I don't have a problem with the opinions of the neighbors who live immediately adjacent to the property being given greater weight by the ANC, but I do not agree that they, by themselves, should be able to decide what kind of business can or cannot open there. The neighborhood is bigger than any one building or block. The fact is, the use which is being proposed for the Post Office building conforms to the commercial zoning of the plot. One may oppose the granting of a liquor license, but there's no grounds on which to object to a restaurant going in there. It doesn't matter the use to which the building has been put in the past--it's a commercially zoned plot, which gives wide latitude to the type of business that may open there.

SickofShenanigans said...

Residents of the 1500 block of T Street ALSO have a say. ABRA regs stipulate a circumference around an application, under which any resident has say. ANC commissioner Ramon Estrada and his partner Elwyn Ferris have used that same circumference to inject themselves into licensing matters in the 1300 block of T Street, in another ANC single member district, so I don't see the sudden new problem with 1500 T block speaking up here. And the Estrada/Ferris intervention in 1300 block of T, re: Saint Ex, was not in the most constructive form:

CJ said...

@ David,

The resident who authored and circulated the flyer in question lives no closer to the post office than I do, and has interjected himself into numerous ABRA issues using the "circumference rule" which his partner is a vociferous advocate for.

In this case, I am a resident of ANC2B, and have every right to be involved, as well as being within the circumference proscribed for greater impact.

The Post office building has been zoned the same for all of the years I've lived in this neighborhood. It has been an eye sore in it's previous use as an overflow building for Ruff and Ready, although it was a valid use and I never said anything negative about it. I also like Ruff and Ready and will be sorry to see it go, but I'm excited about almost any other commercial use for the building.

The point though, is that I, and You, have a limited but valid opportunity to weigh in on the nature of the business that wants to open in that spot. It is not valid for you or me to circulate inflammatory, factually incorrect, ad hominem attacks on the future proprietor.

Although maybe you disagree, and believe that that is exactly how you should take part in this process. If so, I profoundly disagree, and will do what I can to counteract you.


CJ said...

@ Mr. 14th,

Therein lies the rub. I have been down the rabbit hole of voicing my opinion to Mr. Estrada, most recently in the Saint Ex Ammendment process. I have absolutely no faith that Mr. Estrada will voice any opinion other than the opinion of a very small circle of like minded people he regularly acts as a spokesman for.

Riki said...

It's still a club folks. I know all of us on the 1400 block have been waiting for years for a nice bistro or coffee shop to open there, but this is a huge, 2 story, 200plus person space with live DJ (anyone see live DJs at real restaurants, like, ummm, Eatonville or Busboys), and they're asking to serve liquor -- outside and inside -- until midnight on weekdays (It's in the application Mr. 14th -- no secret info necessary) Sure doesn't sound like any restaurant I know. This is not a corner establishment like St X (which is actually pretty good about noise and such). This is another corner club making its money of lots of people, lots of hard liquor and live music. I love the posts from all the neighbors who are supportive of this monster -- wait 'til the drunken kids and midnight music wake you up at 11:30 on a Tuesday night. Thank goodness for Elwyn and Ramon. We need a restaurant, not a club!

SickofShenanigans said...

Riki might want to have the optics on her crystal ball checked. She lauds operations at Saint Ex, which actually shifted to a basically wide-open license (the hysterical maneuvers of Ramon Estrada, Elwyn Ferris, and unpaid/unelected ANC staffer Phyllis Klein notwithstanding).

And yet despite all the same doomsday rhetoric about Saint Ex's change of license, Riki says they're operating well and responsibly. I.e., the triumvirate was dead wrong.

Meanwhile, this Post Ofc project has applied for a more restrictive license than what Saint Ex has, and the owner just last night told many people at the ANC mtg he's happy to ratchet back operations even further than what he applied, and happy to have that all in a VA.

Sorry Nostradamus.

SickofShenanigans said...

BTW, Riki tauntingly wrote:

"anyone see live DJs at real restaurants, like, ummm, Eatonville or Busboys"

I'm almost certain Eatonville has an entertainment license, and I know that Busboys does. I've been at several special events at Busboys where a DJ was in action, and other instances where live music was played. "Special events" are another end-is-nigh item in the doomsday flyer, incidentally.

CJ said...

@ Riki,

What on earth are you talking about? Eatonville, St Ex, and Busboys all have licenses for DJs already. Two of the three have outdoor seating. If they are your examples of good actors, then Post Office should be fine.

All three of these establishments are credits to the neighborhood, as is Policy, another restaurant that people like you like to disparage because they serve dinner after dark.

By the way, if it is a "Club," then welcome to the neighborhood, I say. Enter into an agreement with us, and welcome. My partner and I will be there with friends late at night, drinking (gasp!) hard liquor.

Anonymous said...

Time to elect a new ANC Commissioner!

Who would rather have an abandoned building than a new spot? This should be a nice addition to the neighborhood. 14th Street can absorb more bars, restaurants, and yes even clubs before it becomes way different. The area still has a number of "dead zones" between places that are open. The flier that sparked this post is over the top.

Also, not for nothing, but hating on NY and Adams-Morgan makes you seem like a dolt.

Anonymous said...

A bar with an extremely loud outdoor patio just opened under my bedroom window. It is open until 2am on weekdays and 3am on weekends. I did not protest it because I did not know that there would be an outdoor patio. It is hell. All of you will support new restaurants until they open them under your windows. Let the immediate neighbors make the decisions about new establishments and the rest of you -- shut up.

SickofShenanigans said...

That's much later than this Post Ofc wants. And while I feel for your suffering from the commercial operation underneath your window, only one question comes to mind: when you decided to move there, did you happen to look right beneath your prospective new home and not see a commercial space there? (And have you gone through the ABRA process, and if you did, did you try a grownup approach or the one that we're talking about here?)

As for your command that we be silent, unless we live within just a couple feet of the place: not the rule Estrada and Ferris have abided by, and so no, we will not "shut up." Playing by their rules. See: Saint Ex.

Lance said...


As for your command that we be silent, unless we live within just a couple feet of the place: not the rule Estrada and Ferris have abided by, and so no, we will not "shut up." Playing by their rules. See: Saint Ex.

In all fairness to the commissioner, he has not only a right but a duty to get involved in any of a number of things affecting the quality of life anywhere within his ANC. (And I did say ANC and not SMD). And while St. Ex may not itself be in his ANC, the spill off of noise, traffic and late night pedestrians coming from an ABC establishment there means the quality of life of his ANC had the potential of being affected.

The place in question here sounds like it will be a great addition to the neighborhood. And while the commissioner's poster may indeed be 'over the top' and 'fear mongering', it's his right as a citizen to express himself in that way if that is how he expresses himself. And it's our right to just know better. Same thing here. We can find the same kind of vitriol in the opposite direction. It doesn't bother me because I just learn to ignore it and use my own judgement to determine if histerics are required or not ;)

Lance said...

*commissioner's PARTNER'S poster

Blair M. said...

Livable city, smart growth, sense of place involves compatible pairing of residential and commercial. A post office or antique store adjacent to and alongside residences makes sense.
The initial redevelopment plans for this location, which, by the way, has no rear access for trash or deliveries, showed an art gallery and offices, both compatible with the existing neighborhood and bringing little environmental impact. Adding a late-night eat, drink, entertainment venue for 320 people can have a serious impact. Even now, busy, one-way T Street gets jammed when there's a UPS delivery. Imagine how disruptive deliveries and trash services will be, not to mention 320 people late night under the windows of the adjoining condos. Isn't there a better location to operate this type of establishment??

Brianne said...

THANK YOU for writing this post. Maybe someday the west side of 14th street will have representation that supports its growth and development in a way that strikes a balance. Until then, we have Mr. and Mrs. 14thandYou as the voices of reason.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...


I don't think anyone is saying this business won't have an impact--because it undoubtedly will, for many of the reasons you mention. But that is precisely the reason why it is important to engage in an honest discussion with the restaurant's owners and developers to ensure that an agreement is reached that will help mitigate those issues. For instance, at the ANC2B meeting the owner stated a willingness to agree to scaled-back outdoor hours, and that the entertainment endorsement could be on the table. Things like trash pickup, deliveries, parking and so forth will also all be addressed by the VA.

The city's zoning code doesn't make distinctions between a furniture store and a bar/restaurant--they're all commercial uses, and the owner of the building has a right to bring in a commercial tenant of his choosing. So rather than fight the existence of the restaurant itself, which will ultimately be a losing proposition, focus on securing an agreement that will mitigate the potentially negative consequences of its operations on nearby residents.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

General note:

It seems that Blogger has eaten a bunch of comments that were posted here yesterday--including a couple of mine. I have no idea what happened, but rest assured I am not moderating or deleting comments.

If you posted a comment here yesterday and don't see it--sorry. I'll try to bring them back, but can't make any guarantees.

Riki said...

The permit is for a two-story 200+ person establishment with a live DJ. Does that really sound like a "restaurant" to anyone? Let's see - how many restaurants have a live DJ -- Eatonville (nope), Busboys (nope), Logan Circle (nope), Estadio (you get the drift). It's another club folks, a bar and club. Just what we don't need on our residential street (I live across and down 4 houses). Moreover, the agreements don't mean anything. We went thru that with Policy (which is another "restaurant" that's really a club) -- every time we gave an inch, they came back for more later. Which is their right -- but the point is, a club is a club is a club.

IntellectualHonestyImportant said...

Riki: How many times do people have to tell you that both Eatonville and Busboys & Poets have entertainment licenses, and have featured DJs at their many special events, before you cease stating that they do not?

Are facts and honesty not important to you whatsoever?

(BTW, when it comes to abiding by the rules, I know of a house in the neighborhood that tried to prevent their neighbor from making an addition, then created an addition themselves, and word on the street is they added beyond what their permits/approvals allowed. Any suggestions on how someone goes about shaving a few elements off an addition?)

Riki said...

Neither Busboys or Eatonville is built around a club, late night liquur or live DJ. In fact, I go to both 3-4 times a week and I can't EVER recall hearing a live DJ spinning records at either one. Please, be intellectually honest -- tell me you've seen a live DJ and folks dancing at either one.

Riki said...

I have to say I'm a little shocked, since you're obviously my neighbor (altho I use my name and you hide yours) -- you really want a 2-story 300 person establishment serving hard liquor to outside tables at 11pm on a weekday night with live music? If so I'd be really interested (pls no more snarks) in why, and what you really believe it adds to our block. Most of the neighbors I've spoken with wanted a low-impact bistro, coffee-bar, etc. But perhaps there are folks who really do want a club and DJ on T.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I just now saw this post today. Is there any update as to what happened at the ANC meeting?

Riki said...

I heard a half dozen folks from the street were pretty much drowned out by a dozen folks from around the block (Caroline, etc.) who were in favor of a bar/club/restaurant. Haven't heard more -- am checking and will post.

ScuttlebuttNewsNetwork? said...

Yes I imagine a discussion centered upon heresay and other neighborhood scuttlebutt, about a mtg that's over and finished, conveyed by a person who is heatedly anything but objective, would be better than a reasoned consideration of regulatory tools and processes that might benefit the residents to the largest degree possible.

(Still looking for advice when someone builds way beyond their permit. I mean, that's almost as bad as someone who goes beyond their VA, amiright? I wish both stripes didn't bother our neighborhoods.)

Scott said...

@Riki - even if an establishment wants to host a private or charitable event just once a year, this requires it be a part of their license to operate. You are wrong about the opeating licenses of other businesses in our neighborhood. You are trying to influence neighbors by using false and mis-leading information and creating fear. Work with the city, our neighbors, and the business owners on establishing an mutually agreeable VA so that we can move forward, not backwards with a vibrant neighborhood for all of us to enjoy and prosper.

CJ said...

@ Riki,

I am your neighbor, and I've spoken to the future owner. Have you? Blake Kimbrough says that they have no plans for live entertainment beyond what other establishments in the area already host. You've already said you're fine with those establishments' policies.

Do you have ANY substantive information that would lead me to distrust the owner's word? Because I have 10 years of experience with Estrada and I have every reason to distrust his.

By the way, those folks of Caroline street are within the circumference of impact, and within the ANC. They have every right, as do I, to voice their opinion, and for it to have the same weight as yours.

Welcome to the city.

CJ said...

and further to the point -

How many clubs and bars to you frequent that produce their own in house artisinal sausages and a contemporary Southern influenced menu?

Busboys has a STAGE that is used almost every day of the week. If you go there, you've heard a DJ, and live music, unless you only go for lunch. I've been to Eatonville when they had a DJ. St. X has one every week, and they spin for later hours than those proposed by the Post Office owner.

I'm beginning to believe that you don't actually frequent these establishments at all.

Riki said...

I appreciate all the feedback. Yes, I've spokenw with the owners. Yes, Caroline is within the radius but I hardly think they'll hear the noise over there (altho with a club I may be wrong about that one). Perhaps I'm overly skeptical because we went through this with Policy. They put all our concerns to bed -- it was going to be a nice Asian fusion restaurant sushi takeout. Ooops, it became another club that mostly uses food for a front. Then we agreed to the rooftop if they agreed not to try to expand onto the T side Street. Oops, they're now seeking a permit to put tables and liquor on T Street.

I don't want to be alarmist but I still feel if it looks like a club and quacks like a club, then it prbly IS a club. I really don't believe what owners say in pre-meetings any more. They'll say anything to get that invaluable liquor license and then do what they want.

On another note, for those of you who have more faith than I, I'd like to point out that studies show that restaurants, coffee shops and bistros tend to increase property values and are low-impact on parking and noise. More clubs tend to have the opposite effect. Something to think about if you're willing to wager your credulity. I'd like to see it developed too, but not at any cost.

Thanks again for this spirited debate and the differing points of view.

Tom Lewis said...

I regret not attending the ANC meeting but I was out of town. I have some thoughts though that I would like to share and I figure this is one of the best places to do it.

1) This is a city. Cities have a larger population than the suburbs. People need places to eat and drink. That's exactly what this is.

2) I have lived directly across from this building for 4 years now....its about time something goes in there. Yes there have been a ton of proposals but nothing other than a restaurant that derives a majority of its revenue from alcohol can afford to go in there. Is it ideal? No! But what is less ideal is a building that sits vacant because local mom and pop shops can't afford it.

3) Stop using parking as a tactic against businesses. We live in a city and as we develop parking will continue to disappear. It totally sucks but its the product of our growth. As we continue to grow we should find creative ways to work with businesses so it is less of an issue. But we need to prepare ourselves for the inevitable. A luxury we once enjoyed will not be here forever.

4) The main developer owns several reputable RESTAURANTS...not clubs in NYC. It appears that is exactly what they are looking to do here.

5) YES on their ABC application they asked for an extremely large capacity, very long hours of operation and a DJ. There is a flip side to this. The two investors from DC have never run a restaurant or negotiated with an ANC. In that spirit they hired a lawyer who advised them to ask for more and settle for less. Makes sense right? Well....neighbors were clearly pissed with the hours and these guys held a meeting with neighbors prior to the ANC meeting and asked what we want. Unfortunately this meeting was not productive because rather than providing constructive feedback neighbors attacked! I decided to provide feedback and it was the following: If you are not going to be a club then limit your hours to midnight since nobody goes out for a fine meal after that point in time. Furthermore remove the concept of a DJ. You don't need one if your not a club, although Masa 14 has a DJ in house and they are not a club. In regards to parking offer incentives for people to leave their cars at home.

6) Stop the scare tactics people! This will not be the next Adams Morgan. We have some of the finest restaurants in the city opening up in this area, its a far cry from ADMO.

7) BE HEARD! I have spoken with a lot of people in this particular ANC and have heard that they support the idea of the restaurant within reason. If you support the concept become as active as possible in the process so we don't have to continue looking at a vacant building.

In conclusion you know what I think and what I want to see. I believe if we stop yelling and protesting we can work together with these new tenants to reach an amicable agreement which will serve the neighborhood well! I think the developers have the best of intentions and I would like to see this move forward. As we all know from the Space saga...if something does go wrong with the VA we can always fight to revoke the liquor license.

-Tom Lewis

CJ said...


Thanks for your post Tom. I agree with you on pretty much all points. I would support their entertainment clause as well, because I like the concept as implemented by Masa, Busboys, and Saint X. It's not a deal breaker for me either way though.

And thank you for being involved in the process. More of us should be.