Garrett Faulkner • June 18, 2013
In the midst of a grisly recession with a tight grip on Georgetown, it’s nice to know we have a few fine eateries that are still setting up shop. Take a walk to one of these restaurants, freshly opened — or nearly there — and eager to please.
Il Canale — 1063 31st Street
In a city where pizza is an art and the competition is stiff, our first impression of this new Italian gem was, well, we were impressed. Have a look at this new addition to 31st St., serving the gamut of gourmet pizza and other Italian delights.
Puro Cafe — 1529 Wisconsin Ave.
Puro has been in the works since early last fall, finally opening in January 2010. The patisserie has gathered to itself all the finer accoutrements of modern Europe: uber-modern decor, cozy, quaint lounging and some of the best muffins, croissants and sweets you’ll find in Georgetown.
Morso and Morso Express — 3277 M Street
The flagship wing of the Turkish eatery, headed up by Chef Ed Witt, won’t open until April, but kebab junkies can get in on the action as early as March 22, when the next-door Morso Express will begin serving its more casual fare of flatbread and shish kebabs.
Crepe Amour — 3291 M Street
Sri Suku and Surag Gopi set up shop in the space once occupied by Amma Vegetarian Kitchen, naming their project Crepe Amour and offering a rich menu filled with crepes for both dinner and dessert (their sweet crepe menu is particularly impressive). We tried a Da Vinci crepe recently — filled with pesto, chicken and tomatoes — and left feeling stuffed and happy. Don’t miss it.
Serendipity 3 – 3150 M Street
As we noted above, the New York frozen dairy craze will soon arrive at the lonely corner on M and Wisconsin. What’s got the Yankees so abuzz over a dessert joint? Well, besides its long list of celebrity patrons and appearance in a handful of Hollywood flicks, the restaurant boasts a thickset menu of sundaes, “frrrozen” drinks and, if you’re the type to wait on dessert, a long list of crepes, burgers and foot-long hot dogs. Look out, Georgetown.
[gallery ids="99066,99067" nav="thumbs"]
Black History in Georgetown
There’s so much ado about Georgetown, so much bustle, so many dollars and words and honks exchanged at a daily clip.
It’s nice to know there’s always time for a little history.
That was true at CAG’s monthly meeting on Feb. 22, held at Mt. Zion Methodist Church on 29th Street, a nod to Black History Month. Dozens of congregation members and other Georgetowners filed into the pews to hear the stories and words of an unlikely pair: Carter Bowman, the official historian for Mt. Zion, and Mary Kay Ricks, a one-time attorney who founded a walking tour company and, fascinated by the tales she uncovered, wrote a book on the rather hush-hush topic of slavery in Washington.
That book, “Escape on the Pearl,” is an exhaustively researched work on the tangled web of human bondage that clung to the capital’s upper classes: presidents, senators, powerful
socialites. It is also concerned with the little-known yet bold escape attempt of 77 slaves on a chartered schooner from Philadelphia named the Pearl. While historically the event is overshadowed by John Brown’s raid of Harper’s Ferry and the Kansas wars, it was viewed at the time as enough of an abolitionist shenanigan to spark riots across the city. The year was 1848 and secession was barely a decade off.
What ties the two speakers together is that Mt. Zion played an integral role in the daring flight of the Pearl. And, as Bowman explained, the church served as a refuge for those in shackles for much of the antebellum 19th century and a community locus thereafter.
Mt. Zion was founded in 1816 by black members of the Montgomery Street Church (now the Dumbarton Avenue United Methodist Church) who, though they usually comprised half of the congregation, were fed up with being segregated from white worshippers. Autonomy was not all theirs, however — members of the newly formed Mt. Zion still held services under the auspice of Montgomery and, as it turned out, were presided over by white pastors.
But it began a rich cultural and religious identity for blacks in Georgetown, who made up nearly a third of the population, the majority of them free men. It became one of the few places under law where blacks could congregate in large numbers, and it was, at the height of the abolition movement, a major stop on the Underground Railroad. Whispers would travel electrically through the congregation: who was being hidden in the churchyard, who was up for sale, which families were close to being rent apart. The success of the cotton gin in the early 19th century ignited a demand for slaves in the South, and so with it a widespread sundering of families as mothers and sons and sisters were sold downriver. Around 600,000 slaves were fated to endure this “Second Middle Passage” to New Orleans or other Southern cities. As Bowman explained, church “classes” really became organized sects for keeping abreast of the latest news on local slaves and, when possible, spiriting those away who were being bought up for market.
Mt. Zion, then, is immutably wrapped in the history of slave resistance in Washington. One of the Pearl escapees, Alfred Pope, was a member of the church and later bought a plot of land in Georgetown on which to build a permanent house of worship. After the war, after Emancipation, it burned to the ground in 1880, but was rebuilt four years later. Walking through it now, you can almost taste the history, the stories it has witnessed. You almost hear small noises, something like ghosts or singing voices long past. CAG President Jennifer Altemus called it the “perfect venue” to discuss Ricks’ story.
“[This church] puts you in a place, gives you a feel for the history,” Bowman said. At 87, he has seen a good portion of it.
Ricks is much younger, a scholar at heart, with a soft and wavering voice that teems with emotion. Her book centers around Mary and Emily Edmonson, daughters of a free black man from Georgetown. Because their mother was a slave, however, they inherited their bonded status,
along with 12 other siblings.
The year was 1848. At that time, slavery was hardly taboo in Washington. Having been comprised of land ceded by slave states, the city was firmly rooted below the Mason-Dixon line, and slavery, as Ricks put it, “literally came with the territory.” Dolley Madison owned a slave late into her life, which she sold to Senator Daniel Webster the year before the Pearl made its dash for the North. That slave, Paul Jennings, was one of three men who conspired to charter a ship that would whisk away the slaves of Washington. The other was Samuel Edmonson, the older brother of Mary and Emily. The plan was simple: gather up the slaves marked for sale, steal away in the night to the ship and sail up the Chesapeake to safety. For a few, it was the only option.
“Many of the people boarded the Pearl that night because their security … was threatened by the slave trade,” Ricks said.
She went on to tell how, on a foggy August evening, the Edmonsons and the rest boarded the Pearl, moored close to the future site of the Washington Monument, and sailed away. They made for Point Lookout, the mouth of the Potomac, but when they arrived they found the weather had made it impassable. The captain, a white Pennsylvanian, had no choice but to anchor the boat in a leeward cove. Slaveowners in Washington had already awakened, discovered the plot and were in hot pursuit. Anti-abolitionist riots had already begun surging across the city.
The Pearl was eventually discovered right where it was anchored, its passengers manacled and dragged back to Washington. Most were sold and sent to New Orleans as punishment. One of the luckier Pearl escapees was Alfred Pope, whose owner took him back and freed him in his will two years later. He was serving on Mt. Zion’s board of trustees when he appointed
the 29th Street space nearly 30 years later, a free man.
Mary and Emily Edmonson became one of the first causes for a young Henry Ward Beecher,
the flamboyant abolitionist preacher who later would ship rifles (“Beecher’s Bibles”) off to Bleeding Kansas. With his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, they secured the Edmonson sisters’ freedom and their admission to Oberlin College.
It was a story the audience had trouble digesting. A silence, an eeriness hung in the air a moment, the realization that those on the front line of this country’s greatest conflict, the figures in old daguerreotypes, the names in textbooks, had once been a part of or helped this congregation, now housed in the very church where they sat. It was black history, American history, animated and made real.
Also in Georgetown:
As always, store openings and closings are making a few headlines this week. No word yet on the rumors surrounding a new Nathans tenant. Late-night junk foodies will be disappointed
to learn Philly Pizza has been ordered to shut down by the city’s Department of Consumer
and Regulatory Affairs. The Potomac Street pizza parlor, which is open until 4 a.m. on weekends, was found to have exceeded its allotment of carry-out orders, a violation of their license to operate as a sit-down restaurant. This would routinely attract a throng of noisy bar-hoppers and students, who clashed with neighbors across the street. This may not concern you if you’re somewhat of a pizza connoisseur, but the opening of Il Canale (1063 31st St.) should. We stopped by for a slice and were impressed. If you need a break from Pizzeria Paradiso, check out this new addition to the Georgetown restaurant scene. Finally, Georgetown’s Benetton store recently closed for remodeling. It should be ready by April, just in time to pick up some pastels and cashmere for spring.
Last month’s Jelleff imbroglio at the ANC meeting should be enough to convince you community politics are heating up this year. Ready for more? Stop by the next ANC meeting
on March 1 at Georgetown Visitation, 35th Street and Volta Place, 6:30 p.m. [gallery ids="99060,99061" nav="thumbs"]
FotoWeek, EcoFest and Georgetown Artists
The numbers are in from last week’s FotoWeek DC festival, and they’re impressive.
Judges received over 3500 submissions for the annual awards competition, hailing from 28 countries and 39 states. Elsewhere, nearly 150 associated events were conducted by the House of Sweden, the Corcoran Gallery and others in conjunction with the seven FotoWeek studios — five in Georgetown, two downtown. An estimated 20,000 photo enthusiasts attended the galleries, lectures and competitions across the city. Ten times that number browsed the festival’s website just this month.
The turnout was so successful the event commissioners have extended studio hours on weekends through Dec. 13. The Georgetown FotoWeek Central galleries can now be visited Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
EcoFest draws a crowd, for a good cause
O Street’s Hyde-Addison Elementary School, recently lauded by DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee as one of the best performing public schools in the District, invited parents, teachers and school supporters out in style to the 12th annual EcoFest, hosted — appropriately so — by the House of Sweden. Minister of Trade Claes Hammar, who presided over the event with Hyde Principal Dana Nerenberg, said the famously green venue was perfect for an event devoted to educating children about sustainable living.
EcoFest is the project of the school PTA to raise funds for the school’s environmental science program, which now consists of only a single faculty member. From the get-go, the event netted $30,000 in sponsorships, and by the evening’s end had auctioned off a panoply of donated gifts, vacations and special out-of-school excursions — led by Hyde faculty — for students and their friends.
Event co-chair Lee Murphy estimates a total of $90,000 was raised by the end of the evening.
Word on the Street:
The artistic talent of Georgetown resident artists will be on view for the first time under one roof at the former Smith and Hawken store (1209 31st St.). Govinda Gallery owner Chris Murray will speak at the opening reception on Nov. 19, discussing the history and evolution of the Georgetown art scene — drawn from his 34 years as a central presence in the ever-changing Georgetown art world.
The show, sponsored by CAG and featuring more than 20 Georgetown artists, will include painting, photography, sculpture, 2D and 3D mixed media. The gallery will be on display Nov. 19 from 6 to 9 p.m., Nov. 20 from noon to 8 p.m. and Nov. 21 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On Nov. 7, TD Bank cut the ribbon of its new branch at 1611 Wisconsin Ave. The Canadian-based bank, widely known for staying open seven days a week, has been a household name in New England for years, but only recently has begun to open branches in the Washington area. TD now has five branches in the District.
The Wisconsin branch was built using the company’s usual modern and glass-intensive style, but also includes a large mural of the iconic Georgetown street in the early 20th century.
Future bright for M29, serendipitous for Nathans
Georgetown’s newest retail addition, M29, invited us for a peek at the new place last week in the wake of their grand opening on March 1. The shop, operating under the auspices of the Four Seasons Hotel and labeled a “lifestyle store,” is touted by the owners as the first of its kind in Georgetown. The idea? Eschew any sort of theme or niche and offer up a wide breadth of artisan clothing, accessories, games and knickknacks from which customers can pick and choose.
“It’s meant to be an experience,” says Allyson Wilder, who manages the store’s retail inventory.
Actually, scratch that: inventory’s not the word. In fact, the shop carries no backroom stock of any kind — the items on sale, everything from Moyna handbags to Stewart Stand cufflinks to John Derian’s delicate decoupage, are on display in their entirety, and when they’re gone, well, they’re gone.
It’s part of a shrewd business plan that both discourages customers from passing up on an item they might never see again, and instantly adds value and cachet to wares that quite often are one of a kind. The trademark concept behind M29, though, is that everything in the store — save perhaps the walls and windows — is up for grabs. Customers can buy up a swath of handmade ceramicware and, if they like, the table it sits on.
Named for the intersection where it stands, M29 is distinctly Washington, offering its visitors an industrial, minimalist feel, naturally lit by floor-to-ceiling windows stamped with a rash of cherry blossoms. The store imports items from artisan craftsmen, designers and artists hand picked by Director of Retail Deborah Bush, whose years in the design industry — and the Rolodex to go with it — have afforded her a keen sense of what residents in an affluent, artistic neighborhood might like. So far, she boasts a roster of 35 designers, none of which are local, the idea being to refresh the Georgetown art scene with crafts it won’t find anywhere else.
It’s been confirmed: Nathans, which has stood gutted and boarded up since the iconic Georgetown restaurant closed last July, will be the new site of Stephen Bruce’s Serendipity 3, a New York-based upscale ice cream parlor famous for its frozen hot chocolate and patronage by Andy Warhol. The effort to bring in the shop was spearheaded by local restaurant owners Rodrigo Garcia and Britt Swan, who signed a contract last Thursday, according to local blogger Kate Michael. Serendipity 3, known in New York’s Upper East Side as one of the most visited corners in the city, could make its debut on M and Wisconsin as early as spring 2010.
[gallery ids="99068,99069,99070,99071" nav="thumbs"]
Evans chats up neighbors, ANC
-At last week’s ANC 2E meeting, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, always in every place and with little time to spare, managed to pencil in a few minutes to speak to the neighborhood he calls home. The genial Evans, who lives on Georgetown’s P Street, is known for speaking best at the more casual forums he participates in, and at a weekday evening community meeting, he proved as animated as ever.
As chair of the council’s finance committee, his principal concern is the city’s budget, which he deemed “the most pressing issue today.” Evans was optimistic about the city’s financial prospect in what otherwise are gloomy economic times — going so far as to call it “one of the strongest financial entities in America, state, county or city” — but admitted even D.C. is facing considerable budget shortfalls that will need shoring up if the District is to balance out its finances.
He reported a $17 million budget shortfall in the last quarter of fiscal year 2009.
The councilmember diverged onto a variety of topics both of his own choosing and brought up by audience members. He reaffirmed his mission to overhaul Georgetown’s infrastructure, citing his efforts in the mid-’90s to standardize the neighborhood’s sidewalks, which etched their way through the historical avenues in everything from brick to plain dirt. And despite high-profile projects like the trolley rail rehabilitation and P Street traffic experiments, he said the neighborhood’s infrastructure on the whole needs improvement.
One audience member delved further into the budgetary question, with specific regard to the city’s education system, which is making headlines in recent months over Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s firing of 450 teachers, her subsequent gaffes about the incident and general grumbling of constituents over unpopular school and administration changes (of which Georgetown’s Hardy Middle School was one). Evans, who generally favors the Fenty-Rhee education policy, conceded a slight measure of frustration over the school system’s continual requests for additional funding.
“The school system, even with Michelle Rhee in charge, never fails to ask for more money next year than they did this year,” he said. A quarter of the District budget — $1.5 billion — is currently devoted to the school system. Educational funding was frozen last year at the behest of Evans, an effort to control the city’s expenses.
Evans had also earned the umbrage of neighbors during the February blizzard, who lightly accused him of using his position to secure the priority clearing of his home street. He joked with the audience about the rumors being true to incite a little comic relief, before quickly explaining that P Street is the site of several major bus routes.
Lieutenant John Hedgecock of the Metro Police Department gave his monthly crime update, and despite several recent mugging incidents, was happy to report crime in Georgetown overall was down 29 percent from last year. He called attention to a string of iPhone robberies — 14 in the past three months — where the devices are simply snatched from a victim’s hands while speaking on the phone. Hedgecock advised residents to remain vigilant and guard their valuable items and electronics. He also mentioned a sexual assault occurring the day before on 35th and T Streets, but could offer few details at the time. An investigation is ongoing.
Thanks for asking, DDOT
The ANC and a majority of residents applauded the recent test of four-way stop signs at the intersections of 33rd, 34th and Q Streets, which they deemed a vast aesthetic and functional improvement over the stop lights that once controlled traffic there. Less popular was DDOT’s decision to actually replace these lights with stop signs — without first obtaining the ANC’s approval. One neighbor said he was “appalled” at the agency’s skirting of the commission’s weigh-in. ANC Chairman Ron Lewis, in whose district the intersections reside, expressed similar concerns, but said the decision to replace the lights was still the right one. Lewis had personally monitored rush-hour traffic at the intersections every day for the past four weeks.
The commission unanimously passed a retroactive statement supporting the stoplight switch, with a small provision requesting that DDOT consult the ANC, you know, beforehand.
The Outlaw Philly Pizza
Commissioner Bill Starrels gave a markedly exasperated update on the Philly Pizza saga, which, despite what appeared to be final decision handed down by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory affairs, appears to still be in its death throes. We reported last issue that the pizza parlor, despite receiving an order to cease operation, was continuing to sling its saturated slices to partiers under curtailed hours. Starrels said he expected the city to crack down on the establishment with fines and a restraining order, but a D.C. Superior Court hearing slated for March 8 was postponed after the judge recused himself from the case, citing a personal bias.
“Apparently there’s more money in pizza than we originally thought,” Starrels quipped.
Twilight for Philly Pizza?
Like something from a bad horror flick, it was the neighborhood pariah-turned-villain that just kept coming back from the dead.
But on March 10, it looked — lest we jinx ourselves — as if Philly Pizza, or at least the ranch-drizzled pizza slinger as we knew it, may finally have been laid to rest for good. Dust was settling. Neighbors gathered around the restaurant’s drawn shutters to offer up contented smiles, ANC commissioners shook hands, a few students skulked at the crowd’s fringes. Even the mayor made an appearance, opting for a chance to commend the efficacy of the neighborhood constituency. And to take a little credit himself, of course.
“We always do our best work hand in hand with the community,” Fenty said in triumph from his portable lectern, erected before the dark, curtained windows of the pizza parlor that was. At his side were District Attorney General Peter Nickles and DCRA Director Linda Argo, both of whom led their own rah-rah sessions. Nickles said the administration worked closely with District regulation agencies throughout the ordeal to ensure Philly was held strictly to tenets of its operating license.
“This administration is both sensitive to the community and we are persistent,” he said. Argo was a little more hard-nosed.
“If you think the neighbors are going to back down, you’re probably going to end up on the wrong end of the deal,” she said, clearly aiming her comments at Philly owner Mehmet Kocak, who was not present at the gathering.
Philly P’s had vexed residents of Potomac Street for almost a year since it moved in next to Georgetown Cupcake’s former store. Neighbors said patrons, out for a late-night (or early-morning) snack after a night out, routinely thronged around the pizza joint well into the morning hours on weekends, violating noise ordinances and littering on residents’ property. They allege that Kocak was less than cooperative when they voiced their concerns. Georgetown BID operations director John Wiebenson agreed.
“We encourage all business owners to follow all rules and regulations,” he said, adding that the BID attempted several times to reach out to Kocak, with little success. “It was disappointing when [Philly] wouldn’t use us as a resource.”
Fenty took the time to recognize ANC Commissioners Bill Starrels and Ed Solomon, Martin Sullivan, the attorney representing the license revocation effort, and a handful of neighbors who led the charge against what Fenty called “a nuisance business.” After all, it had been a long road uphill.
The day before, a District superior court upheld a Board of Zoning Adjustment decision made last month to close the Potomac Street pizza joint permanently, on the grounds that it was operating chiefly as a carry-out vendor, a violation of its sit-in restaurant license. That BZA ruling was itself an upholding of a similar order by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs made in November. At the time, Philly received a stay on the cessation order until a BZA ruling could be made. From then on, the issue would undergo a roller coaster ride of appeals and postponements, and when the BZA handed down its final decision, Kocak simply ignored it and kept his restaurant open under reduced hours. Increasingly panicked neighbors and ANC commissioners appealed to the superior court system, but even that route was fraught with pitfalls — on the day of the hearing, the judge recused himself from the case, citing a personal bias. That was just days before the court finally managed to rule that Kocak’s defiance of a District order could render him in contempt of court. The Philly owner quickly capitulated and closed his doors.
Kocak reportedly is applying for a new license from DCRA. His attorney could not be reached for comment.
Starrels, who represents the single-member district where the showdown occurred, was pleased with the mayor’s personal interest and intervention in the case. The pair shook hands amid a swarm of shutter clicks.
“This is an example that the city works,” he said. “We have rules, regulations.” The commissioner led Fenty around the side of the Philly building to show him a jury-rigged ventilation system on the roof, another point of contention with neighbors now under scrutiny by the Old Georgetown Board.
“On a scale of five, this was a five, on the bad side,” Starrels said.
Neighbors who came to watch the public dressing-down were satisfied the outcome. Wolf Wittke, who, with his wife, was one of the most vocal neighbors on the issue, said the DCRA voted unanimously in favor of revocation, a clear indication the issue was cut and dried.
“It’s good to see the city and Georgetown community come together to defy a property and nuisance to the neighborhood,” he said.
Another neighbor simply was glad it was over, that justice had been served.
“You always have to be able to integrate into the community, even if it’s a hassle,” she said.
Powell gets Pythagorean at Dumbarton House
-On March 15, the Citizens Association of Georgetown gathered to talk a little classical architecture at Q Street’s Dumbarton House, itself a beautiful specimen of neo-classical building techniques.
The point? To show and tell listeners how the iconic houses of Georgetown, now themselves becoming historical artifacts, owe much of their design to the olive-skinned, near-mythical cultures a half world away and over two millennia gone past.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Claudia Powell, who heads up her own eponymously named interior design firm after steeping herself in the fundamentals of ancient architecture at New York’s Institute of Classical Architecture. She lamented the sharp departure of modern architectural education from the tried and true classical methods, and was eager to give Georgetowners a crash course in building buildings, as the Greeks saw it.
Powell first discussed the concept of the golden ratio — which, for the record, is 1 to 1.618 — a proportion found so often in nature that Greek mathematicians, from Pythagoras to Euclid, thought it auspicious enough to use in human constructions. The ratio is found throughout classical architecture.
She went on to point out the finer subtleties of the three Greek columns — the stocky, stoic Doric type, the stately, majestic Ionic style and the florid Corinthian variety — as well as the strange decorative sculpture adorning joints and molding (acanthus leaves, teeth and lambs’ tongues were all favorites with the Greeks).
So, what have flowers of stone to do with Georgetown? As Powell explained, the Federal style borrows heavily from the classical tradition, and as the mecca of early American architecture, it’s tough to walk around Georgetown without seeing your share of columns, friezes and stone ornamentation. The latter is especially prevalent in Dumbarton House — Powell pointed to several examples of gadrooning, a convex, gourd-shaped style of ornamentation, and light fixtures incorporating urns of fire, a staple decoration among ancient structures.
Looks like history has visited the village yet again.
Look out, Ritz-Carlton: Capella Comes to Georgetown
Capella Hotels and Resorts, founded by Horst Shulze, a former exec at Ritz-Carlton, recently announced plans for a new addition to their swank network of hotels right here in Georgetown. The Washington Business Journal reported the hotel group will renovate the five-story American Trial Lawyers Association building at 1050 31st Street. The finished project, called Capella Georgetown, will feature 48 rooms, a restaurant and rooftop pool. Expect a grand opening in January 2012.
April 2010 ANC Update
At the ANC 2E’s March 30 meeting, the news was unsettling: crime is on the rise in Georgetown in recent weeks.
In the month of March, the neighborhood experienced a rash of five robberies, along with 11 burglaries across the Metro Police Department’s second district. One mugging victim, Erwin Kalvelagen, even required hospitalization after being tackled and kicked repeatedly on Georgetown’s R Street the morning of March 29. While on a walk just a block from his house, Kalvelagen says he passed by an SUV surrounded by men in the early hours of the morning before he was immediately jumped from behind. The robbers made off with his wallet and managed to purchase quite the pantryful of groceries before his credit cards were canceled. Other than a black eye, Kalvalegan was released from the hospital none the worse for wear. A neighbor even mailed his driver’s license to him after finding it close by the crime scene.
MPD Lieutenant John Hedgecock said the second district police are responding to what he termed an “uptick” in neighborhood crime, partnering with Georgetown University’s police force and broadcasting crime reports over the opt-in text message and email alert system (sign up at alert.dc.gov). Hedgecock said the usual advisories for residents stand: lock doors, remove valuables from cars, be vigilant when walking the neighborhood after dark and use 911 for any suspicious activity.
+ DDOT project manager Mohammed Khalid stopped by to update the commission and neighbors on the trolley tracks project, which will rehabilitate the pockmarked and crevassed surfaces of West Georgetown’s O and P Streets while preserving the aesthetic of the historic streetcar tracks. Khalid said work will begin this summer on the tracks between 35th and 37th Streets and will progress all the way to Wisconsin Avenue during the 18-month project. Residents can expect construction Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In a resolution, the commission said it “enthusiastically supports” the project, while recommending minor logistical changes to ease traffic through construction areas.
+ Neighbors got the lowdown from Safeway’s Craig Muckle on the reopening of Wisconsin Avenue’s Social Safeway. Muckle reaffirmed the scheduled May 6 opening, and after a little mutual back-patting with commissioners, confirmed the store’s voluntary agreement, which allows for beer and wine sales over extended hours (9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week) and a 24-hour pharmacy. The company is also reporting the new store will be the “greenest grocery store in town,” citing the building’s LEED certification, drip irrigation system and reflective roof membrane. Take that, Whole Foods.
+ Also reviewed were signing and façade plans for gourmet pizza peddler Il Canale and the forthcoming UGG retail outlet. Commissioners approved a subtle backlit logo sign proposed by the Australian furry boot seller, but nixed a blade sign that would hang outside the store. Also approved was a metal awning design for Il Canale, which is seeking to clean up the previous owner’s sloppy exterior pastiche of design elements.
ANC Update: More Liquor Licenses for Georgetown?
-The Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E’s May meeting began on a sobering note, with the Metro Police Department’s John Hedgecock admitting that Georgetown — and the District at large — has experienced what he called a “spike in violent crime.” The already laconic lieutenant brusquely cited 21 robberies occurring in Georgetown this year, in addition to 22 burglaries (though the latter figure has declined since last year). Hedgecock said that incidents have begun a noticeable shift from business corridors on M Street and Wisconsin Avenue to residential areas, likely due to the BID-sponsored reimbursable detail program keeping watch over the commercial sector. He advised residents to be on high alert after dark or in isolated sections of the neighborhood, to remove valuables from cars and to use 911 for any suspicious activity.
Burleith resident Steve Brown, who raised eyebrows last month after posting photos of partying University students on his none-too-subtly titled blog drunkengeorgetownstudents.com, interjected to report threats made against him by individuals he presumed were students. Brown’s original incarnation of the site, which identified the offending party houses and showed the faces of their residents, drew the ire of the student community and a recommendation from police that he blur any identifying information in his photos. The commission hesitated at Brown’s request for a formal condemnation of the threats, desiring to look into the matter more closely first, but Chairman Ron Lewis piped up with a de facto statement.
“We abhor threats against our residents,” Lewis said emphatically. “[Threats] will be taken very seriously. We urge MPD to do everything in their power … where there is an unlawful threat, to investigate it.” Hedgecock agreed, encouraging residents to call authorities if they ever feel in danger.
A lively and, at times, heated discussion over the upcoming liquor moratorium renewal occupied most of the evening. The restriction on liquor licenses in central Georgetown, last renewed in 2005, expired last month and has been extended until early June, when a meeting of the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration will meet to outline the neighborhood’s next round of liquor regulations. While the moratorium was originally instituted to curtail the establishment of restaurants in Georgetown in favor of retail stores, the policy has taken flak in recent years for its inflexibility and the detrimental effect it has on fledgling eateries looking to set up shop. While the total number of licenses has been capped, incoming restaurateurs have decried the fact that 18 licenses are currently in safekeeping (read: sitting unused). The moratorium law allows restaurant owners to hold their license in safekeeping indefinitely until they can find a buyer, even if they no longer operate a food establishment. Defunct licenses in safekeeping, then, have become a finite resource and a valuable commodity in Georgetown, with recent sale prices for licenses stretching into the tens of thousands.
In response, the ANC, under Commissioner Bill Starrels’ leadership, plans to petition ABRA for an increase in the moratorium cap by seven licenses (up from their previous request of two), which Chairman Lewis hoped would ballast the current shortage. The resolution also imposes expiration dates on any licenses in limbo, which would likely drive their value down and encourage licensees to sell faster. Commissioner Charles Eason disagreed with the motion, arguing that existing licenses should be tapped immediately.
“It doesn’t make sense to add two, seven or 50 licenses when there are licenses in safekeeping,” Eason said. He advocated exclusively instituting time limits to shake loose any permits hoarded by former restaurant owners. CAG President Jennifer Altemus piped up in agreement, saying legislation to that end is already being discussed in the city council. Starrels’ resolution, however, was passed by the commission, with only Eason opposed.
Crepe Amour, the owner-rebranded creperie that once housed Amma’s Vegetarian Kitchen, stood up afterward to petition for a 24-hour food service permit, and a half-hour extension to their liquor service hours. Representatives for the sleek café, which also houses a wing bar and 40 seats on its upper level, said “there is ample seating upstairs … We are still a sit-down restaurant.”
But commissioners were leery of a phrase used by the company at last month’s meeting: “grab-and-go.” The board of seven — with the possible exception of University commissioner Aaron Golds — shifted uncomfortably at what sounded like the specter of Philly Pizza, less than a block around the corner.
“I’m very skeptical of the request we have here,” said 2E06 Tom Birch. “I don’t think it’s fair to the community for us to go forward with this,” given the precedent set by the Philly debacle.
Holding a student constituency (and a student himself), Golds defended the restaurant, saying “there are many more seats than [Philly].” He added that he opposed punitive action against an establishment with no ties to earlier troublemakers.
The commission voted to protest the request until further notice.