Councilman, BID Get Tour of Georgetown Park Construction; DMV Will Not Return

August 22, 2012

Councilman-at-large Vincent Orange and staffer Elizabeth Webster and members of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, Crystal Sullivan, Nancy Miyahira and John Wiebenson, as well as a member of the press were given a hard-hat tour Aug. 20 of the on-going reconstruction of the Shops at Georgetown Park by Vornado Realty Trust’s Jennifer Nettles, who is manager of the huge 3222 M St., NW, shopping area.

According to Nettles, the Georgetown office of D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles — which closed May 19 and was located in the lower level — will not return to the property. The popular locale had been expected to be included in the re-do, as assured by Mayor Vincent Gray and Councilman Jack Evans.

Required to wear hard hats and take no photos of the work, the group walked around what remained of the M Street level of the former Victorian-styled shopping area, now stripped down to its walls. Escalators are gone and so are the fountains on either side of the complex. Demolition is moving along, as plans call for the floors to be extended from front to back. The group looked out at the open space of the atrium which once provided a dramatic look and feel for the shopping center, opened in 1981. The atrium and its green railings will soon disappear.

“This is the de-mallization,” Nettles said, as she guided Orange and others. Where once sat 132 stores, there will now be 15, she said. The largest one of them will take up 45,000 square feet, making it the largest retail space for Georgetown; another will be 31,000 square feet. Some will have multiple levels; all will have an entrance from the street, whether it is from M Street, Wisconsin Avenue or the remaining entrance next to Dean & Deluca. There will be no mall-like corridors for the public. (Georgetown Park’s total retail square feet, according to the Vornado website, is 316,822.)

“I love Georgetown Park, and I’m excited about its rebirth,” said Councilman-at-large Vincent Orange. “However, I will miss and treasure the fond memories of the original mall which was enjoyed immensely with family and friends. In 2013, the joy returns.”

Half of the space has been leased, Nettles said. Names of the lessees were not disclosed. Many observers have speculated or suggested such companies as Bloomingdale’s boutique shop, foodie paradise Eataly or even a Target locate there. Two or three new stores will open in early 2013. As of today, Georgetown Park can only boast a few shops that include H&M or J. Crew. The Washington Sports Club will stay open during the entire construction period.

Novel Non-Stops Take Flight: Whether Flying to Iceland, Mexico or Dubai, There Are More Choices

August 10, 2012

Washington jet-setters now have a full slate of exciting new options for non-stop travel out of the D.C. area. Several international carriers have chosen 2012 as their year to get acquainted with Washingtonians, while some of the old standbys are adding new destinations–international and domestic–to their schedules.

If you fly out of Dulles Airport, there might be a fjord in your future. That’s because Icelandair is back in the Washington region after a four-year absence. This time, instead of flying out of Baltimore-Washington International (BWI), it’s flying out of Dulles. During the summer, Icelandair has six flights a week to Reykjavik. This is an airline known for offering long-weekend deals, as the flight is less than six hours. Keep an eye on its website, particularly during non-peak travel months.

There is good news for United MileagePlus members, who can rack up plenty of points on the airline’s three international routes introduced this spring. United Airlines now flies a daily non-stop to Dublin, Ireland, to Manchester, England, and to Doha, Qatar.

If you have a hankering for seven-star hotels and a yen to see the tallest building in the world, enjoy a far-flung exotic adventure via Emirates. The highly rated Middle Eastern carrier inaugurates its daily non-stop service from Dulles to Dubai on Sept. 12. Flying Emirates, you don’t have to wait until you touch down to enjoy the good life. Business and first-class passengers have access to free onboard lounges, while those in the front of the plane can also enjoy refreshment, thanks to state-of-the-art shower spas. And this just in: if you book business class before July 5, you can save $1,000.

If you feel like a shorter hop, Porter Airlines may be just the ticket. This top-rated Canadian carrier started flying between Dulles and Toronto City Airport in April. There are now four flights each way each day. Passengers receive such perks as access to premium passenger lounges, along with free wine, beer and snacks on board.

South of the border, AeroMexico launched a daily non-stop from Dulles to Mexico City in May. If you want to get a bit of that Latin flavor without leaving U.S. territory, opt for JetBlue’s new non-stop service from Reagan National (DCA) to San Juan, Puerto Rico, beginning Aug. 23. DCA to San Juan? What gives, you say? Besides upgrading the air traffic control system, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 grants slots for eight new non-stops between DCA and destinations beyond the airport’s normal 1,250-mile perimeter. In particular, that’s a sweetheart deal for Washingtonians looking to travel to California. There are several new non-stops to the West Coast, including a daily American flight to Los Angeles and a daily United flight to San Francisco. US Airways starts flying non-stop to San Diego in July, and Virgin America wings its way to San Francisco International (SFO) on Aug. 14.

Meantime, if you want to wander up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Condor Airlines is scheduled to begin twice-weekly, non-stop service between BWI and Frankfurt, Germany, in July. Condor tends to offer seats at lower fares than Lufthansa. For BWI, this is a needed addition to international offerings, as the airport’s only other European non-stop is British Airways to London. ?

Laura Powell, the Georgetowner’s new travel columnist, has been on the beat for 20 years. After covering travel for CNN, she has gone on to report for a wide variety of print, online and on-air outlets. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler and USA Today. She often appears on WUSA and on NewsChannel 8 as a guest travel expert. More of Laura’s travel punditry can be found at

The Avocado Café: Unique, Green and Appealing

“We wanted to offer a healthy alternative,” said Steve Toglia, manager at Avocado Café, on Wisconsin Avenue. An avocado lover’s dream, the Avocado Café offers Georgetown residents and visitors a variety of food options with — naturally — avocado as the main ingredient.

Included on the menu is a wide selection of wraps, salads, and sandwiches. All sandwiches are double-deckers and are large-portion meals, guaranteed fresh. “We go to the market twice a week for fresh produce,” Toglia said. “We make falafel and hummus from scratch.”

In addition to these items, the Avocado Café offers a selection of smoothies — including an avocado smoothie — a not-so-common treat around here. Why avocado? “I love avocados myself,” Toglia said. “It seemed like a unique ingredient.”

With so many options to choose from, Toglia recommends the spicy buffalo chicken, triple- decker club sandwich along with the homemade iced tea. However, the most popular item on the menu is the Booyah Wrap. It consists of grilled chicken, grilled veggies, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese, tzatziki sauce and — of course — avocado. For those who are not avocado fans, no worries: everything is available without an avocado ingredient upon request.

The Avocado Café, which opened its doors two years ago, is unique in two ways: It’s one of a kind, and it’s a true rags-to-riches story. Owner Sam Elissawy is originally from Egypt. He immigrated to Boston, where he mopped floors and washed dishes at a local restaurant. “He saved his money to move to D.C. and started his own business,” Toglia said.

With its late hours, and discounted prices for Georgetown University students, it’s no wonder that the Avocado Café is such a local favorite. “We mostly have regulars and online orders. We’re open until 4 a.m., and we deliver,” Toglia said, “We have the freshest ingredients and largest portions for the best price.”

Feeling hungry? Visit the Avocado Café, next to Wisey’s, at 1438 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Want delivery? Call 202-337-5115, or visit to order. [gallery ids="102462,120873,120878" nav="thumbs"]

Capitol Hill Hotel

The Capitol Hill Hotel, formerly Capitol
Hill Suites, located at 201 C Street, SE,
has recently renovated its look from a residential
style to a more contemporary one.

Slava Lutikova, director of sales and marketing
at the hotel, explained the renovations.

“We were purchased by Hersha Hospitality
last April.,” she said. “They made a decision that
the hotel needs a little bit of repositioning and
with that came renovation of all public spaces.”
But, she is quick to add, “It wasn’t because we
needed renovation, it’s because we really wanted
to create a whole new atmosphere for our guests.”

The 3.5-million-dollar renovation includes
three new meeting areas with built-in AV equipment
and teleconferencing/videoconferencing
accessibility, a rare commodity in hotels. The
newly updated front lobby and breakfast area encompass
guests in an atmosphere of relaxation.
There is also a new public lounge, connected to
the lobby, which adds an additional 650 square
feet of space for guests. The lounge (pictured
above) is complete with its own “congressional
library,” an area where guests can read one of
many books from the library or enjoy the morning
paper. It can also be rented out for business
meetings and social events.

The new look, which local artists helped create,
includes modern pieces and new twists on
classic pieces of history. The Cherry Blossominspired
carpet and wallpaper combined with
the different art pieces inspired by the nation’s
historic past come together beautifully to create a
contemporary style that remains connected to the
rich history of the nation.

“All of the elements of the design tell a story
of the history of the hotel and of the neighborhood,
while transitioning us to a more contemporary
look. We are changing our name because
we are changing the look of the hotel so much, so
drastically. Our new name reflects our new identity
better,” Lutikova said.

The Capitol Hill Hotel is now renovating
each guest room to match the contemporary style
throughout the rest of the hotel. This final phase
is expected to be complete in early 2013.

These renovations don’t mean a change in
clientele or service. “Our guests can still expect
the same quality service as before. Just because
we are a little bit different or have a new style
doesn’t mean we are moving away from any type
of customer. We position ourselves as a very inclusive
hotel as far as our audience goes. Businessmen
and families alike can enjoy our services,”
Lutikova says. ? [gallery ids="100856,126809" nav="thumbs"]

Ins & Outs 5.30.12

Mike Isabella’s Bandolero Brings Big Flavors
to M Street
Bandolero, chef Mike Isabella’s modern Mexican restaurant at 3241 M Street, opened last week. With more tacos and margaritas than you thought you wanted, Isabella’s homage to armed outlaws got uniquely flavored food, a Day-of-the-Dead motif space and servers to spare as well. With margaritas, we sampled the pumpkin seed-mixed dip served with masa crisps, pork tacos, tuna tartare taquitos, charred corn on a stick, nachos, pear-infused wine and enchilada rojo. It’s a lively place with some lively tastes: armed, perhaps; outlawed, never.

Macaron Bee Openson Wisconsin Avenue
O.K., you got your cupcakes, pies, frozen yogurt and ice cream, of course. Now, it’s sweet macaroons — or is it macarons? Oui, we had them at Dean & Deluca and at Paul Bakery. Say hello to new parents and new business owners, Han and Deborah Kim, who opened Macaron Bee at 1669 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., along the Book Hill business strip on May 19. The little shop is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Price? One macaron costs $1.75; a box of six, $10.50.

Papa-razzi Shuts Down Abruptly
“We hope this is not an inconvenience, and thank you for all the wonderful years,” the sign read on the window of Papa-razzi May 21. Text messages told the news first: the Italian restaurant next to Georgetown Park on Wisconsin Avenue at the C&O Canal has closed; doors locked; employees on the street.

Betsey Johnson Store to Close June 9
The town’s flashy, pink and fun Betsey Johnson store on M Street near the Old Stone House will close June 9. Fashion designer Betsey Johnson’s chain of stores went bankrupt April 26. Most of the 63 freestanding boutiques will close. “Johnson won’t be losing her job — but as many as 350 store workers will,” reported the New York Daily News. Women’s Wear Daily reported the designer will retain control of the Betsey Johnson clothing label.

‘More Than Just Green Space’ at Ritz, and Free Yoga
The Ritz-Carlton on South Street debuted its artistically-inspired outdoor escape, a multi-tiered Urban Garden located on two levels outside the hotel lobby. You don’t have to be a guest of The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown to enjoy this “more than just a green space,” the company says. “The Urban Garden, with its terraced garden of paver stones, stacked stone wall, lush grass and a canopy of trees, is a venue for intimate weddings accommodating up to 90 guests, outdoor evening of dining under the stars for 60 guests and receptions of up to 90 guests.”

With activities celebrating summer holidays, such as Father’s Day and July 4th, and with a hot dog and burger bar, daily summer cooler cocktails, weekly early morning yoga, select spa services, and more, the company wants “the Urban Garden to be a hub for the Ritz-Carlton guest and the Georgetown community to gather and interact.”

Beginning Saturday, June 9, at 9 a.m., and every Saturday up to Sept. 8, complimentary outdoor yoga classes courtesy of Georgetown’s Lululemon are available to hotel guests and Georgetown neighbors. (Also available are private one-on-one fitness sessions with local trainers which can be arranged through the hotel’s boutique spa.)

Local and international designer, artist and furniture maker, Jan Marfyak has closed his shop, Uncommon Furnishings, at 1301 35th Street, N.W. Marfyak has been around D.C. for years as well as the New York and L.A. arts scene and has worked with Krupsaw’s, Antony Childs, Miller & Armey and Muleh.
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50 Years of 1789 and the Tombs, and a Party for Founder Richard McCooey

August 3, 2012

Friends of Richard McCooey who founded two Georgetown classics half a century ago —1789 Restaurant, an upscale fine dining establishment, and the Tombs, a student-oriented tavern—gathered at another joint he started, F.Scott’s, July 23—50 years to the founding day to celebrate the restaurateur and his creations.

The party was hosted by John and Ginger Laytham of the Clyde’s Restaurant Group, which owns 1789 and the Tombs, and organized by Susan Lee Mahan in short order since a good number of McCooey’s old pals were going to be in town that night. Attendees waited at F.Scott’s, while McCooey’s wife Karen, Tom Zito and others bought him into the retro dance club — much to his surprise. For a moment, the self-described introvert McCooey was speechless — and then he begin to speak and speak some more.

On hand were past and present members of the Chimes, Georgetown University’s a cappella group which holds court at the Tombs. They serenaded the honoree with two songs. Clyde’s Restaurant groupers, such as John Laytham, Tom Meyer and Sally Davidson chimed in themselves with praise for the 81-year-old restaurant designer. It was all a bit overwhelming to which McCooey, a Georgetown alumnus, simply said, “Thanks for the memories.”

Colleagues and fellow art collectors, McCooey and Laytham recalled the lunch that prompted the transfer of 1789 to Clyde’s in 1985. McCooey causally told Laytham he was thinking of selling 1789 to which Laytham shot back before the end of the sentence: “You just sold it.”

Now the owner of 1789 longer than its founder, Clyde’s has held and improved upon the McCooey dining concepts. (President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel dined at 1789 in July 2011.)

The well-wishers were a mixture of older Georgetown neighborhood, business and university friends, from Bud and Jonda McFarlane to restauranteurs Paul Cohn and Stuart Long, to Linda Greenan, a vice president of Georgetown University, and to Sherrie Westin (with the Georgetown Business Association years ago), executive vice president of Sesame Workshop in New York.

Years from running a restaurant, McCooey and his wife Karen now use their design talent and impressive art collection of posters and other artwork in their restaurant design business, Persona Studios.

Before McCooey made 1789 and the Tombs a reality, he had to convince Georgetown residents that his plan made sense for the community as well. There was opposition to his project. When The Georgetowner’s founder and publisher Ami Stewart stood up at a citizen’s meeting to back McCooey, the tide turned. McCooey never forgot Stewart’s support and towards the end of her life would regularly send waiters to her home with meals from his restaurant.

By the way, if anyone asks, why the name “1789”? That was the year the Federal government was established, Georgetown University founded and Georgetown, Md., incorporated. And “The Tombs”? Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” In it, “Bustopher Jones, The Cat About Town” likes to lunch at the tomb. (Add to that McCooey’s nickname in the Air Force: “Bustopher Cat.”) As for the now private club, F. Scott’s, it is named after author F. Scott Fitzgerald, a distant cousin of Francis Scott Key, author of “the Star-Spangled Banner.” ? [gallery ids="100917,129109,129085,129103,129092,129100" nav="thumbs"]

Refined Bathroom Decor

July 11, 2012

Waterworks is a unique, family- owned business that — since its 1978 opening in Danbury, Conn. — has been selling everything for your bathroom — in all its decadence. The Georgetown location, now in its 15th year of operation, is one of 13 stores the company operates nationwide. “We sell bath fixtures, fittings, surfaces, and kitchen sinks,” said general manager Shanda Burk. “People come in for plumbing, tiles, and rugs — but it depends on what they’re looking for.”

The store’s appeal lies in the natural light reflected from its central skylight and the various windows located around the premises. “The natural light of the store is amazing. It’s so nice to see these products in a natural space, especially when picking surfaces,” Burk said.

Many products, including bath towels, bath accessories, bathtubs, and showers, are modeled within the store, providing customers with a picturesque image of what their future bathroom may look like. “It’s a bright, inviting and clean open space that showcases a distinct collection,” she added.

Waterworks’ style, Burk said, is: “Classic European traditional with high-end finishes, qualities, and focus on details.” It’s a style appealing to high-end clients in the Georgetown area.

Burk said the style is not for renters but homeowners. “When you walk into our store you’ll see that we have a certain look. The Waterworks look. It’s very distinct and people know it.”

If you’re looking to redesign, the consultants of Waterworks can assist you. “Our consultants have 40-plus years of experience in plumbing and tile,” Burk said. “They’re a very educated and knowledgeable staff.” If you want to check out more Waterworks work, visit the store at 3314 M Street, NW, or go online at ?

Ins & OutsJuly 11, 2012

Massimo Dutti will open at 1220 Wisconsin Ave., NW, a space formerly occupied by American Eagle Outfitters. Although the date is still pending, this launch is part of the international company?s expansion into the U.S. and Canada. Offering top-notch fashions made of the finest quality materials, Massimo Duti will surely be welcomed into Georgetown with open arms. Call 202-965-5472 or contact

The Scotch & Soda Amsterdam Couture is taking over the location of Betsey Johnson?s store at 3029 M St., NW. With collections already featured at Saks Fifth Ave in Friendship Heights and Universal Gear in the Logan Circle Historic District, Scotch & Soda in Georgetown will showcase the signature style of the Amsterdam-based brand. Call 202-338-4090 or

Suitsupply at the Four Seasons Hotel at 2828 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., is currently under construction. The men?s apparel store should re-open within a month.

**ALSO OPENING SOON:** As previously reported, Fluevog Shoes, from that campy, funky Canadians, is coming to 1265 Wisconsin Avenue, next to the soon-to-open See Optical. The Jonathan Adler Store, next door at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and N Street, is still being working on.?

Georgetown Senior Center at F. Scott’s for Fundraising and Founder, Virginia Allen

June 29, 2012

The Georgetown Senior Center, headquartered at St. John’s Episcopal Church on O Street, held a fundraiser May 9 at the legendary F. Scott’s restaurant, part of the Clydes Restaurant Group, on 36th Street. Hosted by Sally Davidson, John and Ginger Laytham and Lila and Brendan Sullivan, the happy group celebrated the center and its founder, Virginia Luce Allen, who died in 2009 and whose birthday is May 10. The center’s fundraising campaign has reached about $15,000 for its programs and services, which includes its popular lunches and lectures at St. John’s Blake Hall on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Neighbors are invited to participate, whether as cook or guest, or to assist with the center’s day trips. To donate your time or money, visit, or call 202-316-2632 [gallery ids="102451,121113,121119,121130,121124" nav="thumbs"]

The Georgetown Inn at 50 Celebrates Its History, Plans Renovation

June 18, 2012

Fifty years after the Georgetown Inn opened to the public, its new owner is planning a multi-year renovation of the 96-room property, located at 1310 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. The hotel will throw a birthday party for itself and friends on June 6.
Nayan Patel of Your DC Hotels purchased the hotel in November 2011. The upcoming renovation will be welcome news to those who remember the glory days of the Four Georges restaurant and piano bar, where pianist Mel Clement, bassist Louis Saverino and Julian Allman held forth, often accompanied by visiting artists from the Kennedy Center or National Theatre. Allman played his signature “Alley Cat” on a Stradivarius stolen from Carnegie Hall. That discovery made the front page of The New York Times when his widow followed his instructions to inspect the violin case after his demise and found the evidence.

Sheldon Magazine, president of American Mortgage Investment Company, built the Georgetown Inn, which opened May 20, 1962. Welcoming the first guest Peter Caruso, vice president and general manager Collins Bird threw the key across the driveway manned by “Tex” Aldridge in full livery and said the doors would not be locked again. After Collins retired in the early 1980s, the doors were abruptly locked during a peremptory shutdown in 1991 with Tex still at the helm. But—back to better days.
In 1968, a young Herb Miller brokered the sale to Collins Bird and several partners. The hotel offered unique luxury for its day. A Washington Dossier magazine article acclaimed, “After Blair House, the Georgetown Inn on Wisconsin Avenue is probably D.C.’s spiffiest place to go for bed and board.” The hotel was later lauded by Fortune magazine as “A Way to Escape the Washington Stockade.”

A third generation hotelier, Collins Bird intended to return to his job a general manager of three hotels in Georgia after the Georgetown Inn opened but instead stayed on for 30 years and became synonymous with the property that welcomed many notables, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Charles and Ann Morrow Lindberg, Marlon Brando, Robert Mitchum, many Kennedys and the cast of the film, “The Exorcist.”

The Inn was the Washington base of the original Mercury astronauts who became personal friends. Collins had a tailor on call to add new honors to the astronauts’ uniforms, as they obligingly signed photo after photo of their exploits. It was a sad occasion when friends gathered at the Inn for an Irish wake honoring astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, who were killed in a fire during a prelaunch test of Apollo 1 in 1967.
Another frequent guest was Hubert Humphrey, who framed an enormous key from the “frozen Chosun” hotel in South Korea for “his favorite innkeeper.” Once again, Collins made certain that the former vice president’s family was pampered when they arrived for Humphrey’s funeral. The banquet room was filled with treats for all ages. In a gentler era, the Secret Service was pleased when Humphrey visited the hotel because the exits could be easily guarded.
At the height of the Dallas Cowboys and Redskins rivalry, the Inn hosted then Cowboys owner Clint Murchison and his entourage. There was always a lavish party in Potomac with an unending fleet of limousines ferrying guests from the hotel and back. Collins held a pre-game brunch replete with a bus and police escort to RFK Stadium. One year, the bus waited for a late-arriving Elizabeth Taylor.

The first time the Four Georges closed for a private party was to celebrate Playboy magazine’s “The Girls of Washington.” David Chan took a number of the photos upstairs at the Inn. Party guests included the then-infamous Fanne Foxe, who had jumped out of the car of Rep. Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.) for a dip in the Tidal Basin, and Elizabeth Ray, who famously did not take dictation from Rep. Wayne Hays (D-Ohio).

Harry “Doc” Dalinsky was a treasured fixture at his Georgetown Pharmacy at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and O Street, half a block from the hotel. He was a character, a cigar connoisseur and a confidant. The drugstore was a favored hangout of Ben Bradlee, Art Buchwald, David Brinkley and Herb Block. Collins started sending bagels and coffee to the pharmacy as people fetched their Sunday newspapers. A New York Times article on Doc’s Sunday brunch brought an overflow crowd to the consternation of the regulars.

For all its glamour quotient, the Inn was foremost favored by Georgetowners who could find a civilized haven with good food, drink and music. When you heard, “Let’s go to the Inn,” you knew it would be fun and you would see familiar faces, both locally and perhaps internationally known.
The Georgetowner often wrote about the Georgetown Inn and Collins. A sizable portion of the September, 8, 1977, issue was devoted to the lead story by Suzie Gookin, headlined “Collins Bird to Marry.” I was that lucky person. We had 23 wonderful years together. Collins had been quoted as saying that his previous two marriages had ended in divorce with both ex-wives citing his hotel as “the other woman.” The third time must have been a charm, unless you count the hotel, making me the fourth wife.
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