Mayor Bowser Ranks Second Among Tweeting Mayors

April 28, 2016

Last month “U.S. News & World Report” ranked Washington, D.C., the eighth best place to live in America, but now a more prestigious title gives the District even more recognition. In a list made by Development Counsellors International that looked at the Twitter accounts of 250 mayors from the largest U.S. cities, Mayor Bowser is the second most tweeting mayor.

The top 10 mayors on the list include notable names like Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at number one, Atlanta Mayor and Howard University alum Kasim Reed at number six and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh at number eight.

DCI analyzed the Twitter activity of the 250 mayor accounts over a 60-day period and took into account factors such as audience size, frequency of tweets, responsiveness to tweets written to the mayor, the engagement of the mayor’s followers and the number of other mayors that follow a mayor’s account.

Mayor Bowser tweets all the time. If you visit her Twitter feed @MayorBowser you can see updates on the city’s conditions, the events she attends, cool things happening around the city —she even tweeted about March Madness once. If you ever feel like asking her a question, the account is usually quick to respond.

President and chief creative officer of DCI, Andy Levine, was quoted in a press release saying, “Our aim was to highlight the ‘Jedi’ masters of this important communication tool.” This makes the mayor of D.C. the second most powerful U.S. mayor on Twitter in the galaxy. I don’t know about you, but being called a Jedi master in any context should be an occasion worthy of the grandest of celebrations.

Community Group Created to Enhance Safety

April 20, 2016

A group of concerned D.C. residents have come together to start an organization that they hope, with any luck, won’t be around in five years.

DCSafetyNet is working to raise awareness and to suggest and try out solutions and tactics to keep residents safe.
The acting co-chair of DCSafetyNet, Richard Lukas, said that even though D.C. seems to have an interest group for everything imaginable, there was not one dedicated solely to the safety of its residents.

“We feel as citizen advocates, we are able to be flexible in trying things out that our government is not,” he said. “We feel by just putting out numbers about how much crime is happening, we are playing an accountable role for D.C. government.”

The Metropolitan Police Department reports that between the 2008 and 2012 homicide rates steadily decreased, but they began to rise again, with a 54 percent spike, between 2014 and 2015. The total number of violent crimes between 2014 and 2015 have seen a 2 percent increase, as well.

Wards 7 and 8, especially, have experienced an increase in violent crimes, including homicides, assaults with a dangerous weapon, robberies with a gun and theft. While D.C. officials have suggested several possible reasons for the 2015 increases, 2016 is on track to be just as violent.

Lukas said that since Metro adopted a policy to allow D.C. school children to ride for free, the Metro has become a “playground” for youth. In the past two weeks alone, two 15-year-old boys were killed at the Deanwood Metro station by other young males.
“Others have said many crimes are becoming more brazen,” Lukas said. “There are more daylight robberies, assaults and homicides, by youth, especially. They are taking up violence as the first way to resolve conflict.”

DCSafetyNet set up a pilot program called SafeRoutes, where volunteers wore bright green vests and carried whistles in case they witnessed crime happening. They were stationed outside the Potomac Avenue Metro stop between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. to put more “eyes and ears” in the community. The goal was to make people feel safer while commuting.

During the two-week pilot program, Lukas said volunteers heard from many concerned neighbors that the SafeRoutes program instilled greater confidence in their ability to walk about their community safely.

“We have learned many valuable lessons,” he said. “This exercise allowed us to measure the community’s support for it, to hear how people feel about their neighborhood’s public safety and to learn what it takes to sustain such an initiative.”

Lukas said that if DCSafetyNet receives a commitment from 40 or more people to volunteer for one to two hours a month, a SafeRoute program can be set up at the Potomac Avenue Metro station.

“If there is enough community support for such an activity, we have a system in place that would allow us to continue the SafeRoutes program, including an IT framework for volunteers to sign-up and a stock of vests and personal safety alarms,” he said.

The SafeRoutes program is not the only resource DCSafetyNet offers to community members. They also promote neighborhood watch and self-defense trainings, in addition to advocating for more evenly distributed policing efforts in the District.

Although DCSafetyNet has not taken a stance on any policy issues thus far, Lukas said that in February a group of people within DCSafetyNet was launched to begin getting legislation passed.

Lukas hopes crime rates in D.C. decrease so DCSafetyNet will not be necessary five years from now.

“We want people to have confidence to walk around their neighborhoods,” he said. “We want people to have a happy and positive experience with DCSafetyNet.”

Downtowner Ins and Outs

OUT – Sona Creamery

Sona Creamery opened three years ago and was D.C.’s first commercial cheese creamery. They were also the first to bring raw milk into the District since 1952. Sona Creamery won the 2015 Slow Food Award and was the runner up for best new restaurant and business on the Hill in 2014. They offered a wine bar, as well as classes and tastings, but closed April 11.

“We are grateful for the memories and wonderful people we met along this journey. Thank you for all of your support,” said a note on their website.

OUT – Dinner Lab

Dinner Lab, a members-only supper club from New Orleans that opened a location in D.C. has abruptly closed. According to an article from the Washingtonian, Dinner Lab members paid $175 per membership in addition to their meal and drinks, but membership fees were later dropped. Club members were notified in an email of the shutdown, which has also been displayed on the restaurant’s website.

“Three-and-a half years ago a few of us came up with a novel idea; bring together random people, in an unconventional location, and give an up-and-coming chef a chance,” the message says on their website. “It is with a very heavy heart that we have to tell you, but effective immediately, Dinner Lab will be suspending operations and halting events.”

IN – Starbucks Now Serving Alcohol

Beginning April 12, five Starbucks locations in D.C. began serving alcohol after 2 p.m. The “Evenings” menu includes wine, craft beer and several sharable-sized dishes like mac ’n’ cheese, flatbreads and chicken skewers. The locations, which can serve alcohol until 11 p.m., include Wisconsin and Idaho Avenues NW, the Grand Hyatt at 1000 H St. NW, 237 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, 1801 Columbia Road NW and 815 O St. NW. The Seattle-based coffee chain is making an effort to keep their coffee shops open after traditional hours.

OUT – Poste

Poste Moderne Brasserie first opened in the Hotel Monaco in 2002. The restaurant was one of D.C.’s favorite outdoor hangout spots, where customers were lured by their fire-pit-equipped courtyard. The patio is closing on April 25 and Poste will end their restaurant service on May 31. The closing is planned in order to make room for a new restaurant. The patio will also get renovations to increase seating for the new eatery.

IN – Pineapples and Pearls

Pineapples and Pearls, located on Capitol Hill, serves dinners at a fixed price of $250 per person. Chef Aaron Silverman’s new restaurant is the latest line in his resume, after stints at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City and Sean Brock’s McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina. Half of the $250 price tag is charged during your reservation, 48 hours before the dining experience. The restaurant brings diners a 10- to 14-course tasting-menu and is served with drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The name, Pineapples and Pearls, is meant to describe the restaurant’s warm and modern feel. Pineapples are a symbol of hospitality in the South, and pearls are a symbol of elegance.

IN – Alta Strada

Restaurateur Michael Schlow established himself in D.C. with two popular restaurants, Tico and Riggsby. Now he’s come with his newest location, Alta Strada, at 475 K St. NW. The restaurant is a casual Italian-style eatery seating up to 75 diners. Alta Strada’s dishes are described as “unfussy” and draw their inspiration from regions of Italy, such as Piedmont and Campania. Wine drinkers can find a list that exclusively comes from Italy. [gallery ids="102407,122242" nav="thumbs"]

Downtowner Business Ins and Outs

April 6, 2016

IN: Cava Grill Opening in Dupont Circle

Popular fast casual Mediterranean restaurant, Cava Grill, has opened the doors at its newest location, in Dupont Circle. The long-requested eatery will feature a dedicated space for online order pick-ups, an interior green installation and the exclusive new Green Harissa dressing, which features flavors of jalapeños, lemon and herbs. The new location will be at 1222 Connecticut Ave. NW, near the south side of the circle.

IN: New Nordstrom Rack in Penn Quarter by Fall 2016

Between a thriving political and business scene, it looks like the District is making more room for its fashion scene as well. This fall, Nordstrom Rack will open in a new Penn Quarter location. The new location will be two stories and approximately 37,000 square feet of discount shopping. The much-anticipated new Nordstrom Rack store will be located at 555 12th St. NW.

IN: Jo Malone London Coming to CityCenterDC

British boutique Jo Malone London, known for their classic ivory and black aesthetics, is slated to open at CityCenterDC on May 31. This will be the first of the brand’s stand-alone store in the D.C. metro area. Jo Malone London is known for their fragrances, candles and other beauty and home products. The new address for Jo Malone London will be 875 10th St. NW.

IN: EatBar Returns to the District

Despite originally closing in October 2014, EatBar is back and better than over in their new Barracks Row location. The restaurant features unique decor made from gathered cassette tapes that which spell out the word “EAT” across an entire wall. New menu choices are grouped as “snacky things,” “bready things,” “meat + cheesy things,” “beastly things” and “green things,” which range from stuffed olives to flatbread to salads (and so much more). EatBar also has over 100 bottles of wine, 18 beers on tap and a 30-bottle list. EatBar can be visited at 415 8th St. SE.

OUT: Iconic Bar Millie & Al’s Closing on April 7

Popular Adams Morgan bar Millie & Al’s, known for their revered $1 Jell-O shots, will be locking up its 18th Street location one last time on April 7. To commemorate its final day, the bar will be opening early, at 4 p.m. on April 7, to celebrate its business and have one “final hoorah,” said owner Barbara Shapiro. To stop by before closure, visit the bar at 2440 18th St. NW and enjoy a drink or two.

OUT: Poste Closing in Penn Quarter

After 14 years, French restaurant Poste Moderne Brasserie will close the doors to its Penn Quarter location on May 31 for construction. Poste will discontinue its lunch service on May 25 before full closure the following week.

Female Entrepreneurs in D.C.

March 16, 2016

As Washington evolves into more than a political town, female entrepreneurs and business owners are playing an increasingly important role in shaping D.C.’s new economy.

Women in D.C. are ahead of the national average and run almost half of all small businesses in the District, explained Acting Director of the Department of Small and Local Business Development Ana Harvey. That’s compared to the national average of 30 percent of businesses in the United States, according to the 2015 American Express Open Forum.

Yael Krigman and Uyen Tang, who own the bakery, Baked by Yael, and fashion boutique Stylecable, respectively, are among a group of female entrepreneurs who have been supported by resources such as the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development, the Small Business Association, and peer groups like Her Corner, a membership group that offers workshops, networking opportunities and collaboration.

Her Corner’s community manager, Amanda Reynolds, said 60 percent of Her Corner members own product-based businesses, while the other 40 percent are service-based. “Women are natural-born leaders, so it makes sense that we would want our own businesses,” she said. “We’re great at it.”

But forget about traditional stereotypes associated with the role of women as housewives and homemakers. According to the Small Business Association’s 2015 Small Business Profile of D.C., 34.3 percent of female-owned businesses are in the professional, scientific and technical service industries, while 29.6 percent of the businesses in these industries are female-owned firms.

“Some women desire a good work-life balance, while others want to be successful with something more than just having a family,” said Harvey, describing the new generation of entrepreneurs.

Although D.C. has many resources aimed at helping women open their own businesses, many female entrepreneurs face the same challenges as any start-up.

“Without adequate startup capital, it is difficult to turn an idea or a business plan into a real life operation.” Harvey says her department is doing what it can to keep D.C. ahead of the country when it comes to women-run business. “The Department of Small and Local Business Development exists to encourage entrepreneurship in the District. Any woman who has an idea or the desire to start a business should have the support and encouragement to do so.”

From Hill Staffer to Garter Girl

Julianne Smith’s story begins much like other D.C. stories. A politics major in college, she always loved government and history. With an internship on the Hill under her belt, Juli returned to the city and started working on Capitol Hill and in politics, specializing in media relations and strategic communications.

“It taught me to multi-task and how to juggle more than one thing at a time,” she said.

Finding politics to be intense and stressful, however, she ended up pursuing her creative side when she left the political field to have her daughter. She soon transitioned to the wedding industry, where things became a little easier.

“I don’t take it all so seriously and get myself all stressed out over little things,” she said. “It is fun to be surrounded by people in love and celebrating a happy time in their lives.”

Always one who made things on her own when she couldn’t find what she was looking for, Juli took that creative spark and started up the Garter Girl, a business focused on designing and hand-making wedding garters.

“My business was a slow build over time,” Juli said. “Every year, I took on more and more and things just grew organically.”

Five years ago, Juli took a hiatus from the Garter Girl to launch United With Love, a wedding blog specializing in all things nuptial in the D.C. area. “I was doing two businesses for a few years and I just sold [United With Love], so now I’m back to the Garter Girl full-time,” she said. “It is hard to take things slowly and grow them carefully, but really that is what had made it manageable and enjoyable all these years.”

Since things were taken slowly over the years, Juli still calls herself “in love with her business.” Now a busy mom of three, she called the Garter Girl “a creative outlet from her home life” and said that it “challenges her in ways I never would have dreamed.”
Her only frustration? Not being able to do it all at this very moment. By nature an impatient person, Juli said that owning a business taught her to take things slowly and not beat herself up too much when things don’t happen right away.

“Of course I work hard and am always growing and evolving the business, but for me I’m more balanced on the ‘life’ portion of the work-life balance right now,” she said. “I know that will change in a few years when my kids get a little older — and I’m okay with that.”

Being a mom to three young children and a small business owner, there isn’t really a typical day for Juli. “I try to live in and around the chaos of my life and instead of going day by day, I try to go week by week,” she said, starting each week armed with a loose set of tasks to be accomplished over the five days.

Juli has managed to continue her strategy of slow and steady. At the Garter Girl, there are rarely any last minute orders. “It is hard to say no to that type of business, but quick turnarounds just don’t work in my life right now,” she said. Production time is three to four weeks, which gives her enough time to make the garters perfectly and still handle unexpected issues at home that may arise.

Asked about advice for other moms who are small business owners, Juli hesitated. Citing how “we all need to find our own unique way,” what works for her may not work for others. “The way I get through a week is so specific to my life right now and from the outside probably looks very messy and complicated,” she said. “It’s my life and I’m just making it work, as I think most women and moms are doing.”

For those thinking of starting their own businesses, Juli recommended taking risks and having the confidence to make a change. A risk-taker by nature, she allows herself the room to make changes or abandon ideas if they don’t work. She gave the example of United With Love, which she began in 2010 and sold in January. She took a risk in launching it and growing it, but when it was time to move on she had the courage to say “enough” and let it grow without her.

Wondering what a D.C. mom and small business owner does to relax? Juli goes so far as to uninstall the apps on her phone just so she won’t check it. To unwind, she also likes to practice yoga or go for a run. “Doing something that is the opposite of my work is the only way to de-stress for me,” she said. [gallery ids="117218,117213" nav="thumbs"]

Celebrity Sightings: Natalie Portman in Town for Filming of ‘Jackie’

March 10, 2016

Missed Kevin Spacey at the National Portrait Gallery? Ashley Judd at Gaston Hall or Halcyon House? Leo DiCaprio at Cafe Milano or 1789 Restaurant? You have a chance to catch a glimpse of actress Natalie Portman, who will be filming in town for the movie, “Jackie.”

Sure, many actors have traveled to Washington, D.C., not only for testifying before the Senate or House on Capitol Hill or putting their influence behind a good cause but also for doing their daytime job — working on a movie.

This weekend brings the production crew of “Jackie,” which stars Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy. The storyline focuses on the days immediately after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The movie is scheduled for 2017 release.

On March 2, Portman will attend a film screening of “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” focusing on life in Jerusalem during the end of the British mandate at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The following is a traffic advisory from the Metropolitan Police Department for the filming of the motion picture, “Jackie.”

The Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Transportation would like to inform the public of intermittent street closures in conjunction with the filming of the motion picture “JACKIE” which is scheduled for both Saturday, February 27, 2016, and Sunday, February 28, 2016. 

On Saturday, February 27, 2016, the filming will be from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
— 17th Street between “E” Street and Constitution Avenue, Northwest.

On Sunday February 28, 2016, the filming will be from 9:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
— 15th Street between New York Avenue and “E” Street, Northwest.

Also on Sunday, February 28, 2016, the filming will be from 6:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m.
— 14th Street between “E” and “F” Streets, Northwest

Motorists traveling in the area of this event may experience delays and should consider alternative routes if possible. The Metropolitan Police Department and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation would like to remind motorists to pay full attention whenever operating any motor vehicle and to be mindful of heavy pedestrian traffic that may be associated with special events.  These street closings are subject to change without notice based upon unanticipated events and prevailing conditions.