Finally the (Ambitious) Plans for 1357 U Street, NW – You Know the old State of the Union Building

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A while ago I got a vague email telling me about potential plans for this space but I hadn’t heard anything else until this morning. And wow, are these interesting plans. The spot has been leased and will turn into Kindred Bar and Lounge. But it has a very interesting mission:

Have you ever found yourself wondering why that bottle of Miller Light at the bar costs the same as a six-pack at the liquor store? Or, why you have to pay so much more for a martini that only takes a minute to shake when you’re at home? Well, the answer to those questions is pretty simple: Bars charge more than liquor stores because they have to pay more overhead: opening costs, renting a space, paying employees, and interest on bank loans. When you do the math, it all adds up.
These are hard times, and most of us are having to cut back on outings to bars and restaurants. Or, maybe we now find ourselves only going to places with specials.

Here’s where KINDRED Bar and Lounge comes in. My goal in launching this unique and inclusive tavern is to provide everyone with a great space and great prices. I’m not trying to get rich quick, or to open up a chain of KINDREDs across the country. What I am trying to do is simply to pool our resources to create a space that saves us money, brings us together (with inexpensive drinks!) and ultimately provides a unique space for the community — for us.
I can only do this with your help.

What a cool idea. The idea is the brainchild of Nikisha Carpenter. You can read more info and more importantly donate here. Think it’ll be possible to raise the dough during these tough times?

38 Comment

  • This sounds like an idea you get really excited about for five minutes and then realize it doesn’t make any sense.

    There are so many non-profits that are going out of business as we speak because of a lack of donations. Organizations that are providing important services to people. Heck, the Baltimore Opera had to declare bankruptcy. (Who knew they had an opera??)

    Asking people to bankroll your bar with the promise that it’ll be cheap? Really? I’m sorry but I wasn’t born yesterday.

  • Perhaps explore the concept of a membership club in the District. And perhaps a chunk of pretty appealing real estate (or a nice yacht). All catered. Dollar beers sound good to me. So much so I’d be willing to throw in some dollars upfront if I knew I could count on it for at least a year or two. Throw in some poker, craps, music, and dancing too. Oh yeah, and some hip and sexy wait staff. Jazz night monthly. Sounds like the Elks Club!

  • I too hate the idea of “donating” to a for-profit business. What are they doing for the community? And on the website, if you become a VIP donor, you get the privilege of being on the guestlist and never waiting in line. If expect to have a guest list and a line, this is going to be just another pretentious bar.

  • I miss Common Share and the $2 Guinnesses. I hope they can pull this off, but I really don’t see this happening, considering the cost of real estate on U Street.

    And before giving them ANY money, you should be sure to thoroughly read their “Limitation on Liability.” Preferrably with a lawyer. Very interesting seeing what your donation actually buys.

  • yeah, why not just ask for investors–who’d get a proportional share of the profits? otherwise, I’m happy to “contribute” to a bar by going there and buying a drink, but that’s about it.

    I mean, there are non-profits cutting back all over the place (Bread for the City is only open 4 days a week now and cut employees’ pay by 10%)…is this really the best cause?

  • Intangible Arts may not contribute to this effort, however IA does fully endorse the notion of boozy communism with insane vigour.

  • Or just have a bunch of friends over to your house, where everybody brings a six pack or a bottle of wine. Not sure I really get the Kindred concept at all. why would I “donate” money to a bar.

  • Um, so if I chip in a few hundred $, how many beers do I have to drink to get my money back? I usually want to have one beer, maybe two – and the fact that those beers cost $4 or $6 or $8 doesn’t really figure into it. It’s more that I want to go out somewhere with my friends. I think the people who really want $2 beers don’t have much extra cash around. I looked at the website and I see she wants $100K in donations by July 31. All I can say is GOOD LUCK.

  • This reminds me of when Darren Aronofsky was fundraising for the movie ?. He asked for donations, found willing people, raised the money and filmed what became one of the finest psychological thrillers ever made.

    The difference was that he guaranteed, contractually, that for every dollar you gave him, you would get two back if the movie made money.

    It seems to me as the kindred people have a little bit of money behind them. I mean, swanky web site, secured real estate (on U street, no less). If this guy was really about making the bar an affordable neighborhood location, why not go to a community that could use the investment (like Shaw), secure real estate for half price, and use those savings to match donations online? Also, he should give donors a return on their investment. This is freaking capitalism.

    A place like kindred could have become an anchor for blighted commercial corridors in a neighborhood like Shaw or Anacostia. Instead, it will get drowned out by the din of a completely gentrified, liquour soaked district.

    Epic Fail. Sorry, better luck next time.

  • Would they actually serve drinks there, or is it a BYOB operation? I believe the relatively high cost of drinks at bars is a regulated and designed part of DC law, and most liquor laws across the country. Ie, a bar pays much more for a bottle of booze than if they went to a liquor store and got it, thus must pass that cost on to consumers. That is part of the business, regulated by ABC, etc.

    So, if they serve drinks and have an appropriate liquor license for doing so, they won’t be able to save you much on drink costs compared to a normal dive bar. They will need to pay the same inflated costs for a bottle of booze as any other bar. While they can cut back on decor and such, rent and booze will be their primary overhead costs, as with any other bar, no matter how swank.

    Or am I missing something? As a drunk, I feel I have some expertise in this area.

  • Yeah, I also was excited for 5 seconds before I saw she is trying to get $100,000 in donations to her for profit business. LOL. I agree – epic fail.

    This is just screwed up on so many levels. Why doesn’t she do what the guy from Meridian Pint is doing and allow people to invest in her business and share in some of her profits? Or declare the meeting place a non profit and accept donations? Instead she is trying to have the best of both worlds — all the profits go to her, but she still wants to get “donations”. In theory, she is agreeing to have lower profits due to lower drink prices, but I don’t know how this could possibly work out.

    Maybe the people who donate and don’t have to stand in line will be the only ones who can get in — I imagine $1 or $2 beers on U st would be very in demand – so it would turn into a have-to-be-on-the-list atmosphere. I don’t get how it sounds inclusive at all, except for the fact that anyone could afford a $2 beer (if they managed to get in through the line and the crowd and the VIP list).

    There is really no way this can end well. Either the people that donate are the only ones who get access to the cheap drinks (country club/VIP-only situation) or people who don’t donate mooch off the people who did finance the place (free rider effect).

    It doesn’t matter because this will never happen. People are not that stupid (giving hundreds or thousands away for basically nothing in return) and hopefully people also realize there are much better uses for $100,000.

    It’s sad. I wish there was a place that existed that really was like this… everyone from all classes and backgrounds felt comfortable hanging out there and enjoying the cheap drinks… it’s just that her model doesn’t make any sense. At best, she has a shoddy, uncertain system for compensating the people (community) who help finance her business; at worst, it is just selfish to ask for $100,000 to start a for profit business.

    I would support this more if her idea was a non-profit meeting spot rather than a for profit business, even though it still wouldn’t solve the problem of who gets access to the amenity of cheap beer. She could still pay herself a fair salary for running her non profit… As it is right now, it’s even more dumb. I predict on July 31st, her “chip in” graphic will either be a source of public humiliation or just offline.

  • As the ex-owner of The Common Share, I wish her the best. There are too few female tavern owners and too few options for a drink that doesn’t require you taking out a personal loan. Good for her!!

  • So, there are definitely a few questions, and my cynicism leads to to a few cynical answers. First, is the real estate actually secured? I’m guessing not. Second, Carpenter’s bio does not include any experience in business, and only includes “hosting parties” and construction. Considering how many businesses (especially food service) die in their first year, this does not bode well, even if this place does ever open. Is there an actual business plan, besides the fundraising appeals? Are distributors lined up? “Well, that depends on how swanky a place we want.” This does not make me in any way confident that there is any kind of plan.

    However, go ahead, send Carpenter your money. Just know this place is never going to open, and Carpenter is already $1773 richer, with no responsibility or limitation whatsoever to use that money for anything other than herself.

  • “It’s sad. I wish there was a place that existed that really was like this… everyone from all classes and backgrounds felt comfortable hanging out there and enjoying the cheap drinks… ”

    Agreed. I propose a critical-mass style drinking event in Logan Circle. Second Friday of every month at 7 PM. BYOB (and/or BYO music/guitar/furniture). Unfortunately, I feel like this is the only way you can have booze and an all inclusive community in this town: break public drinking laws and get 500 of your best friends to do it with you!

    See you in two weeks!

  • A word of advice: I don’t think you’re gonna be able to convince too many people to “donate”. Do your research and get your funding secured without making promises you will find difficult to keep. The audience you are supposedly seeking hates phonies and will be quick to avoid you if they think you are not on the up and up. Be up front and be fair. Good Luck!!

  • I just lost more brain cells reading her ideas than I could drinking a month straight at this bar if it ever opens. DUMB.

  • And even if it were a non profit, my earlier point still stands that there are much better uses for a charitable donation of $100,000. That’s not even considering the dubious odds of someone getting non profit status by offering cheap alcohol to the community. These are just some of the many reasons why it is unprecedented to ask for donations to open a bar.

    I feel bad making fun of her because the core idea — a cheap, inclusive meeting place – is a very nice idea and something I’ve always wished we had, rather than the glut of trendy overpriced bars in DC. It’s just the sad truth that there are so many obstacles to a bar like this opening. It is almost a utopian fantasy – ha.

    Reasons why this would be really hard to do:

    Money
    Q: who has the incentive to open up a bar that, by definition, has low profit margins?
    A: No one would put up their own money for something like this, so maybe we can ask for donations
    Q: Who would donate to this?
    A: Either someone who doesn’t mind paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to get no guaranteed profit or benefits in return or someone who wants to be guaranteed access to cheap drinks in exchange for their donation?

    Inclusiveness
    Q: How can a place like this be inclusive if you have 1000 people who donated money and expect to get in before everyone else to drink $1 and $2 beers?
    A: In that scenario, that is not inclusive
    Q: What if anyone is allowed to come in and drink $1 beers?
    A: It will be inclusive like free scoop of ice cream days are inclusive — including only the people who don’t mind spending their time waiting in lines and crowds for an in-kind benefit worth a few dollars.

    I think this idea is just a fantasy, especially if she needs $100,000 to make it semi-swanky.

    Everyone who wants to live the dream of $1 beers in the U st neighborhood should just go to Duffy’s on Mondays.

  • Or join me and Yo! in logan circle with our brown paper bags.

  • @christine, thank you for one of the best bars that ever was.

  • @ Nichole, thank you for being great customers. It always felt like an extension of my living room. I truly loved every minute of it. Hoping to do it again. Don’t count me out.

  • this is idiotic.

  • Oh… how I love the ‘feel good’ enterprising minds… Has she signed a lease or is she just using the address to promote the idea?

    Nikisha, I would recommend hosting/promoting your parties 7 days a week for the next year (at a minimum). You can give us your address, I can round up some of the neighborhood drunks and bring ‘em on over. They typically drink anything, I’ll take a Dos Equis…

  • Didn’t your brother, Roger die in a hand-gliding accident?…. What an idiot?

  • Christine- Bring a bar like Common Share to Bloomingdale, Ledroit, or North Capitol St. Cheaper real estate and a ton of unmet demand.

  • Or “14th Street Heights”, north of Red Derby in the cluster that was the Highland coffee shop

  • whoever finally figures out how to open a bar in the ledroit park / bloomingdale / truxton area is going to be hugely successful. put a dc 9 type place in on rhode island avenue and you are guaranteed tons of business. or at the intersection of 2nd and elm. please!

  • @ Anonymous…I actually looked at a spot down the street from Red Derby. Things didn’t work out. I thought Highland Coffee shop was still open??

  • Sorry- meant “where Highland Coffee is”. Too bad it didn’t work out there. That section of town is great, but someone need to bring some more life up that way. Or further up, near where the old Colorado Kitchen used to be.

  • Eric, Wasn’t there a pizza place coming in where “Cookie’s Corner” is?

  • One other thing: This woman is definitely (definitely) going to get nailed on these donations. I guarantee you that the IRS and/or DC OTR is going to wonder where the heck a woman with x income comes up with 100k without a hit at all on her personal cash flow or indebtedness. Gift or no, legal or not, your donations will be going to legal fees (or to a bank in the caribbean).

  • Please someone put in a bar in Bloomingdale!! I guarantee I’d never leave :-)

  • Simon of Ledroit Park Market has been promising a pizza spot at 2nd and Elm for several years. He’s invested a ton of money in renovating the interior which is 99% complete and really nice. It’s unclear why it hasn’t move forward – last time I talked to him was in March, when he said it was definitely opening in April.

    It would have opened 2 years ago except right when he was doing his initial planning his store was repeatedly robbed which distracted his attention.

  • Ridiculous.

    I commented over at why.I.hate.dc with the same comment:

    If you all pay for my college loans, I swear I will teach you something I learned.

    I am a strong believer in giving something and getting something but these idea seems all take. She has no apparent plan (did she just decide a few weeks ago that this would be a good idea and set up a website asking for donations?) and there is NO guarantee that this bar will even happen or that the drinks will be signifigantly cheaper.

    If there was a plan that detailed how over the the next X number of years I would save X number of dollars by drinking my 5-10 weekly beers at her bar instead of X other bars on U St….we could be talking. Cost-benefit seems nil from her description.

    Epic FAIL.

  • # Bar in Bloomingdale Says:
    June 25th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Please someone put in a bar in Bloomingdale!! I guarantee I’d never leave :-)

    —————————-
    pretty please.

  • Looks like another scam, is she the female Bernie Madoff. Be careful everyone. PoP needs to do a better job of screening these snake oil sales men and women. The Guy in CH is also doing the same.

  • Does anyone know why a building in such a prime, high traffic location has been sitting vacant for so long?

  • This women Nikisha is clearly an idiot. Donations to open a for profit bar. Seriously. You are an idiot.

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