Dear PoP – Concerns over Development at 14th and U Streets, NW


A couple of weeks ago I posted an alcohol application for a nightclub coming to the basement of the corner of 14th and U. A reader wrote a lengthy email (and also posted as a comment):

“Like many other greater U street residents, I’ve been wondering what will finally go into the vacant corner of 14th and U. My friend just informed me that the owners of Local 16, Policy and Josephine’s have signed a lease on the grand old bank building and there are liquor license applications filed for 2 new nightclubs to be opened in the building. As a concerned citizen and avid supporter of the recent revitalization of the U Street corridor, I feel that this is a horrible turn of events.

Having moved from Adams Morgan, I was hoping that my new neighborhood would develop in a more sensible manner. Apparently, that’s not the case. For those of you who are not familiar with Local 16, Policy and Josephine’s, I’d like to provide a little background on these 3 businesses that are merging together to create the most congested corner in DC.

Local 16 has a CR license, but has clearly operated as a bar/nightclub since it’s inception. At one point, they even had cover charge. The establishment is clearly operated as a nightclub. They also have numerous ABC violations. On any given weekend night, nearly 1000 people go through the doors of Local 16 and there is often a large line on the sidewalk. Anything like that would be a disaster at 14th and U.

Policy, like Local 16, also carries a CR license. While it is still a relatively new establishment, it is clear that they are not focused on respecting their obligation to operate as a restaurant. An ABC audit would certainly reveal that Policy is a nightclub in disguise and their food sales ratio is probably woefully low. The business seems to survive on promoted, nightclub events.

Josephine’s is a large nightclub located on Vermont Avenue, NW. This establishment apparently shares some ownership with Policy and their operations are strikingly similar. Josephine’s is very crowded and there is an extra-large security detail there at all times. The expensive cars are lined up 10-deep in front and there is usually a cluster of one to two hundred people waiting on the sidewalk to get in. Recently, the police blotter showed that there was a knock-down, drag-out fight there!

Clearly, a union between these 3 establishments on one of Washington, DC’s premier intersections is a recipe for disaster and would do severe damage to our neighborhood. The following serious problems are the most important to consider:

1. Sidewalk Limitations and Traffic
2. Valet Parking and Traffic
3. Potential Violence
4. Lack of Neighborhood Benefit”

Another reader responded this evening:

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on there!

First of all, despite having a “club” liquor license, that does not mean that the basement of the building on 14th and U will be your typical nightclub. In addition, just because the owners of Local 16 (which is a bar, yes, nightclub, no), Policy, and Josephine are working together, does not mean that this will be an extension of their current establishments. Although I cannot speak for Policy, Josephine has never promoted itself as something other than a night club and thus should not be reprimanded for being a nightclub. Please also keep in mind that Local 16 actually does a lot for the community and works very hard to do so.

Also, only the basement of this space has the nightclub license, not the two upper floors. I have taken a look at the placard and it states that the capacity of the basement is just under 300, which disproves your “1000 person on the block” statement. There is nothing posted regarding the other two floors, so I am not sure where you got your two clubs one roof theory. The other club you may be confused with is the one being opened in the old Cue Bar space down the street.

The biggest problem with this all, is that the residents would rather fight against any and all development in this area rather than work with current and potential business owners to ensure that the new businesses are proactive. Half the time, the voluntary agreements end up hurting both parties more than helping. Especially in this economy, we should be happy that these spaces are being opened to bring business to this area. Lets not get carried away by jumping the gun and writing off these places. You would be surprised at the care these business owners are taking to be sure that this space works with the community to build the area into something OTHER than Adams Morgan.”

You can read the comments in full here.

For the record I support the new businesses. Do you think the original reader’s concerns have merit or do you support the new ventures coming to 14th and U Streets?

92 Comment

  • I find it almost outrageous that someone would move to U St given U St’s current incarnation and the last 20 years and be upset enough about a nightclub opening to write such a letter.

    I have issues, MANY issues with the same old same old businesses opening up in my neighborhood, but I don’t complain that seriously about them, because it’s insane to expect different.

  • in this economy, we should all be thankful for businesses opening, rather than closing. new businesses create jobs, take up previously-abandoned spaces, and are generally positive. sure, nightclubs may seem obnoxious, but they are better than a sharp stick in your eye (an arbys could have opened there, instead). As someone who was laid off in the last year, I can tell you that any new job, even if it’s pouring beers for idiots until 2am, is a good thing for our city.

  • oh, i totally agree with Neener (doesn’t happen too often!)…U Street has always had bars and nightclubs. the complainer needs to move to Falls Church if they are really looking to avoid nightlife.

  • God, really? Gentrifiers. Please move back to Iowa.

  • I had no idea this was such a hopping nightclub city! I gotta get out more. . .

  • Why is this guy’s complaint posted here? Does anybody really care how he feels about a new nightclub being opened?

  • Waah waah waaaaaahhhh. Cry me a river!! You moved to U ST!!!! How dumb are you??!?!?! There are only a handful of nightlife districts in DC and you moved to one of them to complain about nightclubs opening? L O L

  • Ah yes, the propping up of a “under”-developed neighborhood spot with the hipster gangster club party scene. If that is what brings in the investment dollars, get while the getting is good. 14th St south is looking pretty darned good compared to 10 years ago, big time.

    Anyone know what is going on with the old laundromat at the corner of 14th and swann?

  • I don’t have a problem with there being a nightclub at 14th & U;…..however, the so-called “valets” on main roads are disastrous. I would take a block full of curb-cuts over a single valet.

  • Do we really want U Street to become another 18th Street?

  • I think the author who penned the letter opposing the night club makes some good points. Diversity is important in a neighborhood, as is managing foot traffic.

    HOWEVER, the argument the author makes is fatally flawed. The building on the corner of 14th and U has been an abandoned eyesore for countless years. Nothing could be worse than what it was.

    The question folks living in the neighborhood should be asking is why did it take so long for that abandoned building to be made productive again?

  • yes, it will be loud and obnoxious and yes, you should have known better than to move there. god bless us, every one.

  • “Do we really want U Street to become another 18th Street?

    Yes, 18th St is fun, and the more nightlife this city has the better.

  • I’m amazed that someone as articulate as the person writing the complaint is also foolish enough to have thought that moving from Adams Morgan to U Street would bring them peace and quiet.

    There’s gotta be more to the story there…

  • Well, there are some points that make sense, even if the entire argument is overblown. The points that make sense: (1) If it is truly a restaurant license, then having a voluntary agreement that prohibits the payment of a cover certainly makes sense. (2) That corner is badly situated for lines. I don’t think that means that a bar, etc., can’t be there, I just think someone (owners, bouncers, police) will have to disperse lines to keep people safe and keep the sidewalk reasonably clear. (3) Truthfully, you’re asking for trouble if you open a bar/club for the long-term in that location. Whenever the Utopia project gets built (maybe that’s an IF for the near term, but eventually it’ll be built), you’ll have a new host of neighbors that have just moved to the neighborhood and will complain all day and night about noise, etc., even though they live in new condos catty-corner to it. People in this neighborhood complain about Busyboys and Poets (or at least those that live above them/near them). I don’t think this is any argument that supports not opening something there, it’s just an acknowledgement that this kind of complaint comes with the territory and, personally, I’m not going to spend a lot of time arguing in support of someone opening there because this kind of complaint is well expected and it comes with the territory of opening there. That said, this is U street and residents need to coexist with this type of establishment.

  • I agree that more retail on 14th st would be welcome rather than just more nightlife-focused development. That said, anyone who has moved there in the last couple of years should not be surprised

  • I agree with the concerns expressed by the letter writer and I am dismayed by comments like “the more nightlife the better”. I am coming to believe that DC’s retail “problems” are fundamentally a demographic (age) issue. Most nights when I go out to eat or to a bar, I (at the ripe old age of 42) am by far the oldest person in the establishment.

    Because of the lousy schools, DC has not attracted middle-class families, and as a result, is dominated by a transient population of 20-somethings. They come for a few years, party, and then abandon ship for the suburbs. So, DC’s retail profile reflects this demographic. The big money-makers are clubs, lounges, and bars where the young folks can get loaded and hook up.

    Yes I’m oversimplifying, and I know that 14th St. does have other retail (so all is not lost). But I’ve lived here for 15 years and have yet to see a DC neighborhood gentrify without turning into a bar/restaurant/lounge magnet. The issue isn’t so much whether or not a particular corner is dominated by nightlife – the issue is can *any* part of the city develop along a different path?

  • that person’s “concerns” was absolutely hilarious.

    PoP can you set him up with a real estate agent so he/she can stop renting in DC and lease an apartment in Reston?

    Thanks so very much!

  • If you want peace and quiet and walkable access to the excitement of of DC’s busier neighborhoods then move to Park View, but to complain about a club on U street because you expected it to be different from Adams Morgan is a joke!

  • The strategy of developing DC basically on the foundation of alcohol providing establishments with very little else will backfire down the road. Good, liveable cities encourage a much wider diversity of commerce.

  • I stopped reading when I got to “cars are lined up 10-deep in front and there is usually a cluster of one to two hundred people waiting on the sidewalk.”

    How is this possible? Is there some 10-lane-wide road I’m not aware of in that area? It’s not possible to have cars parked 10 deep.

    Also, 200 people on a single sidewalk in front of a business sounds laffable, if not impossible.

    I’m sensing a lot of exaggeration, which really diminishes any legit argument the reader had.

  • U Street and 14th Street is home to the new urban NIMBYs. not sure how that came about, but it really has. Every little liquor license is being fought with Red State ferocity. You’d think this was the bible belt, but it’s more like the NIMBY zone.

    This is one of the busiest corners in the city. It’s perfect for a nightclub. Where else do you want to put them, if not on a busy corner of what’s historically been one of the city’s busiest nightlife corridors (dating back to before we all were born)?

  • That building’s been empty for DECADES. Dense development calls for dense residential and dense commercial. Judging by the writer’s desire for “peace and quiet” on U Street, that isn’t the only thing that’s dense.

    This is like the condo dwellers on 17th Street who move in only to complain about the noise. It’s ludicrously tragic. Like when a clown dies.

  • Agree with the sentiments of most of the commenters. This person’s complaints are about ten years too late.

  • Get over it, when you move to U Street, you should expect this sort of thing. Same as Adams Morgan and Dupont, if you want a quaint quiet neighborhood look elsewhere.

  • You moved to U street for some peace and quiet? Love it!

  • I love the sensational tone that the first reader attempts to convey. Reading his / her NIMBY quibbles I got excited for the future of that intersection!

  • “voiceofreaso”
    “Good, liveable cities encourage a much wider diversity of commerce.”

    14th St already has diverse retail not that DC is good nor livable nor affordable…

  • Why would you move to U Street if you didn’t want to be near night clubs and restaurants? That’s what’s there, that’s what’s been there for at least 10 years.

    Chalk up another person complaining because they’ve outgrown their neighborhood. Why did you live in Adams Morgan in the first place? Why would you move to another nightlife area if you didn’t want to live near nightlife, with all the good and bad things that come with it?

    The neighborhood will not change when you do. It was there first. There’s no use complaining, go live somewhere else.

  • a village in fairfax county called – they want their idiot back.

  • Quebecois, you hit the nail on the head and H St is following the same game plan. Before Adam’s Morgan became a place for violent 20-something bridge and tunnels to drink and piss in the alleys, it was a funky place to go for international cuisine. I could care less whether this business goes in or not, the question is what are the limits to certain types of businesses in a neighborhood?

    Any investment is good, but some investments are better than others. No one wants a Reston or Arlington in dc, but if the only investment possible in DC is a new bar, then there’s something very wrong.

    To the poster who complained about people “blocking” new liquor licenses, DC has the highest ratio of liquor stores to people in the US. There are more than enough bars to go around and we all know you just want to go hang out at “the next new thing” like a little club junkie. The people who actually invest in DC are trying to keep the people who want to come in and treat the place like a piss-pot and then bail, from overrunning the place.

  • Can someone point me to the place where this person said they moved to U street for peace and quiet? I read the letter as complaining about creating an overly congested corner, and given the bus stop there, the lines for Marvin, and the speakeasy, I can see the point. I didn’t find any indication the writer said they moved to U street for peace and quiet. I think the commenters here should respond to the actual argument. The fact that folks would tell them go “go back to Iowa” or “move to Falls Church” suggests the commenters here lack some basic reading comprehension skills. You can desire dense development with lots of night clubs, bars, and restaurants, and still hope for some “sensible development” as the letter writer suggests.

  • I lived at 16th & U from 1992-96 and then at 12th & U from 2000-2005. Those that complain about nightlife along U St do not realize how nightlife has actually led to DECLINE in crime along the U St corridor. About 2002, I too was becoming worried that too many nightclubs were opening along U St. But the more I discussed the situation with our neighborhood police (whom I usually encountered at the 7-11 next to my condo), the more I learned that more foot traffic actually helps deter petty crime. Leaving bars on U St in 1993 and walking back to my apartment at 16th St was very nerve-wracking; you felt vulnerable. I no longer feel that way on U St now, from 18th St all the way to 8th or even 7th St. In the end, it’s a trade-off that one unfortunately faces in an urban neighborhood: “peace, quiet and crime” vs. “noise, crowds, cars and less crime”. Now that I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved to a more quiet neighborhood in Dupont. There’s very little foot traffic near by home on 18th St, and as a result, we do see quite a few muggings — far more than the much busier and well-traveled 17th St. That’s my perspective. I hope it helps the discussion.

  • If they aren’t welcome on U. St. There’s a beautiful firehouse on North Cap that would be wonderful.

    Regarding why only bars open up, look at the commercial slum lords that are overcharging for crap property. Unfortunately, alcohol w/ its high margins are the only way to pay the rent. When rent prices are > $35/sqft on N. Cap, good luck getting anything non-alcohol to open up.

  • “The people who actually invest in DC are trying to keep the people who want to come in and treat the place like a piss-pot and then bail, from overrunning the place.”

    Actually, those people realize the city desparately needs that 10% it gets from every drink and bar snack sold, whether the buyer is Fratty from Fairfax or Non-Profit from Mt P.

    Less largesse leading to lower sales and income taxes might make other forms of business workable, but that’ll never happen. We gots streetcars to build!

  • Hilarious. This guy would obviously be happier in a cabin in West Virginia.

  • “There are more than enough bars to go around”

    The funny thing about the way the economy works, is it’s actually pretty self regulating as far as what there’s enough of, and what there isn’t.

    If there was not money to be made in opening a new bar, then eventually, people would stop doing it.

    If you really believe that this new club won’t be successful because there’s more than enough to go around already, then you should be gleefully cracking your knuckles as you can watch them fail. Somehow, though, I don’t predict this happening.

    People talk about how much they want bookstores and kitchy craft shops and lots of things OTHER than nightlife.

    Unfortunately, if there was a market to sustain all these places, they would exist. But the reality is, such places close more often than they open. The reason is pretty obvious: they are in less demand than other types of businesses.

    The internet has changed the way people shop. That is a reality. The future of bricks and mortar is that it will have fewer places that sell stuff you can get online easily and more cheaply, and more places that have stuff you cannot.

    Personally, I have a lot more use for restaurants than I do for junk stores. I like bookstores, but honestly, I buy books online a lot more than I go to bookstores.

    There will be what there will be, and the demands of the shoppers determines that, not an idealistic vision of what you want your neighborhood to look like.

  • Think 5 years into the future. All you morally upright socially conscious desk jockeys could probably use an eco-friendly baby stroller/clothing store in that location.

  • Jamie hits the nail on the head. We live in a capitalist society with a thing called a market that regulates what gets built. I also much prefer restaurants and bars to bookstores and most other retail except clothing boutiques because I buy everything online anyway.

  • Why would I want a storefront taken up by a place that sells eco-friendly baby strollers, or anything else that I’ll probably need to buy once in my life and I can just get exactly what I want online, when there could be a great restaurant that I might go to once a month?

  • This is the CORNER of 14th and U. It’s not some hidden area of the greater U St. neighborhood. What did this guy expect was going to be placed in the epicenter of the neighborhood?

    This is the perfect location for that type of establishment. The already-existing McDonald’s is a bigger blight on that intersection that a new bar/nightclub could be.

  • If I were a landlord, I would only sign a lease to a bar/restaurant in this economic climate. Especially to proven proprietors. Love em or hate em, the mentioned bars/clubs are pretty darn successful.

    An eco-friendly baby stroller peddler or any other niche retail shop would have the landlord looking for new tenants in a matter of months. It would be foolish to least to them…

  • To the OP:

    DC is a major metropolitan city. Business is good. Nightclubs are good. Fuck off back to the sticks.

  • I agree with those who have questioned why this person moved to U St. You don’t even have to go out to Reston or West Virginia – there are MANY neighborhoods IN DC where you won’t have this nightlife problem: Petworth, Brightwood, Bloomingdale, Capitol Hill, Tenleytown, Glover Park, Southwest, etc. etc.

  • Couple points. I agree with Jamie, above, but to make the “market” argument more realistic, if you want other stores in those locations then you (and the community) need to be spending as much money as you would spend in a restaurant/bar in that other store (either with regular small purchases, or less regular large purchases). People in DC aren’t doing that, or aren’t doing that yet. Also, this is the way “gentrification” works: bars/dining move into a location, then once its established, retail follows and eventually pushes out some of the bars/dining. And this is already happening in the U Street area. A lot of people were doing the flip side of this “up in arms” routine when a magical Tryst/Yoga/Comedy Club was beat out by Room and Board at 14th and T. So, really, the threat of U Street becoming solely a “piss pot” is overblown.

  • Why put a bar in that place when you can slap a lovely Kite shop/Beanie Baby/Gourmet Chocolate emporium there? With those three great options all at once, a store like that is bound to succede!

  • I think people complain about nightlife in Glover Park as well (which is ridiculous because there is so little of it). Also, remember when that ANC guy was complaining about Comet pizza up in Cleveland Park? I think the feigned outrage was that Comet was going to turn that area of Cleveland Park into Adams Morgan (there are, what, three restaurants up there?). That was a ridiculous argument too.

    I love how Adama Morgan is used on both sides of the argument to both calm people and enrage people. ANC/Nanny-staters claim every bar will turn the neighborhood into Adams Morgan, but then are calmed when they hear it will be just like Tryst.

  • It’s fascinating that so many equate urban living with nightclubs and bars.

    There was a tone when u street didn’t se like it had the direction of 18th. Independent designers were opening shops, retail was moving in, theatres and the promise of theatres being renovated. Offices, places of employment, all these things were happening.

    I don’t mind bars at all, but to suggest that this is all that is possible or that someone should move out of the city suggests that people have little depth to their understanding of urban life

  • “Why put a bar in that place when you can slap a lovely Kite shop/Beanie Baby/Gourmet Chocolate emporium there?”

    HAHAHA I miss that guy somestimes.

  • @ Anon above: yep, and when Room 11 opened people were saying how 11th St would turn into Adams Morgan. And yet despite seeming to do good business every night, that has not happened, nor do I see it happening any time in the forseeable future.

  • You people need to stop using the phrase, “hit the nail on the head”.

  • Three cheers for Bloomingdale’s comment.

  • If you want quieter residential and retail maybe Mt. P or Columbia Heights? Clearly the original complainer is not trying very hard to find what s/he wants or has another agenda altogether.

  • Maybe if the city actually enforced what eatin’ & drinkin’ establishments could do under their specific licenses there wouldn’t be this debate.

    Oh, but wait, that’s what real cities do.

    Never mind.

  • Years ago there used to be a BBQ/ribs/smokehouse take out place there. I don’t know of another smokehouse in the general walkable vacinity and would bet such an investment would be fruitful. The few times I’ve been to Rocklands in G’town there’s always been a line. But I guess at 14th and U you need to sell alot of booze to afford yor rent.

  • As for the baby needs store, Target and Children’s Place are a short stroll/circulator ride up 14th! And I am one of those “morally upright socially conscious desk jockeys”, the only difference is that 5 years in the future is now for me (2 kids).

    Open your eyes to what we have.

  • To throw in my two cents, the future of retail spaces in dense cities is that of “experiences”. Storefronts have to offer something I can’t make myself and can’t buy cheaper online. That is why there are no bookstores, stroller stores, card stores, or kite stores in any major American cities, I don’t need to know my size or feel the object to buy it online, why would I want to waste my time and spend transportation costs I don’t have to?. What cities have is a proliferation of places that offer things I have to leave my house to find.

    I can’t make myself good Cuban food, hence Café Salsa, I never get a Manhattan right, hence The Gibson, and so on. But also, I can’t hear live Jazz in my house, which is why U St/14th St is home to Vegas Lounge, HR 57, Twins, Utopia, and Bohemian Gardens, I can’t hear live hipster music either, so there’s the 930 Club, Black Cat, and DC9. I can’t see live performances, so there’s The Source, Studio Theatre and Busboys and Poets. And in fact I can’t get all sweaty and dance with a hundred other people, I need to go to the St Ex basement, Velvet Lounge, or Policy to do that.

    Those seem like quite diverse options to me, and there are far too few of them. Each time a new place to share experiences opens up (think ChurchKey, Policy, the Passenger, Room 11) it quickly crowds, and yet the previous options don’t have any more elbow room. That says to me that DC, and this neighborhood particularly, aren’t yet meeting the demand for these types of venues.

    I can understand how someone who doesn’t patronize any of them might lump them all together, but to me they each represent different things. Point me to an American neighborhood that offers a wider variety of experiences?

  • I have always wanted to see that building turn into a corner fresh produce type spot (called 14 & U) with casual eatery on the upstairs level (soup/sandwich /pastries / coffee type of things) with some seating along the upstairs windows looking out. Seat down restaurants and or nightclubs are cool, but they cater only to a small part of the population. Given the location, I think it should be something anyone can comfortably walk in and do business.

  • A CR(estaurant) licensed establishment must have gross receipts of %45 food sales (CT(avern) has no such requirement). In cash intensive businesses like bars, I imagine this data is easy to fudge to suit an individual establishment’s needs, but that would also require ABRA oversight which is probably lacking.

  • “That is why there are no bookstores, stroller stores, card stores, or kite stores in any major American cities”

    Clearly you have not been to New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or a host of other U.S. cities that indeed have all of those stores in their urban neighborhoods and more. Internationally the contrast between major cities and DC is even more striking.

    The reason the “market” is mainly supporting bars/eateries right now is because the rents are so artificially high that only alcohol sales can pay the rent.

    Urban life is much better with a wide diversity of retail and services. DC, as many in this thread have commented, caters to transient 20-somethings, which is great for that demographic and for short term development but not good for long term or sustainable health of the city.

  • Whomever hacked that photo to my name, very clever.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @voiceofreason Let me ask my IT guy how to fix that. I’m really sorry. C’mon guys be cool.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Oh, I see you fixed it. Sorry again for that.

  • Must have missed the kite store last time I was within a mile of downtown Atlanta. Link?

  • I live a couple blocks away, dislike nightclubs, noise, and crowds and cannot dream of a reason to oppose a nightclub opening in the BASEMENT of this formally derelict building.

    I’m grateful for the very high taxes they will pay to support our schools and civic services, for the foot traffic that will make the street safer, and really, most of all, for renovating one of the best locations on U st. Long after the nightclub is gone, we’ll have a new, productive building in the neighborhood contributing to the fantastic and vibrant U st ecology.

    I wish the complainer had posted a specific alternative tenant that would be able to pay the almost certainly exorbitant rent at that corner. Another chain retail store? No thanks.

    I only wish something like this could be put on the North side of the street between 14th and 15th st on U.

  • Janson,

    Before this the rumor was it was going to be a Burger King so they could directly compete with the McDonalds caddy corner from the spot. I think once the developers of the McDonalds/Taco Bell/Foot Locker site made it clear they were not going to renew those tenants leases Burger King moved on from the spot. But it was thier intial interest that drove up the asking price of rent for the space.

  • There is a kite store in the city of Atlanta called Identified Flying Objects.

    POP, I think the photo is assigned to me when I use a capital “V”.

  • Well knock me down with a feather, and according to (true story!) you can buy a kite at the Smithsonian Museum Shop on 6th and Independence!

    This is truely the day I’ve been waiting for.

  • the air and space museum shop has a massive selection of flights, or at least it did when i was a kid.

  • The original writer did not claim that he moved to U St for peace and quiet, he said that he moved from Adams Morgan with the hope that the development of U St would proceed in a “sensible manner.” Whether development that focuses almost exclusively on entertainment venues – bars, lounges, restaurants – is “sensible” depends on personal perspective. Someone looking to open a new business is only going to invest in a business that the area will support. As a few people have pointed out, the demographics of DC and the cost of renting space are such that entertainment venues are typically much better bets than retail venues. So from an investor’s perspective, a bar or restaurant is a more sensible choice than some sort of specialty retail store. The more entertainment venues there are in an area, the more attractive the area becomes for additional entertainment venues. I think U St has long past the tipping point in terms of the balance between retail and entertainment. I doubt you’ll see any new retail open up there anytime soon.
    It’s funny – someone said that “no one wants a Reston or Arlington in DC.” From where I am sitting the 14th Street corridor is Reston, Arlington, and/or Bethesda but with more non-White people and no parking garages. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I just find it funny that people are so dismissive of suburban life that they fail to see all the trappings of it in their citified neighborhoods.

  • Whats with all the hate guys?

  • I am reading through the original post. I don’t agree with everything the poster is saying, but I don’t see that they said anything about moving to U for peace and quiet. It looks to me like they don’t like what has happened to Adams Morgan – you know, like weekly stabbings and hordes of drunks streaming in from the burbs – and hope it doesn’t happen to U Street. Seems like a legit concern.

  • Don’t worry, after they invest all kinds of money to build-out/renovate the space, there’ll be a sidewalk or in-club shooting much like they had at that club that leased out the basement of the Reeve Center, and the city will shut them down.

  • Why are the rents “artificially high” in this or any other part of town? Because of taxes? There’s no such thing as “too high” if someone will lease your space for a negotiated price (although I do grant there is an issue with leasing commercial space because the terms are relatively long – at least vis-a-vis housing leases – and it makes sense to hold a property vacant for a promise of a better deal that will be locked-in for X years, but this is a problem with ALL commercial space, not just commercial space in the District generally or on U-st specifically).

  • if the rents are set at a level that only attracts businesses that can sell alcohol, they are artificially high. or if you don’t like the word “artificially” how about misguidedly or greedily or shortsightedly or manipulatively or some other similar word.

  • “Petworth Newbie Said:
    there’ll be a sidewalk or in-club shooting much like they had at that club that leased out the basement of the Reeve Center, and the city will shut them down.”

    This statement shows that you obviously don’t know anything about night life… If you care to elaborate on your argument you will only make my point for me.

  • “Petworth Newbie Said:
    there’ll be a sidewalk or in-club shooting much like they had at that club that leased out the basement of the Reeve Center, and the city will shut them down.”

    This statement shows that you obviously don’t know anything about night life… feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

  • voiceofreason, your argument (as I understand it) isn’t irrational, but it seems a bit naiive.

    The landlord sets a rent to ensure a certain profit stream over X years. If he is unable to lease his space, or has several applicants, then he adjusts the rent (and his profit expectations) accordingly. Like I said, he may choose to have his space remain vacant if he thinks property values are trending upward and he can lock somebody in at a higher rate in the not-too-distant future, i.e., the rent increase is enough to outweigh months of not receiving lease payments.

    A tenant decides what he’s willing to pay based on his business’s projected revenues and decides whether to lease at a certain price accordingly.

    The typical landlord only cares about the tenant’s business to the extent the landlord has views about the sustainability of that business, i.e., the landlord thinks a bar will be more viable long-term than a kite shop and won’t rent even to a kite shop that’s willing to pay advertised rent.

    I gather from your post that the landlord is being shortsighted/misguided/greedy/manipulative in the following way: Because neighborhoods with a variety of business are better, long-term property values increase when a neighborhood features a variety of businesses, therefore a commercial landlord ought to “invest” in the neighborhood by reducing rent to induce different kinds of businesses? That seems a lot to ask of a landlord – to turn down a lease arrangement with a bar/restaurant in favor of a different kind of business that pays lower rent – because certain people (I happen to be one) like “variety” better than n+1 bars and restaurants. But bars and restaurants are more profitable than other businesses precisely because more people spend more money in those places. We’re getting bars and restaurants because the people want them. Awfully democratic, no?

    There’s no market failure here. Property is going to it’s most (objectively) highly-valued use. Nobody’s manipulating the system. You just prefer a different mix of retail. I wish there was a vegan restaurant next door to my house with shuffleboard and a non-internet jukebox that let me smoke cigarettes inside. But there isn’t. I don’t blame the landlords.

  • there is an odd thought present in a lot of comments that nightclubs are synonymous with urban living and that u street was always hopping with bars.

  • Sorry to be out of the loop, but when did McDonalds’s/ Foot Locker etc state that they will not be renewing their leases? When do their leases end?

  • Well said Los Politico – my additional thoughts are that everyone loves the idea of interesting dense urban retail areas, but most people understand the financial realities and the ease of online shopping.

    We still have two great used book stores in Dupont & Adams Morgan – that’s probably enough. I love Good Wood – but once you have a table, you have a table. What’s the funkiest most diverse store in the world? Craigslist!

    Essentially what we seem to be wanting is to have Eastern Market operating on U St. or 11th St. all the time. But that is never going to happen.

    Most people are just fine with a trip to the actual Eastern Market now and then. And many of the merchants there have already adapted to a market/online blend.

    Last year at EM I bought a cool messenger bag made of recycled mosquito netting (made by poor industrious foreign people.) But now for Christmas shopping, I can just go to their website ( and order 3 more. It makes no sense for a store like this to have a regular B& M store.

    I think there are creative solutions to link the village square model to the modern day reality. Fresh produce stores on the corner are a nice idea, but an impossible cost to operate – but what about a pushcart or a truck?

    How many hand-knit hats would a shopkeeper have to sell each month to keep a B&M store solvent? How many kites?

    The issue isn’t really between bars vs. cute shops or how greedy a landlord may be – the issue is how can we insure urban vitality by totally re-thinking our models of commerce.

  • U Street and 14th Street is home to the new urban NIMBYs. not sure how that came about, but it really has. Every little liquor license is being fought with Red State ferocity. You’d think this was the bible belt, but it’s more like the NIMBY zone.

    Such noises are also being made in the H St NE neighborhood. Someone who chairs the ANC6A alcohol committee was recommending a moratorium on tavern licenses. Jayzus, does she ever actually walk down H st? More places are opening, but it was a looooooonnnng way to go before it’s actually thriving.

    And voiceofreason, it’s not just artifically high rents, though that is a major problem, but also that the city makes no differentiation in taxes between franchises and small startup businesses. That’s why so many thriving neighborhoods, aka Chinatown, Georgetown, turn into suburban malls. Franchises are the only ones that can afford city businesses property taxes.

  • And totally off-topic, but just curious – doesn’t smoking kind of cancel out the whole vegan thing Derek?

  • Haha, Victoria. I like vegan food and cigarettes. These are my preferences; I don’t pretend they’re reasoned or sensible (although the damage done to one’s body from smoking is not exactly coterminous with the damage done by eating animal products, so smoking is not bad in exactly the same way eating animal products is bad, which means they don’t cancel each other out…anyway, if you were to call me penny wise and pound foolish, I wouldn’t object). I do plan to stop smoking but it’s tough with so many bars and restaurants around…

  • Well, I’m always in support of the wayward urge, more comfortable with un-reasoned or non-sensible, and will actually drop trou for any man who sends me to the dictionary (coterminous – see conterminous.) But you do realize you could be poster-boy for the nanny-state.

    But seriously – good luck on the stop-smoking. I’ll buy you a slab of tofu to celebrate!

  • If I had a nickel for every time my vocabulary caused a woman on the internet to actually-metaphorically drop trou…

    But I do object to the nanny state. The nanny state law – no smoking in bars/restaurants – has had no affect on my smoking. Actually that’s not true. I had quit before the big ban and started again after the ban was in force.

  • A lot of the responses to original posting seem a bit juvenile. The poster clearly gave props to some solid businesses in her neighborhood and she doesn’t sound like someone that wants to simply roll up the sidewalks.

    I challenge everyone to navigate that corner on a Friday or Saturday night. The sidewalk is extremely narrow and it’s increasingly tight these days. Another 299 – 399 people or more in that 14th and U building will make it very tough on that corner.

    Perhaps a lot of us just fear a slippery slope, where many new licenses are denied. I don’t think anyone wants to see that, and if they do, I’m against that.

    But if you lived on Wallach, or V Street, you’d understand that the poster brought up some legit concerns and people just smeared her as a suburbanite.

  • the notion that the “free market” really dictates what is best for locations conveniently ignores the reality that we have zoning laws. do you really want to get rid of zones?
    should concerns of neighbors really be irrelevant? should ANC’s have no input in regards to business and ABC permits?
    what you think is best for the city is not the same as what everyone thinks is best. there are means and processes to hash that out.

  • trapper: thanks for raising the question of zoning laws.

    so, how would the applications here violate zoning laws, specifically?

  • next to the stroller store, next to the red light district, oh wait that was amsterdam!

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