Horse’s Ass Award Nominee? – 2461 18th Street, NW

I don’t know if this should be a horse’s ass award because I’m really grateful that the amazing Toulouse-Lautrec mural has been preserved. According to Cultural Tourism DC:

“This portrait of cabaret singer Aristide Bruant by fin-de-siécle Parisian artist Toulouse-Lautrec has presided over the night life of Adams Morgan for 20 years. The mural was painted from a photograph by the restaurant’s original owner, André Neveux. Although Neveux considered himself only an amateur, the image has entranced pedestrians and lured diners throughout several changes in the club’s ownership. ”

Having noted that, it does seem like the space has been vacant for ages. Anyone know how long? At one point I heard a restaurant was going in but then I haven’t heard anything in a while. What’s the word on this great building?

39 Comment

  • rent is too damn high – LOL! glad they kept Toulouse!

  • I have to say I like this more than the Lautrec original.

  • I don’t know if I’d nominate this for horses ass. The property is empty, but at least appears in good repair.

  • I’m sure there’s a valid reason, but I can’t think of why a property owner would choose to keep rent too high for potential tenants to afford, rather than lower it to the point of attracting a business. For example, further south on 18th, why has the old DCCD space sat empty for 7+ years? Is there a tax incentive in DC for maintaining a vacant storefront? Makes no sense.

    • There’s no tax incentive (in fact, there’s supposed to be a disincentive), but sometimes landlords choose to sit and wait until a larger corporate tenant shows up. The behavior is terrible for neighborhoods, and I think it’s a un-neighborly thing to do, but larger corporate tenants will pay higher rent and don’t go out of business as often as smaller companies do, so there’s less turnover. Turnover is pretty costly to a landlord.

      I’m no expert, but it seems to me that this is Doug Jemal’s business model. Look at what he did in Chinatown. He sat on vacant buildings until he could find national chains to fill the space.

    • is it possible that the owners uses the spaces as tax write offs?

      • I should have mentioned that. The owners can probably take an operating loss on their income tax returns, but the supposedly higher property tax rate for vacant properties should offset that somewhat. I guess it depends on how quickly the District classifies properties as vacant.

    • Sitting on a vacant property (i.e., one that earns $0 revenue and costs who knows how much a year to maintain) and waiting for a corporate tenant for 7+ years?!? For a couple hundred square foot storefront? Only in DC.

      • you think this is only a dc occurrence?

        • No, not literally. “Only in DC” is an expression I often use to convey the mix of emotions (disbelief, anger, resignation) I feel whenever I encounter a problem in DC like perpetually vacant storefronts in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood — i.e., a problem that I’ve never witnessed in the six other cities I’ve lived in, though I’m sure it must exist elsewhere.

  • Is there a way the District can grant historic status to this and other murals around town to protect them? What’s to stop a new owner/tenant from just painting over it? Adams Morgans murals really contribute to it’s unique character and helped establish Adams Morgan as a fun place to eat and drink. They really become iconic after awhile and I would hate to see them painted over as the neighborhood further gentrifys(dullifys).

  • Not my blog, but it seems to me that a Horse’s Ass award should be reserved for a vacant property in disrepair where there is no legitimate reason for it to be in disrepair. A vacant storefront on a street in the midst of a bustling entertainment district where the vacancy is most likely caused by an inability to find a tenant willing to pay the rent does not strike me as a worthy recipient of a Horse’s Ass award.
    And I’m sure the people of AM would rather have a vacant but nicely kept storefront than another bar.

    • Well. I see your point. But rents are dictated by market forces. What tenants are willing to pay. So if you own a property on a bustling commercial strip like this and it sits vacant for 7 years you are asking above market rents. I am sure that this property has had plenty of offers that were turned down because the landlord would rather use it as a write off than lease it for what is actually an acceptable rate. Landlords like this are the reason 18th is full of bars and restaurants. Because they are the only businesses that can afford those rents. (thanks to the mark up on alcohol). So what happens is this sits vacant until someone can buy a liquor license from another failed establishment (thanks to the moratorium). And then maybe this spot gets filled. If landlords charged reasonable rates then maybe you would see a flower shop open there. Seems worthy of a horses ass to me.

      • Well put, John. Again, my major disbelief is that it’s apparently more profitable for an owner to keep a storefront vacant for years on end than it is to simply rent it to a viable business at a market rate. Other than eating and drinking substandard/overpriced food and booze, there is nothing to do in AM anymore.

        • are any bookstores left in adams morgan?

          • Yes. Idle Time books defying the odds. I shop there whenever I can to support them. Isn’t it worth spending a little extra on books each year to keep some brick and mortar stores open? I think of it as a voluntary tax. Hope other Adams Morganers do the same.

      • I see your point but “reasonable” is in the eye of the beholder. It’s true that rents are dictated by market forces. But if an owner doesn’t like the current market, has the scratch to wait for the market to change, and is not breaking any laws, I don’t see a problem with that. I don’t believe that a property owner has an obligation to sell, rent, or develop property just because some people in the area would prefer for that to happen.
        I used to live in AM and heard the lament about the prevalence of bars for a long time. But the fact is that each attempt that I am aware of to turn 18th St into some kind of commercial corridor has failed. The busiest retail stores I saw on 18th St when I was in the area were Idle Times and the place that sold used videogames. Clothing and shoe stores came and went. The rent may bave been a problem but that was because they didn’t have enough business. It’s not a place that people go to shop.

  • All of 18th St in Adams Morgan is a horse’s ass these days

        • Have you been there?

          • yeah, but i’m asking why you guys think that.
            its it because its experienced much less business in the past year due to other hot spots? is it because its still too much a party scene? is it because its pretty slow on a weekday? we all see different things.
            i think its a great neighborhood.

          • I think outside of 10pm-3am on Fridays and Saturdays, Adams Morgan is a pretty decent neighborhood. During that time it’s like Mardi Gras, and not in a good way. But go there at 8pm on a Thursday to grab a drink and it’s similar to U St or Logan Circle, maybe quieter.

          • True it’s a great neighborhood during the week… but the roaches, rats, trash trucks, crime, parking or rather endless parking tickets and most of all weekends, suck.

  • It used to be a pretty good place. Not too crowded, and a fun bartender.

    When the last bar left the property they mentioned that the owner (or new leasee, I forget which) intended to renovate and open up another bar, but that was 4 years ago. The people who ran the last iteration of Cafe Toulouse are involved in Slaviya now.

    Ugh, I used to drink too much in adams mo.

  • The top floor is an apt for sure – i looked at it a year ago from CL

  • Actually you pay a higher tax rate on empty property in DC.The woman who owns the building “After her husband died” Is a nut and does not want to offer a reasonable rent..

  • So, a buddy of mine was going to open up a new restaurant/bar in this space, and I’m not clear on the whole story but I think @B4 is right, the lady who owns the place isn’t the most reasonable of people. Too bad.

  • I heard that there were two owners, they had a disagreement, and one of the owners went abroad and has been kind of screwing the other owner re: signing any paperwork or working out an agreement to do something constructive with the building. So basically, the explanation was, the reason the restaurant is empty is “spite.”
    Used to enjoy going to nearby La Forchette for brunch, in the pre-squirmy-toddler era of life.

  • I hope they keep the mural. The neighborhood is fine. It’s relatively convenient and fun, BUT the rats are gross. The sticky sidewalks and throngs of loud partiers get old. Very transient. There was a time a long, long time ago, when even Adams Morgan was on the fringe. Risky artists lived there, you could actually buy things from little shops… and there were practical enterprises. Now, it’s good for brunching really.

  • There are occupied apartments above providing some income for this property and the long time property owner.

    Over the last three years some serious high end remodeling and very expensive improvements have been made slowly inside and are behind those papered windows by a well intentioned commercial tenant below that was paying rent as well during the whole reconstruction. The iconic Adams Morgan mural now well into its third decade was to remain.

    Sadly, between the unfriendly, inhospitable landlady and an unfriendly, inhospitable city government that does not welcome new business like ordinary municipalities, the business failed with huge personal losses.

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