Photo by PoPville flickr user DooleyPhoto
My son and I traveled to 18th Street to find out which new LPs Crooked Beat Records had in stock. It was somewhat difficult to find parking due to the heavy construction, but I managed to find a spot about 2 blocks away. I pulled my son from his car seat, took his hand in mine, and we headed for Crooked Beat. The prospect of walking a toddler down a sidewalk flanked by jersey barriers and construction debris was somewhat daunting, but I hadn’t been to Crooked Beat in forever so we marched onward. What I found out once I got to Crooked Beat was more disturbing than the road construction.
I asked the owner, Bill Daly, if the street construction had affected his business.
“Very much so” he told me. In fact, the past several months have been some of slowest on record in the history of Crooked Beat.
“Well, isn’t the DC Gov’t giving you a subsidy or tax break or something until the construction is complete?”
“No. Nothing yet.” he said.
“Are you kidding me?” I said shocked. “So what are you going to do?” I asked.
“Probably close if it something doesn’t happen” he responded.
Mr. Daly went on to say that he was prepared for four months of construction, but in-climate weather and no 24-hour construction has prevented the project from being completed on time. After purchasing a record, I left the store and noticed something: no construction was being done on this glorious Saturday. A backhoe sat dormant on 18th street with no operator in site. A full day of progress wasted.
The revelation that one of my favorite businesses might close due to a basic construction project brought me great anger. Especially when considering that the project has been delayed multiple times according to Mr. Daly, and the city has done nothing to help offset the interruption in business.
Concilmember, Jim Graham authored the “Streetscape Construction Small Business Relief Act of 2010” which passed. However, the original bill which allotted $7,000,000 in relief has been reduced to $700,000, literary 1/10th its original size. Furthermore, this much smaller sum must be evenly dispersed across all affected businesses. Also, in an email to Mr. Daly from Kristen Barden, Executive Director of the Adams Morgan Partnership BID, the mechanisms to distribute that money are “not yet in place”.
Is the council kidding? How can the DC Council pave the way for companies like Walmart to invade D.C., yet find no money in its coffers to help locally owned businesses suffering at the hands of a construction project that’s months behind schedule. How can mayor Gray demand raises to executive salaries while business owners like Bill Daly can barely afford the rent?
If the council does nothing to support businesses like Crooked Beat, Meeps, and Edna’s Salon on lower 18th all that will remain in wake of the Streetscape project is a sea of vacant businesses. And customers like me will not return.
In the meantime, if you are a fan of rare vinyl records, or vintage leather jackets, or authentic Mexican mole please brave the treacherous sidewalks of lower 18th street and patronize businesses like Crooked Beat Records, Meeps, and Casa Oaxaca. This could be your last chance.”