Dear PoPville – Support Adams Morgan Businesses

Photo by PoPville flickr user DooleyPhoto

“Dear PoPville,

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.”

62 Comment

  • its probably more complicated than that. All over the city, residents and businesses ask for streetscape improvements. These are very pricey, a basic upgrade of ONE block (new sidewalks, curbs, lights) can push to 1 million with delays or any “out of the box” elements (like specific kinds of benches etc). So its a big deal to get it this in any neighborhood and ultimately it HELPS businesses by improving the commercial area. What you are saying is that not only should the City spend millions to help improve commercial corridors but they should also pay businesses to take this kind of help? Adams Morgan could have probably turned this down and I am sure plenty of other places would have begged for it. Not sure how DC council is bending over backwards for Walmart either. 3 of the 4 sites are matter of right so they don’t need any zoning relief and can pretty much go for construction permits without anything from Dc gov or council.

    • I think what the letter writer is saying, at least in part, is that city works of any kind that impact businesses should feature on-time completion as one of their top goals. I know it burns me to see torn up streets and idle equipment. Get working on it, and get it done.

      • I live in the area and have actually been impressed with how much these guys work. I’ve seen them out on weekends and in the worst weather – in recent bouts of pouring rain, and even in the most blazing hot days we suffered through this past summer.

        I am sympathetic with the OP’s perspective – i.e. the stress this project must be creating for area business, and perhaps the Council’s insensitivity – but there are often legitimate reasons for construction delays. (And 24 hour construction? Despite “the strip” this is still a predominantly residential area, thanks very much.)

        Have the OP, Mr. Daly and/or other small businesses contacted our ANC reps? What about the Adams Morgan business association? Or our council rep?

        As much of an inconvenience as the construction is to residents (and not just shoppers) I must admit that I feel lucky, given the economic forecasts for municipal budgets, that this project continues. The completed portions of lower 18th Street look great, and as a pedestrian the wider sidewalks are a big improvement. While tough in the short term, hopefully the project will result in resolving some of the Adams Morgan cluster@#$@ we all gripe about. That’s what discourages me from spending in my ‘hood, not having to criss-cross the street a few times.

    • Is it not ironic that the construction of the very “improvements” you mention would, in the meantime, force existing businesses to close. How does that make sense?

      Or maybe the landlords, the biz development people, council, et. al don’t care if businesses like Crooked Beat go out of business because they can jack up the rent, license fees, and taxes on the next business that moves into the vacant space.

  • apparently it’s because of gentrification and that “there’s little impetus to support black-owned businesses”:

    • Is Crooked Beat Records black-owned? And even if it is, do you really think that’s the reason aid has been slow in coming? The article you posted a link to is about a black-owned business on H St that is going out of business. I don’t think it’s a fair reading of that article to conclude that THE reason this business is failing is because the owner is black and the city doesn’t want to help him. His business is failing because he has fewer customers. He has fewer customers in large part because people can go online and buy what he is selling cheaper than what he is selling it for. He is suffering the same fate that Borders and other major brick-and-mortar booksellers have suffered. Should the City have provided financial support for them? And is the City’s failure to do so an indicator of it’s lack of impetus to support white-owned businesses.
      It’s important to point out racism where it exists, but blaming everything on racism cheapens the argument.

      • it’s also important to be savvy enough to pick up on sarcasm. catch up little brother. pedal faster.

      • Marcus is right… “He is suffering the same fate that Borders.”

        People buy very few LPs and/or CDs these days.

        Wonder how many cassettes he has sold lately.

        Not everything can last forever.

      • Actually,Crooked Beat had been selling more vinyl records than CDs. The 3 months previous to the construction were some the of best sales months according to the owner.

        The main reason, the only reason, why business is down is because there has been less foot traffic near Crooked Beat. This is a direct result of the construction.

        Don’t make assumptions.

    • DCentric, the blog about race, race baiting, and sour grapes in the black community.

  • Took me a few seconds to realize that by “in-climate weather” the OP presumably meant “inclement weather.”

    • em

      +1,000 – in-climate weather would be weather that is expected in the climate we live in. Of course, the climate is changing, so we’ve had less in-climate weather and more out-of-climate weather…

  • yeah, this kind of things can really wreak havoc on businesses. maybe there should be some kind of fund to help businesses to stay afloat whilre there is construction going and later to be paid back once the business improves.

  • Sadly, the city would probably be happy to see these small businesses pushed out, to be replaced by national chains who will pay more in taxes.

  • andy

    Oh yes. Because our current fiscal climate empowers DC to subsidize businesses because of nearby construction.

    In a sweet fiscal environment, pay the guy for his lost business. In a recession, use the money for higher priorities.

    • we have a surplus.

      • andy

        then make it rain, make it rain! i couldn’t think of a higher priority!

      • I don’t think it’s accurate to say we have a surplus – the recent revenue projections came in higher than forecast, but the city was facing a shortfall of hundreds of millions in fiscal year 2011, and the Council had to cut millions in spending to be in balance.

        Regarding the businesses, does anyone know if DC gave U Street businesses support during construction of the metro? I heard that (much longer) construction caused a lot of businesses to go bankrupt.

        • Isn’t this what a good government is supposed to do?

          …but the city was facing a shortfall of hundreds of millions in fiscal year 2011, and the Council had to cut millions in spending to be in balance.

  • This sounds like an issue that should be raised by the Adams Morgan Partnership and Main Street organizations to help and assist all businesses in the area.

  • Maybe the ethically challenged DC council could raise taxes, without any public hearings again.

  • yeah raise the income tax rate for this!!!!
    more government handouts!!!


  • Warlmart > smelly “vintage” clothes and records.

  • There’s absolutely no accountability when it comes to streetscape projects. There should be a) a guaranteed maximum price contract in place to prevent overcharges by contractors and b) a firm deadline in place after which the contract faces a hefty fine for each day they’re over the agreed-upon completion date.

    The city basically asks the contract to complete it by a certain date rather than requiring it. It’s a joke. The lower section of 18th St streetscape went wayyyy over the alotted time. 17th St was completed on time due to business pressure. H Street, believe it or not, was largely on time. So far the Adams Morgan project has been botched badly- especially the intersection around 18th and Florida. There wasn’t even proper signage or a cross signal until last week.

  • Meh, I think people are sick of the C.F. that is Adam’s Morgan: nightmare to park, little in the way of indie businesses, it’s been around too long – and the uptick in crime over the past few years doesn’t help.

    Why go to Adams Morgan when you can go to U Street or H Street NE? Adams Morgan is the Lindsay Lohan of entertainment districts; a washed-up, fading starlet.

    • Yes. but don’t we all secretly lust after Lohan still? Not everything has to be a cerebral retreat. Sometimes you long for that drunken tart and that gooey jumbo slice.

    • Then U ST/ H ST must be the Zach Branoff of party strips.

      I can’t wait til all the kids go play in U St and H St.

      Perhaps Adams Morgan will be more fun to go out in again.

    • U Street, you’re so edgy!

  • This streetscape project was discussed and planned ad nauseam by the ANC, the Adams Morgan BID, AM MainStreet and gasp…even the civic organizations.

    I’m not diminishing the impacts this is having on Mr. Daly’s business and all the businesses on 18th Street eventually, but this didn’t just fall out of the sky. This was talked about for YEARS before it happened. The letter makes it seems like it was just thrust upon the business owners. The business owners are fully represented before DDOT (the BID is even paying someone to be their liaison with DDOT).

    The ANC,business owners and others pushed for the 18th Street business onwers to get tax-relief during this project, and while the Grahamstander tried, clearly he didn’t try hard enough.

  • False. You obviously only visit the neighborhood on Friday and Saturday nights.

  • I live in Adams Morgan and do not base it on the nightlife. It has that reputation because for ‘going out’ – Adams Morgan encapsulates debauchery on Friday and Saturday nights. I actually avoid it like the plague during that time.

    However, I do commute (walk) home up 18th Street and must say the construction time is getting to be ridiculous. I have not seen anyone working – just equipment standing in some sort of concrete/sandy mass that were former lanes.

    Union project, surely?

    • Seriously? I see the guys out there all the time. And yes it is a pain to walk home/run errands/walk my dog etc, but I think the completed portions are a HUGE improvement (see my comment above) and worth dealing with some short-term inconvenience.

    • I live on 18th and they are constantly out there, including the vast majority of Saturdays. I walk by them every morning around 8:30 and they are well into their workday -the drilling that woke me up at 7:30 this morning can attest to that.

      • Hmm I guess this goes hand in hand with my comment. I don’t live on 18 Street and rarely venture down the street on the weekends so I guess that’s why I am missing all the actual work being done.

        Walking in the construction area has never bothered me – I just never see anyone working. Oh well.

  • Is this a Recovery Act project? Should we blame Obama for this mess?

  • No good deed goes unpunished. Perhaps in the project funds there is money for advertising to enourage people to visit Adams Morgan during the day and support the local businesses. If not I suggest a block party when construction is done.

  • All the businesses b*** and moaned about the H St streetscape too and now it’s beautiful.

    This is one marginal business trying to get out of paying taxes for marginal decline in revenue. If you’re not strong enough to stick it out, then relocate. Plenty of neighborhoods would love to have you.

  • Enough with the negative and insulting anonymous comments about Mr. Daly and Crooked Beat. He has run a profitable niche business for years and has proven himself to be a great neighbor.

    The point here is that our city council, and our councilman in particular, will bend over backwards to fund tens of millions in tax abatements for their millionaire friends (campaign contributors), but won’t go to bat for the existing small, locally-owned businesses.

    Many of us foresaw this situation and literally begged for reasonable assistance such as: a one year property tax abatement, a sales tax holiday or marketing assistance. Sadly, we are not a priority.

    So small business owners who have invested their lives and fortunes in the neighborhood will be forced out. They will not be collecting sales taxes or employing others (payroll taxes) and property taxes will likely become deliquent. These business owners will not be able to afford to trade with their neighbors nor contribute to the neighborhood non-profits and schools. How short-sighted!

    Jim Nixon

  • I feel Bill’s pain. Not sure I’d be able to survive construction like that. You’d think the local business association would have planned for it better and you’d think the city could complete it as scheduled (or at least come close).
    I remember when they were putting in the Metro on U Street and the streets were torn up for months (maybe even years) and it killed all the existing businesses there except Ben’s.

  • The project is actually on schedule, not behind at all, according to sources. AND the contractors do in fact have a heavily incentivized contract. They pay a penalty of several thousand dollars every day over the project time limit of 448 days. And I do agree with other commenters, those guys are out there working every day, rain included.

  • I find it hard to believe that Crooked Beats’ sales have gone down due to lack of foot traffic. That makes it sound ike random people walking buy decide to go in and buy a vinyl with no forethought.

    Vinyl records are a niche and people who want them will go to Crooked Beats (if that’s where they’ve been going) whether there’s construction going on or not.

    Their business isn’t like a coffee shop or some other store that people just decide to stop in at while they’re going about their routine.

    I think it’s more likely that the internet is driving their business down, rather than the construction.

    • This is such a stupid statement. If you knew anything about the record industry, you would know that vinyl LPs have made a comeback and, in many stores, are outpacing CD’s.

      Does your wrongheaded thinking apply to vintage clothes, haircuts, or slices of pizza (other businesses affected by the construction).

      Crooked Beat’s sales are down not because lookie loo’s don’t come in to buy the latest Katy Perry’s album, but because regular customers who buy 1-2 albums a week can’t find a parking space or don’t want to walk around the construction.


      The OP

  • The overarching issue is that small businesses are being sorely affected by this lack of preparation and poor planning in what should otherwise be a routine street improvement project. I traverse the streets of Adams Morgan on an almost daily basis, in an effort to take a break from my office and get some exercise and check out what the local stores have to offer. However, with the ongoing construction, which started in 2010 (I should point out), I am loathe to go much further on 18th Street past the post office for fear of ruining my shoes and clothes; with all of the dirt, dust and mud. If small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy and the engine that drives it, then local governments should be doing everything in their power to encourage, support and develop small businesses such as those in Adams Morgan. For all you who say it is the small businessman that is whining in this instance and that they need to “tough it out,” please explain how anyone other than the local merchants are affected by this long-overdue project? The only ones who are affected here are Adams Morgan businesses such as Meeps and Crooked Beat. These store owneres are in fact “toughing it out,” still paying rent and taxes, and staying the course. However, if no customers come into their stores to buy their goods because the customer cannot find parking, and cannot navigate the broken sidewalks, or the congested, construction-laden streets to get to the stores, at some point the storeowner will be forced out of business. And, as the project slowly progresses up 18th Street, the bars and restaurants that heretofore have been immune to the problems that those on lower 18th Street have been facing, will soon feel the pain. Let’s see then how responsive the City Council will be when the “whine” is not coming from a couple of shopowners, but rather becomes a cacophony of protests from the trendy restauranteurs and tavern owners, several hundred feet up the street!

  • Record stores are a niche market that is true, and its also true that the real record fiends will find your store no matter what the state of the sidewalks are. I can’t speak for Crooked Beat but a good percentage of my business is from Japanese and European record dealers, tourists and from kids down for the weekend from New York and Philadelphia who stumble (or find on the internet) my shop. If I had to depend on local buyers only I would have closed up a long time ago.

  • Let me first try to eliminate any myths about the construction:

    1) The DDOT construction contract began in February 2011 and ends on May 13, 2012. For every day (up to a max of 50 days) they finish early there is a $5,000 award. For every day past May 13, 2012, there is a $5,000 penalty. The contractor is aiming to finish in late March so they can get as much of the possible $250,000 award as possible. They are permitted to work 6 days a week from 7 am to 7 pm.

    2) The 18th Street Streetscape Project was discussed and designed with many members of the community for EIGHT YEARS! The ANC, the KCA, the Reed Cooke NA, Adams Morgan Main Street, the Adams Morgan Partnership BID, etc…were all involved.

    3) Part of the planning included the phased construction which was built into the contract and was designed to mitigate the negative impacts as much as possible. One of the complaints heard about the 14th and Park Road construction was that access to businesses was blocked for weeks. This contract AGAIN has strict controls that access can NOT BE BLOCKED for more than 24 hours.

  • I live around the corner from Crooked Beat and walk past the 18th St. construction several times a week. The construction is basically right outside their door. Since the construction has started, I’ve gone out of my way not to walk down 18th St. The sidewalk is difficult to navigate and the unruly construction site often spills over onto the already small sidewalks on that stretch of 18th. I’m not surprised in the least that their business is suffering. 18th St. is a mess right there. I only hope the construction ends soon.

  • Regarding the blocking of access, is the limitation for a total of 24 hours or one continuous 24 hour period? I believe that to be an important distinction in this instance.

    • Continuous 24 hour period.

      • Accordingly, this means that other than the continuous blocking of access for 24 hours, the construction crews are free to block and/or disrupt access to the businesses along 18th Street for any length of time short of 24 hours. If access is blocked from 8am until 9pm, prime business hours — which is allowed according to the terms of the contract — it is hard to see how this blockage would not have a negative impact on customer access to the businesses and in turn, business sales and revenue.

  • You can support Crooked Beat by buying online from their website. During the P Street and Columbia Heights streetscapes, the business entrances were blocked for days! This applies when the concrete is being poured right in front of them up to the doorway and has to dry and a walkway provided. What everyone has missed is that Graham lost the chair of transportation/ DDOT. Tommy Wells became chair, and so I was told that the ENTIRE reduced amount of $700,00 ALL went to H street. (After that, Wells lost transportation to Cheh).

  • A little late to this thread.. but just wanted to chime in on the Crooked Beat comments — Bill’s store does very well, so well that his store has been the subject of news pieces on ABC News, Voice of America and others. As evidence of the impact of the street repairs, I refer you to the following message he posted on Crooked Beat’s facebook page back on 9/27 “Crooked Beat is CLOSED again today as they are still working on the sidewalks out front. But I will be here. So if you want to come to the store to get the new Wilco or any other records please email us or call us. We can let you in through the backdoor. 202-483-BEAT. Thanks” — Yes, he’s had to resort to letting customers in through his back door b/c the sidewalks are closed, the problem is that bad. See a news piece on this isssue

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