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Bloomingdale News: More Coffee Coming to Bloomingdale? Or Perhaps Wine? Engine Co. 12 Delayed Opening

by Prince Of Petworth May 12, 2011 at 11:00 am 85 Comments

“Dear PoP,

Another coffee shop for Bloomingdale? Workers renovate 1636 North Capitol St. NW, two storefronts up from the much-anticipated Engine Company 12 restaurant (left). The guy who seemed to be in charge said the upper floor will be apartments and the lower floor “commercial.” Next door at the Capitol Food Mart, the guy behind the counter said he’d heard the downstairs will be a coffee shop.”

Some may remember 1636 North Capitol as the Borf building. Also a commenter noted in our discussion about Bacio Pizzeria coming to Bloomingdale:

“Be patient, everyone — we will soon (in the not too distant future) have our very own wine & cheese bar (plus retail shop), courtesy of one of our very own Bloomingdale residents. More to come…”

A while back I heard a rumor that a wine shop would be coming to 1636 North Capitol. I’ll def. be keeping my eyes on the building to see who moves in. Stay tuned.

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UPDATE on Engine Company 12

This just in from multiple readers:

An Open Letter to the Community
Re: Scheduled Opening of Engine Company 12

To all local residents,

Due to the lack of open support from community leaders and local civic associations, it has become necessary to delay the opening of Engine Company 12 from July 1, 2011 to September 1, 2011. We have tried for the past several months to garner letters of support from local area civic associations and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission without success. Without these letters the process to obtain an alcohol license from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration is drastically slower. Operating a restaurant of this size without an active ABRA license would be financially unfeasible.

Representatives from Engine Company 12 have been attending and presenting at local area civic association meetings and hosting meet and greets off and on for the past four months. It is unfortunate that this philosophy of open communication with local residents and civic leaders has not garnered the support necessary to yield letters of support from local groups.

If we are unable to obtain letters of support from the local civic associations and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in the next 30-45 days the opening date will need to be delayed until after the start of the New Year. I apologize for this and we are still working diligently to get this project up and running as quickly as possible.


Steven M. May Jr.
General Manager
Engine Company 12

  • houseintherear

    I’m thinking that Brian Brown’s reputation in Bloomingdale and surrounding areas doesn’t help the cause. It’s hard to earn trust when you break promise after promise.

    • TCres

      My guess is he has some objectionable change planned and is using this shame/outrage tactic as cover to force the ANC to support everything or risk being called NIMBY by the POP/citypaper/blog crowd.

    • Anonymous

      I think it’s time for another call to DCRA about the wall outside his house. Still rebar sticking out, pavement bricks still coming loose, but now there’s breezeblocks! Progress, I suppose.

  • Anonymous

    In the NIMBYs mind nothing is something fight for.

    • Anon

      I would be very careful to throw around the NIMBY term.

      I have seriously heard NO single person oppose the restaurant. A few were concerned about noise – but they also said they were willing to work with the restaurant.

      No one threw down a blanket statement, as the letter infers.

  • Ben

    What is the objection of the local ANCs and civic groups? It would be nice to understand what their concerns are, rather thank simply reading that they have no written a letter supporting the project.

    • TCres

      None, in fact, the ANC signed a letter of support years ago. This is Brian Brown and his crew trying to blame their incompetence on the neighborhood.

  • Eckington

    Interesting that they are heaping blame on neighborhood groups that are critical to them gaining their license. Since they haven’t shared their request with the listservs, but they’ve shared this letter, it seems a bit shady.

    Have any of the groups outright refused? No one has talked about this. As far as I can tell, the issue of the liquor license surfaced for the first time to the community last week. At that time, I thought to myself, “wow, they’re waiting a little late in the game”.

    As someone who is generally critical of our neighborhoods’ views on these issues, I just dont see enough facts on the restaurant’s side to merit this kind of PR assault.

    What really pisses me off is that this attitude is only going to make their road forward more difficult. 3 months ago I’d say this project had a 80% chance of actually opening. Now I would put that, due only to this bitter rant from the owners, at around 40%.

    • That’s What She


      i’m thinking either this stephen m. may is either totally disorganized or a complete douche.

    • Tres

      The Bates Area Civic Association is having a Party to Benefit the Firehouse:

      Saturday, May 21 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm
      The Fire House 1626
      1626 N. Capitol ST NW
      Washington, District of Columbia

      More info on the BACA blog.

      It seems unlikely they’d have been able to open in June, even with ANC support. I’d put odds at 90% the firehouse will open, regardless of the blame game happening now. Now is a good time to bring Eckingtonians to the table as well.

      • Bloomies

        BACA is not having a party to benefit the Firehouse. The Firehouse is the location of the fundraiser for North Capital Main Streets (NCMS).

        • Tres

          Ah thanks.

          Still, I’d wager nearly all of the people who’d show up will be supporters of the Firehouse. Worth sharing the invitation so that folks who have an interest in promoting NCMS and/or the Firehouse can lend community support. I think we can all come together on this.

  • stickman

    check cashing place coming right by capitol food mart, yay!

    sad face.

    • Eckington

      What are you talking about?

  • Video

    Do you all think it will be easier/feasible to get a beer & wine license in a smaller space? Something comparable in size to Big Bear?

  • jm

    as a bloomingdale resident who is 100% for development like this, I find this letter really off-putting.

    also there is no way the build-out was going to be completed by July, so I don’t even know why he bothered to go out of his way to put this out here.

    • Justin

      Agreed. This letter is VERY off-putting.

  • stacy

    Whatever happened to the good ol’ BYOB days? Charge me a corkage fee, and perhaps once the restaurant gets poppin’, it will be easier to acquire a liquor license if they have good food, atomosphere, etc.

    As might be evident, I have no business background…so my proposal is probably naieve in nature. One can still dream, though.

    • Elle

      I’ll join you in naivite. All of my favorite restaurants in my old home were BYO. It was amazing, and made a night out so much more affordable.

      • unfortunately DC requires a liquor license for a restuarant to allow byob.

  • Kev29

    I’m completely shocked that this project is turning into a fiasco.

  • Anonymous

    I really want this building to turn into something good, so I’m mad at everyone.

    Someone cheer me up with details of the wine bar. What’s the deal with that?

  • Truxton Circle Resident

    WTF?!?! This is ridiculous. I don’t know the details of what the restaurant owners has or has not done nor do I know what the ANC’s/ Community groups has or has not done, however, I would like to add this piece of constructive advice: WORK TOGETHER A**HOLES.

    To the Restaurant owners: find out who the ANC members /community leaders are and meet each one of them personally. Invite them for a drink and discuss the restaurant’s role as a stewart to the community. Go to ALL the ANC meetings that will affect your decision, even if they are miles away in NE. It’s your business so YOU make the effort.

    ANC Commissioners- Understand that North Capitol Street is a disgrace to every consituency in the community. Robberies, Drugs, Murders- NOBODY wants this in their neighborhood (except the robbers, drug dealers/ users and murders. Helping to foster a viable business on North Capitol St. will make our main streets safer and more enjoyable to all the surrounding neighborhoods.

    • Anonymous


      Bdale Citizen’s Association on Monday at 7. I’m sure this is going to be a major topic of discussion.

    • TCres

      FYI, this letter came out of the blue. As a fellow Truxten res, I’m sure you remember his many presentations and requests for support from BACA. Wait, you don’t because there were no recent ones

  • Anonymous

    I’m really glad I didn’t buy a house in Bloomingdale. look at this pathetic mess. It’s embarrassing enough as an outsider to watch the clowns in this area repeatably shoot themselves in the foot by derailing business growth. I can only imagine how frustrated I would be if I lived there.

    • Anon

      I’m glad you didnt buy a house in my neighborhood too. You seem to be someone who is completely unable to be reasonable or think things through without spouting off.

      Do you believe every open letter that you read on the internet?

      • Anonymous

        Oh yes I believe everything that is written. Everything. At face value even, which is why this building has been sitting empty for as long as it has… because of MY inability to think…

        • Tres

          It certainly wasn’t because of the residents it sat vacant, as you bitterly implied. Face it, you made an ignorant remark. Let you ability to think mull that fact.

          • Anonymous

            I’ll do that while sitting at my locally supported establishment.

          • Tres

            You can do that, and you’d still be wrong in everything you said today.

        • A neighbor

          ANON, what you missing is that this IS (or at least was, until the operator started spouting crap) a LOCALLY SUPPORTED ESTABLISHMENT. Everyone in DC knows that it can take forever to get a liquor license and yet he hasn’t even applied yet. How is this the fault of the (supportive) ANC? Or the (supportive) neighbors?

    • Anonymous

      I suspect you’re an outsider even in the neighborhood you do live in.

    • Devoe

      Not to put too much of a damper on your ignorant triumphalism, but even if you get all your information from the blogs, you surely must have noticed that home prices have risen by about $100k per rowhouse in Bloomingdale over the past year. And if you do get all your information from the blogs and somehow missed this fact, I would encourage you to actually walk around the neighborhood which is quite cohesive, friendly and beautiful.

      Despite the wholly overblown-on-the-internet squabbles, the neighborhood is bringing in new business at a rapid pace.

      • Anon

        Yeah, I’m kind of wishing we’d bought there instead of Brightwood.

        • Anonymous

          is the brightwood cafe worth a visit?

    • me

      Blimpie’s is locally-supported?

  • Devoe

    also, in the completely unsubstantiated rumor department, I had heard that the wine and cheese shop would be coming to the sometime-flea-market space on the NW corner of 1st and Seaton (across from the Amax cleaner), though a spot next to the firehouse seems equally desireable. Would create a nice synergy out of what is currently nuthin’.

    • m


  • Uncle Remus

    Most local civic leaders I’ve talked to were excited about this business moving in. I can’t imagine why the Bloomingdale folks would oppose it if there wasn’t a good reason.

    My guess is theres more to the story, some inside baseball perhapps, that we don’t know about.

    But I’m confident it will eventually get resolved. It took Big Bear and Beau Thai a long time to get their licenses… but they did get it.

  • Geoff

    I hope it’s a woodfire grill type place, where I can get a great steak and the vegetarians can get some good grilled fish. That would be a delicious addition to my new neighborhood.

    • LisaT

      Fish-eating vegetarians?

      • Anonymous

        Vegetarians usually eat fish. It’s VEGANs who don’t eat anything that was ever alive.

        • LisaT

          Um, no. Vegetarians do not eat any flesh, and that includes fish. Vegans do not eat/wear/use any animal products.

          • Anonymous

            You got it wrong, but it’s ok, do your own thing. Nobody’s going to judge you if you aren’t a real vegetarian anyway.

          • LisaT

            GIYF and you can use it too.

        • Anonymous

          you don’t have your facts straight.

      • John Sands.

        There are lots of vegetarians who eat fish. It might not fit some people’s definition of vegetarianism, but it’s a fact of life for millions.

        • LisaT

          Jesus. All people have to do is look up the definitions. Pescatarians may eat fish, but vegetarians do not. It’s the DEFINITION, not my personal interpretation.

          • John Sands.

            Sounds like you aren’t getting enough protein.

  • Anonymous

    That area is so depressing. But everytime I drive by that firehouse I’ve thought gee that would make a great bar. And lately, “What is taking them so long?,” the guy who bought it to turn it commercial is obviously disorganized, does not have enough cash on hand, probably doesn’t know how to run a restaurant, and is going to blow it and lose a fortune. Good news for the next owner.

  • Anonymous

    I am absolutely shocked that EC-12 is suffering yet another setback!

    Which of the following things do you think will happen first?

    – The fence around Brian Brown’s house finally gets fixed
    – The junk furniture and exercise equipment gets taken off Brian Brown’s porch
    – Brian Brown mows his lawn
    – EC-12 opens

    • BloMi


      I walk by that travesty every day. What makes anyone think EC-12 will be a good establishment (not that I don’t want it to be) with that guy involved?

      He started fixing the fence, but now the crappy iron fencing, which at least looked cool in a haunted house sort of way, is an even worse cinder block eyesore.

      Isn’t this guy also involved in the Shaw Tavern project? I hope not..

      • Anon

        Well, in his defense (if you could call it that) it looks like they are building a proper retaining wall re-enforced with rebar. The old fence/wall fell apart because it had failed mechanically. Now let’s hope that when it’s done sometime in the next calendar year that it gets faced in brick or stone.

  • Ben

    These restaurant and bar owners really could use some PR advice. That’s what so much of these negotiations are comprised of anyway: PR. You get your license by agreeing to some basic demands and making the neighbors feel comfortable with your presence. You position yourself as a good community steward and a positive contributor to the neighborhood. You reach out to people individually, attend neighborhood meetings, show up at local events, etc. If you do all of these things, and some rogue ANC commissioner still has it in for you, the public goodwill you have generated will help overcome that. The process of getting a VA can be maddeningly long and frustrating, but it’s not rocket science.

    If you DON’T do those things, you risk alienating even those who support you. The letter above serves absolutely no purpose other than to demonstrate the type of thinking and level of business acumen possessed by the individuals behind this restaurant. You earn a neighborhood’s support and respect; it isn’t automatically bestowed on you.

    • Eric in Ledroit

      Ben, this letter is an absolute fabrication. There has been no effort made at all to get endorsement from the neighborhood, which universally supports getting that firehouse fixed up.

      Here is a similar excuse from the same developer from last year – in this case, the excuse was some b.s. about the DCRA not issuing him a permit he needed to fix a dangerous hole in the ground where a fence around his house used to be:


      I will note that the fence STILL is not repaired.

  • Eric in Ledroit

    Shaw Tavern theoretically has the same restauranteur managing it. Who really knows however given Brian Brown’s involvement. I enjoyed the mattresses he had piled on his porch for a few days last week.

    He also has a long history of these sort of b_llshit excuses, for example:


    • me

      OMG… I just read through those old emails. Very disturbing.

      I’m not putting much faith in Brown’s ability to finish the restaurant and make it work. Fortunately, others will see the success of Rustik and Big Bear and get things done where this guy can’t.

    • me

      BTW, is anything happening at Shaw Tavern? Each time I walk by it, it looks the same.

      • Eric in Ledroit

        Is Brian Brown involved? If so, you can pretty much guarantee it never gets done.

        • Anonymous

          he has finished things before.

          • Eric in Ledroit

            You mean those monstrous pop-ups on North Cap?

          • Anon

            One of which I believe houses a brothel advertised on the Internet?

  • Either is very exciting news. I work near bloomingdale and there really is a lack of places to get coffee except Windows and not really any bars except Rustik so this is great news.

  • Anonymous

    di anyone go to the anc meeting that they requested support? why was it not given?

    • Eric in Ledroit

      they didn’t go to any ANC meetings requesting support!!

      • Anonymous

        i see on our neighborhood listserve that they are scheduled to ask the civic association for support on may 17th.

        • me

          Where does it say that on a listserve?

          • Anonymous

            my bad, may 16th!

            from scotts list. may 9th. #7.

            During the Bloomingdale Civic Association`s (BCA) May meeting, which will be held Monday, May 16, 2011 at 7pm, Mr. May plans to request a letter of support from the civic association. Engine Company 12`s request for a letter of support for its liquor license application will be a discussion item on the May meeting agenda if the application is filed prior to the meeting.

          • Eric in Ledroit

            So in advance of meeting with the community these clowns released an angry, threatening letter? WTF?

  • Anonymous

    the borf building was the best thing on north capitol in the past 2 decades. shame they moved out.

    • molly


    • JohnDC

      They didn’t pay rent but got to lease it in turn for work they were to do to the building which apparently was never done. Nothing is free.

  • Anon

    I haven’t figured out how to get on Scott’s list. He doesn’t respond to email requests to join.

  • Eric in Ledroit
    • Anonymous

      I thought so. I’ll try again.

  • Eric in Ledroit

    how odd – the posting about this disappeared from the bloomingdale neighborhood blog that scott roberts runs.

    • anon

      Hey… I was going to post the same thing to you. I was starting to wonder if I imagined the entire conversation.

      • saf

        Nah, blogger’s messed up, that’s all.

      • Anonymous

        yeah, all blogspot blogs had a rough week and lost posts and comments. “maintenance”, you know.

  • anoninbloom

    The letter is there – currently with 10 comments.

    • A neighbor

      It’s not there right now.

  • Brookland Rez

    I saw some amazing DC hardcore shows there when it was the Bobby Fisher Memorial building. RIP.

  • Anonymous

    the place now has a two storey pop up. took like a day to build it.

    not good at all.

  • K.Slip

    Eckington Civic Association has enthusiastically supported this restaurant all the way down the line. When last endorsed (August 2010), the operator involved was How Soon Cham. Apparently Mr. Cham has been replaced by a new operator, Stephen M. May.

    Mr. May – whose qualifications and background are unknown – doesn’t seem to understand that DC liquor license applications require demonstrating the business is on solid financial ground. The “if we only had a liquor license, we could get financing” puts the cart before the horse.

    The city sold this property under terms which obviously will never be fully met. If a deadline (say, five years) had been specified, the property could’ve been reclaimed and eventually re-sold to become something that actually has a prayer of succeeding. Instead, I see it languishing indefinitely in limbo.

    As for the “Borf building”, for which residences are planned, well, that’s zoned C-M-2 … just like the Icehouse property on Florida, for which residences are also planned. New residential units are prohibited under this zoning designation, but that hasn’t stopped the owners from proceeding with their plans as if they have a right to do so.

    Will the city bother to make the developers request a zoning change for these commercial properties? And if it does, will Eckington, Bloomingdale, and Truxton Circle residents be smart enough to oppose it?

    Eckingtonians, in particular, have a weakness for empty promises. They will merrily follow a charming pitch down the path, never noticing they are heading AWAY FROM their stated destination.

    The line is always “retail isn’t possible in this area yet; it doesn’t have the right demographic”. Yet all the new condos/apartments in Eckington and NoMa have finally provided that elusive “right demographic” (or will, before long). Besides, nothing is more attractive to retail than OTHER retail. Most importantly, there can be no retail without a place to put it!

    Investors not being willing to risk getting involved in retail projects in this area YET does not justify converting all the commercial buildings/plots to residential. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.


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