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Halsa Papered Over in Brookland; Starbucks Coming?

by Prince Of Petworth April 13, 2016 at 10:00 am 31 Comments

655 Michigan Ave, NE

A reader reports last night:

“Looks like Hälsa in Brookland has closed without any reason. Sign says “Closed. Sorry for any inconvenience.” Windows are all covered and inside looks like the kitchen is all disassembled. Hopefully they are just having equipment issues.”

A few weeks ago I got some scuttlebutt that Halsa was likely closing but I was hoping it was wrong. Interestingly, perhaps, at that same time I was told that a new Starbucks was coming to Brookland somewhere in this new development. Updates when we learn more on both fronts. Halsa, who billed themselves as “Healthy Fast Food” opened up only in January 2015. In addition to the healthy food, they also were known for their phenomenal murals. Hoping they can make a comeback.

  • kwame

    Wow this really sucks. They were a great addition to the neighborhood and a nice healthy alternative to &pizza, chipotle, and potbellys. I don’t understand the developers at monroe street market adding a starbucks here as it would directly compete with the barnes and noble cafe as well as filter coffee house.

    • bm

      Also, the Busboys & Poets coffee counter and the Starbucks on CUA’s campus. Certainly seems like overkill

  • KKS

    That REALLY sucks. That place was delish. And, for Starbucks? As if we don’t have enough coffee spots in the area. Boo.

  • Ashley

    Darn! I really liked this place, a great healthy alternative. They seemed to have a good following from what I could tell

  • James

    It especially sucks because I bought a GILT voucher a few weeks back and haven’t used it yet. Anyone know how I can get my money back?

    • KSB

      I have one too! Damn.

    • Wendy

      I’m sure GILT will reimburse your voucher since the business is no more. I’ve had that happen with Groupon & others with no trouble.

  • JPC

    The place was mediocre to be honest. Like, the food was good, but not much better than making the same thing at home. The entire premise of “basic, healthy food” sounds good, but the customer base is narrow. It was too expensive for students and neighborhood residents would sooner make their chicken/fish, vegies, and starch at home for less money, with minimal time savings when you factor in getting there from anywhere in the nearby neighborhoods.

    Plus, across the street was the Busboys and Poets, for only a couple bucks more if you wanted good, classy food, or the &pizza next door if you wanted something slightly cheaper and worse. This was the restaurant equivalent of carrot sticks in vending machines. Always demanded, but never actually bought when available.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think these businesses understand the neighborhoods they own up in… People in Petworth have been clamoring for fealty fast casual (i.e. Sweet Greens, Chop’t, Halsa, Beefsteak) or ANY fast casual like Cava Meze, &Pizza, Taylor Gourmet or Chipotle… YET NOTHING. Meanwhile, Park Place above the metro and in the most dense parts of Petworth sits empty.

    • anon

      +1000. I live closer to Columbia Heights and feel like a Sweet Green, Chop’t, and/or Beefsteak would be successful near the Col Hts metro as slightly healthier alternatives to the other fast-casual places already in the area. Why haven’t any of those places moved north of W Street yet?

    • textdoc

      I like how Autocorrect sometimes revives words you don’t see all that often, like “fealty.” :)

    • Anonymous

      My family member owns an extremely successful locally-launched food franchise and is looking to expand. He has looked at Petworth commercial spaces many times. But there simply is not enough foot traffic to make the numbers work. These fast-casual dining chains are all about volume. They need daytime foot traffic to make the numbers work and asking rents in Petworth are absurdly high. The commercial space owners are asking crazy amounts on triple-net leases, mostly because the owners have owned the property for decades and have no note to pay off.
      He is very conservative about expanding his brand and will only open a new space if he is guaranteed a home run. To open a space will cost him $150-200K easily and one failed store will endanger all his other stores.
      Also, the crime issues in Petworth are seriously worrying for any retail business. He doesn’t want to worry about the shop getting held up or shootings down the block. He has friends who own houses in Petworth and complain about crime, moving the family to MoCo once the kids hit middle school age, etc etc etc. Why would he risk the solvency of his business for that? He’s a small business owner and to them Petworth just isn’t at the point it needs to be yet for him to turn a profit.

      • textdoc

        Interesting backstory — thanks.
        Is the same true of northern Park View as far as asking rents?

        • Anonymous

          Not sure if he looked at Park View – doubtful. He was only really looking near the Metro station and the blocks north of the Metro.
          He looked at a few spaces in Mount Pleasant, but none of them would physically work for his business. And, again, foot traffic is not high enough to support the volume he needs.

          • textdoc

            Park View is immediately south of the Metro. I suspect its foot traffic is lighter than Petworth’s, though, so unless the rents were lower, the numbers still might not work.

          • Anonymous

            Im curious what the foot traffic numbers were at the Petworth metro station? I was told no study had been done in over five years. Clearly there is plenty of foot traffic given the recent explosion in new condo developments and influx of families into the neighborhood. While any metro has crime related issues, most of the crime in Ward 4 is up in Brightwood. There is significantly more violent crime in Columbia Heights. I’d encourage your family to take another look at Petworth. Or even upper 14th Street… Both are eligible for Great Street Grants up to $55,000.

      • Guillermo Brown

        1) lots of new residential development in and around Petworth (Georgia, 14th, in and around Spring Rd area, north of Upshur on Georgia, etc) will increase foot traffic
        2) a lot of the crime in Petworth happens in “north” Petworth near Brightwood

        A few years ago Shaw, U St, and Bloomingdale were all considered pretty sketchy but I bet your family member wouldn’t mind having a store front on U.
        This comment is completely short sighted

        • Anonymous

          OK, then you personally invest $200K in the neighborhood in a non-real estate venture. Allow the bank to personally hold you liable and use your family home as collateral. And then maybe ensure you have enough of a cushion to sustain losses while you wait for “new development to come online.”
          Let me know how it works out for you.
          Like I said, the asking commercial rents in Petworth are way out of line for what an independent retailer can feasibly generate in Petworth. And frankly considering that there’s so much empty retail, rents really need to come down. The asking rent is too damn high. They all want some insane amount of national chain corporate dollars and still don’t want to spend a penny to even bring their spaces up to code. Plus, many of the landlords are unwilling to commit to a tenant who is willing to invest. Good luck getting a 5 year lease, let alone the 10 year lease of yesteryear. Many won’t commit to longer than 3 years.
          Why would you invest $200K when you can lose your lease in a few years once the landlord wants to sell to a condo developer? No amount of increased foot traffic will make the numbers work; businesses need stability.

      • FJ

        Interesting. I’d say there’s much more crime in the vicinity of the columbia heights metro. Can’t speak to daytime foot traffic around Petworth, but there is a complete lack of healthy, quick, and tasty meals in the vicinity! Hope someone takes advantage of the opportunities on Georgia Ave soon, storefronts won’t stay empty forever, and density is steadily increasing.

    • Rich

      You can put tomato sauce on cardboard home, why would any one clamor for “&pizza”. this is why DC has no shortage of disappointing overpriced restaurants and weak basics.


    I’ll miss Halsa. It was a great healthy option in the neighborhood. The food was great. However, it did not seem to know what it was. It was a fast casual place that was certainly not fast. They either needed more help in the kitchen, which only seemed to be one person or be a sit down restaurant.

    As for future developments, I would love a small market like Union Market Grocery to come into one of these spaces. I wouldn’t say no to a Sweetgreen as well. Please no Starbucks! They already serve it at the BN Cafe anyway.

    • CODEL

      Sorry, I meant Union Kitchen Grocery!

  • Timebomb

    Halsa was whatever. I went a couple times and never found anything great. An inoffensive Starbucks with a decent amount of seating and relatively late opening hours sounds fine. I’m alright with ceding that particular building to chainstores; there’s plenty of character at Monroe Street Market and on 12th St.

    • Timebomb

      I meant Brookland Arts Walk still has character; obvs, Monroe Street Market is poised to be all chains.

  • Dognonymous

    Whaaaat? This blows. I was just there last week. They were always hopping at dinner, so this is a serious surprise. I’ve wondered for a while if the rents at Monroe Street Market are too high for a lot of non-chain businesses. There are still a few vacancies and the latest addition was a Chipotle.

  • stacksp

    A few more vacancies over there that need to filled. Unless local proprietors open up shop over there, they may be forced to go the chain route.

  • Wendy

    I’m devastated. Their food was soooo good, and I loved being able to get takeout when I was too lazy to cook and didn’t want to resort to greasy pizza or Chinese. Oh Halsa, you will be missed!

  • J

    Ugh – such sad news. I loved Halsa. A tad expensive and not exactly fast, but it was always tasty and seemed pretty healthy..

  • Tony

    I like Starbucks but there is one LITERALLY across the street. Not to mention the one still going strong on campus. And Filter. And the coffee at Busboys.

  • James

    I’ll miss them as well. I think if they had an ambiance that didn’t feel as much like a grocery store, they would have done better. If they dimmed the lights a bit and had more comfortable seating, better decor, etc (like Vapiano – which seems to have the same no-table-service-but-gourmet-food idea) it might have worked, but hindsight is 20/20. I appreciate them taking a chance, and wish them luck with the next venture.

  • Anon

    I liked the food, but the price point was just a few dollars too high… Like if the meals had cost $10-$12 instead $16. It just felt slightly too expensive to go on a regular basis–and I’m not a college student, so I imagine they felt the same way or more so.


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