Logan Circle restaurant 1409 Playbill Cafe will close its doors at 1409 14th Street NW at the end of the week. The cafe and mini-theater has been drawing theater fans and industry players to the location since 1998.
Owners Elsayed Mansour and Jeffrey DeMontier opened long before the neighborhood was popular and took a big risk to settle there in the Pre-Whole Foods days. The Logan Circle store on P Street opened in December 2000 where an abandoned garage had stood. It was a catalyst for development on the 1400 block of P Street as well as adjacent blocks on 14th Street and Church Street NW.
The owners — who also happen to be 30-year residents of the neighborhood — hope to relocate to another space in the vicinity sometime soon. Borderstan spoke with Mansour about 1409 Playbill Cafe and Logan Circle.
Borderstan: Tell us about what your vision was for the cafe when you first opened?
Mansour: Both of us are theater lovers so we wanted to do something for that community. Studio Theatre, Woolly Mammoth* and Source really encouraged us to open. We were one of the first restaurants to embrace the theater community. Today, they come from other theaters all over the city. We get a late crowd, after the shows.
Borderstan: What was Logan Circle like back then?
Mansour: It was a somewhat undesirable place to go out to eat at a restaurant. There were lots of problems back then — prostitution, drug dealing, crime — but we loved the neighborhood and decided to go forward anyway.
Borderstan: What do you think of the changes that have taken place in Logan Circle?
Mansour: It has improved a lot financially since the opening of Whole Foods, which really anchored the neighborhood. I think the police and the city took notice, and it has improved the safety. But now the standard of living has improved so much that the old-time residents can no longer afford the area.
Borderstan: Why do you need to close?
Mansour: Our lease was up last year and now we are on a short-term lease, which is very expensive. The building was built as part of a temporary strip mall on what was a parking lot. It was part of an effort by the Logan Circle community to get the owner to help eliminate the drug dealing and crime that was taking place in the lot. I expect they will build a high-rise eventually.
Borderstan: When you find a new location, will you keep the same name and concept?
Mansour: Yes, the same theme. We will just use the number of the new address in front of Playbill Cafe. We have a loyal following and we want them to come back. We have a small 50-seat theater called Black Box and we also started a foundation called Playbill Foundation to support the theater in the future.
Borderstan: When you are not working, what are some of your favorite places in the neighborhood to eat out at or have a drink?
Mansour: It would be unfair to say I have a favorite, I like to support all of the neighborhood restaurants.
*Longtime residents of Logan Circle will recall that Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company was originally located in a warehouse at 14th and Church Streets NW in what is now Homemade Pizza Company and the Lofts 14 Condominium. Woolly Mammoth opened their permanent home at 641 D Street NW, in the Penn Quarter neighborhood in 2005.
From Mike Kohn. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.
Wednesday: Stuff the Bus for DC Central Kitchen at Birch & Barley
There is still time to Stuff the Bus with healthy foodstuffs for DC Central Kitchen. DC’s largest food charity has teamed up with the restaurant app, Venga, to collect food and donations. DC Central Kitchen provides meals for the homeless from its downtown kitchen and headquarters. The bus will be at various food and restaurant locations around the city through Friday, September 30. One of the local stops is at Birch & Barley, 1337 14th Street NW this Wednesday from 5 to 7 pm. You can always donate online to DCCK if you can’t make it to the bus! Venga is a mobile app featuring exclusive offers from more than100 of DC’s top restaurants.
Change of Pace: Metro Makes Improvements
Yep, you read that right. First, the word from DCist is that everyone will now be able to make payment to your SmarTrip card from the comfort of your own home using the Internet. That’s been a long time coming. And then we saw from the Post that Metro is working “every night” to expand cell phone coverage in its busiest stations. I know I was going through severe withdrawal during my 15-minute metro ride, but no more!
You Don’t Have to Go Home, But You Can’t Stay Here
A couple of closings in the Borderstan ‘hood are rapidly approaching. First, news came from U Street Girl that Mid City Caffe will be closing this Saturday, October 1 (on my birthday, no less!). Mid City opted not to renew its lease, and it won’t be opening elsewhere. MetroWeekly also mentioned on Friday the closing of 1409 Playbill Cafe, blaming the upcoming development along the 14th Street NW corridor and rising rents. The owners do hope to find a new home in the Logan Circle area.
A couple of LBGT organizations are having some big dinners across the next week — it must be a fall thing. The HRC National Dinner will be held next Saturday; it has been sold out for a while now, so hopefully you have your tickets already. If not, make sure you get your name on the wait list. On a more local level, the DC Center will be hosting its annual fall reception next Friday and there are tickets still available.
1409 Playbill Cafe, at 1409 14th Street NW is a favorite hangout for locals. It is also a good cheap spot for before or after the theater: basic diner food and a neighborhood bar and laid-back atmosphere… always amusing.
“Eclipsed” is playing at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D Street NW: “Eclipsed exposes how much an individual sacrifices to survive wartime atrocities. The ways these characters respond to trauma and empower themselves can be seen in conflict zones around the world.”
“Constructed Color: Amish Quilts” is at The Textile Museum, 2320 S Street NW: “Amish quilts are among the most striking and famous of all American quilt types. Renowned for their play of color and strong geometric patterns, their similarities to modern art have been noted ever since the 1971 exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York entitled Abstract Design in American Quilts. The parallels are perhaps most striking with regard to color field paintings and art that explores the manipulation of visual effect.”
The Annual Labor Day Concert in Washington is on Sunday, September 6, at the U.S. Capitol (west lawn). The National Symphony Orchestra will perform at 8 p.m. The concert is free and tickets are not required. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
LCCA will host monthly neighborhood happy hours/receptions at neighborhood restaurants and businesses. We are hopeful that these events will provide an informal way for residents to connect with each other, and with businesses in their neighborhood. Here are the details: