A piece of Logan Circle’s seedier past is changing for good.
Construction crews could be seen dismantling most of the building that once held the “men’s parties” sex club at 1618 14th Street NW yesterday afternoon. Though a black tarp obscured some of the work, a quick peek behind revealed that most of the building’s interior had already been gutted. Only the building’s façade that faces Corcoran Street NW remains.
It was immediately unclear what the purpose of the work was. In February, the Washington Business Journal reported that the building’s owner was issued a permit to rebuild and repair the bottom third of the building’s façade.
The building, once known for housing the infamous “wrestling club” and “men’s parties” events, has been the talk of the neighborhood for years. A man died there in 2009, prompting the city to file suit to shut it down. After the building’s owners decided to raze it in 2013, ANC 2F debated preserving the building before ultimately granting a conditional demolition endorsement one year later.
The prospect of Logan Circle’s ANC 2F pushing for a historic status for Barrel House Liquor’s façade is getting dimmer.
The commission picked apart the idea during its general meeting at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Thomas Circle last night.
A little background if you haven’t followed along thus far: Barrel House Liquor — known around the neighborhood for its iconic barrel-shaped facade at 1341 14th St. NW — announced it planned to move next door last month. Though the liquor store will live on, what might happen to the big barrel it’s leaving behind is unknown.
“We want to hear if this is something that the community wants to stay,” Tuma told Borderstan in September. “I personally want it. Everyone I’ve talked to wants it. But that’s the first step, that making sure this is representative of the greater community.”
Only a few parties can apply for a historic status, noted Tuma, and that includes the property owner and the local ANC. Though Tuma said he’d like the owner, Eric Meyers, to apply for the status himself, he said he was willing to push the ANC to move forward in applying with or without his help.
Some members of the public cheered on the effort. ANC 2F’s community development committee did not. Several ANC 2F commissioners echoed the committee’s skepticism last night.
Meyers spoke about the property and its iconic barrel during the meeting.
“This property has been an integral and very important part of our lives for almost 44 years,” Meyers said. “I could never conceive demolishing [the barrel], much less trying to move it anywhere.”
But Meyers stopped short of saying he wanted to apply for a historic status. “I want to make sure that the ANC understands that the property is already located in a historic district, and any renovation, any potential demolition — and I don’t know how you’d move that thing no matter what — would be subject to Historic Preservation Board approval,” he said. “But my wife and I own this property and have for decades, and we don’t intend to dispose of it.”
Meyers added that the barrel, which is made from poured concrete, cannot be moved or dismantled without destroying it.
“We will do the right thing for the property, we will do the right thing for preservation, and for the tenant if the tenant allows us to do so,” said Meyers.
Commissioner Kate Gordon, 2F-01, asked him pointedly: “Are you in favor of a historic landmark status for the facade of your building or not?”
“I am in favor of letting the Historic Preservation Board make that decision,” responded Meyers. “I am in favor of keeping it as part of any design for the property if M.G. [whose full name is Mesfun Ghebrelul] is no longer there operating in the business. I think it would be great to keep it there as a lobby or retail for the apartments above. But we’re nowhere near that sort of determination before we know more.”
Though Tuma said he felt like it was too early to push for an ANC motion, he said he’d like to see more research and documentation from architects. “I would not feel comfortable putting forth [a motion] without that kind of research,” Tuma said.
Charlie Bengel, 2F-06, strongly opposed applying for a historic landmark status for the barrel.
“Unless the owner specifically wants his property to be designated as historic, there’s no way I would ever support designating it as historic,” Bengel said.
“I think it limits his ability to run his business,” he added. “I think it would be a perfect example of government overreach to the nth degree, to the point where it could be fodder for late night comedians. I really feel strongly for private property rights.”
Commissioner and Chair John Fanning, 2F-04, echoed Bengel’s opposition to applying for a historic status.
“I think it’s kind of confusing and it’s an awkward situation because the barrel is the icon of the business,” said Fanning. “Where’s the real Barrel House? I would hope that you guys can work something out.”
Speaking from the audience, community development committee at-large representative Helen Kramer summed up her thoughts.
“I think it’s inappropriate getting involved in a landmark designation when there’s no imminent threat to the barrel,” Kramer said. “The owner of the property has stated that he has no intention of altering or destroying it, so the whole issue is moot.”
Talks to grant an imperiled Logan Circle liquor store’s facade a historic status may have hit some preliminary bumps in the road.
A panel of representatives and ANC 2F commissioners weighed concerns and asked questions about the idea during a community development committee meeting at the National City Christian Church (5 Thomas Circle NW) last night.
Commissioner Pepin Tuma, 2F-03, made his case before the panel. He said that, although the owner of the building at 1341 14th Street NW and Barrel House Liquor owner Mesfun Ghebrelulare — who also goes by M.G. — are discussing ways to keep or move the facade, he’d like to have a plan in case those talks fall through.
“A lot of the members of the neighborhood and myself personally are interested in … preserving the facade of this building within the parameters of D.C.’s historic preservation law,” Tuma said. “The important thing to do is to recognize the historic landmark of this facade and begin the process of working with the D.C. government and with neighbors to ensure that, if this is what folks want, we have all our ducks lined up in a row.”
But members of the ANC’s committee had concerns about granting historic status to the building when Ghebrelulare has already said he plans to move next door.
“I’m concerned because … if that happens, are we going to have two liquor stores side-by-side?” said Helen Kramer, at-large representative. Kramer also noted that granting the property a historic status would mean that the barrel could not be “chopped off and moved somewhere else.”
“I hear your concerns,” responded Tuma. “I think we would obviously like to minimize confusion to customers and the neighborhood about where Barrel House is. I think that’s a very good point.”
But Kramer reiterated her point. “I’m just very concerned that if this is designated as a historic landmark, what are they going to do to the property?” she said. “The sensible use would be a liquor store. I don’t think it’s desirable to have two side-by-side liquor stores.”
Other concerns raised by the panel included whether the building’s facade truly is historic and whether it fits with 14th Street’s historic theme of being “automobile row.”
“The facade, which I think represents elements that people are really looking to preserve, was built in the early 1950s and has the historic … roadside style of architecture style of development that is rare in Washington D.C.,” Tuma said.
“If it is understood to be an example of roadside architecture, it could conceivably fit within the historic district as automobile row,” he added. “But that’s certainly above my pay grade. Everything is above your pay grade when you’re an ANC commissioner.”
In an interview with Borderstan, Tuma stressed that the committee’s discussion was necessary to move forward with a concrete ANC proposal.
“Those concerns that were raised in there, about confusion and potential trademark issues, are significant issues with which we’ll be concerned,” Tuma said. “But none of those independently mean that we should not investigate and concern ourselves with the historic nature of the facade.”
“I’ve shopped there for 17 years, maybe longer, and it’s a piece of history” Tuma said. “Hopefully there’s a way to preserve the architectural history and ensure that M.G. and Barrel House have another 20 years of success in the neighborhood.”
DDOT representatives will share the department’s plans during an upcoming ANC 2F meeting at the National City Christian Church (5 Thomas Circle NW) this Thursday at 7 p.m.
During the meeting, the department will give its notice of intent for installation of bike lanes in the following locations:
- N St. NW between 15th St. and Vermont Ave. NW
- M St. NW between 9th St. NW and Blagden Alley
- 12th St. NW between Pennsylvania Ave. and L St. NW
If the projects meet the ANC’s approval, DDOT will begin installing the lanes in October, said department communications specialist Michelle Phipps-Evans.
An imperiled Logan Circle business could receive a historic status.
Washington City Paper reported last week that Barrel House Liquor — known around the neighborhood for its iconic barrel-shaped facade at 1341 14th St. NW — is being forced to move next door due to rising rent. Though the liquor store will live on, what might happen to the big barrel is unknown.
Or maybe not. At least, not if Logan Circle’s ANC 2F can help it. The neighborhood commission is currently discussing applying for a historic status for the building’s facade, which would make it difficult for future tenants to modify or remove it.
Commissioner Pepin Tuma, 2F-03, is the one leading the effort.
“I first heard that M.G. [whose full name is Mesfun Ghebrelul] would be moving last Thursday. I heard that the landlord was doubling their rent every lease term, which is unfortunate,” said Tuma. “He’s been a great neighbor. They’ve won the Logan Circle Community Association award several times. I’ve been shopping there almost 17 years.”
Tuma and his fellow 2F commissioners plan to hear public comments regarding giving the building a historic status during a community development meeting at the National City Christian Church (5 Thomas Circle NW) next Thursday at 7 p.m.
“We want to hear if this is something that the community wants to stay,” Tuma said. “I personally want it. Everyone I’ve talked to wants it. But that’s the first step, that making sure this is representative of the greater community.”
The neighborhood commission will also hear from members of the public during its general ANC meeting in the first week in October.
Provided the ANC reaches a consensus, Tuma said it will move forward with applying for the historic status, preferably with the property owner’s blessing.
“Because the property owner is part of the community, we would like to have a situation where everyone is moving toward the end result,” Tuma said. “We are going to do it. I hope the property owner signs on.”
But Tuma added that it’s not necessary to have the landlord’s approval before applying for the status.
“I think that there really is a desire among the community and the commission to preserve the history of Logan Circle. That’s why we live there,” said Tuma. “Whether it’s a building built in 1893 or Barrel House, the beauty of Logan Circle is everything that it was and everything that it will be.”
Police and elected officials will meet with members of the community tonight at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street NW) to talk about crime in Columbia Heights, LeDroit Park Shaw and U Street.
During the meeting, members of the community will be able to talk with and learn about crime statistics from police Lieutenant Jonathan Dorrough and ANC 1B-12 commissioner and public safety committee chair John Green.
The meeting will also include a special presentation by ANC 2F Commissioner Charlie Bengel, who made headlines earlier this week by calling on Mayor Muriel Bowser for a new ten-point crime plan.
Photo via Flickr.com/MPD
An ANC commissioner is calling on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to implement a new crime plan following the deadly shooting of an American University student in Shaw on Saturday.
“Matt Shlonsky was 23 years old, a 2014 graduate of American University and an employee at Deloitte,” wrote Bengel on the deadly shooting in Shaw. “He was walking near the Shaw Metro station yesterday, minding his own business, when he was randomly killed, a victim of a drive by shooting in what has become a lawless Shaw community.”
Bengel continues: “As an elected city official I call on the mayor to immediately implement a true plan, with specific actions, to take back our communities from the violent crime we’ve seen recently.”
Below are Bengel’s 10 strategies for crime prevention in the District:
1. Use the bully pulpit of the mayor’s position to discuss with communities the importance of coming forward with information that could lead to the closure of open cases of violent crime. We must overcome the culture of a hero being labeled a snitch.
2. Increase the reward from $25,000 to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for homicides. Year to date the city has seen 93 homicides and more than half remain unsolved.
3. Re-introduce district-based plain clothes vice units. The Third District vice unit was responsible for 1,400 arrests and 100 gun seizures alone in 2014. Crime suppression teams, fully uniformed and in marked, and very visible, police cruisers, are unable to be as effective as the vice units were.
4. Increase enforcement of public housing and Section 8 rules. With 70,000 residents on the waiting list for housing assistance, we cannot tolerate any public housing or Section 8 residents who harbor criminals or break rules – or allow their guests to. When a public housing or Section 8 resident is convicted of a felony that news needs to be shared amongst agencies and result in an eviction per the public housing rules.
5. Set up zero tolerance policing zones where arrests will occur, without warning, to anyone committing any crime – including quality of life crimes such as drinking in public, prostitution, public urination, marijuana use, illegal gambling and the like.
6. Unrestricted police overtime. The police department needs as many officers on the street as possible to get us through the summer.
7. Curfew enforcement. The law says juveniles under the age of 17 shall be inside by midnight in the summer and that law needs to be strictly enforced.
8. The city needs to greatly increase the use of high definition surveillance and recording cameras and give grants to businesses willing to install exterior cameras and share the live feed with the police department.
9. The same people are getting arrested over and over again and it becomes a “badge of honor”, as one officer told me. We need to look closely at how many arrests are not prosecuted and what comes of those cases that are. The reality is a tiny portion of people commit the violent crime and we need to get them locked up for a long time.
10. All District agencies must work together to combat crime and the agency directors need to be held accountable. It should not have taken three months after a homicide across from Kennedy Rec Center in Shaw for DPR & DGS to get a contract for cameras executed.
Bengel also called for more ANC commissioners to speak out about violence in the District.
“I call on my fellow Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners to keep up the pressure,” he wrote. “Don’t be afraid to speak out. Don’t let this issue slip when crime drops with the temperature. Demand that our leaders in the executive branch come up with long term solutions to what is an always anticipated rise in crime in the summer.”
Photo via Flickr/MPD
Number Nine and Town Danceboutique co-owner John Guggenmos seeks to open a “comfortable” new tavern on 14th Street NW.
Guggenmos said last night during a monthly ANC 2F meeting that the new business would be located at 1410 14th Street NW in the space under Black Whiskey.
That storefront is currently occupied by Jrink juicery, which will move to Shaw in August.
If all goes according to plan, the new tavern — still unnamed — will have a small dance floor, live DJs and feature architectural design elements made from salvaged materials.
“One of the things we’ll be looking to do here is use materials that give them all a second life,” said Guggenmos during his presentation to ANC 2F’s commissioners.
For instance, Guggenmos said he would like to build an outdoor seating area’s fence out of wood found in the wreckage of a barn destroyed by a tornado.
“You take down this wonderful old barn wood and give it a second life,” he said. “These big, thick old planks; you couldn’t buy something new that has that character.”
Guggenmos hopes the salvaged materials will lend the tavern a comfortable feel.
“I was criticized with Number Nine for making it too nice,” said Guggenmos. “People didn’t feel like they could put their feet up.”
ANC 2F will will host a crime prevention meeting on July 9 at the Marriott Marquis, located at 901 Massachusetts Ave NW.
The meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m., is intended for D.C. residents in Logan Circle, Thomas Circle, Blagden Alley, Franklin Square and parts of Shaw.
Speakers will include D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, Third District D.C. Police Commander Jacob Kishter, Marc Silverman from security company Kastle Systems, and ANC 2F Public Safety Committee Chair Charlie Bengel.
During the meeting, attendees will learn tips on preventing robberies, bike thefts and auto thefts, as well as hear advice related to installing security cameras.
The meeting will conclude with a Q&A.
Heavy downpours and possible thunderstorms are expected to bring 1 to 3 inches of rain to the D.C. area late tonight and tomorrow, and that might mean more flooding for some in Shaw.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for D.C. and the surrounding areas starting around 2 a.m. tomorrow morning and lasting through 2 a.m. Sunday morning.
Last week, several P Street NW residents spoke their concerns regarding recent flooding in Shaw.
Tom Lisle, a spokesperson for D.C. Water, said heavy downpours are more likely to tax the city’s “undersized” sewer system.
“The sewers, for really intense rainstorms, don’t have enough capacity,” Lisle said last week.
A fix is on the way, said Lisle, but not until 2022 when the planned Northeast Boundary Tunnel is completed.
ANC 2F is expected to address flooding concerns at its monthly meeting in Thomas Circle next Wednesday.
Residents who experience flooding or see standing water and clogged storm drains are asked to call D.C. Water’s 24-hour command center at 202-612-3400.
A liquor license for a “new tavern” has been posted at 1410 14th Street NW, a space currently occupied by Black Whiskey, Jrink, and Italian suit pop-up Abitissimi Fashion Room.
The liquor license says the business will feature “live entertainment and dancing” and a summer garden with seating for 46 patrons.
Though the licensee listed on the posting reads “In Stereo, LLC,” the policy agenda of last night’s ANC 2F meeting says an official name for the new tavern is to be determined.
From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan may vote to oppose the demolition of 1618 14th Street NW, former site of the sex club, “Men Parties.”
At last night’s meeting, ANC 2F’s Community Development Committee (CDC) voted 6-0 to recommend the full ANC not support an application to DC’s Historical Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for a raze permit for the building. The demolition requires permission from the HPRB because the building is within the boundaries of the Fourteenth Street Historic District.
Jeff Owens appeared before the committee to plead the case of the building’s owner, Stephen Jaffe. Reports indicate Jaffe has been the owner since before the 2009 incident.
Owens said the building had been gutted and is now exposed to the elements. He also said the building’s perimeter wall is buckling and the floor joists are gone. Neighborhood residents testified the building is neglected and some windows are open permanently.
Owens also said there is a tentative plan for a new building on the site which would have retail on the first floor and apartments above.
Neighborhood residents testified the building has been an eyesore for years and there were many unsuccessful attempts by neighbors to do something about it. One neighbor brought up the owner’s responsibility for the club and the 2009 death.
“He [Jaffe] knows nothing about that,” Owens said.
Members of the committee came out strongly in favor of preserving the building.
“This is the type of case that historic preservation laws have been designed to protect,” said one committee member.
“This is an absolute case of demolition by neglect,” said another.
“It’s a contributing building,” said committee chair Walt Cain, ANC commissioner for district 02.
The matter may be next considered at the regular monthly meeting of ANC 2F. This is scheduled for Wednesday, July 10, at 7 pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas Circle NW.
A notice that an application to raze the building had been filed first appeared at the property in April of this year.
From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
The owner of Cafe Ghana asked for assistance from MPD at last week’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle meeting.
After a briefing on local crime by a representative of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the proprietor of the Ghana Cafe (1336 14th Street) told the committee homeless people were harassing people in front of his restaurant.
He also reported homeless people participating in oral sex at a nearby bus stop. By the time police responded, the proprietor said, the behaviors had ceased. The MPD representative pledged to work on the problem.
From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
The full ANC concurred with last month’s Community Development Committee recommendation to support the application by Brook Rose Development for zoning relief on its proposed development at 1456, 1458 and 1460 Church Street NW. The new apartment buildings, as planned, will contain 37 rental units. The size of each unit will be 250 to 400 square feet, and will rent for $1800 to $2000 per month.
An unusual aspect of the development is that tenants will be required by the terms of their lease to refrain from applying for a Residential Parking Permit (RPP). Applying for an RPP will be grounds for termination of the lease.
It is possible to get information about RPP applications from the DC government through a Freedom of Information act request. Otherwise, DC authorities were “reluctant” to give out this information.
Commissioner John Fanning, 2F-04, had concerns about the monitoring, reporting, oversight and enforcement of this part of the lease agreement.
“I think that we need to have some clearer oversight,” Fanning said.
Commissioner Cain said the developers had promised to report to the ANC on a quarterly basis, and might be open to more frequent reporting if asked. Cain also said there was no enforcement mechanism.
“We’re just going to take their word for it,” Fanning concluded.
There was a discussion of the limits of ANC authority to make and enforce agreements, and also the future of parking regulation in the light of planned changes in DC zoning regulations that will essentially eliminate the requirement for parking in new construction.
The final vote was 7-0 in favor of support the application for zoning relief, with Fanning abstaining.
From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
ANC 2F Reverses Decision to Block Sidewalk seating for M Cafe and Bar.
At its regular monthly meeting last night, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted to endorse an application for a sidewalk cafe by M Cafe and Bar, opening soon at the corner of 14th and R Streets. This reverses a decision made the previous week.
M Cafe and Bar: Outdoor Seating (mostly) Okay
Two weeks ago, ANC 2F’s Community Development Committee (CDC) voted to protest an application for outdoor seating by the soon-to-open M Cafe and Bar (1634 14th Street NW). Representatives of the establishment had not shown up for the committee meeting to discuss the matter.
At last night’s ANC meeting, CDC Chair Commissioner Walt Cain (district 02) confessed there had been a scheduling error. The CDC normally meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month. This is usually the last Wednesday of the month. However, there were five Wednesdays last month. M Cafe and Bar management were told to come on the last Wednesday in May – a week after the actual date of the meeting.
Given the above, a representative of M Cafe and Bar was given a chance to present directly to the full ANC, so M Cafe and Bar can go forward on its plans for outdoor seating in time for the scheduled opening in mid-June. M Cafe and Bar wants to have 51 outdoor seats in all. Of these, 20 tables will be on the 14th Street Side. Six tables will be on an elevated platform facing R Street. An awning will be placed eight feet off the ground, protruding more than six feet on both portions.
There were concerns that part of the proposed design would create a bottleneck on the 14th Street sidewalk. The ANC voted to approve M Cafe and Bar’s request for outdoor seating with a minor modification to relieve the bottleneck.