by December 4, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,339 0

From Tom Hay and Rachel Nania. Email Hay at Tom[AT] and follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT] 


Alcohol Reform. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The DC Council will vote this week, possibly today, on a controversial bill addressing liquor licensing for local businesses and residents’ roles in the process.

Currently, there is no distance requirement for protesting a liquor license, meaning that a resident in Cleveland Park could protest a license application for a restaurant near Logan Circle.

The new bill would significantly change the current regulations by limiting protests of liquor licenses to those living within 400 feet of an establishment. If passed, the new bill would also allow for Voluntary Agreements (VA) negotiated by Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) to override agreements made by a group of residents.

The Current Newspaper reports that there are 43 provisions in the omnibus bill, which was constructed by a group of representatives from the alcohol industry, businesses and neighborhood groups, as well as a group focusing on noise issues. This group that provided input on the bill includes representatives from wards 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8, and Jim Graham worked as the sponsor on the bill.

A newly-formed group called the Alcohol Sanity Coalition DC, founded by Dupont Circle resident Abigail Nichols, is fighting several amendments proposed in Graham’s bill. In a November press release, the group raised concerns about a provision that would limit any resident protest if a VA were negotiated by the ANC. The group is also targeting provisions related to noise complaints and fines.

In addition to leading the Coalition, Nichols is seeking election to the ANC Commissioner seat in Single Member District 2B-05, a position now held by Commissioner Victor Wexler who withdrew from the race shortly before election day. Wexler’s name appeared on the ballot and he received over 80 percent of the votes in his District.

The DC hospitality industry has countered with its own assessment of the amendments. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) issued a plea to push for changes to reduce the regulatory burden imposed by current regulations and curtail the power of arbitrary groups to limit operations.

The RAMW release includes a quote from Hank’s Oyster Bar owner Jamie Leeds who has become the poster child for alcohol regulation gone wrong. Leeds’ effort to expand her Dupont Circle restaurant was well documented on Borderstan and citywide. Her expansion plans became a three-year regulatory and courtroom battle in which she ultimately prevailed.

Mark Lee, coordinator for DC Hospitality, published a guest column on PoPville, stating that “it’s time to end an out-of-balance licensing system that puts limits on dining, drinking and entertainment choices for the many by the few – slowing the city’s forward progress and hurting the local economy!”

D.C. Hospitality is also asking to supporters of the reform to “Tell D.C. Council + Mayor Gray to Reform Unfair Licensing Laws” on this online petition. Hank’s Oyster Bar and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) both issued statements calling for support of the proposed bill.

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[<a href=”//” target=”_blank”>View the story “Hanks asks patrons to sign the reform to current DC liquor licensing regulations” on Storify</a>]

[<a href=”//” target=”_blank”>View the story “DC Hospitality solicits reform support” on Storify</a>]

by November 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm 1,549 0

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at Tom[AT] You can follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann.


Gaylarious at La Kazbah. (Courtesy Gaylarious)

The stand-up comedy group Gaylarious is returning to Dupont Circle this week. Hosts Zach Toczynski and Chris Doucette will present a diverse group of comics from DC and New York City.

La Kazbah will be the place and as a bonus, local DJ Adam Koussari-Amin will provide the music. Doucette, who is a part-time Borderstan resident, recalled to Borderstan that he and Toczynski started Gaylarious in 2007 in the basement of what was then HR 57 on 14th Street in Logan Circle.

Shows frequently sell out early so get your tickets early. Tickets are $15 online or $17 at the door. If you pay at the door, please have cash. You can use your credit card for food and drink.

When: December 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm (Doors open at 7:30)
Where: La Kazbah Lounge at 2147 P Street, NW

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by September 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm 3,007 1 Comment

Hank’s Oyster Bar was forced to close half of its patio seating, but with the ABC Board’d decision that will change tonight. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at Tom[AT] You can follow him on Twitter

The Washington City Paper reported today that the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) has ruled that Hank’s Oyster Bar did meet all three criteria for termination of the Voluntary Agreement (VA), which the Dupont Circle restaurant had been operating under since opening in 2005.

The ABC Board had first issued an order in 2010 allowing termination of the VA. That decision was appealed to the DC Court of Appeals by several of the original signatories who protested Hank’s alcohol license. The appellate court ruled in May 2012 that the ABC Board erred in their decision which prompted the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to shut down half of Hank’s outdoor patio, just as the busy outdoor dining season was getting underway.Hank’s has posted on their Facebook page that full patio seating will be available tonight at 1624 Q Street NW.

The most recent order by the ABC Board allows Jamie Leeds, Hank’s chef and owner, to seat the patio dining area to full capacity. The partial closure of the patio prompted an online petition in support of Leeds and came just weeks before hearings on revisions to the District’s alcohol laws. The proposed legislation limits what may be included in a VA and also further defines who has standing to protest a liquor license.

See the related posts below for more information on the Hank’s saga.

by July 5, 2012 at 11:00 pm 2,610 1 Comment

"Mayor Vincent Gray and Jamie Leeds"

Mayor Vincent Gray and  Hank’s Oyster Bar Chef and owner Jamie Leeds on Thursday night. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at Tom[AT] You can follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann.

DC Mayor Vincent Gray had dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont Circle on Thursday night. The mayor’s visit to the popular restaurant at 1624 Q Street NW happened as the restaurant is embroiled in another chapter of a seven-year-long regulatory battle with a small group of neighborhood residents. Hank’s Chef and owner Jamie Leeds greeted the mayor who acknowledged Leeds’ latest challenge.

Leeds told Borderstan that she said to Gray, “I just want my patio back.” According to Leeds, the mayor shared her frustration that a small group of people could dictate how a business may operate, even in the face of so much popular support. Shortly after Leeds was forced to downsize her patio, an online petition was circulated in support of Leeds and quickly attained more than 1,800 signatures.

Hank’s Oyster Bar most recent roadblock occurred just before the start of the annual gay pride weekend — one of the busiest times for the outdoor cafe portion of the restaurant. Leeds was forced to close half of her cafe’s outdoor seating after a DC Court of Appeals decision ruled that the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC Board) had erred in its 2010 decision that allowed her to terminate the voluntary agreement (V.A.) she had signed before opening in 2005.

Among other things, the V.A. controlled the hours service and size of the outdoor cafe portion of the restaurant. The case was remanded to the ABC Board and a hearing took place last month. A ruling is expected in a few weeks.

While the drama of Hank’s unfolded over the past few weeks, DC Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) has introduced legislation that would overhaul many of DC’s alcohol licensing laws. Among the 43 amendments and additions proposed in the legislation is a change in how close neighbors must live to a business before they may have standing to protest a liquor license application. The legislation was introduced last month and a hearing is scheduled for July 12 at 11 am in room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 14th and Pennsylvania NW.

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by December 30, 2010 at 5:30 am 3,138 3 Comments

Borderstan Tom Hay business stories

Tom Hay covered a variety of business related topics in the area in 2010 plus stories on local government. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Last June Tom Hay began covering business in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area for Borderstan: real estate development, new businesses, profiles of store owners, and the regulatory process in which local business meets local government.


by October 22, 2010 at 5:00 am 5,069 0

Dupont Circle Dupont Underground Luis Gomez Photos

19th St. and Dupont Circle NW: A closed-off entrance to the old underground trolley car facility. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay

Architect Julian Hunt has grand plans for the former trolley tunnels that run under Connecticut Avenue and Dupont Circle NW.

Hunt, who lives in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, presented the vision of the non-profit Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground (ACDU) to the public on Wednesday night. ACDU was one of two respondents to a request for proposal issued by the Office the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) in March 2010.

The other submission, a winery, was deemed unresponsive to the specifications of the RFP, although ACDU may include space for them in the concessions area of their plans.

Right Team at Right Time

Hunt opened the presentation by saying he believes that the ACDU proposal has “cut the Gordian knot” on bringing the underground back to life. Indeed the Coalition has assembled an impressive team of developers, architects and contractors. Each group spoke of their credentials and dedication to the project. Among the notable projects on their resumes are The Phillips Collection, The Spy Museum and GALA Hispanic Theatre.


by October 18, 2010 at 9:00 am 1,727 0

Dupont Circle Dupont Underground Luis Gomez Photos

Corner of 19th St. and Dupont Circle NW: One of the closed-off entrances to the old underground trolley car facility. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay

There will be a public reception to hear details on the proposed redevelopment of the Dupont Underground this Wednesday, Oct. 20 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at the Dupont Hotel, 1500 New Hampshire Ave. NW.

The meeting will allow The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and members of the development team to present their ideas and also allow the public to ask questions about the project.

The Dupont Underground is the nearly 100,000 square foot former trolley space under Dupont Circle. This would be at least the second serious effort to reincarnate the space that was closed in the 1960s. In the mid-1990s, a developer tried to revitalize the space as a food court, calling it Dupont Down Under — that project failed quickly with the developer going bankrupt.

A non-profit, The Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground (ACDU), has formed to shepherd the project through the process of redevelopment. According to their website, ACDU  is “…proposing to the D.C. government a phased, multiyear program to progressively fund, renovate, promote, develop programming for and administer the space.”

by October 13, 2010 at 9:58 am 4,397 0

Uptown Arts Overlay DC Government

Uptown Arts Overlay is the official name given to the area by the DC Government. (DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs)

From Tom Hay

Last month Borderstan reported on the $200,000 grant awarded by the DC Neighborhood Investment Fund for branding and marketing of the DC Arts District centered around the 14th and U Streets corridors. In a series of three public meetings project leaders Andrea Doughty and Carol Felix presented the project goals and the time line for introducing brand concepts to the public.

Panelists presented their visions for the Arts District and the audience was encouraged to provide feedback after the presentations. We thought it would be time to bring you up to date on the status of the effort.

Street Graphics Competition

Next up is the street graphics competition, with deadlines for submissions due October 15. More details on the competition and meeting minutes from thee public sessions may be found at the DC Arts District blog. Street graphics would include light post banners, building facade banners, street tattoos and storefront signage.

Deadline for street graphics competition is Friday, Oct. 15. Three design concepts to be presented at Nov. 1 meeting at Longview Gallery.

The design elements would be installed by first week of December for the public kickoff to the branding campaign. An RFP has also been issued for banner production and installation. The budget for this portion of the project is approximately $75,000.


by October 5, 2010 at 6:50 am 3,840 0

Toucan Boutique Tom Hay Luis Gomez Photos

Mother and daughter team, Etna and Nastassia, in front of their 9th Street NW boutique, just off U Street. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay

For Borderstan’s ongoing series on local entrepreneurs and retail businesses, I paid a visit with Etna and Nastassia, the mother-daughter team that owns Toucan Boutique at 1911 9th Street NW. We had met Etna during this year’s Dog Days sale on 14th Street, when their booth was set up next to our table.

Toucan Boutique opened in April 2010 and is one of the only clothing shops in their stretch of 9th Street. Just south of U Street, the area is home to many restaurants and bars and is also known as “Little Ethiopia.” Note to the guys out there: I had thought Toucan Boutique only sold women’s clothing, but they have a great selection of men’s shirts and outerwear, too.

Etna and Nastassia are originally from Brasilia, Brazil. Before Toucan Boutique opened, Etna had been a marketing director for Brazil Watch Publications and had always wanted to have her own business. Her daughter, Nastassia, who attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, was working in photo production before coming back to DC to join her mother in the business.

Borderstan: How did you select the 9th Street location?

Nastassia: I was living in the neighborhood when there had been a clothing store in this location and when I saw that the space was available, I jumped at the chance to add some diversity to this area’s businesses.


by October 1, 2010 at 4:58 pm 2,250 1 Comment

14th Streetscape DDOT Luis Gomez Photos

DDOT held its first public meeting on the 14th Streetscape Project Sept. 29 at the Reeves Municipal Center. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay

Residents and business owners turned out to fill the second floor community room at the Reeves Center Wednesday night to hear details on the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) plans for the transportation and streetscape improvements on the 14th Street NW corridor.  Attendees were given a 25-page color handout of the Powerpoint presentation and scale drawings with block-by-block details were available on site.

The project does not take into account the possibility of a streetcar lines on 14th Street.

By the Numbers

The budget for the federally funded project is $8.5 million. The stretch of 14th Street from Thomas Circle to Florida Avenue that the project covers about a mile, 0.94 mile in fact. Currently the design process is at the 65% complete stage, with a scheduled design completion date of November 2010.

14th Street is 70-feet wide and plans call for:

  • two 11-foot lanes of traffic in each direction
  • 5-foot bike lanes–both north and south bound, adjacent to the traffic lanes
  • 8 feet of parking/bulbouts on each side of the street.

What is a bulbout?

The project will incorporate many “bulbouts” at intersections and crosswalks. Essentially they are curb extensions at the corners of an intersection. Bulbouts allow for greater pedestrian visibility and safety by shortening the crosswalk distance. Bulbouts also expand the sidewalk area allowing more room for bus shelters, bike racks, streetlights, even outdoor café seating.


by September 28, 2010 at 10:31 pm 1,733 0

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From Tom Hay

More Wine and Shorter Lines on P Street

The Logan Circle Whole Foods in the 1400 block of P Street NW announced that the renovation and expansion of the 10 year old store which we reported on in June is nearly complete.   There will be an unveiling of the new mezzanine level cafe on October 1. Check out the store calendar for details on the kickoff which includes entertainment, refreshments and giveaways.

If you’ve been to the store in the last few weeks you may have noticed the expansion of the wine department and addition of a bunch of express checkout lanes along the P Street window wall. While I welcome shorter lines at the grocery store, the new checkout system feels a bit like a DMV queue. Plus it eliminates the window side seating which was great for people watching.

Overall the system is working and I think the changes will be a big hit, especially with football season underway and the holidays quickly approaching.

Tunnel… But No Love

The Washington City Paper Housing Complex Blog reported that construction is set to begin in late October on a gigantic 1,165-room Marriott Marquis at the Northwest corner of 9th and Massachusetts NW.

The saga of building of a large hotel in close proximity to the DC Convention Center has dragged on for years, and while the legal battles have ended, not everyone is happy. The estimated 42-month-long construction is sure to disrupt residents and business owners.

Plans call for the hotel to have several restaurants, cafes and a tunnel under 9th Street.  Not good news for cafes and galleries north of the site who had hoped for increased foot traffic. The hotel will also be within the boundaries of the Arts District which is currently undertaking a branding and marketing effort.

Jogger Gets a Lesson in Safe Sex

Interesting Washington Post opinion piece by a female jogger whose run through the portion of Rock Creek Park known as P Street Beach became her introduction to the notorious hookup spot. After finding the area littered with condoms and condom wrappers, the writer contacted various law enforcement agencies for comment. Seems that patrolling of the area is somewhat lax because of jurisdictional issues between US Park Police and DC Police.

Proposed Metrobus Changes Would Create U Street-Dupont Bus Link

From Greater Greater Washington are some details on proposed changes to the 90-92-93 Metrobus lines that run from the Anancostia Station, along U Street NW, through Adams Morgan ending at the Ellington Bridge on Calvert Street. The recommendations by DDOT and WMATA call for the line to instead continue straight on westbound U Street to Florida Avenue NW, then left on Connecticut, continuing south toward Dupont Circle. The proposed change would create a direct bus link from the U Street Corridor to Dupont Circle.

by September 23, 2010 at 12:27 am 1,685 0

14th Street Streetscape U Street NW

State of the Sidewalks: 14th Street NW and U Street NW. DDOT holds its first public meeting on the the 14th Streetscape Project on Sept. 29 at the Reeves Municipal Center. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will host a community meeting on the 14th Street Streetscape project on Wednesday, September 29. Time is 6:30 to 8:00 pm in the 2nd Floor Community Room of the Reeves Center at 14th and U NW.

Attendees will be shown the intermediary design followed by a public input session. The long-awaited project covers the stretch of 14th Street NW from Thomas Circle north to Florida Avenue. The streetscape project got its start back in 2007 with presentations by DDOT at a series of public meetings. The final report was released in 2008.

Plan Objectives

Some of the objectives of the 14th Streetscape plan are:

  • To reinforce and define a sense of place and uniqueness of the 14th Street corridor.
  • Establish a flexible, demand-management parking strategy.
  • Encourage the use of public transit.
  • Create a safe, inviting and interesting neighborhood that supports diverse uses and activities.

“Streetscape” is a broad term to include all the physical elements that we encounter when moving around the city by foot, bike, car or public transit. Elements of the project include bus shelters, crosswalks, trees, curbs and gutters, bike lanes, public art and signage.

Streetcars? U Street?

What is not on the agenda is any discussion of DDOT’s ambitious streetcar plan, which would include this portion of 14th Street as well as a U Street line. When you click on the DDOT streetcar map, be sure to click on Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the master plan.

Also not included in this streetscape project are the blocks of U Street just off 14th Street. If you’ve walked the U Street between 9th and 18th Streets, you know they are in desperate need of refurbishment. The sidewalks are extremely narrow in some places in addition to being in bad shape and simply dirty.

Projects on 17th and P Streets

In Dupont Circle we have recently seen two DDOT Streetscape projects. The 17th Street NW project, which started last year and just finished up (be sure to check out our story on the 17th Street Festival to celebrate the completion). A few years ago the blocks of P Street west of Dupont Circle also underwent renovation in what turned out to be a costly interruption for many of the local merchants.

by September 21, 2010 at 2:33 am 1,724 0

At 14th and P NW is the Mid City Deli, which is also called the Mid City Fish Market on the P Street sign. The MidCity Caffe opened more recently on 14th between Corcoran and R Streets NW. But there’s more! (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay

The recent branding meetings for the Arts District centered around 14th and U NW includes discussion on a name for the district. The boundaries of the proposed Arts District stretch from 16th to 7th Street NW and from Florida to Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Among the potential names that have been tossed around is “Mid City” or “MidCity.”  The Mid City name is familiar to many in the Dupont, Logan and U Street neighborhoods, since it is used frequently to identify with the 14th and U Street corridors.

So, we thought is would be a good time to give you a “Guide to all the Mid Cities” or perhaps it’s “MidCities.” Here is some background on the organizations, businesses, and even a blog, who have adopted the Mid City/MidCity name.

We would love to hear your thoughts on what the name means to you, how it should be written–and please let us know if we have left anyone out.

Mid City Artists – Nearly 40 artists who call Dupont and Logan Circle their home formed this group to promote their artwork and the neighborhood where they live. Mid City Artists sponsors a twice yearly “Open Studios,” which give visitors an opportunity to see the unique studio spaces in the area. The next one is November 6-7.


by September 15, 2010 at 2:47 pm 3,551 0

Theatre J Arts District MidCity

The third public meeting on the Arts District that will encompass 14th and U Streets NW was held at Theatre J on September 13. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay

Theatre J at the DC Jewish Community Center was the venue for the third public dialogue meeting on branding and marketing the Arts District centered around the 14th and U Street corridors.

Like the earlier sessions, Monday evening’s format opened with comments from Carol Felix, lead branding consultant, and Andrea Doughty, project leader. A panel discussion followed and the meeting wrapped up with questions and comments from an audience of about 50 people.

Felix again stressed the need for a simple, quickly understood brand to market the arts district and how it must act as an umbrella for the mini-brands that fall within the boundaries of the district (Shaw, Little Ethiopia, Logan, U Street).

Among the commenters were an artist associated with the Mid City Artists, and a business owner associated with the MidCity Business Association.  Both talked about the efforts over the years to build the Mid City name and the positive impact it has had for the artists and business owners.


by September 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm 2,427 1 Comment

14th Street NW Logan Circle Peregrine Espresso

Peregrine Espresso’s 14th Street store is slated to open this winter. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay

Logan Circle coffee lovers will be happy to learn that Peregrine Espresso will be opening in the former Flowers on Fourteenth location at 1718 14th Street NW. Flowers on Fourteenth moved to larger digs a few doors down at 1712 14th Street, just a couple of months ago.

Peregrine Espresso has been operating a Capitol Hill location for about two years. Owner Ryan Jensen said he expects the 14th Street location to open sometime this winter. The storefront will have about a dozen seats and the menu will include espresso, filter drip, a few coffee micro brews, pastries and desserts.

One interesting service offered at the Capitol Hill location is the “Pedaler” service, which delivers whole bean coffee to your doorstep. Once the build out of the space is further along, Jensen will gauge interest in that service for Logan Circle. Jensen said, “the 14th St corridor has so many unique and excellent small businesses and we hope to contribute to that community.”

There seems to be a growing trend of independent coffee houses opening up in the Dupont and Logan circle neighborhoods.   About a year ago MidCity Caffe opened above Miss Pixie’s at 1626 14th Street.   Earlier this year Filter Coffeehouse opened at 1726 20th Street in Dupont Circle.


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