January 09, 2010 - 3:21 pm

Bars, Bikes, and Buildings

300 Block of Elm Street

Highlights from Thursday’s monthly meeting of ANC1B: New restaurants and lounges are on their way to U Street.  Office construction in the District may be hurting, but neo-Victorian townhouses will replace an old parking lot on Vermont Avenue.  Fifteenth Street’s protected bike lane will finally enter Ward 1.

Bar Fights

Several commissioners bickered over the process of approving liquor licenses— in this case a procedural dispute— but the commission relented and took no further action on Cuckoo Marans and the U Street Music Hall, both of which we wrote about earlier.  The ANC typically protests all new licenses officially as a means to goad applicants to reach voluntary agreements with the ANC.  These voluntary agreements tend to be less permissive than the District’s standing liquor laws.

In new business, a new liquor license applicant presented his plans for Café Society, which he billed as an affordable and upscale (oxymoron?) steakhouse that will feature steaks (of course) and local produce.  The 139-seat steakhouse will occupy the ground floor and upper floors (and a roof terrace) of the newly renovated building on the northeast corner of Fourteenth and U Streets.  Cuckoo Marans will occupy the basement of the same building.

Against the Grain

DDOT sought and received the ANC’s support for extending the Fifteenth Street southbound contraflow bike lane from U Street northward to the foot of Meridian Hill at W Street.  Fifteenth Street is one-way northbound from Massachusetts Avenue on the edge of downtown all the way up to Columbia Heights. Though one resident complained of renegade cyclists disobeying traffic laws, the ANC voted to support the lane anyway.  Commissioner Brianne Nadeau (ANC1B05 –  Meridan Hill) expressed her desire to see the lane extended all the way up Meridian Hill to Euclid Street, but DDOT is not seeking that extension just yet, though they seem to be studying it, if informally.

When DDOT began installing the contraflow lane in November, Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) flipped out at DDOT’s alleged inadequate notification of his constituents.  In response DDOT built the lane along Fifteenth Street in Ward 2, but stopped at Ward 1’s boundary at U Street.  A chastened DDOT now has the ANC’s approval.

Home Again

A local developer and his architect presented plans to build three townhouses (two units each) on the south side of the parking lot at T Street and Vermont Avenue.  The architect displayed several handsome elevation drawings, all in a Victorian style, that match the rich neighboring architecture.  Each of the three townhouses will feature alley-accessible garages.  The developer will also replace the existing concrete sidewalk with brick, our favorite paving material.  The north side of the parking lot will also be redeveloped as part of a separate project.

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December 04, 2009 - 12:32 pm

Business is Picking Up

If last night’s ANC meeting is any judge, the economy is picking up.  Two separate petitioners sought approval for liquor licenses for their upcoming businesses on U Street and one petitioner presented plans to renovate a vacant building into a restaurant.


The colorfully-dressed owner of Marvin (2007 14th St NW) sought and received support for two minor modifications to his voluntary agreement.  One amendment will allow him to keep an upstairs door open and the second will nix the requirement that he keep decibel readers in the restaurant.

The latter amendment, he stressed, does not exempt Marvin from the noise restriction, but merely relieves him from having to buy expensive (and fragile) volume-measuring equipment.

Cuckoo Marans

The newly renovated building at the northeast corner of 14th and U Streets has signed two tenants, one for the ground up and one for the basement.  The proprietors of the future basement venue Cuckoo Marans (a type of hen) bill their nightclub (Retail Class C) as a “music and arts club” and envision hosting musical acts that might not be able to fill venues as large as the 9:30 Club.  They added that though their business will focus primarily on music, they will feature other arts, too.

The ANC voted to oppose the license as a tactical measure until the proprietors of both the upper floors and the basement could come to a voluntary agreement with the ANC.

U Street Music Hall

The night’s other new license petitioner, a DJ and former Smithsonian employee, presented his plans for the U Street Music Hall to be located in the basement of 1115 U Street NW (the former location of the now-shuttered Cue Bar).  The venue will offer free DJ classes to elementary and middle-school kids in the afternoon and will serve as a music venue at night.

The petitioner has asked for DCRA for a maximum capacity of 399 people, a number that department will likely reduce and a number at which Commissioner Brianne Nadeau balked.  The petitioner is seeking the permission of ABRA to close at 4 am Friday and Saturday nights so as not to spill a crowd of drunken patrons onto the street at the city’s 3 am last call.

As with Cuckoo Marans, the ANC voted to oppose the license as a tactical measure until the petitioner could come to a voluntary agreement with the ANC.

Brixton Pub

At 901 U Street, across the street from Nellie’s, sits a building that has been vacant for twenty years.  The petitioners presented plans to renovate the building into a restaurant and bar with a roof deck.  Sitting on the elbow edge of the L’Enfant Plan, the building renovation requires approval of the Historic Preservation Review Board.  The renderings, which we have not had a chance to scan yet, look pretty nice.

The petitioner is hoping to secure building permits next month for a construction process that will last about four months.

The ANC voted to support the petitioner’s conceptual design.