Take a few minutes to read the Washingtonian account of a very nasty real estate battle that is going down between some very rich people in Georgetown. In one corner is socialite developer Jane Cafritz. In the other it is venture capitalist Mark Ein. They are backed by their supportive spouses, teams of lawyers and architects, and each side wants its own way. What's the cat fight over? The (relatively moderate) upgrading Ein would like to do to a property he owns, the former home of Katharine Graham. It is next door to the the Cafritz house, which already underwent several upgrades.
Read the whole sordid story from Luke Mullins: The Catfight Over Katharine Graham's House. (But, please know, this is not typical Georgetown, where folks are generally quite neighborly).
After I heard concern from The Georgetown Metropolitan's Topher Mathews that a bank might be a likely tenant for the old Neam's market space, I reached out. I sent a message to George Neam, who is overseeing his family's search for a new tenant. I asked whether a bank was under consideration. "That's not on my radar," was his response.
Sincerely hoping his radar is accurate, because the last thing Georgetown needs, especially in such a prime location, is one more bank. What would be nice is a market bistro. They can put an ATM in the back.
In a block of eyesores it is one of the worst. I'm referring to the Georgetown Theater, which sat neglected for years on Wisconsin Avenue just above Dumbarton. The previous owners did nothing to maintain the place and at a precious cost to Georgetown. In particular, the symbolic sign, which in its prime was a standard of photographs of the village.
Here's a report that I found this morning on Topher Mathews The Georgetown Metropolitan. It should give us all hope.
I remember when the theater operated as an actual theater. That's where I saw the movie "Carrie" with my friend Carey Peck. I remember it because, obviously, Carrie with Carey. The owners riled the community, though, when they kept the x-rated film "Caligula" on the screen for months and months and months. Its camp factor -- it was written by Gore Vidal -- was lost on neighbors, who did not want "porno" in Georgetown.
If the theater is re-opened, however (hoping) I would suggest "Caligula" as the opening night film.
A HOME RENOVATION THAT HAS DISRUPTED A BLOCK OF 31ST STREET
UPDATE: Council Member Jack Evans has assigned a member of his staff, Sherri Kimbel, to the parking/dumpster/renovation issue. If you need to talk with her, the number is 202-724-8058. Her position is simple: "People should be able to come home from work and park on the street where they live." This extends beyond 31st Street. If there is a home renovation that is making your parking life hell, call her.
Earlier this week I wrote about a new Georgetown home renovation that is consuming the short block of 31st between O and P Streets. The contractor has claimed six parking spaces -- that's right, six -- and is causing quite a raucous among the neighbors. Not just because of the burden the multiple "no parking" signs have put on the tax-paying residents, forcing them to find alternate parking in an already parking-challenged neighborhood, but because they find the contractor's attitude toward them to be, in their words, consistently "arrogant." There have been some contentious moments, espeically after the renovation work flooded a neighbor's basement.
It was topic "A" on the street this morning as some of them gathered to discuss their frustration. I know one of them has reached out to Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans, but they also talked of wanting an intervention from the ANC and the Citizens Association of Georgetown.
The parking, obviously, is just one of the problems with this renovation, but it's a festering problem. It's created a perfect storm, really, of rippling lost parking spaces for the residents. Half a block over, another new homeowner has been renovating a house for months and months, consuming several parking spaces, including a dumpster, on 31st between P and Dumbarton. Half way down O Street, there's another renovation that is using a dumpster, (but, to its credit, has consumed only one parking space and the workers use the homeowner's driveway, too.)
Add to this the related fleets of service trucks and vans that also take up parking spaces. And the timetable runs into November and beyond.
"My housekeeper comes once a week for four hours and gets a ticket every other time," said one of the frustrated neighbors this morning, "but these trucks sit here and nothing happens." The residents come home from work to a block where, normally, it was easy to find a parking space. No more. Typically they could go to O Street, but that's where a lot of the service trucks park.
1. Require homeowners, before a renovation, to reach out to neighbors to discuss the demands of their renovation and the concerns of the residents in the vicinity.
2. Limit the spaces a contractor can claim for a home renovation. There's no excuse for 6 spaces.
3. Limit the number of renovations that can happen in proximity to each other. One at a time and only one at a time within a block or two. Sorry, you just have to wait. (And that is completely fair).
4. The ANC should have a street mediator who talks the arrogant out of arrogant contractors and calms the concerns of insulted neighbors.
5. Don't allow dumpsters. Dump trucks in, dump trucks out. The dumpsters are eyesores, becoming stinking pits of garbage, attract vermin of all kinds.
This is a problem that's not unique to Georgetown, but in Georgetown home renovation can have a particularly strong street impact because parking is beyond precious. The impact is caused by dumpsters - aka a "roll off debris container" - parked in what would otherwise be residential parking spaces. In this compact neighborhood where I live, we're accustomed to, and usually patient about, new homeowners who post signs claiming a space or two for a dumpster. But this week brought something many of us have not seen before: several "no parking" signs claiming as many as six parking spaces, and on a very short block of 31st between O and P. The resident who brought it to my attention is up in arms and plans to protest. Who can blame him?
A lot of new people are moving to Georgetown and paying dearly for the privilege. It's not uncommon to hear of home sales in the multi-millions. And it's worth it. Georgetown is a wonderful place to live. But what seems to go with the big ticket purchases is major renovations (and often of homes that were renovated by the previous owner, and the owner before that, and the owner before that). Some people move here from suburban communities, where home renovation does not directly disrupt the neighborhood. For long-time Georgetowners, who have lived through various real estate booms and busts, there's not a whole lot of attention given to the flux, and the renovations - UNTIL IT IMPACTS PARKING.
In the years I've lived in Georgetown I've seen dumpsters on my street half the time. They usually remain in place for one year, but sometimes longer. Still notorious is a renovation that happened on Dumbarton Street that drove residents mad for at least two years. But that renovation, if I recall correctly, did not suck up six parking spaces on a short block. There's been a renovation underway at 31st and O that has compromised residential parking but with that house -- and it's a big house - there's only one dumpster, using about two parking spaces. That project uses up residential parking for the daily influx of plumbers, carpenters, painters and electrticians. The neighbors, who often can't find parking until after 6, aren't pleased but make do.
What's the solution? Obviously, when any of us take on a big renovation that involves a dumpster we should take into consideration the burden it puts on neighbors. Also, limit the number of contractors who take up residential parking during the day.
Here are a few snaps from the annual Tudor Place garden party, which was held this evening and was not dampened by the weather. The smart ones wore boots. Read more about it, and find more photos, here at washingtonian.com.
Get ready, get set, Georgetown, because author Kitty Kelley has begun work on her 8th celebrity biography and its about a celebrated place, Georgetown, which she calls "the loveliest 12 square blocks in Washington." She's anticipating 800 interviews to tell the Georgetown story, then and now; the history, the people, their secrets and their truths, and whatever else she learns. We have the details on washingtonian.com.
The two people on the left, Leland Sklar and Judith Owen, give this photo 2/3rd's of musical awesomeness. Here we are this past winter at Cafe Amelie in New Orleans with them plotting their upcoming tour, which brings them to Gypsy Sally's in Georgetown on May 19.
ADMISSION IS FREE.
The show starts at 8:30, with the doors opening at 7pm. My best advice: be there.
The tour is for Judith's new album, Ebb and Flow. She is a remarkable singer, songwriter, pianist, with a voice that lifts you, calms you, taps into every emotion in between - romantic, jazzy, bluesy, and with this new work she channels the spirit of the 70s. Not only that, she is backed on the album and the tour by the musicians who, according to Rolling Stone, "created the sound of the 1970s" - bassist Sklar, drummer Russ Kunkel and guitarist Waddy Wachtel. You've heard them on the landmark albums of James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Phil Collins. David Crosby called them "the best."
Lee Sklar recently appeared on the Grammy Awards with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Blake Shelton and Merle Haggard. With his distinctive white beard, you can't miss Lee (of course, from a distance you can't see the twinkle in his eye or the mischief he likes to make). What he does with a bass guitar is distinctive, too. Additional important note: he and his wife Maureen are "parents" to two adorable bassett hounds who like to pose for photos.
I have no musical talent except as an appreciator and fan. That's my role in this. I hope you'll come enjoy the artistry of my talented friends on May 19.
It's a pleasure to write about where I live, Georgetown DC, especially at this time of year. I took a little walk with my camera on Sunday morning and turned it into my Monday column for New York Social Diary. Last fall I did something similar, a walking tour of the Kennedys Georgetown.
After today's rain and the cold snap, the village's green and blooms will be out in full. Perfect time for a visit to Dumbarton Oaks. ... as I did and wrote about a while back.
The Q&A Cafe was born in a saloon, Nathans, in 2001 and today it returned -- if not exactly to a saloon at least to a conversation at a bar. We taped the show at The George Town Club, with guest Kojo Nnamdi, and it went beautifully. We sat on barstools and talked; a talk show in a bar. The audience in particular were happy and said it reminded them of Nathans. There will be more soon. Stay tuned. Also, check out the show, next Friday night at 8pm on Comcast channel 16. When it's up on YouTube I'll post the link here on the site.
WITH ANTHONY LANIER; I LOVE THIS MAN
It was a lovely late and long lunch today with Anthony Lanier at Leopold's Kafe. I consider him one of my dearest friends in Georgetown, which means in my world. We met when I first inherited Nathans and he has given me good advice and counsel since. I always enjoy time spent with him and his wife, Isabel. We had much to discuss, but of course it's all private. Though, that said, we did remember our beloved mutual friend Henry von Eichel, who died in August 2012, about a century too soon. I miss Henry so much, I told Anthony. When I'm feeling lonely I go press my hand against the wall of Henry's Georgetown home. Like Henry, Anthony snaps me out of my pity parties.
Here's what else I can tell you about lunch: the Weiner Schnitzel at Leopold's is awesome. Always has been. Still is. Takes me back to my childhood in Germany, where my diet was Schnitzel and Gummy Bears. Leopold's had some very delicious Florentine and salted chocolate cookies, too. When I arrived I sighed to Anthony, "so happy to be in Europe for a little while."
The snow will end and we'll all come out of hibernation, looking for things to do. There's a lot and three new and cool destinations are the subject of my column today on New York Social Diary.
Fiola Mare, the newest restaurant addition to the Georgetown waterfront, opened last night with a packed house and the first nighters, at least, were delighted. Today I stopped in with my camera and snapped a few shots of the elegant main dining room, which overlooks the Potomac as if it were Lake Como or the Med off the Amalfi Coast. How cool is that? I also checked out the menu. Pricey but intriguing with, as you would expect, lots of seafood. Oysters, crudo, frutti de mare including sea urchin; Maine lobster, Calvisius caviar, pastas with seafood, veal loin, a Wagyu ribeye, and, maybe best of all, Dover Sole. (Could this help us out of our mourning for Cannons?)
Fiola Mare was opened by Fiola owners Fabio and Maria Trabocchi. I'm a fan of Fiola, and look forward to dining at Fiola Mare, which is an easy walk from just about anywhere in Georgetown (and West End, and Foggy Bottom). The space once was home to Hill & Knowlton. So nice to now have it as a waterfront restaurant. The phone number is 202.628.0065.
In the DC mayor's race there's only one vote that counts and that is what happens at the polls in the Democratic primary on April 1. The winner of that vote will be the city's mayor. But what if you are a Republican or Independent who wants to have a say? You're out of luck unless you do this: become a Democrat for a month. It's possible, and that was one of the topics at a fundraiser held for Jack Evans tonight in Georgetown. The folks who were there were largely Democrats, but there were a few dissident Republicans and Independents in the mix. (My own self, for example).
As Jack explained the process his staff handed out a form that allows for changing one's party affiliation (the fine print in a routine voter application form). Okay, and then what, they wanted to know? After you vote you fill out another form and revert back, if you want to revert back. It takes a month to be processed, which is why Jack and his staff urged potential converts to get it done no later than March 1.
Jack said this switch to the Democratic party could make the difference in the primary election, which he said will likely see a turnout of only about 100,000 voters. "Thirty thousand votes could win the race," he said. I don't even want to begin to rant about how pathetic it will be if only that few Democratic voters determine our city's forward path. Come on, people. Go to the polls!
WHAT THE SNOWFALL BECAME, A SLUSH BATH
I ventured out this afternoon to see what was going on in Georgetown. Not much for the most part. A swarm of black SUVs were outside the Four Seasons Hotel, ready to take King Abdullah of Jordan to wherever. My sister-in-law and I had lunch at the bar at Bourbon Steak. On her way in to the hotel (though a line of security muscle) she saw, and had a nice conversation with, Charles Barkley. (No indication why Barkley was in town).
ONLY SOME OF THE SUVs PARKED OUTSIDE THE FOUR SEASONS FOR THE KING
There's a group of people who have made a snowday clubhouse out of the BS bar, and they were there, along with various Jordanian security types. The word around the bar was that the King, before he departed in the motorcade, had come down from his suite to have lunch at the restaurant.
After lunch we walked over to Baked & Wired for cupcakes and coffee. They were packed.
The streets were clear and nearly dry, except for the light mist of rain that fell all afternoon (until it turned to chips of ice). Most businesses were closed, including bars and restaurants. Even the Apple store was closed. But the liquor store was open.
The sidewalks were more clear than I expected. The streets were so empty pedestrians had an options of walking on the sidewalks or in the street. The most treacherous part of walking was the slush pools at the curbs, which could result in an above ankle - and cold - plunge.
SOMEBODY LOVES THE SNOW - A LOT
The snow began falling in Georgetown shortly after 7pm on Wednesday. It didn't amount to much until about 3am, when it began coming down fast and heavy. I went out briefly. It was beautiful and quiet, as you see here below:
I went out again at 7:30 and was surprised to see some activity (and cars stuck or abandoned). Entrepreneurial shovelers had started to make their rounds. The side streets were no go, but the major streets - Wisconsin, M - had been plowed, sanded, plowed and sanded. Thirty-first street was not plowed, but it was driveable.
BOWLING SHOES THAT RENT AT $4 WITH SOCKS INCLUDED; WINE BY THE BOTTLE
This evening I stopped by the grand opening of Pinstripes bowling at Georgetown Park mall. It was a happy mob scene. It appeared that every resident of the 20007 zipcode was invited plus the entire Second District of the MPD, and they all showed up at the same time. There was an endless supply of food, wine and cocktails. You name it: steamed shrimp, salads, pizza, flat bread, pasta, hand carved beef, plus at least two dessert buffets. The party was still going strong when I departed at 9 pm. I returned Sunday to try regular bowling. Here's the full story for Washingtonian.
Here are some first impressions:
*It is a very large space. The entrance leads to a big bar, past a huge open kitchen and a couple of spacious dining rooms before the bocce area and then on beyond that to the door that leads into the 14 bowling lanes. They are eery quiet. None of the typical sounds of a bowling alley, which one guest called sounds "that are part of the fun."
*A manager said they had to make the bowling lanes nearly soundproof to appease the condo residents upstairs.
*The bowling area is dimly lit with cozy leather sofas and mood lighting. Soothing. It would be a fun place to bowl with a group of friends.
*The cost to bowl is $5-7 per person per game, depending on the day and hour. Bocce is $5-10 per person per hour. They are open until 11 on weeknights and 12:30 am on Friday and Saturday.
*According to their catering menu, "we deliver." That could have its own appeal in Georgetown, where so few places deliver.
*There's a large banquet room upstairs. I could almost hear the sounds of "Here comes the bride," as there is a lot of bridal hint hint in the promotional material, not to mention the display wedding cake.
*There's a deck where the windows open to the outdoors. It doesn't have bowling or bocce but it has a view of the C&O Canal.
*Thursday night is ladies night with $4 "handcrafted" cocktails. Friday nights they have a wine deal, with half off on bottles that are $50 or less. Tuesday burgers are $5 if you are bowling or playing bocce.
*Yes, they have children's programs throughout the week and with special pricing.
*Happy hour starts at 3 pm, Monday through Friday.
*Nope, you can't reserve your bowling lanes online. Either by phone or show up at the front desk and book on the spot.
*It has got corporate event written all over it. "...space to accomodate 20-600 guests for a 2-hour block of time." Pricing ranges from $75-95 per lane, depending on the day of the week.
*They even have a breakfast menu. Breakfast and bowling?
*They will also cater events at other locations.
*The entrance is in the back of the mall, off Wisconsin Avenue, just before the Canal.
*"It's clearly not about the bowling," said one of the opening night guests. More like bowling at Bourbon Steak than your neighborhood alley, based on the likely tab. It could be the first bowling alley ever to score a restaurant review.
*What next? How about a table tennis club?
They call it "Canal Hockey" and the name tells the story.
That's exactly what a group of Georgetown University business school grad students were up to this morning on the C&O Canal near the Key Bridge. I spotted their game as I drove back from Palisades and, delighted, quickly hunted down a parking space. By the time I got parked, grabbed my camera, ran down 34th Street, crossed the bridge and arrived at their spot they were done. Darn. But good news, I took a photo of the group, which I sent to them, and in return, one of the players, Ryan Bowden, sent me some of his pics.
Apart from the group shot, above, the other photos are by Ryan, the player in the "USA" shirt. Thank you, Ryan. I don't have last names, but left to right: Taylor, Dan M., Mike, Sam, Chuck, Dan R., Ryan, Alex, AP. Yo, boys.
They played from 8 am to just before noon. If you are thinking of trying to skate the Canal, please note: they stopped because the ice turned soft beneath their feet. They may try to get back on the Canal Sunday morning. But one of the other players, Sam Fagelson messaged, "Not sure if ice will hold up for another game."
If they skate again, I'll be there. If you try to skate the Canal, please shout out. You never know where I'll show up, but by all means engage. I'm on everyting, but Twitter will do.
Maybe it takes a former pub owner to recognize the potential of a new arrival, and on that basis I predict va va voom for Rí Rá, the Charlotte-born Irish pub that opened on M Street in Georgetown Thursday night. It has so much action - bars upstairs, downstairs, near and far - that you have to move around to keep up with the celebrities in the house. Thursday night was no exception, with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley enjoying a beer at the main bar on the ground floor. He was soon joined by a couple of members of The Steve Miller Band, who said they were in town for a private gig Friday night at the Reagan Building.
The Governor hung out for as long as I was there - easily a half hour. In fact, he was still there when I left. He was relaxing and not minding the crowd at all. Having a chat. Posing for photos. Every now and then he glanced up at one of the TV screens broadcasing basketball. His two or three security guards kept a discreet distance.
When you get a chance, do check out Ri Ra. It's a happy and handsome addition to the M Street bar scene. I've only been once but look forward to going back. Gorgeous booths. Upstairs in the back, in what used to be a very dreary room, is a bizarrely charming ode to Irish politicians, with photos of portraits of Bill Clinton, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and others.
Ice skating on the Georgetown waterfront is back in business for the winter season. It was a big hit last year and more of the same is expected this year. Also, opening early in the New Year and overlooking the ice rink will be Fabio Trabocchi's 130-seat Fiola Mare. This will be his third DC restaurant.
Georgetown ice skating essentials:
Washington Harbour on K Street
Monday – Thursday: 12:00pm-9:00pm*
Skate Rental: $5.00
For food: Petie Greens Bar & Grill at 6103 Drum Point Road in Deale, Maryland. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, but most of all crab cakes. Some of the best Chesapeake Bay crab cakes I've had. Chunky, jumbo lump meat, not too much breading, a nice size and served with good slaw and fries. Worth the trip. There's a lot of atmopshere, plus you can play Keno and buy lottery tickets. What's not to love?
For fun: visit the Jones Point Park in Old Town Alexandria. What it does it put you directly under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. A thrill for the whole family. There's a running track, basketball courts, but most of all a couple of docks that take you out into the water under the bridge. It would be a great spot to watch a big ship go by.
This was shot standing on one of the piers that juts out into the water. That little speck in the distance is a man paddling on a standup board. See below:
For football (and food): I was at The Tombs at 1 o'clock pm Sunday and was able to watch four different kick-offs. Not bad. Also, was able to watch the New England Patriots game, which was not on Comcast. It's just a terrific place. A cozy hide-out for the coming chilly football days. The first time I ever visited The Tombs was in 19whatever-whatever with the late Fred Gwynne (The Munsters, Car 54 Where Are You?) and Josh Mostel, who were appearing in a play at the Kennedy Center. I thought it was just about the coolest spot. Still do.
I had a hamburger and read The Hoya newspaper between glimpses at the games. The menu has everything you would want while watching a football game. While it is the quintessential college pub, it is, again, fun for children of any age.
This video is awesome. It's only 5 minutes. Sit back and enjoy. Stachowski's Market is at the corner of 28th and P in Georgetown. Go!
Another option, which is why Jamie was riffing on the rooftop of the Capella hotel, is that starting this weekend the hotel's Grill restaurant will serve Stachowski sausages at their new Saturday and Sunday brunch. Go to that, too. I got a sneak peek at the menu. Lots of classic and inviting items.
So many fun games to play in the fountain. One of my favorites -- popular with children and adults -- is to run the length of the arch without getting soaked. Children are the most fun to watch. Such joy, especially the occasions when parents relent and let go of a little hand so the child can run into the water fully clothed. Others come prepared in bathing suits. I notice a lot of little ones love to stand directly in the spray. Why not?
This evening Good Stuff Eatery is hosting a special opening for "friends & family" at their new location on M Street in Georgetown, near 33rd, only a few steps from Georgetown Cupcake. It opens to the public on Monday.
We stopped by at 5:30 pm Saturday, at the height of the monsoon, to get an early look. It filled up fast. If, like me, you've been trekking to Capitol Hill or Crystal City to get a fix of Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake, now you can load up on those delicious calories right here in the village. The menu is the same as at the other locations: "handcrafted" hamburgers, fries, shakes and more. Including the favorites of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
While you're there grab a copy of owner Spike Mendelsohn's cookbook. It's fun and will be especially popular in your home if you have children of any age.
My preferred order is a 'Shroom Burger (crusted portobello with cheese, pickles, lettuce & tomato and special sauce), fries and the above mentioned Toasted Marshmallow Milk Shake. My son goes for the regular burgers and likes them a lot.
Here are some shots from inside.
PS-Can you get in this evening? I'm a big believer in that it's always worth a try.
Bill Dean with two of his guests at the Dodge Mansion, his home in Georgetown where for the past several years he has hosted a July 4th pool party. Think of it this way: Holmby Hills has the Playboy Mansion and Hef and Georgetown has the Dodge Mansion and Bill. The difference is Bill's business, with more than 2,000 employees worldwide, is the federal government and at the top secret level. The security at the party is pervasive and tight, especially at the front entrance. This year the grilled hamburgers were especially good and, as always, the chilled Veuve Cliquot was in endless supply. Some photos:
As I write this there is a movie premiere happening here in Georgetown. The film is White House Down and its stars, Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, are at the premiere. Thus a insane scene outside the theater. I thought I would go and then I thought, wait, this is the longest day of the year, I don't want to be in a movie theater. Washingtonian is well represented, however, by Tanya Pai. She will have a full report on our website this weekend or Monday, whichever comes first.
I did go with Tanya to a premiere party at Mate hosted by Equinox. It was a happy mosh pit of young women eager to get a glimpse of Magic Mike, aka Tatum, as well as Foxx. Crazy lines snaking from both sides of the theater, as there were two hosts for the event, Equinox plus Sony Pictures. Each had a list, each had passes, and so forth. I passed one line where a woman in a black suit was handing out coveted tickets. Another woman went up to anyone and said, "we're short of seats. Do you want to give yours up?" Haha. The first day of summer, right?
I hope the whole crowd is having a good time, packed in the theater. I'm happy to be home, enjoying the longest day of the year. I also hope the movie is good -- we need a good summer movie. Nice to see Georgetown hopping, too. Between movie premieres and Malmaison opening and Capella and what all ... we're maintaining.
Our next Q&A Cafe, on Friday, Dec. 12, is with CBS News legend Dan Rather, followed on Friday, Dec. 19, Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press."
Visit this link to view our archive of broadcasts: The Q&A Cafe on YouTube
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