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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Future of 421 H Street

The recent demise of Pap and Petey's has left 421 H Street vacant. I've spoken with the owner a few times, and he is looking for ideas about what to do with the property. Given the small space, and the current layout, he'd like to open a bar. So here's the game we're going to play, give me a concept. The concept must work for that space and location. Consider it a form of crowd sourcing. You can give me all, or one, of the following (obviously the full package is preferred):

1. Name of establishment
2. Target demographic
3. Types of drink and food (food would mostly come later) served.
4. Theme/decor
5. Any additional notes

*don't forget they have a second floor with nice big windows.

It would be great if people could actually stick to site policy on this one and use a handle. Have fun.

120 comments:

Benny said...

Here's my idea:

1. Old City Tavern (playing off the term for the area as "old city".

2. Late 20's-30's.

3. local, local, local. Play off the history and trend of "green" and all things local. Local beer, local wine from Virginia. Make a beer in house!! Call is "old city brew" and have a new one each month playing off the latest political story. Local produce used in small apps as much as possible. You have to have one "weird" but good food to market that is original to your place.

4. The decor is all photos of the area from years back. Start at the beginning. Make the place a little more historic looking with some antique looking tables and chairs. Not too matchy matchy and alplebees like. It needs a comfortable feeling. The more historical elements the better. Name drinks from the area. Use old drink recipes. Make the bar look vintage.

5. Cozy, fun, low key, and something unusual. Use local beers and wine (in addition to others if you like), and local food.

Anonymous said...

That's a fantastic concept!

Anonymous said...

If only the address was 420 H Street... we could open a medical marijuana dispensory..

Anon said...

Old City Tavern theme sounds great.

Also, lots of books. Almost a mini-library. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, books of random information for bar trivia.

Jack said...

Like Benny's ideas: needs to be something with a draw at that address right now, because there is not much else there. What we need is a gym across the street (or at one of the vacant spaces on H St.).

cliff said...

I like the old city tavern concept with local flavor.

Personally, I loved pap and peteys 2nd reincarnation, but the consistency dropped off significantly. The kitchen was never consistently open. I love tunicliffs tavern at eastern market because it's low key, affordable, and consistent. I wish there was a tunicliff's type bar at the west end because I would be there all the time.

Charles said...

I'm not sure H Street needs another bar, as opposed to a bakery, bookstore, diner or some other kind of business.

But if a bar it must be, the Tunniclif's model seems good - no gimmicks, just stick to the basics and do it well, with an environment where everyone feels comfortable.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

A place whose Web site works? That I can actually when it is or is not open?

oboe said...

But if a bar it must be, the Tunniclif's model seems good - no gimmicks, just stick to the basics and do it well, with an environment where everyone feels comfortable.

Tunnicliff's always gave me hives, what with the fern bar atmosphere and the spotty music selection.

But I think "Benny's" on to something. Kind of like the Argonaut, but with a pared down menu, less filthy chairs, etc...

Anonymous said...

>> I'm not sure H Street needs another bar, as opposed to a bakery, bookstore, diner or some other kind of business.

I agree 100%, a bakery would be incredible. So would more places to eat or a bookstore, but with the small amount of foot traffic it might be hard. Bars will draw people out. That's why a bar that is part bookstore/record store/bakery/diner would be perfect.

6thandK said...

I think that I would have frequented Pap and Peety's if I just knew what to expect. If they kept regular hours and had a consistent menu and beer choices. For some reason, posted hours and sticking to them seems to be something that DC businesses sometimes don't get.

Anonymous said...

How about a Falafel place akin to Old City Cafe or Amsterdam Cafe in Adams Morgan?

Anonymous said...

Whatever it is, you have to change that horrific seating setup that was in Paps. As was, you couldn't actually face the person you were with and have a conversation. Second, look at Sidamo. Couples with small kids LOVE Sidamo and help it thrive. It's a neighborhood hangout and a great reason to stop before you're next stop on 11th - 14th st.

3rd, I think a local themed wine bar with good brunch etc. (local ingredients) would do well here. Especially since the H street co-op doesn't seem to be going anywhere. At least you could eat prepared local produce. Maybe hook up with some of the suppliers from the H Street farmers market?

Just a couple thoughts, but it is a space that has a lot of potential considering the amount of development going on around NY Ave. Metro, 3rd and L etc.

Anonymous said...

Given the location's close proximity to Union Square (SEC Headquarters, Kaiser outpatient center, etc) how about something that can draw those workers out of their building at lunchtime and on to the sidewalks of H Street (as well as attracting local residents)?

To that end, I would second the falafel (or other food) option -- particularly if it's unique (but proven), high-quality concept. This would be a perfect spot for their second location in DC. Potential names that come to mind include Maoz Vegetarian, Booeymonger, etc.

Additionally, I think that whoever takes the space should push for getting outdoor seating on the 5th Street side of the building. There is a wide sidewalk on that side of the building that would accommodate a few tables/chairs and help liven the street.

4th and G said...

I like the "less is more" concept that a lot of people have suggested. If there's a clean place where I can get a beer & a burger at a decent price, I'll be there all the time.

I like the Old City theme -- keep a couple of local beers and wines available.

If you want to keep the place operating long hours (like Sova does), you could set-up a coffee bar in the morning and serve pastries, which are easy enough to source from a local bakery. Also, Mayorga is roasted up in Rockville.

Mike S. said...

great idea!
my suggestion: a nice neighborhood place.
I was walking around H street the other afternoon wishing there was someplace to go that was
1. clean
2. well lit (natural light)
3. had decent food (don't need Ann Cashion)
4. decent beer selection
5. open
What we have now on H is focused more on the late night crowd, and less for residents. Be nice to have a place for regulars that isn't a dive bar.

4th and G said...

On second thought... forget Mayorga and buy your beans from Sidamo if they'll sell them to you.

stevemode said...

I like the Tavern/bookstore idea too. We really need a good used bookstore on H. I'm also dying for a place with lots of big, LCD TV's where I know I can find any game or sporting event. The Pug is great, but their TV's are too small. So if it's not a Tavern/Bookstore let's make it Tavern/Sports bar - just don't make it look like it belongs in Chinatown...

Anonymous said...

I like the coffee shop/bookstore/bar concept. Kind of like Kramerbooks/Afterwords but with a more community oriented focus.

I also like the idea of bringing in the history of the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

1. Lucy's Cafe (or something)
2. Health conscious/Fitness crowd
3. Vegan/vegetarian
4. Simple, friendly and clean.
5. Pull and theme would be healthy vegetarian/vegan food. Food could come from local farmers/farmers market. If you must have alcohol, anything organic

Anonymous said...

I don't quite understand the coffee bar/coffee shop idea a couple of posters mentioned, considering Sidamo is a couple of doors down.

Derek said...

Surprisingly, at that same location there was a used bookstore. She had both the first floor and the basement, but since she was ahead of her time the place closed due to lack of business. I am all for the idea of a mixture of bookstore/ bar. Consistency matters.

milind said...

I second the something healthy and organic plus a book store and/or used DVD exchange place, board games etc. Nothing that remotely resembles anything like Olive garden urgh!!

LPF said...

Partner with Dick Heller and open a gun and fly fishing shop. Call it Heller High Water Sporting Goods. It'd be the only retail gun shop in DC. Charge a reasonable amount for transfers (say $40) and enjoy 100% market share.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any more ideas, but I love this blog! Keep the good developments coming.

By the way, does anyone know what is planned for the 1100 block of H St? I see it listed as a site for http://www.hstreet.org/Hstreet_construction.php Or when H St connection is going to get moving?

Scenic Artisan said...

i dont really know the space, but i've got a few ideas. a few are even serious.


a.
1. Gun Bar
2. gun nuts, hicks and thugs.
3. Shooters! and shots!
4. drink and shoot guns.
( maybe a shooting gallery) or , in the future , a firing range.
5. a place when you can really shotgun yer beer!
this has got to exist somewhere!

B.
1. tiki bar
2. Swingers, the hip set, old fogeys and 30-50 somethings.
3. crazy rum drinks! flaming drinks! polynesian food.
4. a tacky ass tiki bar. remember Honolulu on telegraph road? that. but more over the top.
5. more tacky. more grass skirts. more fire.

C.
1. Dodge City
2. thugs, cowboys, texan ex-pats, people who like the olde thyme, and the like.
3. Sarsaparilla! whiskeys. chewing tobacco.
4. an old west saloon. maybe a back room with gambling.
5. inspiration: http://www.legendsofamerica.com/WE-Saloons.html


D
1. H-Indian
2. Desi's, and people that like indian culture.
3. Taj Mahal. spiked lassi's. , indian dishes.
4. Vijayanagara style decor
5. bhangra!

E.
1. The Studio
2. visual artists, art lovers.
3. cheese, grapes, wine.
4. a bar for visual artists. rotating art shows. tv's set to bravo or pbs, or art documentaries.
talks by people from the Smithsonian and NGA.

F.
1. Street
2. people who like to travel
3. street foods from around the world, drinks to match.
4. maps, architecture, suitcases, sidewalks, and street carts.

jamy said...

I remember the bookstore too: worst bookstore I've ever entered!

I would like to see a low-key neighborhood type bar. Something affordable where I could grab a beer and a bite to eat once a week without spending a fortune. A simple, well executed menu. A short menu would be fine if it all tasted good. Burgers, some snacks and some veggie options. A brunch once a week would be great.

I also like the idea of having a place to watch the game. Maybe the upstairs could be the "sports bar."

Anonymous said...

A gun shop is the LAST thing we need in northeast washington.

poo poo has the runs said...

can't we all just get along and compromise with a BB gun store?

see? i'm good like that!

Viceroy of Lost Umbrellas said...

How about a diner. The place isn't too big so it can't be anything fancy. A simple lunch counter with a few tables might work. Keep the menu simple, keep the place clean, and keep it consistent. Just to follow the them.

1. H Street Diner.
2. People looking for a meal.
3. Simple traditional food. Nothing fancy and nothing fusion. If serving alcohol, American beer.
4. Decor. Clean and functional. Reuse as much of Pap and Petey's as possible.
5. Above all, they need to focus on consistency. The Rib Tip (Prior to naby's island) has a kick ass breakfast but they were never open, so I gave up.

dave said...

The best neighborhood bar in the city just opened up: Room 11 in Columbia Heights. (11th and Lamont NW). Small, focused menu with several plates. http://www.room11dc.com/

Personally, I think a bar that isolated in the H St. neighborhood from other bars, in that small a space, has to be upscale. Sort of like The Gibson. A wholly residential bar probably won't work, but if it can draw people from around the city it has a chance.

DCJaded said...

Telling ya. Strip club. Always money in that biz. Totally a destination spot.

lou said...

Am I remembering correctly that Pap and Petey's was supposed to have a rooftop deck? some sort of neighborhood bar place with a deck would be great, a la the old Julio's in the Dupont Circle area.

YL said...

As a local resident desperate for more options, I would give a kidney for the following:

Open at 11, serve a couple decent american classics to the SEC staffers and other locals. Indoor/outdoor seating, beer for those who want it. Model: Eamonn's Fish n' Chips in Alexandra.

Happy hour/dinner shift -- offer more food options downstairs, open the upstairs (perhaps with TVs, pool table, etc.) for lounging and full bar. Model: Argonaut.

Jesse said...

Copy Trusty's model.

Games, cheap beer, relaxed environment, great juke box. also, serve basic breakfast.

I'd go.

Sell all that fancy furniture...

Anonymous said...

Peruvian Chicken Joint would kill it. No one needs a book store it won't be big enough to carry anything decent and barnes and noble/borders will be too much competition. We dont need a local bar we have 5 on the other side of h street and clearly pap and petes was a local bar that didn't work

NikkiO said...

1. Tea Time, H Street Tea Bar, Teas Pleas
2. Starter bar for people looking for a drinklicious time
3. A large variety of teas. Long Island, Jamaican, Long Beach, H Street Tea, Tea Lime, Peachy Keen I can list at least 22 all with the same base of liquor at at the same price with a special each night that's a dollar or two off
4. Tiki bar or beach like. Island type theme
5. This bar would kick off an evening of music, dancing, more drinking and/or eating. However it wouldn't serve food. This bar will bring in a lot of money with it's simplicity and product.

Rob said...

Hm. The thing that didn't work for me was the seating and tables. Not enough room to put your food down.
I'm going to imitate some other people's ideas.

1. Name: something not pretentious
2. Target demographic: lunch crowd from Union Station office buildings and H St; Dinner-neighborhood people, some with small kids, heading home from work; After dinner, neighborhood people who want to watch a game or hang out. Overall, a 28-45 crowd.
3. Food/drink: simple menu, different than but as high quality as Sidamo. Have a special thing that people are going to make the walk for: Awesome milkshakes or something like that. Allow Sidamo lunch patrons to order them. Similarly, serve coffee from Sidamo beans. Make 400 BO H a lunch destination. For dinner, have a number of kid-friendly but nutritious options. Beer--tear out the huge bar to allow more seating and just serve a nice selection of bottled beers.
4. Theme/decor: Something that reflects the local history...I want at least one picture of the old streetcars rolling down H :-)
5. Closing time 11 except Monday night football @ 12:30 or something. Sundays, fire up those big screens for the football crowd.

Having said all that I have very little clue about running a bar or restaurant so it may not make much sense.

BTW, Viceroy of Lost Umbrellas is the best nickname I've seen on this blog :-)

Anonymous said...

Connect with the Rolling Pin Bakery in Bladensburg and make it a German/Vienese Bakery-Coffee house serving real strudel mit schlag. In the evening serve Beer various wurst and peanuts...

inked said...

Guys, a few points and notes on other ideas:

1: this is a VERY small space.

2: the kitchen is small.

3: the idea is for a bar

4: a book store previously occupied the space. Bookstores have a very hard time these days, and we don't have anything near the required foot traffick.

5. the space is SMALL, so any hybrid idea will have a very hard time.

6. Sidamo is next door, so any coffee shop ideas won't fly (same landlord).

7. the kitchen is SMALL

8. this is a BAR, we are looking for bar ideas. The space is so small it basically has to be a bar. A diner buildout would be hugely expensive, and won't offer much return. My suggestion is that diner goers checkout the soon to open Capital City Diner on Bladensburg.

Anonymous said...

since great pizza like 2 amy's or comet ping pong, or indian food is out, i say TIKI BAR TIKI BAR TIKI BAR!
it has just the right kitcsh appeal for H street. love it.

Anonymous said...

tough call due to how narrow the place is but haven't seen the upstairs. a smaller version of the argonaut comes to mind, perhaps with dartboards upstairs, a pool table if there's room. the problem with a bar is that it's the only one on that end of H, so if it's dead people move on. it needs to be a destination, so i vote for a sports bar with many TVs and all the games in the universe. there has to be a better design for seating as well. the bar is too bulky for the space, more efficient use of space would help. outdoor seating would be nice but not sure it works there...

dc said...

gourmet brick oven pizza. the place is small but could generate a lot of carry out business. get a beer while you wait for your pizza. i'm not sure the bar will work until there are more establishments in the vicinity.

RAG said...

I like the Tiki Bar idea too. Tropical drinks and kitchy atmosphere is perfect for H. Definitely need to utilize both sidewalks though

Anonymous said...

uh 4th and G, Sidamo always has beans for sell, they roast them there and grind them for you. they're excellent!

Anonymous said...

How about serving fresh juices during the day in addition to whatever else it does? The only place I know of around here that juices is Wellness Cafe on Penn Ave. I remember I went to NYC a few years ago and juice bars were everywhere, but there's close to none here in DC. Maybe it was just a fad, but I would buy one every day, if they offered veggie juices (not just fruit) -- so good for you and tastes great with some apple juice to sweeten or ginger to tang it up.

Anonymous said...

Whatever this place becomes,please take advantage of the outdoor seating,this could be an added plus.Keep the menu simple,high quality,afforable.A Coffee/Bakery isnt a good idea,we have SIDAMO

Derek said...

Inked - The kitchen is not that small. I have been in there and it a good size. You need a chef that is willing to have a consistent menu at a decant price.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, the word "Pap" should not be in the name of any restaurant. Hope this is helpful.

nikkiO said...

Three votes for Tea Tiki!
Tiki Tea
Tiki Teas
Teas and Tiki

I'm telling you! The Tiki Tea bar would be a hit! I can come up with 20+ teas that have the same or similar base of liquor!

moved said...

I think Pap and Petey's could have made it as a neighborhood bar if they had tried to appeal to the neighborhood. The inconsistency in hours was a HUGE drawback and the shut down for remodeling so shortly after opening really killed any momentum. I think atmosphere plays a huge part in this business--maybe whomever open the next establishment there could consult with the guys who does all of Englert's places. He knows how to design a place worth coming back too.

Tom A. said...

How about a bagel shop called Pap's Smear?

dave said...

While I like Tiki as much as the next guy (probably more when it's done right), I think that theme is a bit too festive for that space. I can't imagine more than 4 or 6 people meeting there for their party. More likely it will be groups of 2 or maybe 4?

bookishgrrl said...

I think it could be a great neighborhood joint like the ones I loved when I lived in Chicago. I think the decor isn't too far off, perhaps just make it a little warmer and homier. The food should be slightly fancified comfort food -- meatloaf, veggie loaf, really good mashed potatoes -- that sort of thing. And then offer board games. Have free soft pretzels with good mustard ... and voila'! Offer fun nights for parents who don't have the kids :)

not on parker said...

"Old City Tavern" would be a great idea, and an excellent counterpart to the members only "City Tavern" in Georgetown. Suggestions irrespective of what is opened:

(a) Pick a concept and do it well. Beers, cocktails, and bar food is a time-tested recipe. "Local" provisions would be nice, but should not be the focus (the concept is trendy). We already have coffee, tea, and baked goods. We are not ready for a wine or juice bar. We are not in need of a sports bar.

(b) Consult with Joe Englert (if he is willing to write you back), who is super-successful, amazingly creative, and reads this blog relatively regularly. He can probably give you some advice on handling the cultural forces at play.

(c) Enlist one of the pimps at the DC Craft Bartenders Guild to come up with a repertoire of interesting cocktails. They run their own joints but might be able to lend a hand, especially if the establishment has some momentum.

(d) Replace the downstairs windows with ones that open. They promote an atmosphere that is welcoming, and act more or less as free advertising. Pap & Peteys felt like a fish tank.

(e) Use the sidewalk space from the start of business. It is very inexpensive to do and once again acts as free advertising.

(f) Don't focus too much on food. People don't hit the bars (Red & Black, the Hotel, the Pug) at the eastern end of town for their food.

not on parker said...

Make a beer in house!!

Regulations and space make this very, very hard to accomplish. Better off having batches made by another brewer...for example Capital City Brewery.

Avishai said...

Keep the bar downstairs. Throw in some book shelves for a used book exchange, and other used books. Use upstairs as a thrift store. People buy clothes when they are drunk. Game Over. Low overhead. no frills. game over.

Or scratch the thrift store thing and put in Laundry Machines.
H Street needs a Bar/Laundry-mat.

Sunny Florida Avenue said...

Gay Sports bar (ala Nelly's)

LGBT population, Sports enthusiasts

Because it would be nice to attract a population with expendible income.

Anonymous said...

1. Something "Pub" - it is the most successful model. We all know it.

2. Extended Neighborhood, think interns and hill workers as well.

3. Cheap beer, compared to other places on H. A $3 beer will get me there plenty. There is plenty of margin at $3-$4, and you would engender yourself to a more regular crowd. The food should be basic, but done right. Good pub food with one really good item (Marshall's in Foggy Bottom has the best Buffalo wings in the city without question. find out whatever you have to and make them on H). The menu can be small, if each item is basic and good. Burgers, Turkey Club, Wings, reuben, etc.

4. Like I said, a simple Pub model. place to get a beer, have a bite to eat, and catch a ballgame. An old wood bar with tradtional pub tables can't go wrong. Nothing trendy and cool, just classic. Make a bar that could have been around for 40 years. Make us feel like we could have been coming here for decades and had the same cold beer, and good food.

5. Have a few quality TV's for games, not necessarily a sports bar, but most men watch sports at a bar, and most women go for the guys who do. Aside from sports, the tv's serve very well for Political events, or pop culture events that may be favored in the neighborhood (i.e Dancing with the stars night, or American Idol, or whatever is popular)

4th and K said...

I don't know if there is enough space, and this might be a better fit further up H St, but one of my favourite bars is Shorty's in Belltown in Seattle. Pinball, Coney Island type food and cheap beer.

1. Balls to the Wall / Great Balls on Fire (if combined with tiki bar)
2. mid-20s and up?
3. hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese, funnel cakes, etc
4. unpretentious

I don't know if it is the right space, but a pinball bar would rock.

4th and K said...

That said, I do really like the idea of having a classic neighbourhood restaurant/bar (nice bar, old pictures of the neighbourhood, etc) in the area if it can draw in enough people.

Anonymous said...

Have a few quality TV's for games, not necessarily a sports bar, but most men watch sports at a bar, and most women go for the guys who do. Aside from sports, the tv's serve very well for Political events, or pop culture events that may be favored in the neighborhood (i.e Dancing with the stars night, or American Idol, or whatever is popular)

Duke tried this with Pap & Peteys...catering to the masses...it didn't work out so well.

dave said...

Another thing about the theme: it basically needs to be a final destination sort of bar. There's no real nearby restaurants or other bars convenient to that location, without walking 8 blocks or taking a cab/bus.

Anonymous said...

I know David liked the idea of a breakfast place/ diner like what "The Diner" is in Adams Morgan. If he thinks the place is too small now, or has too small of a kitchen, maybe he should consider being a Crepes place. People go crazy for crepes, just check out the crepes guy at Eastern Market.

Anonymous said...

"Duke tried this with Pap & Peteys...catering to the masses...it didn't work out so well."

Yes and no. He had Tv's and tried to have events...but he also had a "live jazz" bar. Anyone who isn't a jazz person will not come simply due to the stigma attached to the name. But a neighborhood place that is a little less focused on something as niche as live jazz, and perhaps more focused on being a place where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came. A place where where you can see, our troubles are all the same. The kind of place where everybody knows your name.

Some place like that.

Anonymous said...

Love Old City Tavern idea. Plus, if Sticky Rice can become known for its tots, I propose OCT should become known for delicious Pigs-in-a-Blanket.

Anonymous said...

"But a neighborhood place that is a little less focused on something as niche as live jazz"

WTF? live jazz is "niche"?

Christina said...

The theme of the current bar is fine. After the re-model it was modern and loungy and had some flat screens. If the owner/manager would keep the air cool, lose the jazz, not let the place smell like grease, be neighborhood friendly, and serve cheap and moderately priced beer and mixed drinks, the people will come. The post-remodel Pap and Petey's wasn't quite the friendly place it was when it opened.

Its a shame that this has to be so complicated. The people in the neighborhood want somewhere to go, but were driven away by Pap and Petey's inadequacies. I'm not trivializing how hard it is to run a successful bar or have a good business model, but this is not rocket science. The demand is there.

Anonymous said...

I don't think relying on customers living on the western end of H will work as the western end does not thrive solely from people on the eastern end of H.

421 is isolated it has to be able to attract a lot of people. it has to be upscale. inked is right, unless someone wants to throw serious money on renovations, the place has to be centered on the bar.

The easiest thing to do would be to throw great wines in, serve processed meats and cheeses, great cocktails, and do something w/ the lighting/candles. the upstairs has a lot of potential

Anonymous said...

A dry cleaner since the one at 411 has not reopened since the riots.

Anonymous said...

YES. Live Jazz is Niche. Especially when crossing generations.

not on parker said...

A dry cleaner since the one at 411 has not reopened since the riots.

I would venture to guess there will be one in the retail section of the Loree Grand. It just makes too much sense...that being said, the District's environmental laws (for good reasons) make it very difficult to open a dry cleaner that does its processing in-house...

Charles said...

Well I have learned a lot from this thread.

I have learned that we "do not need" a bakery on H Street even though there is no place to buy fresh bread, and just about every liveable neighborhood from Brooklyn to Portland has a bakery.

And I learned that even though this space has already failed in two incarnations as a bar, a bar is the only business that should even be considered.

Interesting.

Anonymous said...

It all comes down to competence and consistency. In anticipation of an Obama fundraising event that was promised to bring well over 100people, Duke promised to repair his air conditioning. The night of the event, the place was a miserable sauna...and this was before it started raining outside!

7th and H said...

I have to agree with Charles. A bar with a modest and consistent food menu is what is warranted at this locale. P&P's didnt fail because a bar cant work on the west end of H St. It ultimately failed because of a lack of consistency; starting with 1) opening too late (typically ~6 PM), 2) not being ready to serve when the doors opened and 3) not always opening on time. Simple and consistent so folks are going to know what they're going to get when they come - that's the key. I tried like hell to support Duke's first iteration and ultimately, as most others did, got turned off because the place was run as if it were his hobby not as if it were his business. If you keep it simple, they will come.

Anonymous said...

Gay Nude Strip Joint.

Anonymous said...

A few must haves, that P&P were lacking, in my opionion -
1. More comfortable seating. The window seats would be ok if paired with a regular height table. And add a couple high top tables as well.
2. Competant bar/wait staff
3. Either a juke box or music system. Listening to the 400 numbered music channels on cable was painful.
4. Decent food. Cheese and meats are fine but not processed. there are too many good bars with charcuterie plates these days.
5. The outside patio space needs work. Potted plants, or something to separate it from the sidewalk.
6. When a name is decided on put up a good sign to make it more attractive and inviting from the outside. It will add to the street scape and help it stand out to passers by.
7. Dont open the bar until it is near 100% ready. First impressions last, i think people gave up on poor and/or irregular service at P&Ps.

Anonymous said...

"Gay Nude Strip Joint."

Yes, this is a particularly good idea what with the large windows.

not on parker said...

I have learned that we "do not need" a bakery on H Street even though there is no place to buy fresh bread, and just about every liveable neighborhood from Brooklyn to Portland has a bakery.

I used to think opening a bakery was a simple concept, until I assembled a business plan. Let's assume I am going to open a bakery that sells only one variety of artisanal bread. Here is what I have to consider:

(a) production - where am I going to bake my bread? In house, which means I will need to pay rent/insurance on a place large enough for equipment and a store front? Elsewhere, which means I will need to pay rent/insurance and utilities on two facilities and pay for transportation?

(b) profit - assume a $4.00 loaf of bread optimistically costs me 25¢ in raw ingredients, equipment, production labor, and packaging. I would need 100 customers to buy 1 loaf per day for 30 days to give me $11250 gross income. This would not be enough to cover expenses that include rent for my 1800ft² store/kitchen, insurance, commercial utilities, point-of-sale labor, taxes, licenses, advertising, waste management, and incidentals. Let's also not forget that most unsold bread is thrown out at day's end.

(c) variety - throwing pastries into the mix requires use of a pastry chef, accompanied by more expensive ingredients (chocolate, confectioners sugar, nuts), more complex equipment, additional packaging, specialized display cases, etc.

(d) success - all of this assumes my staff members show up for work, my equipment is properly functioning, my vendors are delivering proper products in a timely manner, and that the country doesn't go on another anti-carb kick...

jen said...

The neighborhood absolutely needs a bakery, a place for good breads etc...but it sounds like the space can't support that.

I know I'm in the minority here but I think a bar is just too shortsighted, yes there are no bars at that end but any business is going to need more than the immediate neighborhood to survive.

It has been proven that to succeed on H you need a gimmick of some kind. Even the Pug kind of has a gimmick.

I think the crepes idea is a great one. It can be open all day, coffee and crepes in the am all the way through dinner and dessert/post theatre crowd. Serve a few nice wines and a beer or two. Similar to Snap in Georgetown without the bubble tea...ick.

Counter service would be fine, get the tables outside. The success of Taylor should illustrate that with enough buzz H can support a lunch crowd...you just need consistency.

Viceroy of Lost Umbrellas said...

Not on Parker is correct. A bakery is complicated to run, requires a rather high volume, and requires a good amount of space. It seems that most of the bakeries in the city rely on having contracts with restaurants and providing them with baked goods and any consumer level sales are just a bonus.

With respect to the space, it is kind of small, and I suspect that a commercial bakery is going to require more square footage than is available. Additionally, is there a way to make and receive deliveries in the space through the back?

The one thing that many of the failed businesses on H Street have in common was lack of consistency. The hours weren't consistent, staffing was an issue, and service could be either great or poor depending on who was there. The bookstore that was there was a great example. They didn't have steady hours and the owner wanted to run the business while still working at her 9 to 5. Also, with the rise of the large chain bookstores and Amazon.com, I don't think that even a well managed bookstore has a chance unless they are highly specialized and have been around for a while, or in the alternative, they have something other than books such as Busboys and Poets.

Anonymous said...

"It has been proven that to succeed on H you need a gimmick of some kind. Even the Pug kind of has a gimmick."

How has that been proven? Just because that's all the bars we have? I actually think the regular, old, quasi-sports pub with good food idea that folks have been offering variants on is exactly what we need on H St. All we have are gimmicks, maybe it's just time for a spot to grab a beer, watch a game, get a decent burger.

The other thing missing is fine dining. I hope that will come soon. Seriously, what is the best restaurant on the NE part of the Hill and/or H Street? Eventually someone is going to open a nicer spot and make a killing because there is no competition for that.

Anonymous said...

The other thing missing is fine dining. I hope that will come soon.

Does Napa 1015 not meet your definition of fine dining?

Frankfurt Freddie said...

1. 'Yours' Sports Bar (anyone been to Frankfurt, Germany?)
2. Capitol Hill & CHNNA residents
3. Beer & finger food
4. Commensurate with a sports bar (ex. have jerseys from players of local teams on the walls)
5. K.I.S.S. - 'Keep It Simple, Stupid'.

Many of all ya'll putting forth your lofty dreams/expectations on the place don't realize the limitations on not only the physical place (i.e. small), but also its (currently) unfortunate location on the west end of H Street. Sorry people, but its not a destination like the east end is. Face it, you all aren't going to many of the 'fine dining' establishments mentioned above more than once a month...much less once a week. Let's try to get the 'neighborhood services'-thing covered first and build the strip from there.

Oh yeah, and PLEASE do something about the venting so the place doesn't smell like I'm INSIDE the fryer.

Anonymous said...

Crepes would be cool and perfect for the small kitchen.

dave said...

To follow up on my Room 11 comment, here is a recent review in WaPo. Wine is at $6, and small plates and desserts. This is a cool model of what to do at 421, even if it doesn't have the outdoor seating.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/bars-clubs/room-11,1157976/critic-review.html

Derek said...

A comment about the outdoor seating:

Duke said that they had the approval (that does not mean the permit but ANC acceptance) for outdoor seating. He never got around to it because of cost and the need to have a door to the seating area. It was also my understanding that it would satisfy as a needed second means of egress.

If you are going to spend the money to revamp the space, spend it on that and needed exhaust in the kitchen. I have been in the kitchen and the size is not small. I have worked in various size kitchen throughout my life and THAT kitchen is not small. Argo's is tight and crowded, just like Granville's, but they are able to make it work due to the skill of the chefs.

trains said...

i'm just not understanding why people think that the west side of h is not as viable as the east side.

two metro stops. closer to downtown. a gigantic parking lot nearby. closer to more development and more jobs.

its not like there is only one empty space that will be developed on the west edge of h. other stuff will move in.

unless people want to go barhopping, most people will go out, get drinks, eat, drink a bit more. go home.

you want a neighborhood bar? take it off of h. h is a commercial strip with the hopes of being very vibrant. h needs places of quality, not necessarily gimmicky, but quality. a neighborhood bar doesn't need the placement of h.

if all these bars on the east side are surviving because its a destination, where do you think the people are coming from?

soul searcher said...

benny's "old city tavern" idea sounds good. they could have a happy hour that offers a special discount to workers from the SEC and NOMA area businesses (slight problem: how could targeted marketing be done to employees in area NOMA buildings?). or maybe a special happy hour discount day for SEC folks? call it lock stock and beer-rell (lol)

on the other hand, a place that serves some type of healthy drinks (smoothie bar?) would go along better with the bikram crowd and would balance nicely with sidamo (non-coffee drinkers could meet their coffee drinking pals with smoothie in hand).

have something family friendly on the weekends like Smoothie the Clown offering half off smoothies to the tikes...

Anonymous said...

Middle Eastern food, hookah bar, relaxed casual, 20-30's.

or

Smoothie/fruit juice/health food (salads, sandwiches, etc.)

I like the idea of replacing the windows with ones that can open up. There isn't much of that in Washington, but the cafe on Lincoln Park is one example.

oboe said...

Smoothie the Clown

As the father of a young daughter, this name doesn't market test well with my demographic.

Kyle said...

I am a Seattle transplant and would love to see somebody reach out to Top Pot donuts and open another location in that space.

I don't want H st. to become all bars but would rather see the variety continue. A "gourmet" donut shop/coffee house/sandwhiches etc. would work wonderfully.

No, I don't work for them, I just loooooove their donuts.

http://www.toppotdoughnuts.com/

Or a soup joint.

Anonymous said...

As noted here there are endless possibilites for the space.It would rock if this place could become a diner with outdoor seating.Since the building is a corner property,the exterior could be designed to look like a mobile diner.The bar could be set back and rasied to make use as a deli counter.

Anonymous said...

Gay Bar!!!

Anonymous said...

1. Swamp Poodle

2. Target demographic would be welcoming to all local residents (diverse)

3. Full range of beer choices -- like Dog Fish to Cap City Brewery. Good affordable pizza and burgers w/carry out. Preferrably wood fired Sicilian pizza with seasonal fresh ingredients.

4. Historic features to celebrate the area. Comortable furniture. Sports TV upstairs. Re-design the interior to maximize customer comfort and do open the wundows and have outside seating.

5. There is a resident base currently in the surrounding neighborhood with more still moving in at the Senate squre etc. to substantially support a local tavern.

Hillman said...

There are a lot of gay people, both on Capitol Hill and in SoFlo, etc. Currently the area's gay populace is underserved. Remingtons is ok, beautiful space but pricey (cover charge and high drink prices for very weak drinks).

A neighborhood gay bar/ simple comfort food restaurant would be a huge hit. Not some uber fancy place. Just a well-done corner bar, maybe catering to the over-30 gay crowd, that serves good comfort food (burgers, some healthy stuff, some original (think Argo menu), which is huge and doesn't always feel welcome at many gay bars.

Basically an Argo for The Gays and Pals.

If done well it'd attract local straights as well.

In fact, I'd say H Street could actually support several establishments that cater specifically (but not exclusively) to gay people. Particularly since so many gay folks in the neighborhood don't drive and would much prefer to walk to H rather than bus, metro, or taxi to Dupont.

Hillman said...

Followup on an Argo for The Gays and Pals......

A lot of gay people are being priced out of even 'East Logan'and Capitol Hill East now. SoFlo and H and such is a perfect fit for them, but so far the area offers very little that caters to gays specifically.

It's a very healthy symbiotic relationship. Build a few places for The Gays and Pals and they'll flock to the area. And time after time neighborhood stabilization follows as the second wave after The Gays and Pals.

oboe said...

Basically an Argo for The Gays and Pals.

Hold on! Are you saying the Argonaut is *not* a gay bar??? What about the pirate theme???

Maybe I should go check it out...

Derek said...

How many threads went over 100 comments on FT?

Hillman said...

"Hold on! Are you saying the Argonaut is *not* a gay bar??? What about the pirate theme???"

Yes, I too was thinking they'd do more with the Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash theme. But, sadly, no. Just the rum.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Napa 1015 meets anyone's idea of fine dining.

Anonymous said...

What makes a new place a gay bar? Does it fly the rainbow flag to announce itself? (Actually a fairly serious question; I'm curious) (and, yes, bi-curious, but that's another topic entirely)

Hillman said...

Anon:

That's actually a very good question. Used to be a place was either gay or it wasn't. These days that's not true.

I think, for instance, of Hamburger Marys (Dakota Cowgirl) in Logan. Gay owned. Gay staff (really, really gay). But the crowd was a mix of local neighborhood residents and regional gay people. They went out of their way to attract gays from around the city (advertising in gay publications, getting a ton of free word of mouth in the local gay community, listed on various electronic media (iphone apps, etc.) as a gay-friendly destination, etc.), but at the end of the day it was just a good local spot that happened to have a sizeable number of gays.

And that's the key these days. You try to be a good local first, then you supplement that with gay business. Usually makes for a pretty successful business model.

At the heart of it you are a good business first, but you try to do something specific for the gay community. Hold an occasional fundraiser for an AIDS charity or a gay rights cause. Become the local pub for a local gay sports team or social club.

Local Logan gay people were by and large fiercely loyal to Hamburger Marys/Dakota Cowgirl because they were willing to locate in Logan before anyone else and because they were viewed as the 'gay local'.

Particularly as gays get older we typically want places in our own mixed neighborhood, amongst our own neighbors that we know, but sometimes we simply feel outnumbered by the sheer straightness in local spots. Particularly if they are destination places like many on H Street are.

Actually being ostracized in places on H is rare (even though I have actually heard the 'f' word in passing more than once from staff and customers on H Street), but sometimes it does feel a bit lonely, being the only gay in the village. Hence a lot of us don't really go out locally as much as we would probably like.

I hear from a lot of gay people I know that they would love to become regulars on H Street, but they just don't feel much of a gay presence. They don't feel ostracized but they don't feel like much is done to market to them specifically.

Hillman said...

Ok, last post. I promise. For now.

Just wanted to emphasize that there are a LOT of gay people on the Hill and in H St. Tons. And a lot in the new condos around 4th and Mass.

A lot of them have some serious $$.

A very underserved target market.

inked said...

Hillman,
I agree that H Street should have either a gay bar, or gay night at certain places. This is an untapped market locally. we have a sizable gay community, and no one regularly explicitly markets to that group. Friends of mine have said they want a gay bar like the Pug, and Tony T. has told me some patrons have voiced similar wishes. I think (I don't know where those comments were made, but I hope you can email me at inked78@hotmail.com and I'll pass it on to management) that H Street is mostly a pretty gay friendly place. I will say that I believe that DC needs more GLBT spaces or events. I do believe that H Street could benefit from such a spot. Remington's is fine, but not everyone is a cowboy.

skinnytree said...

Hey "anonymous" 5:38

"I don't think Napa 1015 meets anyone's idea of fine dining."

Strongly disagree. We've never had a bad meal there and bring friends there all the time. All-- including veteran restaurant types--have enjoyed it.

Service has been amateurish at times, but always friendly and well-intentioned. I consider this part of the charm and a function of it being a tiny little place making a go at it despite a difficult location, economy, etc.

The ownership cares, remembers your name, and serves an ambitious and consistently tasty menu. To my buds, the food (including excellent deserts) has often outclassed what I've tasted at more popular and established restaurants that are raved about in DC.

Hillman said...

Inked:

I appreciate the offer but it's not necessary. Let's just say I had a few gentle words with the offending parties at the time so all was resolved.

But last word to potential investors out there - just another trendy gay bar won't work. The future of gay socializing in the real world is the local gay pub. Uber-sleek and pretentious won't work.

Anonymous said...

I do agree that there is a high concentration of gays in the H street corridor (I am gay) .However,as a 10 year home owner in the neighborhood,with all the improvements in the area,I am not sure that its ripe for a neighborhood gay establishment yet......my 50 opinion.

Anonymous said...

I am straight and every time I have been i sticky rice it seems pretty gay freindly to me...perhaps a litte too friendly. Just kidding, i jus tlike saying "perhaps a little too..."

Anonymous said...

I find the direction this thread has gone pretty amusing. So, does a bar just "come out" as gay and hope for acceptance amongst the gay community. Do we put out signs saying, "hey gays this place is for you"

In my experience, most establishments of the type being discussed that become "gay" are due to the owners and workers being active in the community and creating a welcoming space. One doesn't just pop up a rainbow budweiser sign and put in a third bathroom to be politically correct to start rolling in DINK cash.

Tom A. said...

I hereby declare that on every perfect fall evening, the patio at Argonaut will become "gay space." On rainy nights, it will be "straight space."

And Sticky Rice is ALWAYS gay space. I mean, sushi and Japanese cartoons? Come on!! Gay, Gay, Gay!

nikkiO said...

There's no such thing as too festive Dave! And Tiki can be done in a classy, modern way.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this space is that it's just so tiny. I think that whoever takes over needs to go with the very basic bar concent (a la The Pug). There's just no room for other stuff.

Michael said...

You are talking the community to open business even though you dont have business experiences!!! What is your plan to do? i dont think its worth it to open breakfast places next to each other.

michael said...

You are talking the community to open business even though you dont have business experiences!!! What is your plan to do? i dont think its worth it to open breakfast places next to each other, this not fare what you doing and not expecting from landlord!!!
Guys there is so many things to open business center on H street.

mfaith said...

I thoroughly agree with anon 3:55. a bar/creperie perfect. seriously, if crepes can be so amazingly out of a cart on the street in paris, your tiny kitchen could do phenomenally- and could provide a good balance between food and booze.

So,
1) Name-L'Union ?? play on how close it is to U Station and on bringing everyone together in this diverse 'hood?

2) Target demographic-everyone @ various times

weekdays-lunch for SEC'ers etc

weekday eves-light bite and a drink for neighborhooders on way home from work.

weekend days: light crepe brunch and mimosas for adults,kiddos love crepes with nutella and bananas

weekend eves mellow bar scene, latenight bite and a last beverage for people leaving H street.

4. Beverages: serving a really decent house red and white-along with a few other special selections,a small range of champagnes/sparkling wines, aperitifs-(pastis, kir royale) cognacs, good local and imported beers-belgian? regular selection of liquor. Decent french press coffee-easy enough for a bartender to prepare if they have access to an instant hot water source.

Food- A solid selection of crepes-both (savory and sweet) with frites or a signature house side salad.

Crepes are quick to make and eat, so if people aren't lingering to drink, they should be in and out pretty quickly freeing up your tables.

sampling of a tasty crepe menu
http://www.cafezope.com/crepe-cafe-menu

4) Theme/decor-stylized neighborhood/french bistro theme. eclectic mix of old mirrors and historic neighborhood photos, moody lighting, cafe seating, maybe a couple plush vintage couches upstairs, Edith Piaf, Josephine Baker playing, you could probably even get away with some jazz :)

Honestly, I think something like this could be a great local watering hole/snack spot as well as a destination to lure people on their way to and from the rest of the spots on H Street.

Also, I'm an interior designr looking to add some projects to my resume. If you are in need of some help, I can provide assistance-cheap!

DCDave said...

Nevada Themed bar...las vegas + sierra nevada/mark twain's roughing it/area 57...and serve pizza...

Niman said...

Destination bar given the local and local on H street. A deaf bar with hot bar tenders (male of female) who can sign. A bar in Chicago was called Craby Kims and the bartenders wore bikinis, 100% hetro here but a very gay friendly bar because not everyone wants to go to DuPont

Anonymous said...

A lot of upper middle class folks around here would kill for a quality salad (ala Chopt, but an independent store)

There is no healthy food in this area.

Your takeout business would be fantastic and the space would lend itself to salad preparation.