Thursday, February 05, 2015

HR-57 Plans Long-Term Pop-Up at Gallaudet Pavilion (Behind Union Market) [UPDATED]



I typically put updates at the bottom of posts, but I wanted to make sure that readers saw this one. When HR-57 closed their space on H Street, the owner talked about an offer he couldn't refuse for a space in NW. That is still happening (there is some stuff that DC Gov and other players have to do first, so it might take about a year). This pop-up is NOT a substitute for that space, it's more like a side project. I did not mention the NW space in my initial post because it is outside my coverage area. This pop-up is something that HR-57 is doing in association with Gallaudet University. Gallaudet is providing the land to HR-57 at no cost. HR-57's owner just has to clean up the long vacant lot (which he has largely done) and use it as a music and community space. I never meant to suggest that this side project was meant to replace HR-57's efforts in NW, but it seems that the omission lead some people to believe that was the case. Sorry for any confusion.


I am thrilled to tell you about the latest local venture from HR-57 owner Tony Puesan. He's going to bring a pop-up form of HR-57 to a space he dubs the Gallaudet Pavilion. The Pavilion will be located on the fenced grassy area behind Union Market. That site had the old market sheds that were erected for vendor use before construction was complete on the original Union Terminal Market (AKA the Florida Avenue Market), but after vendors had to relocate from the old Central Market to make way for the National Archives building.
Puesan aims to create a space in the community where people can gather in the evenings and on weekends to relax and unwind. He plans to incorporate local food and merchandise vendors who are just starting out, transforming the weedy lot into a sort of business incubator connecting potential customers and those with entrepreneurial dreams.

The space will host concerts several times a week, and the offerings won't be confined to jazz performances. Puesan has talked in the past about his wishes to open a blues bar, and this is perhaps an extension of that concept. Listeners will be able to enjoy jazz, blues, blue grass, country, and other genres of music. You'll also still be able to catch the lively jam sessions HR-57 hosted regularly.

Many of these concerts will be offered free of charge, but some will require tickets. That means the fences will stay up, but Puesan plans to perform the necessary repairs and enhance the fences with art work from a community artist. Puesan says he has no plans to erect any permanent structures on the site. He expects to use the site only over the span of the the next 2-3 years before the developer who owns the lot is ready to break ground.

Puesan is also interested in partnering with local festivals. He specifically mentioned the Capital Fringe Festival (Capital Fringe recently relocated their headquarters to 1358 Florida Avenue in Trinidad) and the Capital Pride Festival. He also hopes to work with other local community groups and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions that might have an interest in hosting public events. Most regular and community events will be open to all ages. On weeknights shows would run from early evening until about midnight, and on weekends that window stretches from mornings until 1am (aside from on the Gallaudet campus side there is very little housing near the light industrial zoned Florida Avenue Market).

An old photo shows one of the sheds behind Union Market that once hosted vendors

There will be food. DCity Smokehouse (bar-b-que) will be the permanent food vendor on-site (available at least six days a week), but they'll have a bunch of other food vendors who will rotate through (for some events they will have several food vendors at once). Not surprisingly, some of these vendors will be associated with nearby food business incubator Union Kitchen. Puesan specifically mentioned Timber Pizza.

Puesan hopes to hold the first event in late April or early May. From that point on the Gallaudet Pavilion will be open seasonally from April-November. Puesan has already started to spiff the place up a bit. Look for picnic tables on the grassy areas, and a sort of 5th street beach covered in white sand. As a customer you will be invited to BYOBC (Bring Your Own Beach Chair).
At some point you'll even be able to enjoy an adult beverage as you enjoy the music. Puesan plans to apply for liquor license (tavern license or a special event license) and is currently introducing himself at Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings to let everyone know about his plans.


The lot actually belongs to Gallaudet University, which is allowing (free of charge) HR-57 to transform the lot into a community space in the interim before construction commences. Sam Swiller, Director of Economic and Real Estate Development at Gallaudet said that Tony Puesan "has been great to work with" and also told me the following:

Gallaudet is at the very end of a developer selection process, which began with an RFQ in 2013, for roughly 7 acres of University land straddling 6th street. We are in exclusive negotiations with JBG and expect to have our development agreements wrapped up within the next 3 to 6 weeks. 


Tom said...

That sounds horrible. What was wrong with any of the places he had on H st? It's seems this business is on a downward spiral. Each subsequent move (this is now his fourth place by my count) seems to attract smaller and smaller crowds. What is he doing? I used to go to his place on H st between 7th and 8th and it was always packed. Then he moved to the 1100 block and inexplicably offered brunch and Caribbean food. The place was always empty and he shuttered for a "big surprise" in NW. Now he is renting a rusted corrugated tin shed behind Union Market? Anyone else have some insight on what's really going on here?

Anonymous said...

hmm seems weird

Anonymous said...

interesting concept but i'll wait tot see how it is executed...I agree with tom. it's been a weird ride for sure.

djbays said...

This sounds like a great way to use that space in the interim. Last I was there, the sheds were being dismantled and the space cleared (that was a few months ago, while getting the feral cats that live over there spayed).

And this is a great addition to the neighborhood. Weird or not, I'm looking forward to an outdoor venue for spring.

Anonymous said...

This sounds intriguing and I wish him luck but I'm not at all confident this will work-- it sounds sort of bizarre and HR-57 was pretty bizarrely operated in both of its H St locations. This will need to be done a lot better to succeed.

inked said...

This isn't instead of a performance space in NW, it's in addition to a space in NW. An outdoor pop-up performance venue is something the owner mentioned to me when he first told me he was closing the H Street NE location.

As DJBays wrote, this is an interim use of the space before GU's development breaks ground. I'm a fan of outdoor concerts and this sounds like it could be really fun.

Anonymous said...

it does sound kind of rag tag even for a pop up. it would be better if there was an abandoned room somewhere in the market.

the pop up does bring in foot traffic at night in an area that could use some foot traffic. I like to see more movies after dark at the Angelika, but I don't like walking there after dark.

inked said...

I think that's an important point about generating foot traffic at night. It can only be a plus for the area.
As to abandoned spaces in the Florida Market, my understanding is that (at least historically) there has generally been a very low vacancy rate. If something looked vacant, it was probably part of a larger plan that just wasn't immediately apparent. Right now much of the Market is undergoing major changes as properties switch hands and face redevelopment.
This lot gives HR-57 a chance to do something interesting and community oriented for as long as 2-3 years for no property rental cost. That strikes me as a pretty amazing opportunity.

cheapskate said...

HR 57 should have cut down their cover by 50%. That would have brought more than twice the number of customers. It makes no sense having the place be empty when you could have easily have it full capacity by reducing the cover charge.

inked said...

Are you serious? The jam sessions were what? $12? And the place offered a BYOB option with a very modest corkage fee. I can't think of another jazz club in town with prices that insanely low. Maybe it was a promotion thing, or lack of appreciation of jazz, or something, but I doubt it was about the price tag.

Anonymous said...

$12 doesn't sound like a big barrier unless it's an upfront cost to try something you don't know anything about. With HR-57 the whole situation was just weird-- the only time I ever set foot inside was to check out the space. We would have stayed and had some drinks but the cover was $12, the "jam session" seemed to be on some sort of break, and nobody else was there. Why would I open up my wallet and take a $24 + 2 drink chance on that? Suddenly I'm into something for $40 that I don't know anything about.

I always wanted to check back but each time I looked it was the same "jam band" situation for the same price, and I always felt like I was going to show up and be the only one there. There wasn't any sort of special communication about special events and the tweets seemed to be on autopilot.

So yeah, I think Cheapskate is serious. $12 alone may not sound like much but combined with everything else it is a lot to ask for people to take a chance on something. It obviously didn't work out, which is a shame because H Street needs more live music. Hopefully they'll get their act together for this new venture but from previous experience I'm not getting my hopes up.

inked said...

I couldn't remember exactly what I paid for the most recent jam sessions I attended. It looks like they were charging $8 admission to the jam sessions (which took place twice a week). They typically had other shows on the weekends. Those ran about $15 each and were listed on the website. I also promise they always had jazz bands, and never "jam bands." ;)

I hope you will give them another shot and check out their new space once it opens.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, Puesan was big upfront about attracting a mixed demographic to shows, not just new residents. $12 might not seem like a lot to some of the newcomers on H Street, but I know a lot of long term residents who wouldn't see that as a low barrier to entry.

inked said...

I just checked and all of the live music (non-dj) shows at the Rock & Roll Hotel are more than the $8 HR-57 was charging for jam sessions.

Was the trying out bit more wanting to see what the jam sessions were about? Or the vibe of the place? Or the type jazz music?

inked said...

Now you have me curious on two points. 1. Aside from changes to the Twitter account, what kind of event outreach are you looking for? What would draw you in?
2. If $8 is too much for jam session (& maybe $15 too much for shows), what do you see as more appropriate pricing? Are you looking for a certain night to be priced extra low? What would you expect to see on such a night?

Anonymous said...

$12 is not a high barrier considering you can do BYOB. Plus, you get to see live music. The cheapest beer on H st is around $4.

It's true that place didn't have too much variety in terms of acts. Having it confined to mostly jazz is probably what did HR-57 in. So much more could have been done. He didn't necessarily have to program jazz, blues, and spoken word. Why not try other types of music? Jazz and classical have an early history together. Bluegrass has some blues in it. Movies could have been shown there. Board games. That place had a chess spot.

Anonymous said...

For me it's really about lowering the confusion around the place with effective communication. This starts with curb appeal-- what does it look like to foot traffic? Their build out on H Street looked crummy from outside. It was just sort of slap-dash and bizarre, regardless of how nice the interior might have been. They should have invested in a nice lighted placard to make the place seem more legitimate. They could have posted set times outside the door. They could have mixed up the jam sessions so it didn't seem like the same tired act playing night after night (maybe it wasn't but unless you were an HR-57 regular, how would you know?) and as someone already mentioned, vary the offerings. Offer drink specials. BYOB is nice in theory but in practice it's one of those things that people are going to be sheepish to try unless you're VERY explicit that this is not only allowed but encouraged, and spell out the conditions (corkage). Is it wine and beer only? Can I bring in a handle of whiskey? If you're going to do something out of the ordinary great, but it has to be super well communicated or people will be too timid to try it. Personally, free (no cover) nights would have attracted me, especially at the beginning. Have tie-ins with other parts of the community (schools, clubs, seniors, etc) if you are really going for a Jazz education/appreciation goal. Open the place as a practice location during the days and off-nights. Create a community of jazz/music appreciation around the club. These are just a few ideas. The whole thing just felt like a missed opportunity on so many levels.

curmudgeon said...

The pool of artists that performed at HR-57 jams was pretty small. The bad reputation it had amongst some local jazz performers for how it treated participating artists undoubtedly contributed to that.

Tom said...

It is so good to hear that Curmudgeon. I have always heard what a great place this was. Every move was to just accommodate more and more folks. I will admit when they were on H between 7th and 8th, they did seem busy. But I only went once, so who knows. Makes sense they weren't making any money and are now relegated to a shed behind Union Market. Inked seems to stick up for them. Like this move was all planned. I just don't get it. Why do they have so many fanboys?

OnTheBrightSide said...

Hoping this will add some flavor to shanty-town in the parking lot University and the over-priced blandness at Union Market. What a shame to let prime space go unused when there is a multitude of diverse talent in the city. Kudos to the folks at HR-57 for a great idea and best wishes for a successful venture.

Jesse said...

Stopped by tonight and talked to Tony. He has some big plans for the space and it sounds like he is thinking permanent.

It really is a great space.