Friday, August 12, 2011

Is the MOOD right?

The MOOD Lounge is pissing on/off the neighborhood


The building that houses the MOOD Lounge at 1318 9th Street NW in Washington (formerly the EFN Lounge and Motley Bar and formerly the Be-Bar and formerly the Salvation Army) was built in 1926 for the owner (D.D. Condon) as a “heating store”. His name as can be seen on the original signage in the photo as the far right building. (permit # 5767 – from the Kraft Database photo courtesy of http://www.shorpy.com).
An older structure on this site including a rear stable in the alley would have been torn down to make way for the heating store. Neighboring buildings (such as the adjacent historically protected buildings that were aggressively torn down a couple of years ago by a developer to create The Nine Condo at 1316 9th Street) date back to the Civil War years.

These days, the heat is being turned up in the old heating store! After many months of illegal behavior fueled by the MOOD Lounge owners and committed by its patrons, the community is no longer into the MOOD. You might even say, that with a pending legal case against them in the Attorney General’s office, investigations through Council Member Evans’ Office (see below), ABRA, the DC police force and sanctions by the neighborhood associations, the MOOD is becoming ugly.
Horses used to urinate in this alley, but they couldn’t help it and we forgave them.
People know better and it’s unforgivable. (Courtesy ODC)


There is now even a new sign in the Naylor Court alley posted by the MOOD Lounge requesting that people not urinate in the alley. And this was necessary … why? The presence of the management’s sign clearly signals the management’s implicit acknowledgment that public urination (and of course the inescapable accompanying public indecent exposure delinquency) is a serious problem for them. Signs like this are ironically appropriate for the exterior of a business that claims it’s not responsible for the behavior of its patrons and that any “disruption” in the community is not their fault. Yet through their signage they readily admit to trying to “police” this activity even as they swear repeatedly at public meetings that they are not responsible. The owners of The MOOD Lounge unhesitatingly accepted the previous owners’ voluntary agreement in which they vowed to in essence “be good and responsible neighbors”.  To date, they have dishonored this agreement. They have also dishonored the alley that has been recognized on the National Register of Historic Places - a designation that demands respect.

Now, curious minds in the community are waiting to see companion signs posted alongside the MOOD Lounge no urination sign that say: - PLEASE DO NOT FORNICATE IN THE ALLEY. PLEASE DO NOT DISCARD USED CONDOMS IN THE ALLEY. PLEASE DO NOT VIOLATE THE CITY NOISE ORDINANCE IN THE ALLEY. PLEASE DO NOT SELL OR BUY DRUGS IN THE ALLEY. PLEASE DO NOT DESTROY PROPERTY IN THE ALLEY. PLEASE DO NOT FIGHT IN THE ALLEY. PLEASE DO NOT SOLICT OR PURCHASE SEX IN THE ALLEY. PLEASE DO NOT BREAK INTO CARS IN THE ALLEY. PLEASE DO NOT DISCHARGE FIREARMS IN THE ALLEY.  

Maybe the MOOD Lounge owners are having their new companion signs custom made (since the need to exhort civilized behavior in public is pretty uncommon and these signs are in low demand). Maybe the signs just haven’t arrived yet to be posted. 
Actual decibel reading on June 27th 2011 at 2:00 a.m. outside the MOOD - courtesy ODC
More important signs that are allegedly absent on the inside of this business are permits that allow the MOOD Lounge to operate as a nightclub. If there is any question in anyone’s mind about what sort of business is being run in this former heating store just check out the video. If a picture paints a thousand words then a video is an art gallery. 
video
There is no food advertised on the web site menu (the author couldn’t find a beer menu either) but you can always buy a $5,000 bottle of booze should you somehow feel the urge!

(from the office of Ward 2 City Council Member Mr. Jack Evans)

“I will continue to stay on top of this, and do whatever we can, legally, to see that this business operates within the law, or is closed.
With that, I ask Fred Moosally: why has this license, which was issued for a bar, located in a neighborhood, been permitted to turn into a nightclub? They do not have the license to operate as a nightclub, which clearly they are—that is evident to anyone, and therefore, they should be closed immediately.
Jack” (Evans)




The Prince of Petworth recently ran a blog article titled: - Neighbors having serious problems with MOOD Lounge in Shaw    Prince of Petworth article

   (Photo from Prince of Petworth Article referenced above)
While the community leadership enthusiastically encourages responsible business development along 9th Street and throughout the Shaw, they are universally (publically and privately) condemning the behavior of MOOD Lounge whose past and current behavior makes its future existence questionable. Stay tuned. The MOOD may change.








Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Dog Washed Out


The little white bandy-legged building affectionately known in the neighborhood as simply “the dog wash” spent its last few years as an art warehouse. Previously, it had been an active, dog washing and grooming operation with an intricate series of claw-foot cast iron tubs for canine comfort. Before that, it had been an auto body shop run by Harry Terrell and Bernard James.  Before that, doubtless there were many other past lives, but it was never a stable. Architecturally it was always configured as a garage unlike the 1863 stable that was torn down beside it (rear 1316 9th Street – now The Nine condo) in July 2009. 
A fragile wall, beaten by years of various vicious vehicular encounters finally 
 sustained one blow too many and is quickly rebuilt before the building collapses. 

On April 18th 1988 Linda Wheeler (Washington Post Staff Writer) wrote: - “The archives renovation ended a long-term unofficial policy by the city of ignoring the mechanics in Naylor Court and nearby Blagden Alley. For more than half a century, these mostly one and two-man businesses had attracted a steady flow of old cars in need of repair. Mechanics Terrell and James had a certificate of occupancy and proper licenses. Most of the others did not.” “They got the mechanics in here good,” said Terrell as he stood outside his one-room body shop, called A. Georgetown garage at the rear of 1314 Ninth St. NW. “They closed most everybody down. We are about the only ones left.”  



“Naylor Court and Blagden Alley are the only courts in Shaw that still have many of their original buildings. Most of the other courts in the area such as Goat, Freeman and Madison – have been demolished and replaced with apartment complexes or stand empty.”
“Social reformers succeeded in getting Congress to ban residential living in alleys and courts in 1944 because they had become associated with crime and squalor. Although more than a thousand of the small alley dwellings and shops were demolished, a few of those that survived are now considered fashionable addresses in Foggy Bottom and Capitol Hill.” “Gone too are more than 40 abandoned cars and 20 tons of debris that clogged the alleyways.”
Last year the jocular “dog wash art connoisseur tenant” was forced to leave and seek cover elsewhere for his collection of art and artifacts because the property owners wanted to turn the former garage into a more lucrative business of some type. The old garage was about to begin a new life. Such is often the case with alley buildings whose structures are easily adaptable to new uses because of their utilitarian design. Many of the small structures in the DC alleys are in a state of flux today. But if you really think about it, when have they ever been stable over the last 50 years?
As an aside, it is incumbent on anyone who undertakes developing a property in this historically protected alley - Naylor Court - to be architecturally savvy enough to take a moment to think about the importance of integrating new development within the sensibility of the original collection of buildings. If not, the result is a collection of thematically disassociated buildings that reflect owner self interest rather than reflecting a sense of caring for a largely intact historic inner block of alleys. This alley (and its sister alley Blagden) has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990.  http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/  Despite the restrictive covenant governing the management of Naylor Court, unstable-like pop-up condo-box towers are beginning to soar with HPO and HPRB approval in what was a previously homogenous historic stable alley.
1863 Stable torn down in 2009 despite restrictive historic preservation covenant 
(rear 1316 9th Street - now The NINE - former home of Orlando Parks)

It turned out that the new business in 1314 rear was going to be a sandwich shop (SUNdeVICH)   http://www.wtop.com/?nid=109&sid=2470062 run by Ali Bagheri with an international theme. Eleven sandwiches made that are “named after a different international city (with) ingredients and flavors of that region.”
According to WTOP DC News Bagheri had been in computer business for 10 years but left to follow his passions in the world of cuisine. There is no “hair-of-the-dog” hangover cure drink, there are no “hot dogs” or “German shepherd’s pies” on the menu. The dog wash theme has washed out and become something entirely different. A partner business, Daniel O’Brien of Seasonal Pantry in the 1887 Victorian building on 9th Street, http://www.seasonalpantry.com/ creates a complementing “sit down” alternative at the front of the building to the “walk away” business at the back in the alley.
It's amazing, that this alley has sprouted two new gastronomic enterprises in old buildings. For most of its life, buying food for human consumption was unthinkable in this alley. Generally, food was for horses. These businesses are superb additions to the neighborhood. Each has worked very hard to integrate into the spirit of the neighborhood and to be respectful of its history. Not all new businesses in Naylor Court have been in the same MOOD but then, that’s quite another story for another, less happy dog day of summer.