City Paper Widget

Thursday, August 7, 2014

UPDATED: "Average Price Points" Bar Proposed for Former Ghana Cafe Space (1336 14th Street)

UPDATED: A tweet from Jamie Hess makes it clear that the new bar will be named "Crowbar".

The prospective co-owners of a bar to be located at 1336 14th Street NW came before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle last night (August 6) to brief on their plans. The space, between N Street and Rhode Island Avenue, is the former home of the Ghana Cafe, which closed in early June.

1336 14th Street yesterday
One of the prospective owners is Steve Zarpas, former proprietor of Crow Bar (which was located at K and 20th Streets and closed in 1998). The other is Jamie Hess, one of the operators of Ivy and Coney (which opened at 1537 7th Street in Shaw less than a year ago).

Zarpas and Hess told the ANC they were "lifelong residents" of DC. They wanted to alert the ANC and the community of their intentions before they signed a lease on the space, they said.

"We're professionals, decent honorable people," Zarpas said.

Speaking of the Ghana Cafe, Zarpas said: "Given the history of that restaurant, it's ripe for innuendos."

The Ghana Cafe was the subject of a long and contentious battle involving the ANC and a group of neighbors. The dispute led to the ANC being sued by one of the neighbors. The lawsuit is still ongoing.

Ghana Cafe had a restaurant-category liquor license, which obliges the owner to show he earned a certain percentage of revenue from food. If the new establishment wants a tavern license, they will most likely have to petition for a completely new license, instead of buying the liquor license of the Ghana Cafe.

"I'll be honest," Zarpas said. "It's definitely more of a bar."

The prospective owners told the ANC they wished to get a tavern license, but they intended to serve a full menu of "comfort food" at "average price points".

Zarpas said he was "astounded" at the $20 hamburgers routinely found at restaurants along 14th Street. He wished to open a place with more reasonable prices.

Commissioner Walt Cain (district 02) asked if they proprietors would have entertainment on the premises.

The prospective owners said their initial plan was to show sports on television. After opening, they said, they might consider renovating the basement and offering recorded music there.

James Kane, the neighbor of the former Ghana Cafe who brought the lawsuit, was present at the meeting. There was an opportunity for community comment after the presentation, and Kane asked about characterizations on the Internet that Crow Bar was a "biker bar".

Zarpas said that "biker bar" was "a mischaracterization", but it had been a hang-out for bike couriers and popular with the motorcycle enthusiasts who came to DC every Memorial Day weekend for the Rolling Thunder Rally.

"Is that a group that you are planning to target?" Commissioner Cain asked.

"We have no plans to target that community specifically," Zarpas said.

After the presentation, there was a short scheduled break in the meeting. Kane, Zarpas, and Hess had a seemingly amicable conversation in the hallway outside the meeting room.

The prospective owners did not say what name they planned for the bar. The ANC2F meeting agenda said the prospective business was named "Crowbar".

The briefing was strictly informational. There was no vote of any type taken on the proposed establishment. If the lease on the property is signed, the proprietors will have to return to the ANC for liquor-license related approval, and probably other matters as well.

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