Monthly Archives: February 2014

Capitol Hill Sporting Goods and Apparel Looks for a Way Out

Rodney Smith, proprietor of Capitol Hill Sports Apparel, reflected on the past 11 years on Barracks Row

Rodney Smith, proprietor of Capitol Hill Sports Goods and Apparel, reflected on the past 11 years on Barracks Row

Capitol Hill Sporting Goods and Apparel Looks for a Way Out

Flight of Retail from Barracks Row Continues

by Larry Janezich

Rodney Smith, proprietor of Capitol Hill Sporting Goods and Apparel at 737 8th Street, SE, has a “Liquidation Sale” sign in his window.  After 11 years in business he is looking to get out of his lease which runs until 2017 and close up shop.  He says he is overstocked and business is not good.  He’s asking his landlord to give him a year to liquidate and then get out of his lease so “I can leave with clean hands.”

“It’s a landlord’s market,” he said, adding “nobody comes up to shop – they come up to eat.  And a lot of the restaurants aren’t doing that well because there are so many.”  He also blames the city for not being friendly to small business, “any time you bring in five Walmarts into an area this small, we can’t compete.”

Smith was born and raised in the neighborhood and attended J.R. Giddings school, now the site of Results Gym.  He played semi-pro basketball until an injury forced his retirement.  He has had other businesses before this sports shop, including a NE carry-out.

If he can get his landlord to agree, he says he’ll be gone by this time next year.  He hopes to avoid calling in a liquidator who will give him cents on the dollar, preferring to let the community in on a good deal.  But, he says, “it’s up to him” meaning the landlord.  “If I don’t get out of the lease, I don’t know how I’m going to make it.  It will cost me $200,000 if I stay until 2017 – we don’t want to, we can’t survive.”

He said when he first opened there was a lot of retail on Barracks Row.  Now, he points to Homebody and Capitol Hill Bikes as the only two retailers left on the block.   He remembered the stationery store, the toy store in the 500 block which was succeeded by a jewelry shop, and the art outlet – Attitude Exact.  Regarding the latter, he said, “When the lease came up, the landlord raised the rent to $7500 a month wanting to lease it to a restaurant.  They eventually lowered the rent – there’s a nail shop there now.”

In February, 2011, Capitol Hill Corner reported that the ANC was gearing up to fight the application of the building’s owners for a CT (tavern) license to open the 8th Street Bar and Grill in place of Capitol Hill Sporting Goods.  At its November 9, 2010, meeting, ANC 6b voted 10-0 to protest the application for the new tavern license.  ANC6B and neighbors mounted a success campaign to prevent ABRA from granting the license.  See that story here:





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My Report from Colorado on Marijuana Legalization

Marisol Gardens, Pueblo Colorado, recreational marijuana outlet

Marisol Gardens recreational marijuana outlet, administrative office.  Pueblo County, Colorado.

The Greenerside in Pueblo County, Colorado, opens its recreational operation this week

The Greenerside in Pueblo County, Colorado, opens its recreational operation this week

My Report from Colorado on Marijuana Legalization

by Larry Janezich

A Washington Post poll shows that DC residents support legalization of the sale of marijuana for personal use, 2 – 1.

Pueblo, Colorado, sits on the southern end of the chain of major cities running from north to south along the base of the Front Range – the eastern most range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.  It has had a difficult time transitioning out of its historic role of the industrial/agricultural hub of southern Colorado and achieving the burgeoning populations and economic success of cites to the north like Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.   Still, as one recent visitor observed, “There’s an edginess here that you don’t find in cities to the north – it’s almost palpable as you drive down Main Street or walk down Union Avenue.  Artists should find a home here.”

It’s no wonder that the Pueblo City Council has welcomed the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana as a means of increasing revenues – which, under the terms of legalization – will benefit local schools.  Beyond that, the City Council is looking forward to the economic benefits they expect a legal marijuana industry to provide.  Consequently, Pueblo County is arguably the friendliest county in Colorado to the newly legalized marijuana industry.

I visited two marijuana providers last week on a trip to Pueblo (you must show ID proving you are 21 to enter the premises).  Currently, only the county’s ten licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are eligible for retail licenses, and only two of those are currently licensed to sell recreational marijuana.  Several additional medical dispensaries are expected to open their doors to the retail trade this week.

Chris Jones, Compliancy Officer for one of the retailers already in operation, said that the first month sales had exceeded their expectations.  The store was currently out of smokeables until later in the day but did have a supply of edibles, including lozenges and chocolate chip cookies.

Jones explained that the shortage was owing to production restrictions which prevented growers from gearing up to meet anticipated demand before January 1.  Production was limited by the number of medical marijuana patients registered with the dispensary prior to that date.  Colorado law prohibits retailers purchasing cannabis products from other growers, and it takes 120 days for a plant to be productive.  This will hold until October when new sellers can enter the market – then retailers will be permitted to purchase from wholesale in-state growers.

This particular venue operated in a large, well-designed open space, with high ceilings, lots of light, glass cases, and a knowledgeable staff.  Purchasing cannabis is as easy as buying alcohol.  After entering the premises, IDs are checked again when purchases are made at the cash register.  No personal data is collected except for imagery recorded by the legally required video cameras monitoring transactions.  Some retailers are reportedly taking major credit cards.

Jones spoke as to how tightly cannabis products are regulated and tracked electronically from seed to retail shop, allowing state officials to determine a shop’s inventory from outside the store.  Jones said that his store sells 1/8 of an ounce for $42.50 – plus taxes of $13.50 – totaling $51.40.  Taxes include state and county sales tax plus 25% state tax related specifically cannabis.  Prices vary statewide – a shop near Mile High Stadium in Denver was reportedly asking $60.00 1/8th ounce last week.  One eighth ounce (3.5 grams) will yield about seven joints.

The legal limit on purchases for Colorado residents is one ounce per purchase (current price – $400); for out of state visitors, the limit is 1/8th ounce per purchase.  There is no limit on the number of purchases an individual can make, but, under state law, it is illegal to possess more than one ounce.  In the same vein, the law permits users to grow up to six plants per individual “in a locked, enclosed space,” but that’s not easy, requiring an investment of up to $500 to create ideal growing conditions.  Personal sale of purchased or home-grown marijuana is prohibited.

One of the concerns regarding legalization was that the almost 32% total tax on cannabis sales would push the price much higher than the black market price which has been $25 – $30 an eighth ounce.  One observer, who is familiar with the issue, said that those concerns fail to take into account the price inflation resulting from the black market, noting that legalization should bring downward pressure on the price levels, allowing officials and users to find out what the true value of cannabis is.

Jones said that the retail sale of cannabis had resulted in price increases on the black market, attributing that counterintuitive claim to an effort on behalf of black market dealers to try to make up for income lost to the legal market.  It could also be that the legal sale of cannabis has established a new price level for the black market and indicate that prices on the black market will follow the legal price.

In the wake of legalization, another retailer predicted that retail prices will be cut in half and that there would be a glut on the market by the summer of 2015.  He added that he expects the legal retail price to drop to $25 an eighth ounce plus tax – competitive with (or less than) the black market price, since legal production costs will be much less than the production price for small illegal local producers.  This raises the question of what incentive will there be to sell on the black market if cannabis is widely available at a lower price.

According to one retailer, his customer base the past month has been “older and well off” – many from out of state, including New Mexico, Montana, Arizona, Kansas – even as far away as Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Chicago.  He sees economic benefits for a county or state becoming an “accepting haven” for users of cannabis.

Colorado law prohibits the public consumption of cannabis, but localities are permitted to define “public.”  Pueblo requires users to be inside their home – use of marijuana in yards or on porches is prohibited.  Most hotels and motels prohibit smoking in their rooms – although one international hotel chain with a location in Pueblo permits guests to smoke marijuana in the nine smoking rooms of the 63 rooms in the hotel.

Regulations are in place but enforcement seems to be feeling its way.  In Denver, police are reportedly not going out of their way to enforce the ban on public smoking unless they get a complaint or unless they encounter an “in your face” user, in which case they can issue a citation which is handled in municipal court, like a traffic ticket.  And, in some localities, those opposed to legalization on moral or professional grounds, are coming up against the political and business interests who see hundreds of millions in increased tax revenue, income from tourism, and an influx of new residents.

It will take many months – if not years – for the effects of legalization to be known.  As for now – after one month of legalization – in Pueblo and other parts of Colorado, it’s a non-issue.

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Mayor Gray Cuts Ribbon To Reopen Northeast Library

Mayor Gray Officially Reopens Northeast Library

Mayor Gray, with Interim Chief Librarian Joi Mecks,  Officially Reopens Northeast Library

The Mayor recalled using the library "143" years ago.

The Mayor recalled using the library “143” years ago.

Interim DC Chief Librarian Joi Mecks introduced the Mayor and closed the ceremony

Interim DC Chief Librarian Joi Mecks introduced the Mayor and closed the ceremony

Neighbors and Friends of Northeast Library turned out for the reopening

Neighbors and Friends of Northeast Library turned out for the reopening

Word 6 City Council candidate Darrel Thompson

Word 6 City Council candidate Darrel Thompson

Ward 6 City Council candidate Charles Allen

Ward 6 City Council candidate Charles Allen

Mayor Gray Cuts Ribbon To Reopen Northeast Library

by Larry Janezich

Mayor Gray cut the ribbon which officially marked the reopening of Northeast Library today, after a 16 month closure for a $10 million renovation.  Gray recalled having grown up at 6th and L Streets and coming to the Library ”143” years ago to do homework or interact with somebody.

“Today,” he said, “I’m proud to be here and part of the investment of this library as part of the community.”  He was introduced by Interim DC Chief Librarian, Joi Mecks.  Also in attendance at today’s ceremony were candidates for Ward 6 Council eat, Charles Allen and Darrel Thompson.

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The Week Ahead ….And the End of a Barracks Row Eyesore

The Week Ahead ….And the End of a Barracks Row Eyesore

by Larry Janezich

425 8th Street will soon house a Bank of America ATM

425 8th Street will soon house a Bank of America ATM

The crumbling façade of 425 8th Street – a long vacant eyesore on Barracks Row whose last occupant was a retail jewelry store – is getting a face lift and interior renovation.  In about two weeks, it will be the location of a Bank of America ATM.  Perhaps not ideal for residents  anxious for retail on 8th Street, but certainly an improvement.  425 8th is located between the Verizon store and DC – 3 – across the street from the Fire Station.

The Week Ahead…..

Monday, February 3

Mayor Gray will attend the ribbon cutting ceremony marking the opening of the newly renovated Northeast Library at 10:00am, 330 7th Street, SE.  The Library has been closed for 16 months for a $10 million renovation.

Monday, February 3

CHRS Historic Preservation Committee meets at 6:30pm, Kirby House, 420 10th Street, SE.

Tuesday, February 4

ANC6b Planning and Zoning Committee meets at 7:00pm at St Coletta of Greater Washington, 19th and Independence Ave SE.

On the agenda:

Request for a zoning variance from parking space size requirements for a new apartment building at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Request for a public space permit for an unenclosed sidewalk café for District Taco

Wednesday, February 5

ABC6B Transportation Committee meets at 6:30pm in Hill Center.

On the agenda:

Discussion of FY14 Performance Parking Fund and possible projects.

Discussion of proposals for Vendor Parking During Hine Constructeion

Discussion of DDOT oversight hearing.

Thursday, February 6

Joint meeting of ANC6B ABC Committee and Outreach & Constituent Services Task Force on at 7:00 pm in Hill Center.

On the agenda:

Testimony for Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration oversight hearing

Additional DC Council oversight hearing testimony

Input on Mayor Gray’s FY15 budget priorities

Rat abatement on Eastern Market Metro Plaza

Thursday, February 6

PSA 107 meets at 7:00pm, location TBA owning to temporary closure of Southeast Library.

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Kimchi Carry Out Debuts on Barracks Row

Cafe Old Town's Sign is not up yet, but the former Capitol City Sub Shop is open for business

Cafe Old Town’s Sign is not up yet, but the former Capitol City Sub Shop is open for business

Kimchi Outlet Debuts on Barracks Row

One of “World’s Healthiest Foods” – Health Magazine

by Larry Janezich

The popular Alexandria carryout Café Old Town has opened a second location on the end of Barracks Row in the space formerly occupied by Capitol City Subs at 751 8th Street, SE.  Owner Cristina Kwon leased the building last summer and remodeled it.  The Barracks Row location is primarily carry out, but does have limited seating for inside dining.

What makes this place special are the Korean Specialties – particularly the imaginative kimchi tacos (with gluten free corn tortillas), kimchi burritos, and kimchi quesadillas – all with the customer’s choice of marinated rib eye steak (bulgogi), spicy pork, or grilled chicken.  For the uninitiated, kimchi is a traditional spicy fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings.

Kimchi has acquired its reputation as a health food because it is low in calories and contains a high concentration of dietary fiber.  One serving is said to provide over 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene.  In February, 2008, Health Magazine named kimchi as one of the “World’s Healthiest Foods” for being rich in vitamins, aiding digestion, and even possibly reducing cancer growth.  Kimchi is rich in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, and iron, and contains a number of lactic acid bacteria, among those the “healthy” species Lactobacillus found in yogurt.

Other Korean specialties on the menu include Bibimbap – lettuce, eggs, carrots, cucumbers, squash, bean sprouts, red cabbage and bulgogi, and the Bulgogi Burger – green peppers and onion with provolone cheese, bulgogi, and Korean hot sauce.

Sandwiches such as the California Club, the Turkey Avocado Wrap, the BBQ Sub with slaw and the Reuben with corned beef and/or pastrami have been popular choices at Café Old Town Alexandria, according to owner and chef Kwon.  The traditional breakfast menu features a Tomato and Fresh Lime Burrito.

The shop is open 6:00am – 6:00pm, Monday through Friday and 8:00am – 5:00pm on Saturday.  Closed Sunday.  202- 546-7827

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