East Side News

April 2019

Red Bear Brewery opens its door at the Uline. Photo: Taylor Barden Golden

Death of Dave Thomas Circle?
A small line-item in Mayor Bowser’s budget request might make a huge difference for one very chaotic and, some would say, useless traffic circle. Mayor Bowser has requested $35 million to purchase the Wendy’s at the intersection of Florida Avenue and New York Avenue in NoMa, a hopeful fix to years of congestion and consternation.

Frequently called DC’s most awkward and hated intersection, Dave Thomas Circle, as it has been dubbed by locals, is a frequent cause of accidents (455 from 2015 to 2017) due to its confusing multi-lane design and oddly timed lights. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie requested that Mayor Bowser find the funds to purchase the land in his 10-page letter outlining Ward 5’s budget priorities.

“For decades, the intersection of Florida Avenue and New York Avenue, commonly referred to as Dave Thomas Circle, has posed a traffic nightmare for residents and visitors alike. It is no secret that this is a failing intersection that is unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. Therefore, I am requesting funds to cover the cost of eminent domain, engineering, and final design phases that address pedestrian and bike space and slowing automobile traffic on New York Avenue.”

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) conducted a study of possible improvement to the intersection, and two finalist ideas were chosen to move forward when the city is ready to do so. One plan would allow the Wendy’s to remain in the middle of the intersection while paring down the parking lot to create pedestrian paths. The other would raze the Wendy’s building altogether and put greenspace in its place.

Councilmember McDuffie said that nothing less than a permanent solution to the problem would be acceptable, but the mayor’s office has yet to offer explicit details of what it plans to do with the funds if received.

Red Bear, Brown Beer
After many months of preparation and anticipation, Red Bear Brewing Company finally opened its doors at the Uline Arena. Red Bear, the first LGBT-owned and -operated brewery in DC, officially began service on March 24, perfect timing for the summer outdoor drinking crowd.

The space itself is unique, just like the building that houses it. The bar is the main feature of the rooms as it wraps around, providing a continuous 85 feet of drinking space and leaving two areas where non-bar dwellers can wait for their draft. There is a mountain range, the constellation Ursa Major in the ceiling and some pretty funky bathrooms. The space includes lot of tables, some small and private, some large and communal. There is also a cozy couch space in the front. Most importantly for the NoMa drinking crowd is an outside courtyard, shared with REI and La Colombe, that holds 20-40 with some seating.

The space is almost 7,000 square feet, roughly 1,200 for the brewery, 3,500 for the taproom area, and holding a max capacity of 280 people inside.

Uniquely, the space allows for and promotes social interaction. Behind the front desk, patrons can choose from a variety of card and board games that would remind most mature drinkers of their childhood. Red Bear also hosts trivia nights, including an ASL Trivia night that it hopes to make a standard feature of programming. The space houses a small stage for musical acts.

The warehouse-like venue also houses space for food production. Currently, the food is being outsourced to local food trucks, allowing the staff to see what works well with the beer. The goal is to take over the food preparation in total and have beer pairings that enhance the tasting experience.

Owner Bryan Van Den Oever is proud to bring his beer and his business attitude to NoMa, where there is a dearth of places to have a drink. The community response “has been just amazing! NoMa is definitely happy that we’re here,” he explains. The soft opening provided quite the window into what was to come for the company. The doors opened at 4 p.m. and the venue quickly got to capacity, which meant a line. Management was “laughably” understaffed because they did not anticipate the amazing response from the NoMa neighbors.

Here’s how quickly the beer is flowing: production is rising from 60 barrels of capacity to 90. The biggest day so far, no surprise, was the Saturday of St. Patrick’s Day weekend. “We wanted to become a cornerstone of the community we built our brewery in, Van Den Oever explains. “I think we’re doing it, we’re becoming a cornerstone of NoMa, but time will tell.”


Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with the Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates Inc. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch: taylor@midcitydcnews.com; @rtaylorb.