Shaw Business Community Still Expanding

Shawn Streets

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DDOT wants to put protected cycletrack on Ninth Street, which would remove Unconventional Diner’s 100-seat parklet. Photo by Pleasant Mann

Shaw Business Community Upset Over Planned Cycletrack
Businesses along Ninth Street in Shaw began to express concerns when the District’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced at the end of May that they were installing a new bidirectional, protected bicycle track along the Ninth Street commercial corridor in 2022. After an initial study, Mayor Bowser had put further action on the project on hold for years, during which time the detailed plans for installing a cycletrack on Ninth Street have never been presented to the public.

The new cycletrack is supposed to start at Florida Avenue/U Street, going down the east side of the street until it reaches Pennsylvania Avenue downtown. Businesses are concerned that an uninterrupted track would require reducing north-bound vehicular traffic to one lane, would snarl traffic, eliminate 80 parking spaces, impose rush hour parking restrictions, and inhibit deliveries. The conflicts between the heavy tractor trailer traffic operations of City Market at O and the Washington Convention Center are an additional concern. Neighborhood churches are troubled by the loss of parking during their Sunday services. There are also concerns that the plans would put a premature end to the parklets and streeteries outside of Shaw restaurants, which the District is continuing to allow in order to enhance revenue of the establishments just coming out of a pandemic slump.

Eric Eden, co-owner of Shaw’s Unconventional Dinner cautioned that “we ask that the powers that be carefully consider the economic impact – likely in the millions of dollars – to our businesses and the loss of sales taxes from those sales.” Business groups such as Shaw Main Streets and the Ninth Street Business Association, which represents restaurants, bars and nightclubs on the 1900 block of Ninth Street, have called for DDOT to publicly present their plans for a Ninth Street cycletrack and to engage with the community to develop workable solutions to the problems they’ve identified. They are also joining efforts of other businesses and community organizations pushing back against DDOT plans to install cycletracks on 17th Street in Dupont Circle and in Glover Park and Burlieth.

Shaw Business Community Still Expanding
While some of the District’s commercial areas are pockmarked by vacant retail spaces marking businesses lost to the pandemic, Shaw is seeing newcomers moving in. The most visible example of this is the notice that the 18th Street Lounge, a fixture of the Dupont Circle club scene for 25 years, is moving to Shaw. Owner Farid Nouri announced that he was moving his famed nightclub, that regularly saw lines of hundreds of people and celebrities trying to get in, to 1230 Ninth Street NW. The new club will have two floors like the old one, a roof deck, a bar on each level and be able to host multiple live music acts at once. Nouri noted that the lively restaurant and club scene was a major attraction of the new location. The new club will open in four to six months.

Restaurateur Seth Hajbi receives DC Water check from Shaw Main Streets Executive Director Alexander Padro. Photo by Pleasant Mann

On the same block, a new speakeasy called Never Looked Better has opened in the basement of 130 Blagden Alley NW. Reviewer Tierney Plumb describes NLB as a “bar that’s different than anything DC has ever seen – a place that combines a speakeasy’s serious approach to bartending with the bright, loose vibe of an underground rave.” Patrons are offered a menu of cocktails and highballs in an environment bathed in neon and blacklight.

Shaw is also becoming the home of not one, but two new tobacco shops. Chill Tobacco (1314 Ninth Street NW) is opening soon, while District Tobacco (900 M Street NW) has just announced its arrival. They join Tobacco and Vape King at 1543 Seventh Street NW and the new, larger TG Cigar Lounge at 1120 Ninth Street NW.

DC Water Makes It Rain for Shaw Businesses
Five businesses adjacent to DC Water’s Northeast Boundary Tunnel construction site at Rhode Island Avenue and R and Sixth Streets NW received a total of $34,500 in grants in June from funds administered by Shaw Main Streets. This was the third round of grants made available to support businesses impacted by the utility’s major construction project, which will channel stormwater and wastewater in separate streams across the city to the Blue Plains treatment facility.  The unrestricted grants allow each business to use the funds as needed. “This is a big help,” said Seth Hajbi, owner of Red Toque Kabob Café, located directly across Sixth Street from the construction site. “Our restaurant was closed for months due to the pandemic. This check couldn’t have come at a better time.” The other businesses that received grant checks were Aim Auto Repair, Electric Cool-Aid, Golden China Restaurant and Guilford Liquors.

Shaw Art All Night, with art markets and performances returns September 25. Photo by Pleasant Mann

Shaw Art All Night Set for September 25
Shaw’s Art All Night festival, an annual event since 2011, will return on Saturday night, September 25, at 7 PM. The 2020 festival was a modest virtual affair, with no physical presence in the neighborhood. This year marks the resumption of the eight hour, in-person event, which drew 30,000 people to Shaw in 2019 and 100,000 people citywide. The Shaw festival will once again present dozens of visual art installations, live music, dance and other performances, do-it-yourself art opportunities, and an outdoor art market with makers presenting their creations. All artists and performers are compensated for their participation, and no fees are charged for artist vendors. Artist, performer and vendor inquiries can be sent to shawmainstreetsinc@gmail.com.