Georgetown Current

Sushi Won’t Displace Salon at Wisconsin Avenue Site

August 27, 2014

By Katie Pearce
Current Staff Writer

Entrepreneur Steve Mugati is backing away from original plans to use 1513 Wisconsin Ave. to house a new sushi restaurant, next door to his planned teriyaki restaurant.

The Current reported last week on Mugati’s vision for two merged Japanese restaurants, which he described to the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in July. But after the article came out, representatives of Violet Salon & Spa, the tenant now occupying the ground floor of 1513 Wisconsin, insisted that they weren’t moving out, as Mugati’s statements had suggested.

Mugati, who has owned the Georgetown building for less than two years, clarified the situation over the phone this week. He said he is “not going to proceed with my project” now that he knows for certain Violet Salon wants to stay put. “They weren’t sure before,” he said. “Now they’re sure.”

“They’ve been great tenants; they have a wonderful business,” he added. “I’d love for them to stick around.”

Violet Salon has been in place there since 2005, according to manager Sandra Patterson. She said the business has a 10-year lease for the space, with the option to renew in another five years.

Mugati has plucked former Sushi-Ko chef Koji Terano to helm both the sushi place and the planned “Yakitori” restaurant at 1515 Wisconsin, serving a distinct style of skewered chicken.

Though he said it would be ideal for the two restaurants to operate side by side, he’s now looking at other properties in Georgetown for the sushi spot.

In particular, Mugati is zeroing in on a property he owns at 3073 Canal St., which already hosts a sushi to-go place. The idea would be to transform that operation into a more upscale restaurant, he said.

Mugati said the “Yakitori” plan is still on for the 1515 Wisconsin property, which he has owned for about a decade. He said the current tenant there, John Rosselli Antiques, also has the option to renew its lease, but plans to move out.

Mugati said he has also looked into putting the sushi restaurant on the second floor of the neighboring property, above Violet Salon, but it doesn’t seem feasible. “The more I look at it, I just don’t see that being a great location up top,” he said.

This article appears in the Aug. 27 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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Pair of Japanese Restaurants Set to Locate on Wisconsin

August 20, 2014

By Katie Pearce
Current Staff Writer

Three new restaurants are coming to Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown: a merged Japanese concept under the helm of the former Sushi-Ko chef, and a pizza place down the block.

The two neighboring Japanese restaurants, at 1515 and 1513 Wisconsin Ave., will serve teriyaki and sushi respectively. The first will be the D.C. area’s first “Yakitori” restaurant, named after a distinct style of skewered chicken. Heading both is chef Koji Terano, who worked at the recently closed Sushi-Ko in Glover Park for nearly two decades.

Linking the two restaurants will make the most out of Terano’s skills, according to local entrepreneur Steve Mugati, who is involved as a principal in both concepts. “Instead of keeping him in one place, let’s make a second and, you know, take advantage of the situation,” Mugati said at an alcohol agency hearing last month. “And he could handle two kitchens with no problem at the same time, right next door to each other.”

Mugati currently owns Flash Nightclub and Bar at 645 Florida Ave. NW as well as two local Hugo Boss outlets, including the one in Georgetown. He formerly owned three Buon Appetito restaurants, including one in Tenleytown and another in the Palisades.

In addition to the new Japanese restaurants, Mugati will take ownership of a new pizza delivery place planned for 1419 Wisconsin Ave. He said the small spot, with space for only a pizza oven and a couple seats, will model itself after the successful delivery output of Two Amy’s and Il Canale’s. “We are just going to do those pizzas, which I see the other two places are just sending them out unbelievably,” he said.

Mugati introduced the concepts for all three new restaurants at a July 9 fact-finding hearing before the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Yakitori, seating about 60 people, will replace the John Rosselli Antiques shop at 1515 Wisconsin Ave. The 80-seat sushi restaurant next door, which doesn’t yet have a name, will replace the Violet Salon & Spa. Those tenants will move out by early next year and then the new restaurants will open in sync, Mugati said at the hearing.

In an interview this week, Andrew Kline, the legal representative for the restaurant ownership, said the spaces will require major reconstruction — a process requiring various approvals. “They’ve got a long road ahead of them” with the Old Georgetown Board and the Historic Preservation Review Board, he said.

At last month’s hearing, alcohol board member Nick Alberti expressed concern about how that buildout process — which in historic Georgetown involves extra preservation review — could affect the opening dates for the Japanese restaurants.

“We are trying to get some confidence and … make you understand that we are really looking for a concept that is going to move forward in a reasonable time frame,” Alberti told the restaurant representatives, asking them to return in January with an update. “You don’t want to wait three years until you see something,” he said, referring to the problem of liquor licenses that win board approval only to sit unused. This is a particular issue in Georgetown, where a moratorium means that no more than 68 restaurant licenses are allowed at a time — regardless of whether they’re actually in use.

Alcohol board member Hector Rodriguez said he thought “Georgetown would appreciate some kind of a restaurant with this … cultural concept, which lends itself to tourism.”

Both Japanese eateries are applying for new restaurant-class liquor licenses, and the board has scheduled hearings for September and November in the case.

Other big news in the Georgetown dining scene came this week from Mr. Smith’s, which plans to shut down its longtime home at 3104 M St. due to rising rents.

Several news outlets reported yesterday that the well-known saloon is eying the spot that Chadwicks is soon set to depart, at 3205 K St. A Mr. Smith’s manager told DCist that the deal isn’t yet final.

In the meantime, a couple of other Georgetown restaurants are currently going after license changes.

The After Peacock Room, at 2622 P St., plans to transition from a tearoom/coffeehouse into a small restaurant serving lunch and dinner, owner Heewon Ra said in an interview. The restaurant hopes to win the city’s permission to serve wine with those meals, she said.

Ra, who has owned the building for about three years, said she plans to reopen the After Peacock Room this fall with the new offerings, after temporarily closing it over the summer.

In addition, J.Paul’s, the saloon at 3218 M St., is now applying for an entertainment endorsement. Kline, representing the owners, said they’re seeking “more flexibility,” though he couldn’t describe the exact nature of the entertainment planned.

The Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission is holding a special meeting next Wednesday to consider several liquor license applications, and will vote on others in September.

This article appears in the Aug. 20 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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Archaeological Work Set to Begin on Dent Place

August 13, 2014

By Brady Holt
Current Staff Writer

After nearly two years of fits and starts, a planned archaeological investigation at 3324 Dent Place in Georgetown showed signs of life on Monday, with workers clearing brush from the vacant lot to prepare for excavations.

The property once belonged to Yarrow Mamout, who built his home there in the early 19th century after being freed from slavery. Historians believe he might even be buried on the property — a common practice in Georgetown at the time — and D.C. Historic Preservation Office archaeologist Ruth Trocolli has been hoping to dig there since December 2012.
But ownership of the property became murky, with developer Deyi Awadallah and a former resident battling over the issue in the courts.

Awadallah bought the property at a 2012 tax sale when it held a blighted wood-frame home devastated by years of neglect and then a falling tree. Neighbors referred to it as “the tarp house” for the blue plastic stretched across a hole in its roof. The building became filled with rainwater, vermin and breeding mosquitoes, leading to concerns about health and aesthetics alike.

Awadallah secured rare permission to raze a house in historic Georgetown, with plans to construct a new one of a similar size on the spot, and agreed to let Trocolli investigate the property beforehand. But that was delayed by the ownership dispute; Awadallah said in an interview Monday that he has another court date later this month as the dispute continues with the prior resident, who lost the property over nonpayment of taxes.

In the meantime, the city deemed the property hazardous and razed it last November. And Trocolli at last secured permission to access the site, waiting only on a partnership with Howard University to be finalized.

Monday’s work was carried out with members of the National Park Service’s Urban Archaeology Corps, local youths participating in a 10-week internship. “They are helping us clear the brush and get it ready for archaeology,” said Trocolli.

She had originally hoped that the group would also help with the excavations, but “it’s a summer program and we’re running out of summer.”

“To complete the archaeological investigations themselves we will need a year-round partner, hopefully Howard University archaeologists and students,” Trocolli added in an email.

Once the investigation begins, likely in September, Trocolli said she hopes to find “evidence of occupation by Yarrow Mamout” — the remains of his home (which predated the one recently demolished), trash from his time there, and perhaps even his remains.

In the meantime, neighbors appreciate the cleanup.

“At last it’s on an acceptable track, and it’s very good to see that the city is making progress on this site,” said advisory neighborhood commissioner Ron Lewis, whose single-member district includes 3324 Dent Place. “It’s very rare in Georgetown that a property falls into extreme disrepair as this one did. So it’s a great sign that it’s now on track toward restoration.”

Awadallah said he still hopes to eventually build a new house on the property, which will also require an extended Old Georgetown Board design review once the site’s ownership is sorted out. Asked about the expected timing, he said it all depends on the legal process. “I have court in a couple of weeks. We’ll try to figure it out from there,” he said.

This article appears in the Aug. 13 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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