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The 'Curse' of P St in Dupont?


jo22
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With the upcoming closing of Mark and Orlando's and the recent closings of Cafe Trope and Montsouris along with a generally high turnover ratio of restaurant's on that street, I'm still crazy enough to consider taking over one of the vacant spaces and opening a restaurant on P Street but I'm curious as to what folks that know the neighborhood think because it's you that I would want to win over first!

Why do you think restaurants keep closing on P Street?

What do the restaurants that are successful on P Street doing right? (Pesce, Uni, Al Tiramisu, Cafe Japone)

What kind of place would you like to see open on P Street?

How can we work together to break this supposed "curse" and make P Street what it should be, a great neighborhood street with a variety of places for both residents and tourists alike to be proud of?

Am I crazy to think a place can succeed on P Street in this economy?

Thanks!

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Fickleness of local clientele, bad economic environment, too high operating costs -- should I go on?

a) rent (landlords on that street think they are in Times Square NY)

b)taxes

c) no beer, no wine, no liquor, no more...

d) no lunch traffic

e) no tourists

f) constant road construction

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I live on that stretch of P St, and aside from the ones you mentioned (Pesce, Uni, Al Tiramisu, Cafe Japone), Pizzeria Paradiso, Urbana, Sala Thai, Obelisk, and Sakana seem to be doing quite well, as are the plethora of more casual places. I don't think there's a higher percentage of failed restaurants here than in any other part of town, but the extremely high density of places skews the numbers.

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Parking is a problem all over the Dupont Circle/17th Street/Logan Circle area. At least on P Street just west of Dupont Circle, the Metro is quite near. But as Brian points out above, there have been quite a few long-running restaurants on those blocks of P, including some that are gone now but that were around quite a while, like Beduci, or Gabriel, or the old Nanking, which was around for decades, although it's also been gone for decades now. And indeed, Obelisk, Sala Thai, Cafe Japone, and Pizzeria Paradiso are all decades-long survivors, one of which, Obelisk, has been off and on my favorite restaurant in Washington. I have no idea what Montsouris, for one, did wrong. I thought it was a good restaurant that offered a very nice meal at a fair price in a pleasant space, and was surprised that it didn't make it. My one meal at Al Tiramisu, years and years ago, led me never to go there again, and maybe that was unfair, but based on my experience I have always been bewildered by its success. I think perhaps it's a matter of offering a good meal in a nice place at a fair price PLUS all the stars being in alignment, with sometimes the stars making up for deficiencies in the other areas. It's the stars part that's tricky, and that's what keeps most sane people out of the restaurant business.

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Am I crazy to think a place can succeed on P Street in this economy?
Oh, and no, you're not crazy to think a place on P Street can succeed in this economy. You would be crazy to think a place on P Street WILL succeed, which is the big problem in starting a business of any kind anywhere at any time. Good luck, man!
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I'd go with something has *some* nightlife potential. Nothing major or too raucous, because the ANC will never give you a license or the hours you need, but something lower key would be good and profitable. The new CommonWealth gastropub is a good example of something that can survive by being primarily a restaurant but supplementing margins with a bit of a nightlife crowd. Just one man's opinion...

I used to live near that section of P and love that neighborhood... Especially now that it has the crepe shop, vietnamese place, and froyo shop (yes, I just said "froyo" :rolleyes:)

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Parking is a problem all over the Dupont Circle/17th Street/Logan Circle area.

No it isn't. For the past year or so, I think it's been $5 to valet park anywhere on P Street, and if people think otherwise, it's because of a lack of marketing.

What it will take for a new restaurant to succeed: quality + marketing = the time is ripe. Think about it: Is this recession going to last forever? Hell no. Will it last five more years? Probably not. Cut a deal with a desperate landlord and move forward, that's my advice.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I live 1 street over from P St., so I'm delighted to hear about any restaurant that might be opening in the area. But 100% understand your concerns since so many restaurants closed there recently.

Something to consider is the fact that there was a long road construction project that took place on that section of P St about a year ago. It was reported on some local blogs and papers that this greatly affected business. They were literally tearing up the entire street. It was difficult to walk down, let alone drive or park. Talking to some local businesses they said it most definitly hurt business for the quarter or so. I think perhaps some businesses just never recovered from that.

That being said I think the places that have closed might have been good (especially Mark and Orlando's) but they also were sleepers in a way. They didn't generate buzz---they were just classic neighborhood restaurants.

Personally I would like to see something new, affordable, and comfortable. Maybe a nice American bistro with seasonal produce---think Cashion's Eat Place in Adams Morgan. Just a nice neighborhood restaurant with some outdoor seating, a bar(where I can sit if I'm dining alone) and a friendly, well-trained waitstaff. I think small and comfortable can also be good--like a Hank's.

You also should consider offering up something that the neighborhood doesn't currently have---or even the city. A really good Mediterranean restaurant on that street would be nice. Or maybe a noodle bar--like the ones they have in NYC and other cities. Perhaps a restaurant influenced by California cooking...just something different with a hook that people can get behind and talk about.

And I'll just throw it out there because I always have to mention it when people ask me about what type of restaurant I would like to see in my neighborhood---if you opened a REAL Jewish deli I can guarentee I would give you a lot of business--and so would others. Especially if you were open for breakfast, had a deli counter, and maybe stayed open late. Bring someone down from NY to show you how to do it right. If you invest the time and money and I think this could be a huge success. One of the major things DC is missing is a really good deli inside the city. I think the people of Dupont, and the surronding neighborhoods would love this!

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a) rent (landlords on that street think they are in Times Square NY)

b)taxes

c) no beer, no wine, no liquor, no more...

d) no lunch traffic

e) no tourists

f) constant road construction

I don't agree about the no tourist comment. There is at least 1 hotel on that street (I think there might actually be 2) and 2 more hotels less then a 5 minute walk away. I don't think that's the issue so much. (Not that I want that area to turn into a tourist trap....I don't at all!)

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It was my understanding that Montsouris failed because of a falling out amongst the ownership group (at least that's what they claimed). It also occurred during the P street construction when it seemed like the store front was continuously blocked by construction material.

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I don't agree about the no tourist comment. There is at least 1 hotel on that street (I think there might actually be 2) and 2 more hotels less then a 5 minute walk away. I don't think that's the issue so much. (Not that I want that area to turn into a tourist trap....I don't at all!)

Agree there are a lot of tourists around - 2 hotels on P, at least 3 others come to mind within a block. Also, the street has a lot of lunch traffic, particularly the end closer to the circle. I personally think the construction on P St did take its toll on some newcomers, but it is now over. I think with the coming opening of Le Pain Quotidien, there will be some even larger traffic that should benefit the restaurants on the street. The restaurants that are successful on the street either have a niche or do something right - Paradisio and Obelisk are excellent; You go to Japone for karaoke and comedy night and whatnot, not the sushi; Pesce has good and satisfying seafood, etc. I never really got Mark and Orlandos and the numerous other places that have since passed.

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I think the former Cafe Trope location with its potential for shaded outdoor seating could do great brunch/lunch/happy hour business if they have the right price point, menu and acceptable food.

That's the location that's really been doomed. I think 3 restaurants have been in the space in the 5+ years I've been living in DC. Although I think all closed for different reasons. And that silly Stars place next door (the place the use to...or still does...have singing waiters) is still open for business.

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Not to pick a fight with Elyssa, but I think Mark and Orlando's went down because it was rather expensive without being particularly distinctive and Cashion's is even more expensive (though more distinctive). More a special occasion than a neighborhood place -- though there is some money in that neighborhood, so maybe...

Definitely any place that pricey is going to need a name and a buzz.

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Not to pick a fight with Elyssa, but I think Mark and Orlando's went down because it was rather expensive without being particularly distinctive and Cashion's is even more expensive (though more distinctive). More a special occasion than a neighborhood place -- though there is some money in that neighborhood, so maybe...

Definitely any place that pricey is going to need a name and a buzz.

I should have mentioned that I like the idea of Cashion's, but I would prefer a slightly lower price point, if I was to dine there on a regular, say monthly, basis.

The upstairs part of Mark and Orlando's was very affordable. I don't think there was anything over $12 or so. And in the upstairs part you can also dine off of the downstairs menu.

But I think you are right on the fact that Mark and Orlando's wasn't distinctive. I liked the place because everyone there was always friendly and the food was good. But I always had to make an effort to remember to a) go there and b ) recommend it. It didn't have anything particularly memorable that made me recommend it over other places in the area.

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That's the location that's really been doomed. I think 3 restaurants have been in the space in the 5+ years I've been living in DC.
But you came in at the end of the long run of BeDuCi, which occupied that space for a decade after moving from the location now occupied by Al Tiramisu. Only the last two restaurants at 2100 P St. were flops.
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That's the location that's really been doomed. I think 3 restaurants have been in the space in the 5+ years I've been living in DC. Although I think all closed for different reasons.

BeDuCi, 21P, and Cafe Trope all closed for the same reason - they sucked.

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Thanks for all the thoughts and posts and definitely keep them coming! I will consider them all as I make decisions for the future and keep y'all updated!

Couple more thoughts/responses:

I agree that there should be plenty of tourist/business traveller traffic given the hotels in the area. Perhaps P St just doesn't do a good job or marketing because they tend to trek to Georgetown for dinner instead of stay in the neighborhood. Also, maybe it's the lack of family friendly restaurants. It seems that outside of Pizzeria Paradiso, there really aren't any.

Parking - I noticed as well that there was a great Valet service from 5pm - 10pm every evening for only $5. Best deal in the city. Once again, marketing.

Rent and Taxes - I definitely agree here and along with the liquor license moratorium find these to be the biggest barriers of entry. Restaurants are a tough business and though I would love to sell the best food in the best location at the cheapest price, it's tough to cover the high rent and high taxes that go along with that location when you have a limited amount of seats and hours to do it in since no matter what, there are only so many prime hours of the day that people eat. Hence this posting and all the requests for opinions...I would rather do my due diligence and make sure if I'm fortunate enough to open a place, it can sustain itself with moderate pricing. For instance, I've heard good things as well about Mark and Orlando's and I suspect that the only way they could sustain the low prices upstairs was with the higher prices downstairs but that resulted in Orlando's taking more of a beating for the higher prices and subsequent higher expectations. Unfortunately, with the rent demands and cost of a liquor license, it just might not be possible to sustain a moderately priced place in that area, in which case those locations will just stay vacant until someone with bigger cohones than I comes around. Call me unsophisticated but I am not in the high priced restaurant business and have never understood the value of three digit meals for anything but the most special of occasions.

Jewish Deli - Sorry Elyssa. That actually does sound great but the best Jewish delis I've been to are the most authentic and disappointingly, I do not have the skills or resources to even attempt to replicate them. I promise to have a mean sandwich or two on the lunch menu in honor of your suggestion though.

Thanks! Look forward to hearing more....

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Jewish Deli's arghhhhhhh. the only way an authentic jewish deli can survive, is by charging 15-20 bucks a sandwich for unbelievably awesome 16oz sandwiches. Wait... yes.. that's it.......................... the ghost of Carnegie Deli in tysons yelling... "Stay away from DC, they dont get it, they wont pay for the huge high quality portions" Lets run down the list Duke's, never did understand the popularity, Too Jays in tenley ( was great, but gone) wolfs, its successor.. Bah Bye, krupins, EEEK, me think not. Celebrity Deli (old location in rockville), yup did it well, once they moved they lost the mojo, now its sold and, far from its glory days. Booeymongers, eghh , doesnt count. Find me a space with rent in the 20's, ample parking and I sware, ill bring down the manager of harolds in NJ (exit 10 on the turnpike LOOK IT UP!) and open one up, you all need to place your credit cards on file itll be expensive, and if I dont hit breakeven on any given month, well spread the loss amongst you all :rolleyes:............ I kid about the losees, but serious about bringing THE MAN to DC. BTW any deli that gets its meats from SAVAL is automatically eliminated from contention. It has to be made in house! Attmans in Balt, a legit place!

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Jewish Deli's arghhhhhhh. the only way an authentic jewish deli can survive, is by charging 15-20 bucks a sandwich for unbelievably awesome 16oz sandwiches. Wait... yes.. that's it.......................... the ghost of Carnegie Deli in tysons yelling... "Stay away from DC, they dont get it, they wont pay for the huge high quality portions" Lets run down the list Duke's, never did understand the popularity, Too Jays in tenley ( was great, but gone) wolfs, its successor.. Bah Bye, krupins, EEEK, me think not. Celebrity Deli (old location in rockville), yup did it well, once they moved they lost the mojo, now its sold and, far from its glory days. Booeymongers, eghh , doesnt count. Find me a space with rent in the 20's, ample parking and I sware, ill bring down the manager of harolds in NJ (exit 10 on the turnpike LOOK IT UP!) and open one up, you all need to place your credit cards on file itll be expensive, and if I dont hit breakeven on any given month, well spread the loss amongst you all :rolleyes:............ I kid about the losees, but serious about bringing THE MAN to DC. BTW any deli that gets its meats from SAVAL is automatically eliminated from contention. It has to be made in house! Attmans in Balt, a legit place!

How about $12 for an 8 oz sandwich (throw in some house-made chips or a pickle?) I'd be VERY excited about a place like this opening. It would be nice to not have to cart deli home from Baltimore.

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How about $12 for an 8 oz sandwich (throw in some house-made chips or a pickle?) I'd be VERY excited about a place like this opening. It would be nice to not have to cart deli home from Baltimore.

ALB, there you go again :rolleyes::) . see guys I havent even opened yet.. and you just cut my check average in half, and now I need to double the amount of customers to come by each day, so instead of seating for say 40 at lunch I now need it for 80, so my rent went up as well <_<....

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ALB, there you go again :rolleyes::) . see guys I havent even opened yet.. and you just cut my check average in half, and now I need to double the amount of customers to come by each day, so instead of seating for say 40 at lunch I now need it for 80, so my rent went up as well <_<....

What if I promised to come twice as much?

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g-d, I miss Zingerman's! :rolleyes:

I am very lucky on that front...my boyfriend has been living in Ann Arbor, 2 blocks from Zingerman's for the past 2 years. While the long distance relationship sucks, getting to go to Zingerman's once a month is pretty nice. <_<

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