04 Oct 2010

Chateau Selling Bldg. to Restaurant Purveyors, Going Plus Petit

Chateau-Animaux building, at 524 8th Street SE, courtesy of Chateau-Animaux

Chateau-Animaux, the Hill’s original chic pet store, –well, its third incarnation of it, after its original circa 1994 Eastern Market stall and then Doolittle’s on 7th Street — is under contract to sell to restaurant purveyors, hoping to open two establishments, one upstairs and the other downstairs, according to both Chateau’s owner and ANC6B’s Norm Metzger, who broke the news on his blog.

The deal is expected to close  Oct. 30, contingent upon financing, but Chateau’s business will remain in the building through the end of the year, as the owners scout out for a new, smaller venue for their doggie gear and other wares–minus the live fish/aquarium  business, though.

As with many things in life, and on 8th street, the course of the transition may be smoother on paper than in real life.

Moby Dick’s House of Kabob is the restaurant that is hoping to settle on the first floor. It is a chain of 15 restaurants with spots in Georgetown and Dupont Circle, as Metzger, who was briefed at an ANC meeting, noted. Meanwhile, owners of the shop formerly known as Oodles of Noodles on 19th Street, Nooshi, has applied for a CR restaurant license, and is planned for Chateau’s second floor.

The apparent applicants for a restaurant  license for Nooshi are Vanessa Lim & Partners, whose principal, Ms. Lim, did not respond to email queries. Her and her chef, Jessie Yan’s, eateries are profiled briefly here by Tom Sietsema.

According to the briefing Metzger et al., the building will host  two kitchens, a commissary kitchen (can you say food truck?) for Moby, and a regular kitchen for Nooshi.

The ANC and the ABC Committee will consider the case in November, but already opposition is building among some Barracks Row guardians.

“The ‘drums of war’ are already beating, and I believe there will be major opposition, on the principle that enough is enough,” warned one source.  Some people are concerned with liquor consumption, noise and trash generated by restaurant growth on Barracks Row, where retail stores have given way to empty storefronts or the high rent-paying restaurant businesses, according to sources and talks with retailers on the Row.

Chateau spells it out for us: “With taxes, rents, utility, insurance and employment costs, it has become increasingly difficult for small businesses to survive. Landlords are now looking for rents in the $35/sq foot range, triple net. When you add in the building insurance and property taxes, it is over $40/per square foot and there are not many small businesses that can generate sales enough to cover all that plus employee costs,”  said Dennis Bourgault, co-owner with his partner Michael Suddath.

ALL of the suitors for Chateau’s space were restaurant businesses, seeking to lease or buy, Chateau  told me  in  June. Of course, many at the same time embrace the new destination spots on 8th.

For  the pet store,  Bourgault  foresees a new store closer to 2,000 to 2,500 square feet, roughly the size of our first floor at Chateau.  Hopefully, he said, “we will reopen nearby as soon as possible after January 1.”

Chateau occupied the building in 2005, and expanded the live fish section, which proved to be unprofitable, and added a lot of extras, including grooming.

Good news for Hill mutts and their owners–Chateau will sponsor Howl-o-Ween, its annual doggie costume contest October 30 at 2 pm  in Lincoln Park.

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38 responses to “Chateau Selling Bldg. to Restaurant Purveyors, Going Plus Petit”

  1. David says:

    This is fantastic! I was afraid I’d be reading about another over-priced restaurant serving bar food for $25+ per entree. Two new fast, tasty casual/takeout options is a welcome development.

  2. Jon says:

    Fantastic for some…8th Street could use some more retail, and Chateaux was the only place around to get fish tank supplies in a pinch. I’m all for dining options but there’s not a whole lot of other things to draw people to on 8th Street.

  3. LP says:

    i LOVE nooshi. this is awesome news.

  4. Mark says:

    While I do like the idea of a simple and clean takeout joint(s) on 8th, wow it’s kinda depressing to see literally every business turning into a dining establishment or a bar. Does everything have to be a restaurant? And the one recent non-eating establishment is that cell phone place that opened smack dab where a coffee house should be.

    I’m all for walkable..but Tommy, there ain’t a lot to walk to unless I’m reeeaaally hungry and/or thirsty!

  5. Jay says:

    Terribly sad news. I’m even a fan of nooshi downtown, but seriously, another 2 restaurants?
    As a former Chateau Manager, I was with Dennis and Mike in that building before the concrete floor was poured, working on the product layout. It was such a huge deal for this small little pet shop to grow and expand into a space to rival the big box pet stores. Its just really sad!

  6. Scott Kratz says:

    Dear Barracks Row Neighbors – if having a walkable neighborhood with a lively mix of retail is one of the reasons why you love Barracks Row, then now is your time to speak out. At the next ANC 6B meeting on Oct. 12, I suggest we bring as many people as possible and during the community speak out session, we call for a temporary liquor license moratorium. As you might know, the Capitol Hill Vet recently lost their lease to make way for another restaurant / bar and Chateau Animaux is also on their way out and being replaced by a restaurant / bar.

    Please consider attending the Oct. 12 meeting – the community speak out session is one of the first items on the agenda. – remember the more people that get engaged, the more of impact we can make.

    Next Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B
    Location: 535 8th Street, SE
    The People’s Church
    October 12, 2010 – 7:00 PM

  7. Jill says:

    I seem to be able to find plenty of food on Barracks Row to feed my family. My dog, however, does not handle a doggie-bag only diet. Please don’t let restaurants (even delicious ones like kabobs and nooshi) drive out all the retailers! Where am I going to get dog food?!?

  8. @Jill – Pawticulars is still open across the street, and Metro Mutts on H Street is awesome.

    Also, Cap Hill Vet has relocated to PA Ave.

  9. Chris says:

    Maybe Chateau Animaux would have found profitability a bit easier if their service had been a bit less crappy. And does anyone really think there are enough fish owners in the area to keep that much floor space upstairs a viable concern? That’s a lot of neon tetra…

    “Some people are concerned with liquor consumption, noise and trash generated by restaurant growth on Barracks Row”

    If this is the case, then push for *enforcement* of the laws that are already in place, not for heavy-handed theological opposition to legitimate businesses. Who would have thought there’d be so many opposed to vibrant growth within our neighborhood?

    It’s nice that you can enjoy the romantic fantasies of an Andy Griffith-era main street, with all kinds of quirky retail, but the economic realities of 2010 are just not going to make that happen. Hopefully the “citizen policy shop” that is traditionally DC won’t ruin a good thing.

  10. @Scott a moratorium on liquor licenses will only leave us with a bunch of empty store fronts. The ANC has no ability (nor should they) to control rents. And it goes beyond rents — the business owners, not the property owners — pay the taxes on the land. Instead of pushing our ANC to take such actions, we should have a business development group stepping in to find ways to make the street more friendly to retailers, lobby DC for tax breaks for new retailers on the block, assisting them in getting in there in the first place. Barracks Row Main Street should be doing that for 8th Street but I haven’t heard a peep from them on this, let alone any statement as other retailers have closed.

  11. lou says:

    My understanding is that small, independent business owners have to pay the same tax rates in DC as national franchises. If that’s the case, that’s just wrong and the city council should correct the policy ASAP. Perhaps the ANC could encourage that.

  12. Tim Krepp says:

    lou, what taxes are you referring to? Sales taxes? It’s a flat rate, so of course they have to pay the same taxes. Property taxes? That’s paid by the building owner, not the store.

    The issue here isn’t local vs. national. We have no national retail chains on Barracks Row. The issue is how to best encourage retail operators to open here and to preserve the ones we have.

  13. @Tim, I think property taxes are actually paid by the business owners.

  14. Matt says:

    Tim, Claudia is correct. Most leases for business is a triple net, the store or business pays their share of the property taxes as well as the bid tax. It is passed from the property owner to the tenant which makes it difficult for retail to be able to afford $35 – $45 sq. ft plus NNN. There are a few around that are not NNN and they are the lucky ones as of now.

  15. Tim Krepp says:

    Good point, Claudia, you’re right.

  16. Trulee Pist says:

    I agree with Claudia that between ANC-6B, Barracks Row Main Street and CHAMPS, we have the institutions that could develop a strong program for attracting retail other than bars and restaurants to the whole neighborhood (including Pennsylvania Avenue from 4th to 8th Street, 7th Street above Pennsylvania Avenue, as well as 8th Street below Pennsylvania Avenue, and on down toward the Nats stadium.)

    I am very skeptical of plans that involve a ban on new liquor licenses. Rather, I’d like to see residents and businesses and potential new businesses hold those institutions accountable for delivering good new programs that would attract retail to the area.

    My opinion: CHAMPS seems to have some energy, but BR/MS and especially ANC-6B seem to have been paralyzed during the past 3-5 years while retail other than restaurants and bars has slowly disappeared.

  17. jay says:

    From manager of the Chateau to owner of my own business, I can speak to this subject. My “NNN” plus the BID tax puts my rent $48.60 psf. Can you guess how many gently worn onesies I have to sell a month? While I don’t think all liquor licenses should be suspended, there has to be some sort of “Intelligent Design” for a mix of retail. Otherwise, when you leave the Hill to do your shopping, you’ll lose your parking space to a Restaurant goer!

  18. Jeff says:

    Bummed about this one – not b/c I have any particular allegiance to Chateaux Animeaux, but b/c we’re rapidly losing the diversity that makes the Row great.

    Chris is right in that there are economic realities involved so you can’t be all pollyanna about the whole thing, but folks also shouldn’t just roll over lest the Blockbuster become an Applebee’s or some similar place that can outbid other folks.

    Maybe a naive question, but sort of to Claudia’s point – is there a larger strategy out there on what the Row can/should look like 5-10 years out? I look forward to the discussion on the 12th.

  19. Matt says:

    CHAMPS & Barracks Row Main Street are not what they used to be. They need to be united to work together and promote the community and not their own agenda. I know money and budgets are tight but I see nothing happening. Try and get the businesses of 7th St, Penn Ave. and Barracks Row to work as one group with good leadership. As far as the new restaurants & bars go do you know how difficult it is for people that live here to find a parking space when they come home work? The valet parking service takes all open spaces. That is wrong! They need to have a space to park your car that your paying $8.00 to park somewhere other then residential parking. Welcome to Adams Morgan on the Hill.

  20. kevin says:

    Efforts to resist this seem futile. The economics clearly favor restaurants and bars over retail.

    This is the case in every urban neighborhood in the country.

    Restaurants and bars have no easy alternative as a social experience. Unlike neighborhood retail which is up against online shopping and big-box retail.

    Restaurants also appeal to a wider base of users. Suburbanites regularly patronage eating and drinking places after work and on the weekeds. However, most are unlikely to come to buy hardware or furniture, etc.

    Can anyone actually name a successful neighborhood retail district in the US that isn’t being turned into a restaurant row?

  21. Jill says:

    @Nichole, Pawtictulars doesn’t sell the food my dog eats and I’m not DRIVING to H Street, where parking makes me want to kill myself, to buy dog food. I live a block from Barracks Row and yes, I’d like to be able to continue to buy things that my family needs as I walk around my neighborhood.

  22. Jack P says:

    Yeah, this is a bummer. I love the do it yourself dog baths. I shop there frequently and it always seems to be doing good business.

  23. @kevin – King Street in Old Town.

    @Jill – you said there was nowhere, I said that there was. Just because the two very nearby options don’t suit you, doesn’t mean that alternatives don’t exist.

  24. Jon says:

    Okay okay, there are options for DOG owners. It would be nice to not have to drive to Petsmart in Alexandria every time I need a filter, or food, or chemicals for my fish tank.

    I’m all for dining options, but is Barracks Row “Main Street” there to serve out neighborhood as its main street, or an adolescent Adams Morgan? Or just a pre-game stop for Nationals fans?

  25. StantonSez says:

    i agree with @Chris 9:27 am.
    i empathize with neighbors who want non-restaurant retail nearby. however, some blanket ban on new restaurants or liquor licenses goes too far in infringing on the rights of property owners. wait till people start telling property owners they can’t lease to the Gap or some other retailer because they want two pet fish stores there instead.
    in addition, not all restaurants should be viewed the same. many of the new restaurants on that street are pricey. so more choice on the lower price range would be welcome.

  26. kevin says:

    King Street in Old Town is one of my favorite areas. I would love to see Penn Ave and 8th street take some notes from King Street in Alexandria.

    But, there are some key differences that I fear would make it hard.

    Old Town is really more of a satellite city downtown than a neighborhood-oriented retail district. It’s a regional draw with most people driving in from all over NoVa and the surrounding MSA to shop and walk around.

    Old Town is really the only game in town for walkable people watching in NoVa. Barracks Row is less of a regional/tourist draw and has to run up against more established spots like Georgetown, Dupont, and Penn Quarter.

    Capitol Hill could try to market itself as more of a region draw. But, it would probably have to make itself a little more amenable to parking and the resulting traffic and commotion.

  27. G-Man says:

    What’s going on here is simple economics. It will continue. You need a certain numbe of people to support a retail enterprise. Everyone eats and many people eat out, therefore the capture rate is much larger for eating and drinking establishements than niche retailers. Due to this higher demand, returns are higher, therefore allowing retauarants to pay higher rents. Landowners want to maximize their investment so they rent to the highest bidder, currently restaurants. I for one, welcome them. I also have to call out those who pine for the “good old days” of 8th street. I spend many more tax dollars and much more of my time on the Row than I did five years ago. There were no “good old days” unless you look back several decades. How many pet supply stores do we need anyway? I eat much more often than I buy flowers, or get a key made. And no one is saying theses stores can’t locate elsewhere on the Hill. Until very recently, the Row was a mish mash of run down oddities. Leave it to certain Hillers to try enact a managed economy on the Row, and thereby strangle what is becoming a vibrant, net positive for the neighborhood.

  28. Trulee Pist says:

    Also, the complaint is about having to drive to wherever to get shoes, fish supplies or whatever.

    Answer (alongside efforts to promote those kinds of shops directly in the greater 8th and PA neighborhood): Hill East! H Street! SW! You’d still have to drive, but it’s a 5 minute drive instead of 25 minutes.

    Would promotion of new retail in those areas increase the liveability of all of Capitol Hill, or not?

  29. Kate McFadden says:

    I wonder just how much tax revenue the city loses each time Jon heads to the burbs to buy gear for his aquarium. (Given I’ve seen a number of abandoned fish tanks one sidewalks lately, many fish-owners really don’t want to make the trip across the bridge). But really, I found myself thinking, hey, I could take my stroller on the metro and hit the Target in NW and pick up the baby gear. How crazy would it be if there was a small scale big box store nearby? Whatever happened to the proposal to put a large bookstore in the Blue Castle property on M Street? Once the Riverfront area becomes all that the billboards promise, is there a chance it could support that level of retail?

  30. Kate McFadden says:

    Regarding the big box pipe dream above, I know it’s a long way away. But, one can dream. I would love to see smaller retailers offer the variety of products we need on a daily basis. I guess the question is, what would it take for some of these small business owners to rent all the spots between 11th and 14th that have been vacant for the last 10+ years. Talk about a dirth of phone stores and random small scale not-to-useful businesses.

  31. Mark says:

    This comment section is so refreshing after the nastiness I’ve seen displayed in WashPo articles lately. So cheers to you all for having a civil debate.

    Not looking for Mayberry, just would like to see a coffee house, a non restaurant/bar gathering place on eighth that isn’t Starbucks.

  32. Rich says:

    I really would like to see the area model itself after Old Town Alexandria. I recently moved from Old Town to Cap Hill.

    There are trade offs to each. I really miss the well developed mixed commercial nature of Old Town. I was able to walk to pretty much everything I needed restaurants of all types, a Whole Foods, a Traders Joes, and a Giant, a movie theater, a book store, and some clothing retailers . Unfortunately, I was pretty isolated from the rest of the DC area. Trips to the the District were prohibitively time consuming.

    I like living on the Hill where trips to the Mall, U Street and Dupont are relativity easy trips. Unfortunately, moving to “the city” ironically has also meant having to adjust to having far fewer amenities within walking distance.

    I think it really all goes back to the point that was made earlier about King Street being a “downtown” vs. Capitol Hill being a neighborhood retail district.

    Too bad we can rip King Street up and lay it down on East Capitol Street. Then I would truly be all set.

  33. Jessica says:

    I just stopped in Chateau (which, by the way, is the ONLY pet store in the area that covers the brand of dog food that my very allergic dog can eat) and they said that they are just moving down the street, to M St. They said that they are in the final stages of property negotiation, but they expect that it will work out. They will not be having a large sale, because they will be moving all of the stock to the new store (minus the fish).

    I can’t say that I’ve always had excellent customer service there, but I haven’t had any bad experiences either. They are the only store that stocks the food I need without going though a special order process. I am able to park to pick it up on my way home or even walk over on the weekend. That is an incredible convenience for our family and I am sad that they are moving from their current location, although I am looking forward to the new food offerings (if they can be quick and cheaper than the current offerings).

  34. Jon says:

    @Kate…abandoned fish tanks on the curb? Think about all those poor homeless fish now on the streets…

    I know you trade-off certain aspects of life for living in the city vs. the burbs (and vice versa), but I grew up in a suburb of New York City where we could literally walk to all necessities of life. Those services that weren’t walkable were a short drive away (so I agree to retail development of SW or Hill East). And non-necessities were those you planned a drive to (a larger town that had destination stores like Target, Gap, whatever). I don’t think I’d want a Whole Foods or Wal Mart to take over Hine Jr. High, but a Trader Joe’s, a Politics and Prose, or a large shoe store (not a sneaker store) would diversify the neighborhood offerings and mean one or two less driving trips.

  35. Lee says:

    @Jessica…what type of food do you use?

  36. Rstouhey says:

    I second the vote for Metro Mutts – they are wonderful and I am sure would carry any specialty dog food or special order it for you.

    As for bans….can we please try for a Cricket ban?

  37. Jessica says:

    Taste of the Wild. Metro Mutts can order it, which is our backup, but I’d rather not travel up there…I’ve been spoiled by the short walk and last minute purchases!

  38. John says:

    Yes, this is a great discussion. Our economic development and neighborhood continuation policies should clearly be based on individual’s specific dog food choices for their allergic pets and the desire to have a neighborhood more closely reflect one you just left. More importantly, we have discovered that it is clearly the job of ANC’s and our elected officials to handpick winners and losers in the form of which businesses are able to open in sections of the city.

    This is ridiculous! Please everyone compel your ANC reps to pass a liquor ban and other unfriendly policies for business. I for one long for the days that storefronts were vacant, streets were uninviting and lurking with criminals and no one would go past 6th street.

    In fact, who needs a community center. Let’s turn the Hill Center back into a hospital for wounded civil war soldiers. Not doing so would be a disservice to all of our veterans.

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