Wednesday, April 17, 2019

12 Stories opening at The Wharf: D.C. is doing what moribund MoCo won't for nightlife

Montgomery County is still reeling from the collapse of its nighttime economy following the County Council's disastrous Nighttime Economy Task Force initiative. Where there were crowds on sidewalks and corners outside of downtown Bethesda's nightclubs and bars prior to the initiative, 16 nightspots have shuttered since the task force debacle. Many other businesses slashed or eliminated their late-night hours. Downtown Bethesda sidewalks now grow empty and quiet after 9 or 10 PM. Thousands of young professionals have taken their wallets and purses to the District for nightlife since, including to The Wharf, where an exciting new rooftop will open tonight.

I recommended years ago that Montgomery County put incentives and requirements for nightlife, including rooftop nightclubs at the new hotels being approved for urban areas like downtown Bethesda. Those suggestions fell on deaf ears at the Council and Planning Board, as of course, it is much cheaper to put up a hotel with a non-active roof use. Naturally, our developer-controlled Council and Planning Board never put the public before the developers, which is how we ended up with no replacement cineplex and no replacement Capital Crescent Trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue in the Apex Building redevelopment - even though the Council and Board held full authority to require both. Heckuva job, Brownie!

By contrast, the District is getting its latest rooftop nightspot tonight, April 17, 2019 with the debut of 12 Stories, high atop The InterContinental Hotel at The Wharf. The 3500 SF rooftop features spectacular views of the Potomac River, waterfront and Washington, D.C. We could have had something like this on top of the new hotels coming to Wisconsin Avenue here, but...the Council was too busy collecting developer checks, and debating a ban on circus animals instead.
Current and prospective MoCo bar and restaurant
owners said, "Yes, Yes, Yes!" to privatization of liquor
sales, but our cartel-controlled County Council said, "No, No, No!"
At 12 Stories at The Wharf tonight, 13-foot floor-to-ceiling windows will give you views of the Jefferson, Lincoln and Air Force Memorials, as well as the pinnacle of the Washington Monument and Hains Point. From the future Marriott hotel in downtown Bethesda, nighttime will give you lovely views of car dealerships and a concrete parking garage. So much winning!
The J Street Spritz at
12 Stories at The Wharf
Tonight at 12 Stories at The Wharf, you could be sipping a zero-degree “Superchilled Martini 24” and taking in the sweeping vistas of the Nation's Capital. Perhaps you would prefer a “J Street Spritz,” made with Tito’s Vodka, Amaro Nonino, lime juice, raspberries, Domaine Chandon and sparkling soda. It's enough to make Jack Evans bust out the old Constituent Fund.

All that's busting in Montgomery County is the County budget, in the red again this year, with residents facing yet another increase in property taxes. With what the Maryland Restaurant Association complained was a "flat" restaurant and bar market in Montgomery County, record numbers of closures, and profits declining in a business with thin margins already, we're losing nightlife spending and alcohol sales to the District and Virginia, thanks to our archaic County government-controlled liquor monopoly.
The Wharf Burger
Just some of that lost revenue will end up being spent in D.C. at 12 Stories, where brunch will be added in May to a windows-on-the-capital-of-the-free-world menu that tonight already features locally sourced oysters, a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, and a ceviche-style crudo.

While Montgomery County's "leaders" turn to taxpayers again this year for yet another payday 4.8% property tax increase, the developers of The Wharf in D.C. turned to the Gerber Group, the geniuses behind NYC’s Mr. Purple, The Roof and The Campbell, and Atlanta's Whiskey Blue, "known for its signature elevated nightlife experience and top-notch food and beverage," it says.

Montgomery County's vision for an "elevated nightlife experience?" "More taxi stands [ever heard of Uber and Lyft, guys?], more buses," and continued total monopoly government control of liquor sales to restaurants, bars and the public. No wonder Montgomery County is at rock bottom in the region by every relevant economic development measure.

They blew it, folks.

Photos by Anna Meyer


  1. Literally a dozen new bars have been added in Rockville, Pike & Rose, downtown Crown, alone. What are you even talking about?

    1. 4:59: None are on the level of what is in D.C. in terms of nightlife. It takes more than just beer to make a nightspot. Unless you're a County Council member, apparently.

    2. "It takes more than just beer to make a nightspot."

      So...what is your definition of "a nightspot", then?

    3. 1:20: Velvet rope line outside, no guarantee you'll get in every time, B or C-list celebrity hosts, A-list DJs/electronica artists, skewing younger singles than dad jeans crowd. Basically everything MoCo doesn't have right now.

      As far as rooftops, there are a small handful in Bethesda and Silver Spring, but with the shutdown of those at RTS and the DoubleTree Bethesda, none are high enough to have a great view of anything.

  2. "Where there were crowds on sidewalks and corners outside of downtown Bethesda's nightclubs and bars prior to the initiative, 16 nightspots have shuttered since the task force debacle."

    You might want to mention that the rebuilding of the Southwest Waterfront has resulted in the closure of several long-standing restaurants there - among them Hogates, the Channel Inn, Phillips, Jenny's, and forced Cantina Marina to move to a smaller location.

  3. DC is the only nightlife in the DMV, MOCO needs to do better, people are gonna spend money in dc or baltimore not MoCO

    1. 8:28: That's true, and it's costing us a ton of lost revenue every year, and forcing us to pay property taxes that are like a second mortgage.

    2. What do you mean "us"? You pay zero property tax, rent or any other expenses for your own housing.

    3. 1:13: LOL - you have no clue about my finances, taxes, etc. You're only emphasizing you are the same old troll with your tired old talking points.

  4. This is hysterically laughable, that you attempt to compare a major cities nightlife to that of a suburban community. Try matching apples with apples before you walk the plank of embarrassment, in your attempt to shame the "CARTEL". DC vs Baltimore yeah, DC vs MoCo NO! Bethesda, Rockville, SS, Gburg are all on par with Tysons, Reston, Alexandria perhaps, not downtown DC. You are a screwy in your analogy as you are on your persistence McCo attacks. GIVE IT A REST BIRDBRAIN.

    1. 1:14: Now you're claiming Clarendon is a "major city?" LOL. Montgomery County is a jurisdiction of 1 Million people, competing with DC and Northern VA. Nightlife is worse today in Bethesda than it was 10 or 20 years ago!

      You're obviously Astroturf for the cartel - no ordinary citizens, especially young people, think MoCo nightlife, the cable company, the MVA and Barwood Cab are all great. You mysteriously do, and it's a clear giveaway you are from the Council/cartel.

    2. If you are so desperate for night life then move already.

    3. Who on earth takes barwood any more? Here in the 21st century there is this neat little company called Uber

    4. "You think the cable company, the MVA and Barwood Cab are all great."

      WTF do those have to do with the price of tea in China? MVA is a state agency, and the cable companies are private corporations - and where I live, I have a choice of Verizon FIOS, Comcast XFinity, and RCN. More of your lame deflections and red herrings.

  5. Nowhere do I mention the town of Clarendon in my rebuttal to your inane post. You inflected that trivial location in this discussion. As for urban size, you fail to realize that Montgomery County is not a city but a county composed of many smaller cities anchored to a major urban city, in this case the District of Columbia. We along with northern Virginia makeup a metropolitan area, i.e., similar to Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia, and if you every leave the basement an get out, New York City (the BIG APPLE). All of these metropolis areas aer composed of smaller suburban cities and towns sized like Rockville and Bethesda which have size appropriate entertainment districts to meet the demands and needs of the residents. Those residents desirous of entertainment on a larger scale venture into the BIG CITY little man. If you care to experience the bright lights and big time, perhaps you should take your fearful, pale ass into chocolate city, i.e. DC. The natives won't eat you, your to goth for them.

    1. 12:25: You claimed there couldn't be nightlife outside of a big city - I mentioned Clarendon as a rebuttal. The problem with your lame argument is that Bethesda already had better nightlife in the past than it does now. It had clubs with crowds outside waiting to get in. It had a singles scene. It had a few places with VIP bottle service.

      They're all gone, thanks to your bosses on the County Council.

      And the revenue has gone with them, adding to our structural budget deficit. The facts on my side.

    2. After all these years, you still haven't said exactly what the County Council did to cause those clubs to close.

      It's certainly not due to the DLC, because that has been around since 1951, during, and long before the heyday of all the clubs that you miss.

      If you're talking about the Bethesda Yacht Club, that closed because the DoubleTree needed that space for other uses when they took over that building from Holiday Inn. In 2006, long before Hans Riemer was in office.

    3. 11:07: The DLC is certainly a big part of it. The liquor and nightlife markets are a lot different - as is the far less regulated competition in adjacent jurisdictions - than in 1951. We're getting killed by DC and NoVa.

      The Council also approved numerous bills that raised the cost of doing business, such as the $15 minimum wage, property and energy taxes.

      But the capstone was the disastrous Nighttime Economy Task Force - led by Hans Riemer (and current councilmember Evan Glass was on it, as well), it caused the record loss of 16 nightspots in only a few years.

      No, the Yacht Club space is not only still there, but is vacant. Nobody wants to lease it because the nightlife market is so moribund, like the MoCo economy as a whole.

    4. Once again, what specifically did the Nighttime Economy Task Force do to CAUSE those bars (most or all of which re-opened as other nightspots) to close?

    5. 9:07: No, sir, very few of them reopened as other nightspots. Restaurants and retail are not "nightspots." Some are still vacant to this day.

      The Task Force, ironically, declared through their Fellow Travelers in the local media that they were going to save and create nightlife - but instead, their fiasco ended with at least 16 nightspots closing, and nightlife in MoCo cratering.


    6. Here a cringe classic from the County Council and the colluding Washington Post, which openly claimed the task force was going to make MoCo "hip."

      Total humiliation to read this today. Lock those morons up.


    7. "The liquor and nightlife markets are a lot different - as is the far less regulated competition in adjacent jurisdictions - than in 1951. We're getting killed by DC and NoVa."

      Really? Explain what has changed since 1951.

    8. 7:11: You think that DC and VA liquor laws are the same as they were in 1951, and that the products, public preferences and trends in alcohol sales are the same as in 1951?


      Again, why do challenge my arguments if you are so poorly informed? Most likely because you are engaging in your usual Saul Alinsky tactics.

      "If every letter must receive a reply, send 30000 letters."

      - Saul Alinsky

    9. Not "Alinsky" at all. You just can't prove the claim that you're trying to make. What was the actual change in the DLC's policies, specifically since 2011, that caused nightlife to tank in downtown Bethesda (but not in other parts of the County)?

    10. 7:58: Now you move the goalposts again, Saul. From 1951 to 2011-2019.

      Whoa - where is there hot nightlife in any part of the county? What was the last bar or nightclub that opened in Rockville? Years ago! Name a hot singles scene bar in Rockville (Hint - there isn't one).

      You sound unhinged.

  6. Washington DC is 68 square miles and has a population of 702K people. MoCo is 507 square miles with a population of 1.06 million people. You are comparing apples and oranges just based on density alone.

    While I agree with you MoCo needs to do a lot more to foster nightlife - its failures have much more to do with zoning code, liquor laws, lack of infrastructure investment, and Nimby's than the Nighttime Economy Taskforce. The Taskforce put forth several good ideas to create an environment that would foster nightlife. The sad fact is the Council did nothing with those recommendations.

    As for your comments about developers and the Council. They are way off base. Developers would love to build the type of projects that would foster nightlife. The lack of bars on roof tops and other exciting places have very little to do with costs. They are all about your zoning code and regulations. The politicians set the codes and regulations and then developers have to work with in that box.

    It is the same developers that you love to bash that are bring the exciting projects to Arlington and DC. If the Council would create an environment that allowed for economic activity to flourish you would have no problem getting developers to bring more exciting projects. The fact is MoCo's tax structure and economic policies are pushing better development to neighboring jurisdictions. The closure of the businesses you are talking about have far more to do with minimum wage increases, codes, liquor control, and regulations than the Nighttime Economy Task Force.