Thursday, April 30, 2015

Piazza Beer Garden opens with Beer Bash in Bethesda (Photos)

Piazza Beer Garden had a good turnout for its season-opening Beer Bash Tuesday night. Guests sampled the featured beer of the night, Dominion Candi, and tried some of Piazza's small plates like calamari, sliders and the new Torpedo meat pizza appetizer.

On May 7, Cesco Osteria - the Italian restaurant whose Woodmont Avenue patio hosts Piazza Beer Garden, will be celebrating its 18th anniversary. They'll be serving a complimentary glass of prosecco and birthday cake to diners that day.

Piazza Beer Garden partner Olivia Ricchi
with Cesco Osteria owner and chef
Francesco Ricchi

Photos by Vithaya Phongsavan

Help prevent cancer through special events this weekend at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Women in the DC area have one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the nation. Starting tonight, Westfield Montgomery Mall is launching its annual VIPink weekend to not only help educate women about cancer prevention, but to also raise money for that cause. That money will be raised through fitness and style events, and an advance screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron at ArcLight Cinemas.

Here's the schedule of events:

Tonight, Apr 30 6:30 p.m –8:30 p.m.:

VIPink Preview Party at ArcLight Cinemas catered by CRAVE American Kitchen & Sushi Bar, MET Bethesda, & LOBSTER ME followed by private showing of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Saturday, May 2 at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.:

Exclusive Zengo cycling classes hosted in partnership with lululemon athletica

Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3:

Hair blowouts and make-up consultations in partnership with Eric Alexander Salon and Nordstrom

Sunday, May 3 between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.:

A series of special yoga classes hosted by lululemon athletica

Tickets for all of the events can be purchased online now. Proceeds will go to Bright Pink, to fund programs designed to prevent breast and ovarian cancer.

Inside the demolition of Parker's and Tara Thai at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Parker's and Tara Thai are being demolished on Bethesda Avenue. The wall between them is being knocked out, so the restaurants can be combined into one larger retail space for Williams-Sonoma. Tara Thai will reopen this fall at Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Planners think Bethesda police station design could use some sprucing up

The design of the future 2nd District Montgomery County Police station was criticized by a number of readers a few months back, for what they felt was a plain and boxy design. Staff at the Montgomery County Planning Department have now made some suggestions for improving the exterior appearance of the building in a memo to the Planning Board.

They have asked the project designers to utilize brick or "local Bethesda stone" on the building facade, particularly on the Rugby Avenue side of the building. Currently, the facade is proposed as concrete and CMU block (concrete blocks).

Other recommendations include creating a new sidewalk from Rugby Avenue to the public parking garage adjacent to the station site, and providing 4 short-term bicycle parking spaces in racks in front of the station.

Staff is recommending approval of the project, with recommendations. The Planning Board is currently scheduled to take up the station project at its May 7 meeting.

The station will be located at 4823 Rugby Avenue, and is being developed by StonebridgeCarras. In exchange, the developer will be able to redevelop the prime real estate of the current, aging police station at 7359 Wisconsin Avenue. That site is very close to the Bethesda Metro station (and is virtually on top of the station platform deep under Wisconsin Avenue).

Rendering courtesy Montgomery County Planning Department

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2 downtown Bethesda assaults, car stolen in Spring Hill, Apple Store theft + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on April 26, according to crime data:

Assault. 7700 block Woodmont Avenue at 2:43 AM.

Assault. 4700 block Montgomery Lane at 1:13 AM.

Stolen car. 5300 block Falmouth Road at 10:24 AM (Spring Hill).

Theft. 7200 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft. Bethesda Row Apple Store at 5:02 PM.

Vehicle burglary. 5100 block Saratoga Avenue (Glen Cove).

Vehicle burglary. 4800 block Bayard Boulevard (Crestview).

Vehicle burglary. 4600 block Western Avenue (Crestview).

Theft. 10900 block Rockville Pike.

Assault. 11800 block Rockville Pike at 11:24 PM.

Pottery Barn set to move from Mazza Gallerie to Bethesda Avenue

Pottery Barn has announced its Mazza Gallerie location will close on May 25. The store is moving to the Flats at Bethesda Avenue apartment building across from Barnes and Noble, and the company says it will open in June.

The Mazza Gallerie store is having a closing sale with "incredible prices," Pottery Barn said in its announcement. Customers are being directed to the home decor chain's Clarendon and Tysons locations between May 25 and the June grand opening in Bethesda.

Bethesda Cinco de Mayo 2015 specials at Mexican restaurants

Where to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Bethesda is the question to be answered here. Not all Bethesda bars and restaurants have made their plans public yet, but I will update or add any details they email to me at robert1999 [at] hotmail [dot] com.


Guapo's has pulled out the stops for Cinco de Mayo for the last several years, and they have another great one planned for this year. Once again, they will have what I think is a must for a Mexican holiday - a live mariachi band. For those preferring a more modern sound, they will also have a DJ in the evening. In addition, they'll have a tiki bar, food and bar specials, and prizes.

8130 Wisconsin Avenue

Tía Queta

For those seeking the authentic, it doesn't get more authentic than a restaurant whose owners are actually Mexican. Tía Queta is tucked away on Del Ray Avenue, next to the Gallery Bethesda apartment tower. For this Cinco de Mayo, they'll be serving the new Budweiser craft beer aged in tequila barrels, Oculto. According to the official Oculto website, you cannot buy this brew at retail in Montgomery County. Looking forward to trying that one, despite the 65 rating average on Beer Advocate. Tía Queta will also have food and drink specials all day on Cinco de Mayo.

They've also got a rooftop deck, which is perfect for the spring weather.

4839 Del Ray Avenue


As a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar, Parva is not surprisingly ready to party tonight. DJ Leo Vega will be spinning until 9:00 tonight, when DJ Pootie will take over through the early morning hours. By then, you'll likely have partaken from the specials of $2 tacos, $3 quesadillas, $5 margaritas, and $6 Patron.

7904 Woodmont Avenue

Gringos & Mariachis

Mexican restaurant and tequila bar.

4928 Cordell Avenue

Uncle Julio's

Mexican restaurant, and home of the famous Swirl frozen margarita.

4870 Bethesda Avenue.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Burglary on Roosevelt St., Grosvenor La. assault + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on April 25, according to crime data:

Disorderly conduct. Woodmont Avenue at Fairmont Avenue.

Liquor arrest. 4900 block Cordell Avenue.

Burglary. 5500 block Roosevelt Street at 12:11 PM.

Theft. 5300 block Western Avenue.

Assault. 5200 block Nicholson Lane at 9:47 PM (Pike District).

Vehicle burglary. 5100 block Nicholson Lane.

Theft. 5100 block Nicholson Lane.

Assault. 5700 block Grosvenor Lane at 11:17 AM.

Theft from vehicle. 5200 block Tuckerman Lane at 4:33 PM.

Elrich introduces landlord-tenant reform bill that would increase tenants' power

Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich (D - At-large) has introduced legislation that would implement several landlord-tenant policy changes for rental housing.

Bill 19-15 would ban month-to-month surcharges for tenants, require leases to contain "clear, understandable language," allow tenants to withdraw from a lease renewal within 2 days of signing it, require additional reporting of rent increase data, and create incentives for landlords to stay within the county's voluntary rent increase parameters.

In addition, the legislation would mandate annual inspection of 100% of rental apartments, rather than the 10% inspection requirement now. Buildings with a solid record of code compliance would be exempt from the increased inspections.

“I have long been interested in promoting strategies to preserve affordable housing and provide some security for renters,” Councilmember Elrich said in a press release. “These proposed reforms, annual inspections, standard lease, more flexible lease deadlines, better data collection and reporting, are first steps toward improving the quality of life for tenants, who now are about one-third of the county population.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Nancy Navarro (D - District 4) and Tom Hucker (D - District 5).

Photo via Montgomery County Council website

Kraze Burgers for sale at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

The first Kraze Burgers to open in America, in downtown Bethesda, went bankrupt and closed 15 months ago. A second Bethesda location opened in December 2013 in the Dining Terrace at Westfield Montgomery Mall. Now that Kraze Burgers business is for sale for $385,000.

According to a sale listing, the mall location takes in a gross income of $580,000, and generates a $100,000 cash flow per year. The prospective buyer will get all of the equipment and inventory, and two weeks of training. Under "reason for selling", the current owner says, "Retire."

The listing cites no competition for gourmet burgers at the mall, but doesn't mention that Bobby Flay's Bobby's Burger Palace is located there. Kraze Burgers' burgers are outstanding, in my opinion, and I was surprised that the Bethesda Row location failed.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Auto break-in at Hyatt, drug bust at BCC HS, Westmoreland Hills theft + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on April 24, according to crime data:

Vehicle burglary. Hyatt Regency Bethesda.

Liquor arrest. 4900 block Elm Street.

Theft from vehicle. 7100 block Woodmont Avenue at 4:40 PM.

Drug arrest. Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

Drug arrest. Rockville Pike at Wilson Drive.

Theft. 4000 block Thornapple Street.

Theft. 5200 block Elliott Road at 4:11 PM (Westmoreland Hills).

Theft. 11300 block Rockville Pike at 10:03 PM (Pike District).

Theft from vehicle. 11800 block Coakley Circle at 5:43 PM (Pike District).

Plaza closed at Newlands Building for paver replacement (Photos)

The plaza outside one of my favorite buildings in downtown Bethesda, the Francis G. Newlands Building (a.k.a. 2 Bethesda Metro Center), is getting an upgrade, requiring it to close temporarily. Brick pavers are being replaced. The 15-story office building was developed by the Chevy Chase Land Company in 1999.

Watch a burst pipe destroy this downtown Bethesda business (Video + photos)

A massive water pipe burst in the Metropolitan apartments building has flushed Freshbikes Bethesda out of its store at 7626 Old Georgetown Road. This video captures the scene inside the store after the pipe exploded.

The store remains closed while the water damage is repaired, which required moving virtually all of the inventory temporarily. Freshbikes is directing customers to its other locations in Arlington and the Mosaic District in the meantime.

First look at Hamburger Hamlet building transformation in Bethesda, new space next door (Photos)

When Not Your Average Joe's opens at the Georgetown Square shopping center in Bethesda this summer, it will have a completely different facade from its predecessor, Hamburger Hamlet. That design is courtesy of Bethesda real estate firm Streetsense, which produced the above rendering. Fans of Hamburger Hamlet will notice that the bumpout for Hamburger Hamlet's bar space remains on the front of the building in the redesign.

Along with partner Next Realty, Streetsense has also carved out a new retail/restaurant space that is now available for lease, between NYAJ's and Quartermaine Coffee Roasters. That new space is 1522 SF in size.
Here's how it looks right now

The new space is roughly
where the bakery
case was at Du-par's

Now available for lease

Known as Hamburger Hamlet since 1973, that venerable dining spot faded into history as a stand-alone brand in December 2012. The space then briefly became Du-par's Hamburger Hamlet, a rare East Coast outpost of another legendary California-based chain. A year later, Du-par's closed as well, due to bankruptcy.

Top rendering via Streetsense, All rights reserved

Photos: Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bethesda construction update: Homeless shelter to restaurant conversion at 4848 Cordell Ave. (Photos)

Here's what's new at the site of the former Bethesda House men's shelter at 4848 Cordell Avenue, which is currently being transformed into a restaurant space designed by Steven J. Karr, AIA, Inc. Most obviously, the bricked-up, closed nature of the shelter use has been replaced with a much more open glass facade facing the street. The other interesting element to watch will be that side wall that runs along the adjacent public parking lot, which is shown to feature a mural in the project renderings.

Sex offense on Cordell Ave., drug arrest at Whitman HS, Strosniders theft + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on April 23, according to crime data:

Drug arrest. St. Elmo Avenue at Old Georgetown Road.

"Other sexual offense." 4800 block Cordell Avenue.

Theft from vehicle. 4700 block Rosedale Avenue at 12:03 PM.

Theft. Strosniders.

Theft. 5500 block Friendship Boulevard.

Theft. Bloomingdale's.

Drug arrest. Walt Whitman High School.

Vehicle burglary. 10500 block Tuckerman Heights Circle.

Theft. 7000 block Richard Drive at 12:04 PM.

Drug arrest. 5000 block Nicholson Court (Pike District).

Theft. 7-Eleven (Pike District).

Bethesda construction update: 7001 Arlington Road luxury apartments lobby, patio (Photos)

The lobby and patio areas at the new 7001 Arlington Road luxury apartments are adding some of the decorative elements to be on display. How does this stack up to what you've seen of the lobbies in the Gallery Bethesda and the Bainbridge Bethesda?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Restarting the Shake Shack Watch in Bethesda (Photos) #DC

I'm restarting my Shake Shack Watch in downtown Bethesda. Or maybe just doubling down on it with a second property in play. Douglas Development, which has secured a Shake Shack in the past at a property in the District, now has a restaurant space at 4731-A Elm Street available for lease.

This property is adjacent to Federal Realty's popular Bethesda Row development, and gets foot traffic from people walking to and from the Regal Bethesda 10 Theaters on nights and weekends. Neighbors Potbelly and The Barking Dog have been stable and successful for years.

4731 also has 6,592 SF of space, double the size of most Shake Shack locations. It just seems long overdue, and inevitable that Shake Shack would open a location in downtown Bethesda. What's taking so long for them to expand here is mystifying. The long wait continues...