Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Chevy Chase, Spring Valley, Cabin John on Le Pain Quotidien's closure wish list

Bethesda Row, Wildwood not on list

The future of Le Pain Quotidien as a whole is murky indeed, but a court filing in its bankruptcy case is giving us our first hint as to the future of some of its area locations. It contained a list of Le Pain locations where a rejection of unexpired leases and abandonment of property would be undertaken by the firm, if approved in the proceedings.

Notably, Bethesda Row and Wildwood Shopping Center were not on the list. Unlucky locations that made the list included  Wisconsin Place in Friendship Heights, Spring Valley in Northwest Washington, Cabin John Shopping Center, Union Station, F Street NW, and K Street NW.

Purple Line contractors announce mass layoffs as they threaten to walk away from project

A partially-built bridge for the Purple Line
at Chevy Chase Lake
The game of chicken between the contractors building the Purple Line light rail system and elected officials in Maryland has just taken another dramatic turn. Three Purple Line contractors have just filed documents with the state indicating they will lay off hundreds of Purple Line construction workers on August 23, 2020. While the contractors had threatened to walk away from the project due to cost overruns on June 20, they then agreed to extend negotiations with the state for another 60 days.

Purple Line Transit Constructors says will lay off 478 workers, Lane Construction will lay off 125, and Fluor Enterprises will lay off 87, the documents indicate.

If the team walks away, taxpayers will be on the hook for a colossal sum. The end result will boil down to whether or not the contract was written to be airtight by the state. If it was, then the contractors can't try to shift the cost overruns to taxpayers. But if the contract was poorly written, this will end up as a financial disaster.

This is less a lesson in the dangers of public-private partnerships, as it is in the need to make sure such deals favor the state in every outcome in a well-written agreement. There is a chance the Purple Line work could be abandoned as a monument to the Montgomery County cartel's criminality. I suspect it's more likely to end with an agreement where the state picks up a substantive portion of the cost overruns (most likely what the contractors are really seeking; good negotiators always ask for more upfront than what they actually expect to get), or with new contractors - - and taxpayers getting run over like they did in the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle.

Either way, you lose and they win.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Car stolen in Chevy Chase

A car was reported stolen to the Montgomery County police in Chevy Chase on Saturday. The vehicle taken was parked on the street in the 3500 block of Raymond Street. It was reported stolen at 12:06 PM.

3 Giant stores adding electric vehicle charging stations

Cadillac ELR electric vehicle from
Jim Coleman Bethesda Cadillac
Electric car charging stations continue to multiply at a modest pace across the region. Three local Giant grocery stores are now adding a pair apiece. The new charging stations will be installed in the coming months at the Bethesda Row Giant, the Georgetown Square Giant on Old Georgetown Road, and at the Giant on Tuckerman Lane in the Cabin John Shopping Center.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Crane removal closes part of Woodmont Avenue

It takes a crane to set up or remove a crane. The latter situation closed down Woodmont Avenue between Norfolk and St. Elmo Avenues yesterday in downtown Bethesda.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Amazon Books sets reopening date at Bethesda Row

Amazon Books was boarded up for so long at Bethesda Row that it missed out on Montgomery County's move to Phase 2 of reopening, which allows in-store shopping with masks and social distancing restrictions. The boards finally came off this week. Now the store has set a reopening date of July 1, 2020.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Microsoft Store to close at Montgomery Mall

Bad news for Xbox gamers and fans of Microsoft devices: the Microsoft Store at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda will be closing. Microsoft Stores had been closed already during the pandemic, but now the tech giant is permanently closing all 83 of its bricks-and-mortar retail stores across the country. Shares of Microsoft have dropped 1.83% on the announcement this morning, CNBC reports.

Bethesda Tattoo "being bled dry" by Montgomery County blocking reopening of tattoo parlors

While most non-essential businesses have reopened, Bethesda Tattoo and other tattoo parlors remain shuttered because Montgomery County's Phase 2 reopening guidelines do not permit them to operate. "Montgomery County is the only place you can't get tattooed legally," Bethesda Tattoo posted on Facebook yesterday.

The tattoo business at 8227 Woodmont Avenue says they have tried contacting County Executive Marc Elrich and his staff by every means of communication, but cannot get a response. "We're being bled dry," they wrote on Facebook, as the bills continue to come in but no revenue can be generated.

It's puzzling why tattoo services would not be permitted. Other personal and medical services that place employees in close or closer contact with customers have been permitted to resume with some precautions. Whether that was wise or not, we'll know in the coming weeks, but it's simply a fact.

Apple Store reopens at Bethesda Row

The Apple Store has reopened at Bethesda Row. Their new hours will initially be 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Saturday, and 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Sundays. As I reported a few weeks ago, customers' temperatures will be checked at the door.

Masks are required to enter, but they will provide one for you if you don't have one. The number of customers allowed in the store at one time will be limited, under Montgomery County guidelines. Surfaces and devices will be regularly sanitized throughout the day.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bethesda hit by storm, power outages

A thunderstorm that has just ended caused streets to fill with rushing water, rained torrential downpours and hail, and knocked out power to about 3000 customers across Bethesda. Metro trains are bypassing the Bethesda station due to escalators being down. Shuttle buses have been requested for stranded passengers.

There is standing water on Wilson Lane near Clarendon Road, and power lines are down there. Wires are also down at Old Georgetown Road and Huntington Parkway, where lightning struck a utility pole.

Pepco is estimating restoration of power to customers currently in the dark by 9:00 PM to 1:00 AM.

Sarah's Handmade Ice Cream to open 2nd Bethesda location at Wildwood Shopping Center

Sarah's Handmade Ice Cream & Treats is expanding in Bethesda. The local business will open a second store at the Wildwood Shopping Center late this summer. Sarah's began with its existing store in the Kenwood Station shopping center on River Road, replacing Wow Cow. The Wildwood store will be located between what are now Le Pain Quotidien and Wildwood Family Cleaners.

Bethesda mother-daughter partners Sarah and Annie Park founded the business after Sarah retired in 2018. Her ice-cream-making hobby turned into a store when the Wow Cow space opened up, quickly filling the vacuum for frozen treats in the area around the Whole Foods-anchored shopping center.

Le Vieux Logis building available for lease in Bethesda

It's not looking good right now for the future of Le Vieux Logis, the French restaurant at 7925 Old Georgetown Road in downtown Bethesda. It has been temporarily closed during the coronavirus lockdown. The business itself has also been on the market for sale for the last year. But now, "For Lease" signs have been affixed to the building.

The downward trend here was surprising, after a new owner had elevated the longtime resident favorite to a hot spot in recent years. Notoriously-Bethesda-averse Washington Post dining critic Tom Sietsema even gave it a rave review in 2014. 

Sephora sets reopening dates for Pike & Rose, Montgomery Mall

Sephora has announced reopening dates for its stores at Pike & Rose and Westfield Montgomery Mall. The Pike & Rose store will reopen tomorrow, Friday, June 26, 2020. Sephora's Montgomery Mall location will reopen a week later, on Friday, July 3. Both stores will operate under social distancing and hygiene guidelines to lessen the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Water service restored at Walter Reed after 2-hour outage

A 2-hour base-wide loss of water service temporarily stymied some medical care and services at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda this morning. The outage was reported around 6:00 AM. WRNMMC officials now report full operating status and water service have been restored. Some medical appointments were canceled, but scheduled surgeries were allowed to proceed.

Owen's Ordinary patio reopening today at Pike & Rose

The patio will officially reopen today at Owen's Ordinary at Pike & Rose. It won't be quite as crowded as you see in my photo above from previous years; seating will be more spread out to comply with social distancing regulations. Masks must be worn to enter (disposable extras are available, and they have cloth masks for sale), but can be removed while you are seated.

All orders will be taken online. You'll receive a text when your patio or carry-out order is ready.  Groups that arrive together may be seated together. Individuals who arrive separately may not join a group for seating. Guests are asked to observe social distancing while on the premises.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Bethesda cemetery protesters block cement trucks at construction site

Protest leads to confrontation
with Park Police

Protesters blocked two cement trucks from entering the construction site of a self-storage building behind the McDonald's on River Road in Bethesda Tuesday. Advocates for the desecrated and hidden Moses African Cemetery held the first of three protests this week at the site, over concerns that human remains could be disturbed by the project. When a Park Police SUV arrived at the scene near the end of the peaceful protest, demonstrator B.E. Farrow blocked it from entering as well, leading to a confrontation with the officer.

"We're on police business, back the f*** down," Farrow recounted the officer saying in a statement released by the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition today. Another protester, Chris Rigaux, recalled the unmasked officer saying, "Get the f*** out of my way. I am on official police business," to Farrow, who was wearing a mask. No arrests were made.

BACC has been monitoring the site daily, and report that there is no archaeologist on-site, as was required by the project's approved plan for the building's foundation work, the group said. The organization said they were forced to physically halt the work going on at the site after their pleas were ignored by the Montgomery County Council and the County Executive.

While the self-storage building's footprint is not within the recorded boundaries of the Moses African Cemetery, the concern has been that remains improperly buried beyond the property line could be disturbed during excavation. This has been a common issue with many black cemeteries. Advocates for the cemetery had suggested searching the site to ensure it was clear before approving the project, but that suggestion was unanimously rebuffed by the Montgomery County Planning Board. The Board also acquired an adjacent parcel of the property that actually was part of the burial ground, in order to prevent BACC from having any archaeological studies performed on that piece.

"This is a crime scene," Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, president of the BACC, said in a statement Wednesday. "This cemetery holds the bodies of innocent boys and girls, girls that were brutally raped unto death to provide slaves for the immoral slave trade. We will not allow their bodies to be further desecrated, to be covered by concrete, and their memories forgotten forever."

"We will be back every day until this digging is halted and Moses Cemetery is returned to its rightful owner: Macedonia Baptist Church," Dr. Coleman-Adebayo added.

Photos courtesy BACC

New lighted sign at 7200 Wisconsin Avenue

A new lighted street number sign has been added to the plaza at 7200 Wisconsin Avenue, also known as Artery Plaza. There's a lot of work going on to update the plaza at the JBG Smith-owned office building.

Framebridge reopens at Bethesda Row

Framebridge has reopened at 4806 Bethesda Avenue. The custom framing shop will be serving customers by appointment only for now.

Masks are required when entering the store. Framebridge says they have face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer available for customers by request.

All work stations, surfaces and devices will be sanitized between appointments. Employees are being monitored daily for fevers and coronavirus symptoms, Framebridge promises.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Boards finally removed from Amazon Books at Bethesda Row (Video+Photos)

The unsettling aesthetic of stores boarded up in downtown Bethesda is finally coming to an end, weeks after fear of looting led businesses to cover their windows. One of the last holdouts, Amazon Books, removed their boards last night. It was remarkable that two of the most "woke" men in business, Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook, were among the quickest to presume that protests would equate to looting. No formal protests have been held in downtown Bethesda for three weeks.

House of Foong Lin temporarily closed for repairs in Bethesda

The rumor mill has been churning about the future of the House of Foong Lin after the restaurant appeared to be closed at the start of the week. It's not time for tiki night fans to hit the panic button just yet. They say they are just temporarily closed for kitchen repairs.
What appeared to some as paper over the windows is just their shades pulled down, I believe. At least one person appeared to be working inside Monday evening. The owners estimated the repairs would take about two days, so they could be open as soon as today.

Yuzu Japanese Dining space marketed for lease again

The space currently home to Yuzu Japanese Dining at 7345 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda is back on the market for lease again. It was also listed online for lease last year. This time, the listing claims the space will be available for another tenant to move in by July. In 2019, the rate was $45 per square foot; rent amount is now available upon request in 2020. Yuzu remains in operation, and is open for business.

Montgomery Mall reopens today - here's what you need to know

Westfield Montgomery Mall reopens today, June 23, in Bethesda at 11:00 AM, after shuttering during the coronavirus lockdown this spring. The mall will close tonight at 7:00 PM. You must wear a mask to enter the mall, and handwashing stations are positioned at the entrances and throughout the mall.

Public gatherings are not permitted - you are expected to head directly to the retailers or restaurants to make your purchases. Contrary to initial statements from Montgomery County officials, the Dining Terrace food court will indeed be open for takeout. You just won't be able to sit and eat your food at the mall; tables and chairs have been removed or blocked off for that reason.

Social distancing floor markers have been laid out around the mall, in case there is a wait to enter a particular business. Individual stores will have to control how many customers are inside at once under County regulations on persons per square foot. Westfield says staff will monitor mall traffic every fifteen minutes in case social distancing cannot be maintained in the common areas of the mall at any point.

Lucky Strike will not be opening at this time, and neither will Urban Plates, for now. The Playspace playground will remain closed.

Zara will open Thursday. Nordstrom has been open since Saturday, but the Nordstrom Cafe inside the department store won't reopen until next week. Bath & Body Works is currently expected to make its return on July 10, but is listed as being open today on the mall's website.

The mall's website will keep updating a list of stores that are open as needed. I recommend checking it, or calling ahead to the business you hope to visit, to avoid disappointment.

New opening dates targeted for 7-Eleven, Amazon 4-Star, and LEGO Store at Montgomery Mall

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated almost every facet of life around the world, and new business openings have been among the biggest victims. 7-Eleven was on the eve of opening the doors of its new Westfield Montgomery Mall location when the virus arrived and the shutdown began. Now Westfield says that 7-Eleven is preparing for an early-July opening in the Dining Terrace at the mall.

Arrival of an Amazon 4-Star store has also been eagerly awaited by shoppers. That retailer of top-rated products carried by the internet commerce giant is now aiming for a late July opening.

Finally, perhaps the most highly-anticipated retail opening of the year in Bethesda is the LEGO Store at the mall. LEGO is now planning to open in late August, Westfield said yesterday.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Medium Rare expands outdoor seating in Bethesda

Montgomery County now allows indoor dining at 50% capacity with restrictions, but some diners are still more comfortable dining outdoors for now. Medium Rare at 4904 Fairmont Avenue has expanded their outdoor seating to accommodate this. And the seating is covered, to avoid sunburns and unexpected cloudbursts.

McDonald's has closed at Mazza Gallerie (Photos)

What was once the closest McDonald's location for some in Bethesda is no more. The golden arches have gone dark at Mazza Gallerie, one of the most unique McDonald's in the area. Signage has been stripped from the space, but some shadows of it remain.
McDonald's is directing customers to their restaurant at 4130 Wisconsin Avenue N.W., at Van Ness Street N.W. It's shocking to see the Mazza Gallerie location closed, but fortunately we have one of the best McDonald's in the country on River Road in Bethesda now. Still, it's quite a loss for those who live in the Friendship Heights community, and for commuters who counted on a quick breakfast before boarding Metro down below.