Saturday, July 31, 2021

Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club makes final preparations for Netflix, reopening night (Photos)

The final preparations are being made at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club at 7719 Wisconsin Avenue for tonight's grand reopening. Comedian Earthquake will perform tonight and tomorrow night, shows being taped live for a Netflix special. 

A Netflix banner was put over the marquee out front on Thursday evening. It's almost as exciting as the building's first opening night in 1938, when screen legend Clark Gable sent a congratulatory telegram as the art deco movie palace made its debut as The Boro theater, part of the regional cinema and drive-in empire of the legendary Sidney Lust.

Bethesda's newest Starbucks sets opening date

Bethesda's newest Starbucks store at 7200 Wisconsin Avenue has finally set an opening date. It is now scheduled to open on August 20, 2021. The existing store across Bethesda Avenue at 7140 Wisconsin will close as the new one opens. That building will be demolished to make way for a new high-rise development.

Friday, July 30, 2021

First look: Berries & Bowls in downtown Bethesda (Photos)

The sign is up at Berries & Bowls, opening soon at 4961 Elm Street at the Shoppes of Bethesda. "We are so close," is what the company has to say regarding an opening date. Here's a sneak peek at the interior of the super-healthy superfood cafe:

The Body Shop, Yogibo close at Montgomery Mall

Another day brings another round of business closures in moribund Montgomery County. This time, two Westfield Montgomery Mall stalwarts have closed their doors: The Body Shop and Yogibo. The Body Shop is a ubiquitous tenant at malls across America like Sephora or Cinnabon, and bean bag furniture retailer Yogibo had a pretty solid six-year run here at Montgomery Mall. Even longtime stores are not immune to the hostile business climate in Montgomery County.

Gelato Galaxy coming to Bethesda

Gelato Galaxy
is coming to Bethesda. The space-themed frozen treat kiosk will be in the Dining Terrace food court at Westfield Montgomery Mall. In addition to gelato, they will also have soft serve custard and Italian ice. There is also a purple alien mascot ready to bring the flavors of the galaxy to the mall food court. Harry Reid has been fully briefed on this UFO sighting by Luis Elizondo.

Frank Pepe's Pizzeria back on at Montgomery Mall

Is Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana still coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda? That's been one of the most frequently-asked questions since the pandemic threw the Connecticut-based pizza chain's plans a curve ball in 2020. While construction has yet to begin inside the pizza parlor's future space on Level 1 at the mall, what I can tell you is that Frank Pepe has applied for a liquor license from Montgomery County. A hearing on the application is scheduled for September 2, 2021.

Gutted interior of the future
Frank Pepe's Pizzeria space

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Utility work at Bradley Boulevard and Arlington Road (Photos)

A utility crew is working over the night on Bradley Boulevard at Arlington Road in downtown Bethesda. There is a minor amount of standing water at the intersection. The work is in the actual intersection right now, and you'll probably want to detour around it.

New Welcome to Bethesda signs appearing downtown (Photos)

New "Welcome to Bethesda" signs are popping up around the downtown area. They feature the new Bethesda Urban Partnership logo, and the message, "A world in one neighborhood."

Montgomery Avenue lane, sidewalk closures through August 3

Pedestrians and drivers will encounter sidewalk and lane closures on Montgomery Avenue in downtown Bethesda from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, today through August 3, 2021. The northern sidewalk along Montgomery is being repaired by Balfour Beatty Construction between Wisconsin Avenue and Waverly Street. 

Work should conclude by 3:00 PM each day, weather permitting. Due to the construction of Avocet Tower on the south side of that block, you will probably want to plan ahead to detour around this.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

New Bethesda Starbucks update (Photos)

The slow walk to completion of the newest downtown Bethesda Starbucks at 7200 Wisconsin Avenue continues. More shipping boxes, tables and chairs have arrived. And I have a close-up of the large artwork on the wall. The hummingbird you may have seen on some Starbucks cups and their Veranda coffee bags, but a sprite holding something that looks like a key with the handle broken off is riding it near a coffee plant.

Former Kensington mayor named director of Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center

Former Kensington mayor Peter Fosselman has been appointed as director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. After serving as mayor of Kensington from 2006-2016, Fosselman has taken on several other public policy roles at the county and state levels. He served as Deputy Secretary of State under Governors Martin O'Malley and Larry Hogan, and is currently the Master Plan Ombudsman for Montgomery County.

Fosselman is an excellent choice for the directorship, as the position has in many ways become the equivalent of a mayor or city manager role, as outgoing director Ken Hartman's workload and efforts attest. He also brings an educational background in urban studies, at a time when downtown Bethesda is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. Fosselman began his career as the zoning inspector for the City of Gaithersburg, overseeing construction activity, of which there is no shortage in Bethesda these days.

"Our Regional Service Centers are critical outreach and operational hubs for a County as large and diverse as Montgomery County. The engagement and assistances these offices provide our residents are invaluable assets to our government operations," Elrich said in a statement yesterday. Fosselman's appointment was confirmed by the County Council on Tuesday.

Giant accepting Google Pay again

grocery stores are now accepting Google Pay as a method of payment at checkouts. This was supposed to be the case a couple of years ago, but in practice it seemed more like a beta test, as the app was being rejected at the self-checkout machines quite often. Signs have been posted at store entrances like these at the Westbard Giant store, and the Google Pay app is now working successfully at checkout.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club readies return this weekend

The Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club at 7719 Wisconsin Avenue is preparing for a return to operations this Saturday, when local comedian Earthquake will film a Netflix special live at the venue over two back-to-back nights. Yesterday, workers were readying the historic theater for the weekend, performing painting and other maintenance work. 

Big names who will be appearing at the club this fall include Ruben Studdard, Peabo Bryson and Kirk Whalum. The former movie theater has been known as The Boro, the Bethesda Theatre, and the Bethesda Cinema & Drafthouse over its history, since opening in 1938. You'll find art paying tribute to the iconic movie palace in the TD Bank and Matchbox in downtown Bethesda.

Staging for construction begins at Westwood Shopping Center

Construction of the new Giant grocery store at the Westwood Shopping Center is scheduled to begin on August 23. Staging for that Phase 1 project of the redevelopment of the property at 5400 Westbard Avenue is now underway. 

A construction trailer has been placed in the parking lot across from the Bowlero and Citgo gas station. Three large construction dumpsters have also been delivered. Other supplies have been placed in parking spaces alongside the shuttered Rite Aid store.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Roaming Rooster coming to Pike & Rose

Roaming Rooster
, a fast casual restaurant chain known for its fried chicken sandwiches, is expanding to Montgomery County this fall. It will open an 1843 square foot location at Federal Realty's Pike & Rose development in North Bethesda. Among the chain's other locations are Tenleytown and Woodridge in the District. 

Started as a food truck in 2015, Roaming Rooster has become one of the most-successful family and minority-owned hospitality businesses in the region since. In addition to its famous free-range, grain-fed, antibiotic-free and Halal fried chicken sandwiches, the chain also offers an all-week breakfast menu, salads, side dishes, chicken wings, chicken tenders and hand-cut fries. The sandwiches are available in your choice of heat level: mild, medium or hot.

Roaming Rooster breakfast
biscuit sandwich

“We chose Pike & Rose in Montgomery County because we want to be part of a neighborhood that features premier retailers, restaurants and services,” Roaming Rooster co-owner Michael Habtemariam said in a press release. “As a supporter of the DMV’s local businesses, Federal [Realty] is eager to bring this popular regional favorite to its first location in Maryland and Montgomery County,” Federal Realty Director of Leasing Emily Gagliardi added.

New Westbard Giant construction gets start date

The latest update on the imminent start of the redevelopment of the Westwood Shopping Center at 5400 Westbard Avenue in Bethesda: Property owner Regency Centers now says site work on the new Giant grocery store building will commence on August 23, 2021, weather permitting. The existing Giant store will remain open until the new one is completed. In later phases, the existing shopping center will be demolished to clear space for the rest of the new development.

New Fox 5 studio newscasts embrace Bethesda location

Fox 5's new location at The Wilson office tower at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue doesn't have a ground floor broadcast studio, but is already taking full advantage of the downtown Bethesda view. While Fox 5 is branded as a Washington, D.C. station, the skyline viewers were seeing this past weekend was that of downtown Bethesda, not the typical Washington Monument/U.S. Capitol tableau often seen in background graphics on D.C.-area news broadcasts. 

Yes, that is the Hyatt Bethesda hotel, the Chevy Chase Trust building, JBG Smith's new 8001 Woodmont, and even the roof of the historic bank building at the crossroads of Wisconsin, East-West Highway and Old Georgetown Road - among many others. It turns out that grand view of The Wilson and The Elm drivers see as they approach the Bethesda Metro Center from the north is just as impressive in the opposite direction.

Photos courtesy @MarinaMarraco on Twitter

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Bethesda construction update: Avocet Tower/AC Hotel (Video+Photos)

Here's a chronological look at the construction progress on the Avocet Tower office building and AC Hotel at 7373 Wisconsin Avenue over the last month. As you can see in the video below, the LED art installation above the entrance plaza is now animated. Developed by StonebridgeCarras, the project is scheduled for delivery this fall.