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by Aaron Kraut — April 24, 2015 at 11:05 am 936 0

Piazza Beer Garden at 7401 Woodmont Ave. (file photo)A downtown Bethesda beer garden is officially opening next week with the promise of free beer.

Piazza Beer Garden (7401 Woodmont Avenue) is hosting a season opening “Beer Bash” starting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28.

Beer enthusiasts will get a complimentary glass of Dominion Candi, a Belgian Trippel from Delaware-based brewery Old Dominion Brewing Company.

Piazza opened in fall 2013 on the patio part of Cesco Osteria. It will be open from 3 p.m.-10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 3 p.m.-1 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, noon-10 p.m. on Sundays and closed on Mondays.

by Aaron Kraut — April 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm 358 7 Comments

Some of the e-cigarette liquids for sale at Studio Vape on Cordell Avenue

The news on e-cigarettes used to come via two-page inserts in the cigar magazines delivered to Les Charapp’s Bethesda cigar shop.

These days, those inserts on the latest and greatest in the vaping industry come in the form of full-fledged booklets, complete with rankings of e-cigarette liquids akin to rankings of cigars in Cigar Aficionado.

Charapp, who has owned Signature Cigars at 4919 Cordell Avenue for 18 years, saw it might be time to expand his business.

Last week, Charapp opened Studio Vape next door to Signature Cigars with the goal to get into an industry where sales have exploded to $1.2 billion a year in the U.S. Vape, defined as the inhalation or exhalation of vapor from an electronic cigarette, was the Oxford English Dictionary 2014 word of the year.

It wasn’t until about two years ago that vape shops began popping up. Now there are an estimated 8,500 nationwide with at least three within the few blocks of Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle neighborhood.

“So here I am with a brand new business in a brand new industry for me,” Charapp said. “They have studies showing the thing is going to grow to a $1.7 billion industry from $700 million in a few years.”

Charapp chose his location for Studio Vape over others in Rockville and D.C. because it’s close to bars and restaurants like Caddies on Cordell, Union Jack’s and others. It also helps that his old business is next door.

Studio Vape is in a former frame shop with an entrance set back from Signature. The stores share the same address.


by Aaron Kraut — April 22, 2015 at 3:10 pm 648 0

Robert Wiedmaier’s conversion of the old Roof space is just about complete.

Workers were busy making last-minute preparations Wednesday morning at Urban Heights, which will open on Thursday on the second and third floors of 7940 Norfolk Avenue.

The restaurant has a bit of a new look since Roof closed there in November. The elevator transporting customers up to the space is lined with bamboo wallpaper. One of the first things those customers will see upon getting off the elevator will be an array of tuna on ice.

The restaurant is calling the interior industrial chic, “complemented with a tropical flare.”

That’s owed to executive chef Cliff Wharton’s Filipino background. The former chef de cuisine at D.C.’s TenPenh is bringing his expertise in Southeast Asian cuisine. There will be small plates, a new island cocktail menu and that tuna bar, which will include ahi poke, tuna tartare and sashimi.

The third-floor rooftop bar will remain and staff was still busy putting in plants and other accessories on Wednesday.

The third-floor patio will seat 40 and the adjacent bar will have room for 15. The second-floor dining room will be able to seat 86 and there are more than 100 other seats shared between the second-floor bar, private dining area and a lower patio.

Urban Heights will be open for weekday lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and for dinner from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5 p.m.-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Saturday and Sunday brunch will run from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The second-floor bar will be open all day with a 3 p.m.-7 p.m. happy hour all week. The top deck be open from 3 p.m.-close all week.

Some photos via Urban Heights

by Aaron Kraut — April 22, 2015 at 2:00 pm 1,287 9 Comments

A cleared out and locked up Panas on Wednesday

A downtown Bethesda empanadas eatery has shut down.

Panas (4731 Elm Street) cleared out its seats, tables and much of its kitchen equipment by Wednesday afternoon, leaving an empty, dark and locked storefront.

An employee at the chain’s Dupont Circle location confirmed the Bethesda location is closed, though he said management hasn’t told employees much about its future.

Owner Federico Garcia Lopez opened the Bethesda Panas in 2011. Panas management couldn’t be reached on Wednesday for comment.

by Aaron Kraut — April 22, 2015 at 1:00 pm 740 5 Comments

J.J. and Shannon Wilson pose in front of a Kit and Ace store, photo via Kit and Ace

A clothing store from the family behind Lululemon is coming to Bethesda Row.

Kit and Ace, the company launched last year by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s wife Shannon and his son J.J., offers shirts, pullovers and accessories for women and men made out of what it calls “technical cashmere.” The material is a blend of luxury fabrics called qemir.

A spokesperson for Kit and Ace said the store will open on the Bethesda Avenue section of Bethesda Row on Nov. 5.

According to leasing information from property owner Federal Realty, it appears the store will fit in to the 3,700-square-foot spot at 4838 Bethesda Avenue, the former home of the Assagi Mozzarella Bar.

Kit and Ace’s first store opened nine months ago in Vancouver. Seven more stores have opened across the U.S. and Canada since.

“Bethesda exudes the dynamic atmosphere we seek when choosing our retail locations,” Shannon Wilson said, according to a press release. “We are excited for this newest shop to live as an extension of the creative culture that surrounds it.”

Shannon and J.J. Wilson came up with the Kit and Ace idea “during their time spent traveling abroad and living internationally,” according to the company’s website.

“After spending years dressed head to toe in stretchy performance wear, they were looking for clothing that offered the same functionality but that met their desire for sophistication, style and luxury,” reads the website. “Since they couldn’t find what they were looking for, they created it.”

It will be the latest in a new wave of Bethesda Row tenants.

Williams-Sonoma is taking over the spaces that used to belong to restaurants Parker’s (4824 Bethesda Avenue) and next-door Tara Thai (4828 Bethesda Avenue). 

 Sabun Home, a Georgetown-based bed, bath and living accessory design store, is taking over a newly built retail space on Bethesda Lane next month. Jewelry shop Kendra Scott hopes to open in July at 4835 Bethesda Avenue.

Photo via Kit and Ace

by BethesdaNow.com — April 21, 2015 at 1:30 pm 626 18 Comments

Bethesda Beat logoBethesda Now, which began publishing in August 2012, next month will merge with Bethesda Beat, the daily news publication of Bethesda Magazine.

The deal, announced yesterday, is part of an expansion of Bethesda Beat.

Starting May 6, Bethesda Now editor Aaron Kraut will join Andrew Metcalf, the editor of Bethesda Beat, at the expanded publication. Bethesda Beat will increase the average number of articles is publishes daily from six to eight.

“By combining the resources of Bethesda Now and Bethesda Beat, we will be able to substantially increase the breadth and depth of our coverage–and the size of our readership,” said Steve Hull, editor and publisher of Bethesda Magazine.

“This is the dream team of local reporting,” Hull continued. “They know what’s going on in Bethesda and the surrounding towns better than anyone. They both have amazing sources and ability to write quickly and concisely.”

Bethesda Now’s article archives will remain online and will eventually be transferred to the Bethesda Magazine website. Bethesda Magazine will also take ownership of Bethesda Now’s social media accounts and email subscriber list.

Bethesda Now is being sold by Local News Now LLC, a publisher of D.C. local news websites including ARLnow.com, RestonNow.com and HillNow.com.

“We’re very proud of our coverage of Bethesda for the past two-and-a-half years,” said Scott Brodbeck, founder of Local News Now. “Selling the site was a hard decision, but it was made easier knowing that we were selling to a locally-owned, independent media company with a long tradition of service to the Bethesda community.”

by Aaron Kraut — April 21, 2015 at 9:00 am 356 5 Comments

One of the design concepts for "Bethesda Metro Park," via Clark Enterprises/Cooper Carry

The downtown property owner opposed to a new high-rise above the Bethesda Metro station is hosting an Earth Day celebration near the spot to promote its own pitch for a park.

Clark Enterprises, the construction giant behind the push for a Bethesda Metro Park, will have bocce, corn hole, ping pong, music and free food out on the Metro Plaza from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. as a way to show what the space could be if permanently made into a park.

But Metro Plaza neighbor Brookfield Office Properties actually owns the ground lease for the spot and is pitching its own idea. Brookfield hopes to build a new office or residential tower above the Metro station with a 10,000-square-foot park on the opposite side of the structure farther from the street.

Clark and Brookfield have been fighting a public relations battle on the Metro Plaza for months, with each trying to rally community support so county planners include their vision in the Bethesda Downtown Plan.

It’s not the first time Clark Enterprises, which has its corporate headquarters at 7500 Old Georgetown Road, has fought a proposed building on top of the Metro Plaza.


by Aaron Kraut — April 20, 2015 at 3:25 pm 1,226 6 Comments

Urban Heights executive chef Cliff Wharton, via Urban HeightsThe restaurant replacing Roof in Woodmont Triangle is set for a Thursday opening.

Urban Heights, from chef Robert Wiedmaier’s restaurant group, will feature Philippine and Southeast Asian cuisine from executive chef Cliff Wharton.

Wharton’s Filipino heritage has led him to a menu mostly of small plates. There will be a tuna bar, Korean Bulgogi-style Steak Salad, Chicken Adobo Sliders and Xo Honey Glazed Shrimp and Pork Belly Bites with Gochujanamong, among other items.

The second- and third-floor space at 7940 Norfolk Avenue used to be home to Roof, the restaurant and bar that closed in November.

Wharton will use that outdoor third-floor roof space for pig roasts in an open pit. There will also be Far East-inspired “Island Cocktails,” according to a press release announcing the opening.

Photo via Urban Heights

by Aaron Kraut — April 20, 2015 at 12:35 pm 263 0

Photo via Pike Central Farm Market

A popular farmer’s market in the White Flint area is opening for the season on Saturday.

The Pike Central Farm Market, located for now at an empty parking lot at 5922 Executive Boulevard, will host its first market of the year from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

The market is part of Central Farm Markets, which also runs the Bethesda Farm Market every Sunday at Bethesda Elementary School.

A redevelopment project is set for the parking lot and the plan is for the Pike Central Market to eventually move back to the Pike & Rose property.

Photo via Pike Central Farm Market

by Aaron Kraut — April 17, 2015 at 9:10 am 683 3 Comments

Villain & Saint, chef Robert Wiedmaier’s music venue, bar and restaurant in the former Markham’s space, opened Thursday night at 7141 Wisconsin Avenue.

Check out the new-look interior and a few shots from the grand opening show, featuring the “Lloyd Dobler Effect.”

Stage photos via Mike Landsman

by Aaron Kraut — April 15, 2015 at 3:00 pm 524 1 Comment

Michael Mosier, suffering from a rare type of brain tumor, colors in a map that keeps track of his "Big Hero Michael" fundraising effort for brain tumor research, Photo via Race For Hope - DC

A Bethesda family has raised more than $60,000 for brain tumor research in honor of their son, who is currently suffering from a brain tumor found just a week after his sixth birthday.

Michael Mosier was about to start kindergarten at Seven Locks Elementary School when he was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine giloma brain tumor last September.

There are about 100-150 new diagnoses of the rare pediatric cancer a year in the U.S. and fewer than 10 percent of children with the tumor survive more than two years after diagnosis.

Mosier’s family started a “Big Hero Michael” fundraising team for the May 3 Race for Hope in D.C. Last year, the event raised $2.6 million for brain tumor research and support with 600 teams and 11,600 participants.

The Facebook-based fundraising effort has received $61,000 from people in 30 different countries with 163 members. Mosier, who must use a wheelchair and needs help with routine tasks, has been helping to keep track of the donations by coloring in a map.

The goal is to fill in a world map with yellow, Mosier’s favorite color.

Photo via Race For Hope – DC

by Aaron Kraut — April 14, 2015 at 10:15 am 706 7 Comments

Pike District logo rendering, via Streetsense/White Flint PartnershipThis logo could soon be coming to streets and storefronts across the recently-minted Pike District.

The White Flint Partnership, the group of developers planning to transform the area from strip shopping centers to mixed-use neighborhoods, hired Bethesda real estate firm Streetsense to come up with logo options using the Pike District name.

The Partnership and Streetsense did a naming study last year to come up with one name to define the unincorporated area alternatively known as White Flint, North Bethesda, Rockville and even Kensington.

While some said they preferred the area be known as White Flint, some developers hoped to avoid the label so their projects wouldn’t be confused for White Flint Mall or tied too closely to it. The Mall site is just one part of the redevelopment supposed to happen in the area thanks to Montgomery County’s 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

A group of residents, business owners, county government officials and developers called the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee agreed to the Pike District name in December.

On Tuesday, the Downtown Advisory Committee gave its approval to using the logo on the county’s PikeDistrict.org, which had its soft launch Monday night. The website will formally launch next week at a chamber of commerce networking event at Pike & Rose.

Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman, the county official behind the website and committee, said the logo’s color scheme hasn’t yet been set. Streetsense is working on a branding book that would outline how and where the logo could be used.

Rendering via Streetsense/White Flint Partnership

by Aaron Kraut — April 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm 2,913 20 Comments

Workers pave over a driveway in Chevy Chase, at the center of a dispute between neighbors

A nasty dispute between neighbors in the Town of Chevy Chase continued Monday when workers paved over a shared driveway that included a small strip of grass.

To Deborah Vollmer, that “historic” strip of grass represented a vanishing part of the Town’s character. But after losing multiple lawsuits to stop the project, being ordered by a judge to pay her neighbors’ $30,000 in legal fees and even spending a day in jail over the dispute, it seems Vollmer is out of options.

The courts have sided with Vollmer’s neighbors, the Schwartzes, every step of the way. On Monday, workers were well on their way to finishing the paving job on the driveway that splits the homes at 7200 and 7202 44th Street.

Vollmer attempted to persuade the Town of Chevy Chase Council to stop the paving project last week and even said she’d be willing to get arrested again to protect the grass. The Council sided with the courts and workers began tearing up the driveway of grass and concrete the next day.

Vollmer appealed a Circuit Court order requiring that she consent to her neighbors’ plans, but the project went forward.

It’s not the first time Vollmer, who grew up in the house, has objected to similar projects. She claims the property line between the homes runs about roughly halfway down the driveway. The courts disagreed.

She also objected to the Schwartzes tearing down and building a new home on their property seven years ago.


by Aaron Kraut — April 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm 2,021 1 Comment

Most of Kenwood’s roughly 1,200 Yoshino cherry trees probably won’t hit peak bloom this weekend.

But pleasant weather should bring plenty of people out anyway. The neighborhood, known as “the other” place to check out cherry blossoms in Washington, attracts visitors from all over the world.

The Yoshino cherry trees were planted by the developer of the neighborhood back in the 1930s and 1940s as a marketing tool to attract families to what was then the outer reaches of suburbia.

Eight years ago, the neighborhood’s citizens association decided get organized to keep people off private property and to discourage people from climbing on the trees. The group hires off-duty Montgomery County Police officers for traffic control and security.

No parking is allowed on the neighborhood’s streets, so you’ll have to walk or bicycle to the neighborhood to get a peek.

The Kenwood trees see less sun than their famous counterparts on the Tidal Basin, so they typically reach peak bloom three to four days later.

While some Tidal Basin trees are already in peak bloom, many are expected to reach it this weekend. That means peak bloom in Kenwood will likely happen next week.

by Aaron Kraut — April 9, 2015 at 11:05 am 396 7 Comments

Photo via Sabun HomeThe latest luxury boutique to come to Bethesda Row will be Sabun Home, a Georgetown-based bed, bath and living accessory design store.

The store announced on its Facebook page last month that it would open at Bethesda Row. Property owner Federal Realty’s leasing material shows it will be located in a recently built space next to the Redwood restaurant on Bethesda lane.

Blogger Robert Dyer first reported the news.

Sabun Home opened its Georgetown location in August 2013 and stocks towels, linens and bathrobes, plus offers design help with wallpaper and fabrics. It specializes in accessories imported from the Mediterranean region.

Sabun hopes to open at the spot in May.

It will join jewelry shop Kendra Scott and kitchenware chain Williams-Sonoma as the latest new retailers at Bethesda Row.

Photo via Sabun Home


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