Construction on what at least 149 neighbors hope will become a family-friendly restaurant and coffee shop in Brookland has begun. A crew has been performing what co-owner Tony Tomelden calls much-needed "structural construction."
"We need a roof," he says of the dilapidated former dry cleaners at 12th and Jackson NE that will become the new restaurant. "It rains inside."
Tomelden as well as co-founders John “Solly” Solomon and Frank Hankins plan to open Brookland's Finest Bar & Grill in a neighborhood mostly known for takeout and greasy-spoon diners (with a few notable exceptions
). The three are no strangers to the culinary world: Tomelden owns The Pug on H Street, Solomon owns Solly's U St Tavern
, and Hankins owned and operated SOVA, an espresso and wine bar, for five years. Yet the plan has not been fully smooth thus far.
ANC 5B, within which the Brookland's Finest location falls, has filed a protest with the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to prevent the restaurant from getting its liquor license. According to an email sent to the Brookland listserv, another 53 individuals have signed a protest petition, while 149 living within proximity of the proposed restaurant have signed a petition in support, as long as Brookland's Finest signs a settlement agreement that lays out rules for dealing with trash and noise concerns, among other things.
Tomelden, a D.C. native and Brookland resident, says he sympathizes. "There have been some bad operators [in the neighborhood], some mediocre operators. They [the protesters] have no way of knowing what we're going to be." But, he says, his intentions are good. "I think one of the things that makes The Pug successful is that I built the place that I wanted to hang out in." Brookland's Finest will be a place that the father of three wants to hang out in now
--in other words, not a college bar.
Though Brookland's Finest's liquor license application is still up in the air (for now), the team has already hired a chef, but Tomelden's not naming names. "The restaurant she is in [currently] is very good." Think of Chef Geoff's, he says. "American, family friendly. I can take my kids there, and you could be sitting next to us. It's not like a Denny's, it's a nice place." There's also an architect lined up: the same one who designed The Pig
on 14th Street NW.
Ultimately, he says, "I'm really excited about it and I want people to know what we're doing."
According to the e-mail sent to the Brookland listserv, if the protesting parties do not reach agreement during a mediation session in early August, there will be a full protest hearing at ABRA on Aug. 14.