City Desk

Heller’s Bakery Evicted, Mount Pleasant Mourns


Heller's Bakery, a Mount Pleasant landmark famous for both its 96-year lifespan and tasty donuts, couldn't keep up with rent at its 3,700-square-foot shop on the 3200 block of Mount Pleasant Street NW and will close its doors this month. The bakery opened in 1928, but most recently changed owners 10 years ago, according to current owner Aleks Duni.

"We are really sad to leave," Duni tells City Desk.

Duni says the bakery was one month behind in rent and couldn't reach an agreement with the landlord. He says his yearly rent is set to go up 15 percent in 2015; he says he pays $24 per square foot per year now, or $88,800 annually. Business, he says, has been slow lately.

Duni hopes to eventually reopen the shop in D.C. While he likes Mount Pleasant, he says there probably isn't a big enough space for Heller's there. In the meantime, Duni is trying to figure out if he can still distribute food to D.C. establishments.

Heller's will be closed Thursday and Friday this week for Christmas and will open for its last two days in business on Saturday and Sunday.

People have already taken to Twitter to mourn the bakery. (Well, most mourned; some complained about the quality of the carbs.) Read more Heller’s Bakery Evicted, Mount Pleasant Mourns

The Needle: A Whale of a Time

Life of the Party:  D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton attended the taping of the Colbert Report's farewell episode last night, chatting with Grover Norquist and taking this uncomfortably fantastic photo with Stephen Colbert planting a big 'ol kiss on her non-voting cheek. Norton has appeared on the show many times over the years, including one notable segment in which the two of them debated whether D.C. is actually part of the United States. Norton told Roll Call she had a "whale of a time" last night. +7

Girl Power: During his press conference today, President Barack Obama called on all female reporters—eight of them!—to lob him questions. +11

Read more The Needle: A Whale of a Time

Buy D.C.: Wrapper’s Delight

Each week, Buy D.C. will highlight shops and items you can only find in the D.C. area, curated by Kaarin Vembar, owner of personal shopping and wardrobe editing service Closet Caucus.

You Can Drink the Water in Shaw and Logan Circle Again Now


Shaw and Logan Circle-area residents can once again drink safely straight from their faucets.

At 4 p.m. today, DC Water lifted a "Do Not Drink" advisory for a small portion of Northwest after the water there had tested positive Thursday for some petroleum contamination. Four D.C. public schools were closed due to the advisory. DC Water said this afternoon that the water now meets Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Now the water agency recommends that all residents and business owners in the affected areas flush their plumbing before using it by doing the following:

Single-Family Homes:
• Begin at the sink on the lowest floor and run each cold water tap for 10 minutes.
• After 10 minutes, move to upper-level sinks and run each cold water tap for five minutes.
• Flush your refrigerator’s water dispenser for five minutes.
• Discard any ice that was made during the Do Not Drink advisory.
• For automatic ice makers, make and discard one cycle of ice.

Commercial and Multifamily Buildings:
• Follow same procedure as above AND
• Notify all tenants to run every cold water tap for five minutes.

If you notice a petroleum smell in your water, notify the Drinking Water Division at 202-612-3440

Map via DC Water

Chatter: Why’s The Rent So Damn High?

cover-issue1828-lgWhat you said about what we said last week

When more than half a city’s apartments are subject to rent control laws, but the laws allow exemptions for an untold number of landlords, how controlled is that rent? Not very, argued Aaron Wiener in last week’s cover story. Wiener explored loopholes that allow landlords to hike prices beyond what the law would typically permit and the buyouts facing tenants if they cannot pay the new rent—buyouts that aren’t always a great deal for the tenants or the city.

A few readers chimed in with some of the typical hyper-capitalistic jawing about how poor people are bad and deserve nowhere to live. (“Move if you can’t afford it!”, etc.) Others were more nuanced. Confused agreed that the entire rent control schema is flawed: “Sounds like what is needed is a) some formalization of the buyout process, b) code enforcement so poor maintenance is not used to move people out, c) counseling on housing choices, including buying, and d) some payment by the landlords to the city affordable housing fund, both to pay for the cost of the counseling program and to help create more AH units (with actual income caps, unlike the rent controlled units).

Tom Veil advocated the doing away of rent control altogether, writing, “Both in reports like this and in sociological studies, we have the research to know that rent control laws just plain don’t work. If we as a society still believe that poor Americans deserve a roof over their heads, the solution is not to double down on rent control. The solution is to try something completely different. I would support experimenting with Guaranteed Minimum Income, government housing vouchers, removing the zoning restrictions on purely residential projects, and improving public transit to outlying neighborhoods…I think they’re all worth a shot.”

On the other end of the spectrum, gob got all #slatepitch-y with support for a higher guaranteed return for landlords: “12 percent return in a city with such tenant-friendly and strict laws is not enough. It should be way more to deal with biased tenant laws.” OK!

And some readers were apparently pleased with themselves just for making it through a 5,000+ word story on rent control. “Wow,” tweeted @KDunntweets. “Aaron Wiener made rent control policy possible to understand and interesting. #Pulitzer.” Thus far the Pulitzer hashtag has yet to attach itself more broadly to the story, but glad you liked it, @KDunntweets.

Party On

Jessica Sidman’s column on the return of the post-recession lavish office holiday party to D.C. bars and restaurants drew surprisingly little snark from the Washington City Paper–reading public. Apparently no one begrudges K Street firms from renting out eateries to the tune of $30,000 and outfitting them with fire eaters. Only Novatronic got sassy in the comments: “Always fun to see lawyers who came here from Palookaville, Ohio puking on their sensible shoes.”

Tommy Wells Will Run D.C.’s Department of the Environment (Livably and Walkably)

Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser tapped outgoing Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells as the the director of the District Department of the Environment today, bringing her pending-administration closer to being a "team of rivals" composed of lots of one-time competitors. (Bowser clobbered Wells in the April Democratic mayoral primary.)

Bowser wrote in a release that the department is responsible for creating policies to protect the environment, promote sustainability, and conserve natural resources in D.C.

Wells is a natural choice for the position. His tenure as councilmember has been marked by efforts to increase public transit and cycling infrastructure in the District, and his mayoral campaign motto was  "Building a Livable Walkable D.C."

“As Tommy’s friend and colleague, I have witnessed first-hand the passion he has for conservation, clean transportation and creating a more sustainable District,” Bowser said in a release. “With Tommy’s experience and enthusiasm, we will create new and innovative policies to make the District the most environmentally-friendly city in the nation.”

Bowser has also already appointed a number of other people to her administration, including  Rashad Young, Alexandria's city manager, as her city administrator and Brenda Donald as deputy mayor for health and human services.

“Making D.C. a cleaner, more environmentally friendly city isn’t just a health issue—it’s an economic issue. I look forward to working with the mayor-elect to create greater economic opportunities for more Washingtonians while also preserving our city’s environment for generations to come,” Wells said in the release. “Having the opportunity to continue working on an issue I care so deeply about is an honor.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

District Line Daily: Jumping Taller Fences

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

A panel reviewing the Secret Service recommended, in part, that taller fences be erected around the White House in the wake of many concerning fence-jumping incidents.


  • The D.C. Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from the city and upheld homeless families' right to private shelter. [Housing Complex]
  • The D.C. State Board of Education decided it wanted more community input before it voted on revisions to graduation requirements that would create more "flexible routes" to a high school diploma. [Washington Post]
  • A man suffered traumatic brain injuries after getting hit by a car on H Street NE while riding a Capital Bikeshare. [News4]
  • There's still a "do-not-drink" advisory in place for parts of Shaw and Logan Circle as crews try to get rid of an oil-based substance that infiltrated the water. [Washington Post]


Read more District Line Daily: Jumping Taller Fences

The Needle: Snowpocalypse Lane

Remember When? Think it's cold today? Well, Washingtonians had it a whole lot worse five years ago. Today marks the five-year anniversary of the start of the infamous December 2009 snowpocalypse storm. +2

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: The new fancy Arc'teryx shop at CityCenter was broken into last night. The store celebrated its grand opening over the weekend. -3 Read more The Needle: Snowpocalypse Lane

Let Washington City Paper Answer All Your Questions (Again)


You've lived here a few months, or maybe a few decades. You've got most of D.C. life figured out. But there's still that one nagging mystery that bothers you every now and then.

Fortunately, Washington City Paper is here to help.

Next month, we'll publish our annual Answers Issue again—which means we need your questions about the District so we can find the answers. Last year, you wanted to know if you were allowed to raise bees on your roof (yes), where to get a $2 or $3 beer (a bunch of places), and, uh, where to find our paper (more or less where you'd expect, but you can tweet or email us if it's not there).

So what questions, grave or frivolous, can we answer for you in 2015? Send 'em in using the form below. We're asking for your name and email address, but we won't publish either—we just want a way to get in touch if we need to ask any follow-ups to make sure we're getting the right information for you.

District Line Daily: The D.C. Encyclopedia of 2014

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

This week's issue is an encyclopedic retrospective of the ideas, trends, people, and events that shaped D.C. in 2014.


  • The D.C. Council gave final approval to the D.C. United stadium deal yesterday. Now, the city just has to convince the developer to hand over the land for the stadium without getting the Reeves Center on 14th and U streets NW in return. [Loose Lips]
  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican soon to assume Congressional oversight over D.C. affairs, says he thinks the provision in the cromnibus spending bill invalidates D.C.'s Initiative 71 to legalize marijuana. [Washington Post]
  • Four D.C. public schools in the Shaw and Logan Circle areas are closed today amid fears of water contamination. [Housing Complex]
  • New Silver Line Metro signage is confusing riders. [News4]


Read more District Line Daily: The D.C. Encyclopedia of 2014

The Needle: You Know Who Else Thought D.C. Was Lifeless?


In Defense of D.C.: Hitler, yes Adolf Hitler, once wrote that he thought Washington was "lifeless." As WCP's editor notes, now you can finally snap back at your annoying friends who call D.C. lifeless with, "You know who else thought D.C. was a lifeless city?" +3

Tick-Tock: There is still not a final date for passenger service for the H Street NE streetcar. -4

Read more The Needle: You Know Who Else Thought D.C. Was Lifeless?

Local Sports Bar Plans Wake for Washington Football Team

The Washington football team's terrible season is hitting more than just Dan Snyder's pockets.

Lou's City Bar in Columbia Heights says that throughout this no-good season, the number of hometown fans coming to the bar to watch games has dropped by about a third. In recent weeks, when the team's performance has been—impressively—even worse, John Groth, the director of operations of the bar, says he's seen even fewer fans.

So, this Saturday, as the Pigskins face off against the Eagles, Lou's is hosting a "wake" for the team. Black attire is suggested for the proceedings and free "Im-peach Snyder" shots will be given out "for each nail the Eagles put in the coffin."—i.e. each time Philadelphia scores a touchdown.

Following the presumed loss, Lou's says it will black out next week's "purgatorial Deadskins-Cowboys finale."

"We can console one another—which is kind of what the free shots are for," Groth says of the rather grim event. "People just don't notice when a [Pigskins] game is even on [at the bar]. There is just a sense of dread of what's going to happen next."

Groth, a Bethesda native, says he's a fan of the team and even has season tickets with a friend. He and the bar are just giving up for the season, and hope they're not laying the team to rest for good.

Groth's friend has already backed out on renewing their season tickets, though Groth is still unsure about what he will do.

"I am torn and will have to probably wait and think about that for a bit," says Groth. "But I am sure the [Pigskins] will ask me to renew on January 1."

Saturday's game starts at 4:25 p.m. Here is Lou's full announcement of the somber proceedings: Read more Local Sports Bar Plans Wake for Washington Football Team

District Line Daily: A Very Old Pipe

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to

Sign up: To get District Line Daily—or any of our other email newsletters—sent straight to your mailbox, click here.

The 12-inch water main that leaked Tuesday morning, flooding downtown Metro tracks and wreaking havoc on morning commutes, was installed in 1953. Although trains were back operating Tuesday morning, crews have been working on repairs through this morning.


  • Under a proposed plan, Howard University Hospital would partner with the troubled United Medical Center—the only full-service hospital east of the Anacostia River. [Washington Post]
  • A D.C. judge dismissed an 18-year-old special education lawsuit, allowing D.C. schools to administer special-education services without a court-appointed official monitoring and tracking the performance. [Washington Post]
  • A final Council vote on the D.C. United stadium deal is expected today. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson says he expects it to go smoothly. [WAMU]
  • Thousands of drivers in the D.C.-area suburbs have been using handicapped parking placards. [News4]
  • It's official: Arts are going underground in Dupont. [Housing Complex]


Read more District Line Daily: A Very Old Pipe

The Needle: The Aqua Line


The Great Flood: Metro was quite literally underwater this morning. And there are picture and commuting horror stories to prove it. -5

Ya Mon: Arlington-based Reggae Band SOJA was nominated for a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. +1

Read more The Needle: The Aqua Line

Phil Mendelson Says It’s His “Duty” to Send Marijuana Law to Congress

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is ignoring the "Super City Council."

Mendelson says he will submit Initiative 71, which would legalize marijuana possession for personal use in D.C., to Congress, arguing that it's his duty under the Home Rule Charter to do so.

"The duty to transmit is not discretionary in my view," he said at a press conference today. “There’s no money involved on our part in whether a person commits a crime or not, so I’m not sure what Congress was intending with their language.”

Congress passed a massive spending bill last week to keep the federal government running. Tucked deep within that "cromnibus" legislation is a rider barring D.C. from spending any money to enact Initiative 71—which D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved in November.

The wording of the bill is ambiguous, and some say D.C. can still legalize marijuana, though it would be prohibited from creating a legal framework to sell and tax it. Others, contrary to Mendelson's interpretation, say the law means that D.C. cannot spend any money to put this law into effect, even the nominal cash it would cost to transmit the bill to Congress.

Once Mendelson sends the bill to the Hill in January, there will be a 30-day review period during which Congress can decide whether it wants to pass a bill to block the law or quietly let it stay.

The whole attempt to send it to the Hill may run into difficulty, though: Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, the main lawmaker behind gutting D.C.'s marijuana laws, says the provision in the spending bill unequivocally kills Initiative 71.

"Congressional intent and the legislative language is clear," Harris wrote in a statement to City Desk last week.  "Legalization will not be able to move forward in the District."

Additional reporting by Will Sommer and Aaron Wiener

Photo by Darrow Montgomery