City Desk

Chatter: Greater Waiter Washington

What you said about what we said last week

Problems with your server? Blame D.C.’s booming dining economy, which has begun to drain the local pool of well-trained restaurant workers. In the comments of last week’s Young & Hungry column, Don Rockwell pondered the troubling ways in which the District’s labor market has responded. “Of course, those $40,000 to $50,000 salaries for sous chefs and [assistant general managers]—positions where people regularly work brutal, 60- or 70-hour weeks (despite being assured otherwise upon hiring)—haven’t budged much. One of the biggest lies in the industry: ‘We’re going to get you some help real soon!’ That usually keeps people limping along for a few more months.”

One reader has apparently endured a few less-than-satisfactory cocktails. While wait staffs may be hard to fill, “One area that is oversaturated is bartending,” wrote No Free Lunch. “Somewhere along the line the myth has been perpetuated that anyone can be a bartender, and the younger people that used to fill the server jobs think they can skip paying their dues and go straight to bartending and making four times the money.”

Reader Beerbrarian noted a more troubling inequity. “How many restaurants in D.C. keep hispanic staff in the back of the house, or as busboys, never promoting them? I was at Moto in Chicago last Friday, a three-star restaurant. Our waiter is hispanic. At a three-star restaurant in D.C. that would never happen.”

Arena Praise

Is Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium truly one of America’s great soccer venues—a ramshackle coliseum whose cracks give it character—as Garrett Quinn argued in last week’s issue? Or is it just a dump? In several readers’ estimations, RFK’s lack of pretense goes a long way despite some of its flaws. “Its got history, a roof, and an egalitarian atmosphere,” commented Slim Whitman. “You go there to watch a game and hang with your buds—nothing else. No luxury boxes or sushi bars. Everybody enters and exits on the same ramps.”

With D.C. United publicly exploring the construction of a new home, several readers penned advance obituaries. “The place gets loud even when 15,000 to 20,000 people are in it, and when it’s full...goosebumps,” wrote Paul. “I understand why RFK has to go. But I will shed a tear when it does.”

As for calls to preserve RFK, Sgc balked: “To those urging ‘renovation,’ renovating RFK would be like trying to rehab a 1984 [Oldsmobile] Cutlass Supreme, if it’s been driven hard and for 300,000 miles. It’s past the point where it’s cheaper to replace it.”

Art Attack

In last week’s arts section, Kriston Capps explored how D.C.’s performance art scene has grown from a punchline—a 2007 conceptual art show had fun with D.C.’s lack of performance artists—to something robust enough to support a full-fledged festival. But while last weekend’s SuperNOVA gathering in Rosslyn certainly felt like a milestone, some felt Capps ignored an earlier generation’s contributions. “It astounds me how the impact of Bill Warrell and District Curators is so overlooked by the latest generation of D.C. artists,” wrote Michael Horsley. “I did my first performance art at American University DADA Festival in 1983. Multiple shows at Positive Force Anarchy Festival. d.c. space, Javarama, Washington Project for the Arts, DCAC, Central Armature...There are too many more significant and worthy artists and venues to mention here.”

Capps responded: “I’m writing about visual performance art, whereas the stuff you’re talking about is mostly, almost entirely, music programming...I’m not saying that there were zero instances of performance art in D.C. before 2007. But it wasn’t a thing back then, and it had not been a thing for a long, long time, and no one can remember a time when it was a thing. What District Curators and d.c. space were doing happened a very long time ago and was something really different from what I’m writing about here. Their work was important! Just a different kind of work than we’re seeing today.”

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