City Desk

T.G.I. Friday’s Gets Closer to Entering D.C. Nightlife Fray

Friday's

T.G.I. Friday's, a mainstay of suburban strip-mall corridors across America, is one step closer to becoming the 14th Street nightspot destination spot it's seeking to be.

The chain, known for its mediocre bar food, is opening shop on 14th and Monroe streets NW in Columbia Heights, catty-corner from the culinarily similar Ruby Tuesday's. The area's Advisory Neighborhood Commission approved an agreement that would allow the restaurant to stay open until 2 a.m. and have entertainment, including karaoke, a DJ, and live music. Final approval of the arrangement rests with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.

Matt Scow, the senior director of real estate at the restaurant chain, said during a presentation at last night's meeting that T.G.I. Friday's is trying to break out of its suburban niche and expand to more urban areas.

It has the location, plus a problem: the space sits directly below low-income apartments for more than 150 senior citizens, many of whom, as it turns out, aren't particularly fond of DJs spinning at 2 a.m.

About 20 people from the Samuel Kelsey Apartments and Monroe Street came out to the meeting to speak against the late hours and potential trash and traffic congestion the restaurant could bring to the area. They want the restaurant to emulate Ruby Tuesday's hours, which closes at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.

"I'm concerned about this," said Jacqueline Parham, an 80-year-old Kelsey resident who suffers from sleep apnea and says she's already had problems with the noise coming from nearby Alero Restaurant. "I'm directly above [the T.G.I.F.] space, I'm concerned about the noise."

Scow said Friday's wants to compete with the other new establishments that have opened in the area, and fears that an earlier closing time would place the chain at a disadvantage. "We want to be competitive with all the other restaurants on 14th Street," Scow said at the meeting. "We offer a better experience."(One can only hope that experience mimics the Club Applebee's experience, where dancing on tables and black lights are commonplace.)

While the restaurant isn't caving on its hours, it will have a trash compactor and have its trucks make deliveries on 14th Street to avoid traffic back-ups on narrow Monroe Street. The restaurant says it will also install a sound-absorbing system in the ceiling and will be able to control the volume of the music, even live music.

"I do think these two groups can co-exist as long they can keep the lines of communication open," said Kent Boese, the chair  of ANC1A. "I have no doubt that if things get out of track, [residents] will speak out, and I hope they do."

T.G.I Friday's detractors still have an opportunity to oppose the restaurant and its hours—until it issues the restaurant's license, they can file a protest with ABRA.

Photo by cackhanded via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0.

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  • Dan Gamber

    If the Columbia Heights TGI plans to act like the one at 20th & PA NW, there are real problems looming. The PA Ave site has outdoor speakers that run during opening hours at a fairly high volume. The speakers are in the "balcony" seating area, but it IS outdoors. (Note: I have not been by there in a week or so, but I noticed it daily in the past.)

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