Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Does Barracks Row have too many restaurants?  In November 2010, ANC6B established a Retail Mix Task Force (RMTF), which entertained, but ultimately rejected, the idea of pursuing a moratorium on liquor license applications on Barracks Row.  Restaurants, it decided, complement other activities. 

Not only did the RMTF reject the moratorium, but it also suggested other measures to improve the area.  The task force recommended expansion of Performance Parking and the creation of a collaborative marketing campaign for the area.

Even though the task force spared Barracks Row from a moratorium, many residents still mistakenly believe that restaurants open at the expense of a retail diversity.

The task force report wrote that not long ago Barracks Rows was “often avoided in the evening.”  Since then the neighborhood adjacent 8th Street SE has seen home prices surge and crime fall as businesses began to invest in retail space.  Even as Barracks Row filled up with attractive eateries and swanky bars, the ANC’s attitude toward new dining establishments is surprisingly standoffish.

Just a month or so after the Retail Mix Task Force issued its findings, I found myself in attendance at the season two finale of The Sunday Circus at the Fridge Gallery, a two-hour long performance featuring over half a dozen performance artists from the DC area and beyond.

Tucked away into a rear alley connecting Barracks Row to 9th Street SE, The Fridge is a showcase for art with a multipurpose twist. With classes offered weekly, an on-going schedule of performances, and plenty of wall space devoted to aspiring and well-known artists alike, the gallery is both a rich and productive venue.

This establishment is thriving, and no matter what the ANC might suspect, it is not thriving in spite of taverns and cafes, but because of them. Smart bar and restaurant owners value a diversified commercial terrain that attracts new customers.

Restaurateurs brought more life to Barracks Row and are more than willing to put their money where their real estate is.  After all, educational events, gallery openings, and shows all draw hungry crowds.

If you don’t believe me, head over to the Fridge for a Sunday afternoon art class. You’ll see the list of sponsors that reads like a Barracks Row restaurant guide.  Local restaurateurs are invested and investing in the Row’s success.

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Ksenia Kaladiouk lives in Southeast DC, where she spends her time writing, sketching, running, taking photos, scheming and studying the flying trapeze.  She is particularly interested in the history of urban development, education, the effects of space on the rise and fall of cultural and commercial institutions, and vice versa.