A spir­ited ef­fort to pre­serve a Lo­gan Cir­cle fix­ture

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS/OBITUARIES - BY PERRY STEIN perry.stein@wash­post.com

Along the in­creas­ingly pol­ished store­fronts and restau­rants of 14th Street NW, one shop stands out: Bar­rel House Liquors, a Lo­gan Cir­cle liquor store with a distinc­tively gaudy bar­rel as part of its fa­cade.

But the fate of that iconic bar­rel is un­cer­tain. The 10-year lease at Bar­rel House Liquors’s long­time home at 1341 14th St. NW is ex­pir­ing, and the liquor store is sched­uled to move in a few months to a smaller space next door.

Now the liquor store’s owner, Mes­fun Ghe­bre­lul, and some lo­cal of­fi­cials are work­ing to en­sure that the bar­rel, which was built around 1945, stays in­tact. There’s even a pos­si­bil­ity that the 70-yearold struc­ture at­tached to the liquor store could be­come a D.C. his­toric land­mark.

“It would hurt the in­side of me to see this 14th Street cor­ri­dor with­out the bar­rel,” said Ghe­bre­lul, who pur­chased the store in 1995.

Pepin An­drew Tuma, an Ad­vi­sory Neigh­bor­hood Com­mis­sion rep­re­sen­ta­tive whose dis­trict cov­ers Bar­rel House Liquors, is ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of des­ig­nat­ing the bar­rel as a his­toric land­mark, so no mat­ter what hap­pens to the prop­erty, the bar­rel would re­main. He wants ar­chi­tects to study the history and unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of it, and have the ANC vote on whether it wants to nom­i­nate it for such a des­ig­na­tion.

If the nom­i­na­tion meets the ba­sic cri­te­ria, the city’s His­toric Preser­va­tion Re­view Board would hold a public hear­ing and vote.

Ghe­bre­lul, how­ever, says that his first choice would be to move the bar­rel to the store’s new lo­ca­tion, but he is un­sure of the fea­si­bil­ity of mov­ing the hulk­ing con­crete struc­ture. His new space is also much smaller, so it is un­clear if it would even fit.

“That’s my soul,” Ghe­bre­lul said. “I would like to do what­ever needs to be done to get it moved.”

Eric Mey­ers, who with his wife has owned the prop­erty since 1979, said he would like to ne­go­ti­ate with the liquor store so it can stay on the prop­erty. If that does not work out — Ghe­bre­lul said rent would sky­rocket un­der the pro­posed lease, although Mey­ers said that is not the case— Mey­ers said he has no plans to de­mol­ish the bar­rel.

The Bar­rel House prop­erty, near the cor­ner of 14th Street and Rhode Is­land Av­enue NW, also has a park­ing lot be­hind it and ap­pears to be a prime can­di­date for de­vel­op­ment along one of the city’s prici­est strips. Mey­ers said that he has con­sid­ered re­de­vel­op­ing the prop­erty into apart­ments, with re­tail space on the ground floor, and would in­cor­po­rate the bar­rel into any new de­signs.

“The bot­tom line is that bar­rel has so much of my per­sonal history init, and I am so con­nected to it. I don’t think there is any way I can con­ceive of raz­ing the bar­rel,” Mey­ers said. “That might not be the most eco­nom­i­cal de­ci­sion . . . but there’s a lot more in this world than this almighty dol­lar.”

But some observers see is­sues with that pos­si­bil­ity.

“My opin­ion is that it would be a lit­tle con­fus­ing if they pre­served the bar­rel be­cause the liquor store is mov­ing right next door,” said John Fan­ning, chair­man of the ANC that over­sees Lo­gan Cir­cle. “My rec­om­men­da­tion is to work with the prop­erty and busi­ness owner to move the bar­rel to the new lo­ca­tion.”

Tuma said that is no rea­son not to pro­tect the bar­rel, adding that it could be in­te­grated into a new de­sign of the build­ing.

“If it were to be turned into res­i­den­cies, I would love to live in a bar­rel house res­i­dency. It’s a great en­trance no mat­ter what,” Tuma said. “We shouldn’t refuse to pro­tect it be­cause we are be­ing nar­row in how we en­vi­sion it might be used.”

The next Lo­gan Cir­cle ANC 2F public meet­ing will be held at 7 p.m. Wed­nes­day at the Washington Plaza Ho­tel, off Thomas Cir­cle.

PERRY STEIN/THE WASHINGTON POST

The gaudy but dis­tinc­tive fa­cade of Bar­rel House Liquors, which dates to the 1940s, has an un­cer­tain fu­ture on 14th Street NW. The liquor store is sched­uled to move to a smaller space next door.

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