U Street News: Café Collage Returns?

During its short-lived existence, Café Collage, pictured here during happier times, served flavorful cups of Ethiopian coffee in an art-filled rowhouse next door to Café Saint-Ex on T Street. Opened by two childhood friends who grew up together in Ethiopia, the coffee shop was the fulfillment of a longtime dream of business ownership.

But before long, while the owners were applying for a liquor license, they were shut down for not having a fire escape. Neighbors also protested the license. The sign and the owners have remained in the year or so since the café closed — a sad reminder of the sometimes harsh reality of running a restaurant.

But according to a post card, Café Collage is trying to stage a comeback ... with your financial assistance. There will be a fundraising event at U Turn (1942 11th St. NW) on June 26 at 7 p.m.

"We ask your help in reviving a home for arts and genuine Ethiopian coffee," the flier states. The money, it says, will be used to construct a fire escape.

I'm glad to see these guys trying to get back in the game, and watch Metrocurean for any updates.

Meanwhile, just around the block, a notice has been posted on the abandoned building at 1340 U St. NW (next to Polly's Café) for a liquor license for Axis Bar and Grill. The petition mentions American cuisine and the possibility of a patio, DJ and live music.

And finally, just a few doors down at Creme, a petition has been posted to add patio seating. It's a tight squeeze on that sidewalk, but a few extra seats at the tiny restaurant would be welcome.

(Photo by Metrocurean.)


Anonymous said...

More restaurant options on U is a good thing, but I fear an Adam's Morgan type of atmosphere may be burgeoning. There is a Gay Sport's Bar -huh? -opening at 9th and U very soon too.

Amanda said...

Yeah, I think it's called Nelly's, right?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure of the name but that's a good one!

Anonymous said...

U Street has been destined to be the new Adam's Morgan for a while. Which, although bad from a "U-Street-used-to-be-better" perspective, is probably good in the long run b/c it will push new restauranteurs (who may become priced out of U street) into new areas of the city. More (preferably more interesting) bars and restaurants are always good in my book.

Anonymous said...

This makes no sense at all. The business owners are SO undercapitalized that they need a charity fund-raiser to generate enough cash to bring the building up to city code?

What does this say about their business acumen and their ability to successfully manage a sustainable business over the long haul?

Anonymous said...

The problems started because Rachael Storey was dishonest with the community. We would have welcomed Cafe Collage as a cafe, coffee shop, or restaurant, as Rachel claimed were the plans.

However in truth, the application that Cafe Collage submitted to the ABC was not for a cafe but for an outdoor tavern, with no plans for proper food, hygiene or safety facilities. There is nothing wrong with bars, but they are best located along 14th St and U Street, not a residential block with families and young children

No one is stopping Cafe Collage from "exhibiting art", "hosting cultural round tables" or serving "award winning Ethiopian coffee". They could have obtained a restaurant license (like Cafe St. Ex) a year ago.

This "fund raiser" is raising money to establish a for-profit outdoor tavern. Since when is that a charity event?

Anonymous said...

You want the real story? Cafe St. Ex owner Mike Benson pulled some underhand cards to get them to close. Cafe St. Ex is so yuppified and the last thing they wanted were a bunch of Ethopian customers going to Cafe Collage and taking up parking space/street cafe space. Oh yeah, God forbid *gasp* that some of those Ethiopians are cab drivers.

That's why Benson trumped up that Fire Escape issue. That guy is money-hungry.

Anonymous said...

i don't know anything about the mike benson thing, so i can't comment, but why do they need a tavern license? benson doesn't have one. what's wrong with cafe collage actually being a cafe?

Amanda said...

Seems like a lot of controversy swirling around this issue, but please don't make comments with specific accusations and other people's names unless you'd like to leave your own name.

Anonymous said...

Just to set some of the record straight, Mike Benson is not involved with the closing of Cafe Collage. It was the owner of the building (in collusion with some very vindictive homeowners) , who also owns the building that the St. Ex is operating out of that produced the blueprints that showed a fire escape that he failed to construct.

Benson showed his support for Cafe Collage from the beginning.

If there is any valid concern about Cafe Collage getting an alcohol license it is in regards to if the business fails. Any business could move in and piggyback on the alcohol license.

A fundraiser to construct an expensive fire escape, that is also the building owner's responsibility (which he is refusing to help with) is not unreasonable. That fire escape will be purchased by a fledgling business that has no property rights at that location.

The alcohol license will allow a meager profit to help the cafe continue operations. A budweiser has a higher profit margin than coffee. Another example of a coffee shop that provides light snacks, coffee and beer would be Sparky's just up the street.