Union Kitchen plans live music, happy hours and food trucks in NoMa

May 22, 2013

Part Truckeroo, part Union Market, part Crafty Bastards: That might be the best way to describe a new outdoor market proposed for NoMa. The owners of Union Kitchen, a "food incubator" that offers kitchen space for food truck operators, startup businesses and caterers, filed a liquor license application on Friday that would create a large "outdoor tavern with food trucks" with room for 200 people in the parking lot next to its building, located at Third and L streets NE. The application also requests permission for "live and acoustic music" throughout the week.

• Union Kitchen: A cooking space for start-ups

Union Kitchen
Union Kitchen wants to allow its dozens of start-up businesses to sell their wares in the parking lot next to its Northeast D.C. building. (Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan)

"There are a lot of markets out there, but a nice outdoor space with music would be awesome," says Jonas Singer, a founder of Union Kitchen, and the Blind Dog Cafe pop-up. "We really want to keep it cheap and accessible, and make it fun and laid-back."

The goal here really is to serve as a place where Union Kitchen's members can hawk their wares to the public, and its proprietors believe the best way to do that is to lure customers to a festival-style atmosphere where they can sip local beer and listen to a band while perusing artisan bakers and noshing at food trucks. "Making the food is easy, but selling it is hard," Singer says. "We offer people a place to produce their food, but we need to help them sell it."

Singer envisions that the space would serve multiple functions. Early in the week, when Union Kitchen's lot serves as a distribution point for members of local CSA farm shares, people will be able to "grab a bite to eat while they pick up their groceries." Thursday through Saturday, Union Kitchen would offer an outdoor happy hour where "we'll have vendor stalls where our members will sell food they prepare right there."

And on Sundays, Singer imagines "an open-air bazaar," where food vendors well sell their goods alongside other non-edible products made at Union Kitchen, such as original greeting cards, or works by artists from 2B Artist Studios. (Singer is a co-founder of 2B, which is also located in Northeast.)

Even with happy hours and live entertainment, "It's not going to be as raucous as Truckeroo," Singer says. "We want it to be a community space … We're thinking bluegrass bands, or some folks playing brass instruments. We're not trying to throw raves at night."

"We're paying for the lot already, so all of these things will cost us basically nothing," Singer added. "We'll experiment with different days and see what works and what doesn't, and what the neighborhood wants."

Singer is currently working on a voluntary agreement with the neighbors, and is hopeful that the market will be up and running by July 1.

Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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