From the window, you can catch a glimpse of the Washington Monument. Way off in the distance, past Nationals Park, the top third of the obelisk is visible. Across the street The Big Chair sits, the unofficial mascot of Anacostia.
On a scorching summer afternoon on Martin Luther King Avenue in Southeast Washington, Cedar Hill Bar & Grill opened its doors to the neighborhood. It’s named after Frederick Douglass’ historic home around the corner, just up W Street.
But this is no ordinary opening in just another neighborhood. Cedar Hill occupies the former Uniontown Bar & Grill, whose sign still adorned the building on the day of the soft launch. That place had a short, but eventful, history: Two years ago, Natasha Dasher, the restaurant’s owner, was busted for drug trafficking. After so much fanfare, to see it shuttered in such a way was disappointing for more than a few residents East of the River.
“I think it’s a great thing that they’re able to open back up. Give the place a new start. It was quite a blow when they closed down the first time, because this became quite a popular spot,” Terry Nelson, who owns a hair salon next door, said. “It was a sad situation,” she added.
“Personally, she was a nice lady,” Cedar Hill co-owner Melake Gebre said of Natasha Dasher, who was charged in U.S. District Court in Maryland and Texas with possession with the intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine in 2011.
But the memory of the old owner didn’t hold back potential suitors. “What we believe is people need this place to be open,” Gabriel Tripodo, the establishment’s other co-owner, said. “I strongly believe it’s a hotspot for business.”
The two are planning to expand the location, as well. Upstairs, they’ve knocked down walls in hopes of creating a second-floor lounge, with the potential for live music. Right now, the downstairs area looks almost exactly like the old setup, save the different color paint job inside. Episodes of Maury and a channel called Palladia played on the TV screens, while neighborhood friends reconvened at their renewed local.
“Man, this is the first time I’ve ever had a beer on tap this side of the river,” one man said. At another table, while waiting for a friend as a way to delay his commute back to Clinton, Md., Jermaine Davis, who works for the federal government, got some work done. “This is nice,” David said. “It’s like downtown D.C., with none of the traffic and the valet parking you’ve got to pay $20 for.”
Crossing the river has its perks.