14th Street Borders to become Clyde's restaurant

By Jonathan O'Connell
Monday, June 21, 2010

Clyde's Restaurant Group plans to open a two-story, 35,000-square-foot restaurant in space currently occupied by a Borders bookstore in downtown D.C. next year, creating one of the city's biggest dining options and the 14th site in the Clyde's chain.

The space, in the ground floor and basement levels of the former Garfinkel's department store building on 14th Street NW, is across the street from the Willard Hotel and two blocks from the White House. It is also around the corner from the Old Ebbitt Grill, the chain's signature establishment and one that Tom Meyer, Clyde's executive vice president, said cannot meet the demand from tourists, office workers and others in the area.

"I can't even tell you how much business we turn away a day at the Ebbitt," he said.

Tentatively named Hamilton Square, after the Garfinkel's building, the restaurant will be the chain's newest since it opened a nearly 800-seat Clyde's in four antique buildings in Ashburn in 2006.

Though plans are still in the works, Meyer said the newest restaurant would offer sushi, a raw bar and, on the bottom level, live music. Overall it will be "comfortable, good food, a menu with drinks," he said. "I don't think there's anything in D.C. that really covers all that."

In the deal signed June 15, Clyde's will assume the Borders lease with the building's owner, Shorenstein Properties, with some changes, giving the restaurant 20 years from its opening with an additional 20 years of options. Facing a tough bookseller market, Borders had been looking to sublet, though it still has a store at 18th and L streets NW. A Borders official confirmed the 14th Street store is closing.

With the Borders set to close by Sept. 1, the new restaurant could open in late 2011. Broker Bill Miller, senior vice president at Transwestern Retail, which represents Shorenstein, said he expects the deal to rejuvenate a part of town that has been sapped by the reduction of major retail options in the National Press Club Building, kitty-corner to Hamilton Square, and the loss of Red Sage, a restaurant across the street that recently closed and was replaced by a TD Bank branch.

"The restaurants and critical mass have all sort of tilted down toward the Verizon Center," Miller said. "And our hope was, along with the W Hotel ... to put somebody in that was a well-thought-of retailer or restaurant that would be great for the building and bring energy for the neighborhood."

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