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Another year, another 52 print issues and countless online articles. Here you’ll find the 15 stories that were the most popular on the City Paper website in 2019, from tipping controversies and moving memories of those who died, to a Blagden Alley sex party. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, Jack Evans didn’t rise to the top. To support our work in 2020, consider becoming a member.
1. Past the Buck? Bartenders Weigh In on When It’s OK to Still Tip a Dollar per Drink.
It was once a societal norm to tip $1 a drink, but is that still acceptable in the age of craft cocktails? What about if a bartender is just cracking open a can of beer?
“During the week when we’re managing the room and talking with patrons, we spend more time with them offering tender loving care. Guests tend to tip more because we’re doing a different type of job. We’re not just dispensing beer.”
City Paper’s most adorable annual tradition is its Peeps diorama contest. Washingtonians got especially creative this year by submitting entries ranging from a depiction of the college admissions scandal to a tense State of the Union address.
3. Alero Restaurant Changes Controversial ID Policy After Incident Involving Black Diners
A Mexican restaurant on U Street NW—an artery of black culture in D.C.—was selectively enforcing a policy that required patrons to hand over identification until they paid their bills. Despite vowing to fix the problem and become more welcoming to black patrons, four months later, City Paper reported on a group of four black women who say they were racially profiled in the establishment. This time the restaurant called the police.
“They said my ID was held because it was nighttime.”
4. D.C. Guide to the Shutdown
Many City Paper readers were affected by the government shutdown that sent the city into economic crisis the first month of the year. We published a comprehensive guide that helped furloughed workers, contractors, and their families locate free and discounted food, low-cost diapers, utility assistance programs, resources for pets, and more.
5. D.C. Charter Administrators Have Some of the Highest School Salaries in Town; Their Teachers, Some of the Lowest
City Paper contributor Rachel Cohen tackled the lack of transparency at D.C. charter schools surrounding teachers’ salaries. She found that charter school teachers earn much less than their DCPS counterparts. At the same time, administrative pay in the charter sector has been rising at a fast clip, according to public records.
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“There are 120 schools but you can’t just call them up and learn their salary schedules. It puts us in a position where we can’t make informed choices about where we work. Charter schools are free markets for all the parents and kids, but screw those teachers.”
After this story published, Bridges Public Charter dismissed one of the charter school teachers who spoke out.
As D.C. bartenders shake and stir your drinks, they’re on double duty as covert navigators of D.C.’s finicky dating scene. We first asked seven female bartenders, and later seven male bartenders, to divulge what they’ve learned about dating in D.C. and what advice they have for District denizens trying to find their one true love, or at least a one night stand.
“As a hospitality person you don’t know what to do. The first time I saw a breakup, I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll send her some almonds? A little bar snack?’”
7. Save The Date For This Year’s DMV Black Restaurant Week Set For Nov. 3-10
The week-long event featuring dining deals and extensive programming spotlights black bar and restaurant workers, highlights black-owned businesses in the region, and seeks to empower more people of color to open their own establishments.
8. People Are Melting Down Over a Mac and Cheese Festival That Was Set for Saturday
A troubled food festival organizer cancelled an anticipated mac & cheese festival in Leesburg, Virginia in April with short notice. Those who planned to attend were fuming, especially because Michelle Godfrey (who also goes by Michelle Hale) initially said she wouldn’t offer refunds. The meltdown was one of many failed food festivals of 2019.
“Saying Frederick is equivalent to Leesburg is factually incorrect. Saying from the beginning that refunds will be denied feels very dishonest.”
9. La Tasca Closes in Chinatown With No Notice to Current Employees
Chinatown Spanish restaurant La Tasca closed after more than a decade. They didn’t tell give staff members any advanced notice, leaving them jobless leading into the holidays. While the company said they were willing to transfer employees to their other locations, Rockville and Alexandria aren’t exactly comparable commutes.
“I’ve turned down jobs to stay loyal to this company and this is how they repay my loyalty.”
City Paper’s bike columnist remembers Dave Salovesh. The cycling enthusiast and advocate was riding his bike in April when a man driving a stolen van plowed into him and killed him at 12th Street and Florida Avenue NE.
“There will be a ghost bike where he died, and there will be a memorial ride, and countless calls to finally create the safer streets that Dave demanded. Bike advocacy will march on. It will succeed sometimes, but its success, for me at least, will be far less meaningful without Dave.”
11. A Historic Black Golf Course Faces Uncertainty as a Bidding War Over Its Future Begins
The Langston Golf Course, located in Northeast D.C., is among the earliest integrated golf courses in the country, and it holds a special place in the hearts of many D.C. residents. In August, NBA superstar Stephen Curry chose the historic location to announce his decision to bankroll Howard University’s varsity golf team. But the famous black golf course became subject to a national bidding war and patrons and neighbors fear what the potential change will mean, reported City Paper contributor Fredora Kamara.
“I hope they move in a direction that actually benefits the golf course and the other facilities, not just for getting money,” golfer Lauren Artis told Kamara.
Local nonprofit DC Central Kitchen faced financial insecurity after losing its longtime contract serving meals to residents at almost all of the District’s homeless shelters. It received an offer last fall to provide the meal service at half the shelters it has typically served, reducing the scope of its contract to five sites. The contract is managed by The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness.
“Because we’re a mission-driven actor, we never let contracting issues affect people experiencing homelessness. But we backfill the cost of [our service] by $400,000 per year. We do everything we do on a six-week operating reserve. It’s a huge drain on our resources.”
13. Remembering Choppa Black
Rapper Choppa Black, who was known for his lyricism, freestyling ability, and uncompromising vision, died in June at age 30. On Father’s Day weekend, Choppa Black performed with Backyard Band at the Marvin Gaye Recreation Center in Northeast. Since the news of his death, a video clip from that performance has circulated on social media.
“He was very intelligent and really tried to create a full dialogue about what goes on in the inner city, but he never got the full opportunity to reach his potential.”
Arlington resident Michael Wardian, a 45-year-old professional ultra-marathoner, is well-known in the local running community for pushing his body to the limit. He has several world records to his name and has competed in some of the toughest races in the sport. In February, he added to his legendary status by completing 10 marathons in 10 days (the first seven on seven different continents) in a record-setting 2:55:17 per marathon.
“If you dream big, if you throw down big, audacious goals, you’ll find a way,” Wardian told City Paper contributor Kelaine Conochan. “You find strength to get the job done.”
15. There Was a Marie Antoinette-Themed Sex Party in Blagden Alley on Saturday
Former City Paper creative director Stephanie Rudig attended quite the sensual masquerade in one of D.C.’s trendiest backstreets. The February soiree, which required attendees to sign a liability waiver, featured spank stations, shibari rope bondage, hot wax, and foreplay.
“I’m on the scene for about an hour and a half before I see a male butt getting flogged over at the spanking station, at which point I’ve lost track of how many sets of labia I’ve seen.”