Elvert Barnes

Consider this statistic: From June 2016 to June 2017 Lyft saw more than a 250 percent increase in rides to Ivy City, where La Puerta Verde, Ivy City Smokehouse, Ari’s Diner, Big Chief, and other restaurants have opened over the past year or so.

Matt Baker, the chef and owner of Gravitas, which is coming to the neighborhood this fall, says he wouldn’t have opened a restaurant there without ride-sharing services. “It wouldn’t have made sense to do it—it has revolutionized how people are spending their nights out,” he says.

D.C. is a small city compared to say Los Angeles or New York, so diners can freely bop around to different neighborhoods. “Uber and Lyft have a lot to do with that because it’s so convenient to get in an Uber and in 10 minutes you’re on the other side of the city with a different vibe,” Baker says.

As a part of his strategy to lure in investors, Baker calculated drive times to Gravitas from popular neighborhoods in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. “It furthered the argument that though we’re not in the middle of downtown D.C., we’re not that far away either.” 

“Patrons and residents can get to neighborhoods they otherwise wouldn’t go to because they’re not easily Metro accessible,” says Steve Taylor, the general manager of Lyft D.C. He also notes that one third of Lyft’s business occurs during what he calls evening “party hours.”  

Taylor says Lyft also tracks where rides originate, and the findings illuminate another trend. “There are a lot more rides from the suburbs into the city,” he says. “Restaurateurs are no longer just seeing the neighborhood crowd—they’re seeing people from Prince George’s County and Montgomery County going to these restaurants.”

While Ivy City saw the most dramatic increase in trips, other revitalized dining neighborhoods sans immediate Metro stations also saw major growth. During the same time period there was a 140 percent increase in rides to H Street NE; a 120 percent increase to the Union Market area; and a 170 percent increase to Bloomingdale, according to Taylor. 

Granville Moore’s is celebrating its tenth anniversary on H Street NE this month, meaning they were up and running before Uber debuted in 2011, and Lyft in 2013. Chef Teddy Folkman recognized early on that they needed some kind of transportation to help get people over to the neighborhood. That’s why he teamed up with about ten other restaurant owners to start a shuttle service. They painted two white vans green and labeled them as “H Street shuttles.” 

“They were doing a circuit from Union Station down H Street all the way to The Argonaut and back to the other side,” Folkman explains. Next up came the DC Street Car, which Folkman says killed business during construction. Then finally, Uber. 

“All of the sudden Lincoln town cars would be dropping off gaggles of people and they’d find you,” he says. “They gave the whole block a real good boost.” He agrees with Baker that one of the best things about Uber and Lyft is that people can more easily visit multiple neighborhoods in one night out on the town. “You can get anywhere and it’s pretty affordable and relatively safe.”

While trips are increasing to D.C.’s newest dining neighborhoods, it may be a while before a restaurant in Ivy City or the Union Market district take home a “Lyftie Award.” The company keeps track of the bars and restaurants that customers request rides to the most. In 2016, the Foggy Bottom location of Founding Farmers was the most frequented restaurant, and Clarendon’s Don Tito was the most visited bar.

Photo credit Flickr User Elvert Barnes