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We learned today that Dave Chappelle, yes the Dave Chappelle, has signed on as a potential investor with the Diner/Tryst/comedy club planned for the old Church of the Reformer at 14th and T Streets NW, the development plan we wrote about in July.
The bad news? That plan is close to imploding. Sources close to the deal say that the earlier agreement to lease the space from the current owner fell through. Rather than let their dream die, Diner/Tryst/Open City owner Constantine Stavropoulos and DC-Improv and Riot Act comedy impresario John Xereas, along with a few others—-including Chappelle, a Xereas acquaintance who has D.C. roots—-worked to get a deal together to buy the building. The bid is in the neighborhood of $9 million. The problem? They’re not the only ones interested.
Big-box furniture outfit Room & Board, based in Minneapolis, has also put in a bid for the building, according to a real estate source. Although the bid is said to be close to what the locals have offered to pay, the current owners put their trust in furniture. The Room & Board bid has been accepted, the source said, albeit with a 60-day window where it can be retracted.
Stavropoulos, when contacted to confirm the news, said he could not openly discuss the negotiations, but added that he hoped “Room & Board realizes it’s bad business karma to come into a spot where local D.C. businesses have defined a wonderful vision that is shared by local D.C. residents.”
“We spent months working on this project, months cultivating neighborhood support and generating excitement for this,” he continued. “We have a viable alternative and the financial backing to make it happen. If Room & Board wants to come to D.C., that’s great. Just don’t step on local businesses’ and resident’s dreams to do it.”
The latest incarnation of his group’s plan had the restaurant on the first floor, the comedy club on the second, and an indie movie “microcinema” house on the third, in addition to developing the property next door to 1840 14th St. as a yoga studio and dance space.
Xereas says he’s been working on the 14th and T plan for more than six months and, at this point, “we’ve still got our fingers crossed, we’ve got everything crossed” that the local plan will prevail.
Room & Board spokesperson John Loer says he is aware that his company was looking to sign a lease in D.C. but referred more detailed questions to Chief Financial Officer Mark Miller, who was unavailable.
(City Paper photograph by Pilar Vergara)