DCity Smokehouse, HalfSmoke, and more to open in Wards 7 and 8 with new grant funding Eight businesses got $9 million from a D.C. grant to open locations East of the River.
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DCity Smokehouse, HalfSmoke, and more to open in Wards 7 and 8 with new grant funding

HalfSmoke's original location near 7th and Florida Avenue N.W. The restaurant is opening two new locations in Ward 7. Ted Eytan/Flickr / https://n.pr/3F2EfHB hide caption

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Ted Eytan/Flickr / https://n.pr/3F2EfHB

The District is helping restaurants with a presence in D.C. launch other locations in wards 7 and 8, places that have traditionally been known as food deserts because of the few grocery stores and sit-down restaurants.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said today that $49 million is available for the grant program called the Food Access Fund. She made the announcement at FishScale, a Black-owned fast-casual restaurant in Shaw.

Seven restaurants and a grocery store were among the first round of businesses to divide up $9 million. The grant can go toward building out a restaurant, paying rent, and hiring employees. The goal is to "eradicate food deserts and create employment opportunities and economic vibrancy," according to the mayor's office.

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"We have an incredible amount of entrepreneurial talent and creativity in DC, especially in our restaurant and foodservice industries – it's just not equally distributed or equally funded," Bowser said in the release. "We already know that we have residents in every part of our city who are eager to support local businesses; the Food Access Grants are not only delivering more food options to wards 7 and 8, they're delivering new opportunities to stay local and shop local."

The first recipients of the grant are:

  • DCity Smokehouse: a Black-owned business serving smokehouse BBQ.  New location will be in Anacostia, Ward 8.
  • HalfSmoke: A restaurant that serves up D.C.'s signature half-smokes and craft cocktails. Two new locations at Skyland Town Center and Minnesota Avenue in Ward 7.
  • Highland Café: a local café. New location in the Penn Branch neighborhood in Ward 7.
  • MLK Deli: serving traditional sandwiches. New location in Deanwood in Ward 7.
  • Roots 657 Café: an eat-in and take-out café and market. New location at Skyland in Ward 7.
  • Sala Thai: a Thai restaurant. New location in the Hill East neighborhood of Ward 7.
  • Sweet Tooth: a gourmet specialty cakes and pastries bakery.  New location in Anacostia in Ward 8.
  • Fresh Food Factory: a grocery store specializing in healthy food. New location in Kenilworth in Ward 7.

Andre McCain, the founder of the restaurant HalfSmoke, remembers growing up in Deanwood where most of the food was McDonald's or carryouts.

"Healthy, accessible, affordable food East of the River is a major priority, not only in terms of the safety of people, but also to catalyze these beautiful, wonderful neighborhoods that so often we forget about," McCain said at today's press conference.

Timelines for each restaurant are different, but D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio says most should open over the coming months or year.

D.C. wants grocery stores, restaurants, and fast-casual restaurants to apply for the next round of applications that opens soon.

Grocery stores are rare east of the Anacostia River. There's only one supermarket in Ward 8 and two in Ward 7, neighborhoods with a combined population of about 150,000 people, as of 2019. Good Food Markets has locations in underserved areas of the city and will open another location at 4001 S. Capitol Street S.W. near Congress Heights on Saturday. German grocery chain Lidl, meanwhile, is set to open a Ward 7 location, at the Skyland Town Center mixed-use development. Skyland is also expected to bring restaurants to Southeast D.C., an area with only a handful of sit-down dining options.

Bowser also used the presser to kick off DMV Black Restaurant Week, which runs through November 14. The weeklong event was established in 2018, with an aim of promoting the many local Black-owned restaurants and food businesses around the region, with menu discounts, parties, and panel discussions on food history. This year's theme for DMV Black Restaurant Week is "embracing our diversity through food, beverage, and music." A full list of restaurants participating is available here.

"Our region is a melting pot of black culture from all around the world and we are going to celebrate the black makers of food, beverages, and music from the Diaspora that is found right here," Furard Tate, co-founder of the event, said in a release.

Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) said she hopes to get back out to restaurants.

"As we celebrate Black restaurants during Black Restaurant Week, we have to remember that investing in Black businesses is investing in our African American community at large," she said at the press conference. "If we care about those communities, we have to shop local, we have to shop at Black businesses, we have to eat at Black restaurants. And we have to put our money where our mouth is."

This story is from DCist.com, the local news site of WAMU.

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