- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

A third restaurant trying to find success on the ground floor of the Verizon Center has closed after a little more than a year.

Drinx, which billed itself as a contemporary neighborhood eatery, is the latest in a series of restaurants that can’t seem to stay open in the space at the entertainment center’s corner of Sixth and F streets Northwest.

Since the Verizon Center opened in December 1997, the corner has been home to a sports bar, an upscale steakhouse and a neighborhood bar. None has captured the success of restaurants around the corner on Seventh Street Northwest.

“It’s all in the timing and the concepts,” said Keith Sellars, vice president of retail and development for the Washington, DC Economic Partnership, a public-private organization charged with bringing retailers into the city. “The first two … were too early. I think the last one was a concept problem.”

Drinx’s New York management company, Patina Restaurant Group, formerly known as Restaurant Associates, did not return calls for comment.

The venue’s history goes back to Velocity Grill, which opened with the MCI Center and closed about 18 months later. It struggled because it was so large — 20,000 square feet on three floors — and couldn’t do enough business to pay rent on all of the space. It owed $540,000 in back taxes and $780,000 in back rent when it closed, according to a 1999 article in The Washington Times.

“It was before the area got redeveloped, on that side of the building. Nothing had been redeveloped in the area when [the Verizon Center, then called the MCI Center] first opened,” said Sheila Francis, a Verizon Center spokeswoman.

Since then, the space has been divided and each business has turned over at least once. The second floor became F Street Sports Bar for a while and is now Dewar’s 12 Clubhouse.

The ground floor went on to be Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse. It was managed by Thompson Hospitality LP, a Herndon food management company, and the Compass Group, Restaurant Associates’ former parent company. The steakhouse closed in mid-2004 and reopened as Drinx in August 2005.

Drinx was an American cuisine restaurant known for good hamburgers and a focus on, predictably, drinks. The bar had an extensive drink menu with specialties such as a berry white martini and a grapefruit vodka cocktail.

Just a block away from Drinx is Chinatown’s Seventh Street Northwest, arguably the trendiest stretch of restaurants and nightlife in the District, with such establishments as Rosa Mexicano, District ChopHouse & Brewery and Clyde’s of Gallery Place, making Drinx’s lack of success all the more surprising.

But while hopping from one restaurant or bar to another on Seventh Street is a straight shot north or south, Drinx is a turn down F Street, which is relatively quiet on non-game nights. In fact, Drinx’s facade is hard to see from Seventh Street.

Mr. Sellars thinks a restaurant can work in the space.

He said that when the Newseum opens at Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest next fall, development will extend east to Sixth Street.

“That’s going to put that location in the middle of everything,” he said.

The Verizon Center said it’s in the process of finding another tenant.

“It might be a restaurant, it might be something else,” Ms. Francis said.

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