This post has been updated on 1/3 to add more details based on architectural drawings and plans sent to DCRA.
Popular DC restaurants Le Diplomate (14th Street) and St. Anselm (Union Market area) caused a stir on social media this week after opening up nearly identical dining structures in the parking spots in front of the eateries (i.e., “streateries”). The spots are both part of the 20-restaurant STARR Restaurants group (founded by chef Stephen Starr).
The semi-enclosed structures contain multiple partioned stalls, each of which contains one table with chairs serving one party at a time (either 2 or 4 people at a time). Even more striking-each stall has its own electric-powered overhead pendant light as well as a vent providing heat from a central source (each structure has a building (or 2) at the end which contains the heating unit-apparently a condensing gas furnace (possibly this one made by Payne which costs approxmately $2300) and a 100 gallon propane tank). The 3 walls for each stall are made up of wood going up to waist high with plexiglass above it separating the stalls from one another and the street; the ceiling is metal. The side of each stall that faces the restaurant consists of a several secured semi-rigid plastic strips with a 3 foot or so wide permanent opening for the entrance to the stall (I’ve spotted servers speaking to diners standing outside the entrance).
For more details: I’ve obtained copies of the architectural drawings/blueprints from DCRA for Le Diplomate (1, 2). Multiple permits, including a construction permit and a certificate of occupancy were required from DCRA. I couldn’t locate the ones for St. Anselm but they should be similar. These were designed by Stokes Architecture and Design in Philadelphia.
Although these have more than 2 walls, these structures appear compliant with DC’s indoor dining pause which permits “[e]nclosed outdoor seating structures such as plastic domes or igloos that are intended for individual parties of six (6) guests or fewer.” Because of the partition, parties can be within 6 feet of the party next door and still be compliant with the rules.
These structures did not come cheap; an industry source pegs the cost of the larger structures in front of Le Diplomate on 14th Street at close to $80,000. Another restaurant owner estimated a $75,000-$100,000 cost. However, a construction contract submitted to DCRA shows that it cost $45k and the restaurant owner served as the general contractor, so unclear the discrepancy. Each business received the $6,000 Winter Ready Streatery Grant from DC. But they seem popular and will likely be quite helpful for revenue and employment for staff the the colder months.
Le Diplomate calls their stalls “Streetside Chateus” (owing to its French cuisine) while steakhouse St. Anselm terms them “Streetside Shacks” (not sure this one, it’s a steakhouse though they call themselves a “tavern” hilariously). The 24 Streetside Chateus line both 14th Street (16 stalls seating 48 in 780 square feet) and Q Street NW (8 stalls each seating 4; 32 in all in 480 square feet) in front of the restauarant and are extensive, St. Anselm by comparison has a more modest operation with 12 stalls in 2 structures (stalls alternate seating 2 and 4) with another 6 in a structure still under construction, all on the 5th St NE side, which will seat approximately.
Some wonder why DC didn’t allow similar actual brick and mortar indoor dining in stalls or one party at a time when they’re allowing things like this? Who knows (there was no explanation provided by the city). I speculate that the city may have thought it unfair for it to provide winter-ready streatery grants that helped spots build these structures and ban them; it is easier for investigators to spot and administer since the structures are more easily visible than inside (bright line rule: no eating allowed in the main structure). I know some have been concerned for customers due to lack of ventilation – I have not been – my polling has shown roughly 80% of people who go out are dining with people they already spend time unmasked socially non-distant and I would be extremely surprised if people going to these stalls are already not part of the same household or COVID crew. I do have some concern for staff-Laura Hayes of the CIty Paper documented in detail some of the issues for serving more enclosed spaces-but the forced air heat and the relatively wide permanent opening seemingly mitigates this.
An email and Instagram message sent to Le Diplomate was not responded to by publication.
More pics of St. Anselm’s Streetside Shacks are below