The slow, difficult end of Bad Saint

The former site of Bad Saint. Photo: Chelsea Cirruzzo/Axios

The recent closing of Bad Saint stunned followers of the pioneering Filipino restaurant, a favorite of D.C. and national chowhounds alike after Bon Appétit six years ago named it America’s second-best new restaurant.

Why it matters: Although there’s hope that COVID-19 will become endemic, pandemic pressures continue to mess with small businesses in particular

Cuneyt Dil
Jul 15, 2022 - News

The D.C. region's tech salaries nearly rival Silicon Valley

Data: Carta. Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Tech workers in the D.C. region are seeing salaries nearly as high as their Silicon Valley peers.

Why it matters: Diversifying our economy is a top goal for regional leaders, given the perception — and, in part, the reality — that we are a government town.

Cuneyt Dil
Jul 14, 2022 - News

D.C. area second in nation for life sciences talent

San Francisco, who?

The Washington/Baltimore region beats the Bay Area in life sciences research talent, ranking #2 in the nation behind Boston, according to the commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE.

Why it matters: Attracting new jobs is critical to the region’s success, and life sciences is a well-paying and growing field; the number of U.S. graduates in biological and biomedical sciences doubled in 15 years.

  • The pandemic has elevated the sector’s importance, too.

Zoom in: Once dubbed “DNA Alley,” the I-270 corridor in Montgomery County is the industry’s anchor in the region.

  • AstraZeneca, Novavax (which just got the green light for its COVID-19 vaccine), and United Therapeutics are among the firms in the county, along with federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the FDA.
  • The sector has continued to flourish, a bright spot despite the high level of vacant office space in the county.

What’s next: A life sciences hub at a site in North Bethesda, the erstwhile White Flint, where you may remember county officials had once hoped to lure Amazon’s HQ2.

  • County Executive Marc Elrich envisions a work and academic center built on the 15-acre property, owned by Metro and on the Red Line.

Details: Elrich and county officials tell Axios they are finalizing talks with UMD for an academic center dedicated to artificial intelligence, seen as increasingly pivotal in vaccine and biomedical research.

  • The short-term plan is for UMD to open a 25,000-square-foot space at the site, possibly by spring of next year, says Jake Weissmann, a top county economic development official.
  • Down the line, the plan is to find a developer to transform the site into a mixed-use project.

“Our goal is, beef up our life sciences presence and bring in the university role to increase the pipeline of talent,” Elrich says.

Cuneyt Dil
Jun 29, 2022 - Sports

Town Talker: Ted Leonsis, would-be king of Washington sports?

Illustration of sports symbols as medals.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

It’s been two months since the Lerner family began exploring a sale of the Washington Nationals.

What I’m hearing: Ted Leonsis is very much interested, per several sources. Out-of-town fat cats are buzzing around.

  • And no, Jeff Bezos is not part of the process.

D.C.'s food truck fix

PhoWheels food truck.
Photo: Paige Hopkins/Axios

Throughout the pandemic, restaurant owners have turned to food trucks for survival by literally meeting diners where they are: working and eating at home. 

What’s happening: You might’ve noticed a steady stream of restaurants-on-wheels stopping by your neighborhood these last two years. Most local food trucks have left downtown streets behind and have migrated to residential areas instead. 

Meanwhile, the fleet of trucks in the District has expanded — to 198 as of last month.

  • According to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which monitors the industry, that was a 21.5% increase from April 2020.

Why it matters: The pandemic has been absolutely brutal for restaurants, and even with more diners out and about, the industry still faces a raft of headwinds. But food trucks are helping some business owners stay afloat, all while bringing dinner to our doorsteps.   

What they’re saying: PhoWheels owner Tuan Vo says his truck is bringing in more revenue now than before the pandemic. He’s also seen an increase in private bookings for weddings, festivals, and birthday parties. 

  • Vo says that pre-pandemic, the truck would usually be booked only one or two months in advance, but he’s currently booked on most Fridays and Saturdays until November.

Pepe, a food truck by José Andrés, has shifted to focusing on private and community events during the pandemic. Sous chef José Rivera emailed Axios that the truck is "incredibly busy" and is open now more than it was before the pandemic.

Yes, but: The food truck fix hasn’t endured for everyone. The mobile businesses are expensive to maintain and tough to staff because at least one employee has to be certified to drive the truck. 

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken owner Elliot Spaisman says the early days of the pandemic were lucrative for his truck: “It was wild those first couple months.” But revenue slowed as the pandemic continued.

  • He shuttered the truck last fall due to staffing issues and pricey repairs. 

Similarly, Roaming Roster cut its fleet of four food trucks to two. 

  • On the flip side, it has opened six new brick-and-mortar locations and now all but one of its restaurants are mainly in residential areas. 

What we’re watching: As the pandemic goes on and work-from-home lifestyles adjust, the food truck scene may further evolve as restaurant owners continue searching for ways to attract customers.

Paige Hopkins
Apr 27, 2022 - Business

From daycare to donuts: Inflation's local impact

Animated illustration of a scared face made from the zeros on the top corner of a one hundred dollar bill
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Some of Washington’s favorite pastimes, from socializing at restaurants to going to the gym, are being impacted by the highest inflation in decades. Unfortunately, it looks like high prices are here to stay.

Why it matters: Right as more offices open, warm-weather activities are upon us, and people are stacking their calendars, life is getting more expensive.

Washington's office vacancy rate remains high

Data: CBRE. Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

The pandemic ushered in an era of historic highs in office vacancy throughout the D.C. region, but not all neighborhoods have been impacted equally.

What’s happening: In Q1 of this year, suburban Maryland had the lowest office vacancy at 17.7%, which represents the amount of unleased space. Northern Virginia had the highest at 21.3%. D.C.’s rate is 18.4%

Paige Hopkins
Apr 11, 2022 - News

D.C.'s top employers are slowly returning to the office

Illustration of an office water cooler becoming pixelated
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The District’s top employers have varying return-to-office policies, and many are embracing hybrid models.

Why it matters: Short of a radical rethinking of the region’s central business districts, the post-COVID revitalization of those areas largely hinges on the return of office workers who used to spend time dining and shopping at nearby businesses.

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