Axios D.C.

Picture of the D.C. skyline.

Happy Wednesday!

🌫 Today's weather: Expect some fog and potential for showers, with a high of 74. The Capital Weather gang says don't except fall to return for at least ten more days.

Situational awareness: The CEO of the Washington Spirit stepped down yesterday amid allegations of a toxic workplace and a letter by team players calling for his resignation, the Washington Post reports.

Today's newsletter is 925 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: πŸŒƒ Downtown deserted

A view of an empty Connecticut Avenue NW south of Dupont Circle

South of Dupont Circle on Monday 2:50 p.m. Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

Downtown Washington is still missing many of the workers and visitors who once squeezed into Metro trains, lined up outside sandwich shops, and stayed at swanky new hotels.

  • On a recent jaunt, Cuneyt found eerily quiet parks from Dupont Circle to the newly renovated Franklin Park β€” and way more open parking spaces than he remembers two years ago.

Why it matters: More than 19 months into the pandemic, the foot traffic needed to reinvigorate downtown D.C. has yet to materialize, thanks to the Delta variant that has delayed the return of office workers and tourists.

  • According to surveys and data from DowntownDC BID and Kastle, only about 1 in 4 workers has returned to in-person work downtown, BID spokesperson Emily Mooney tells Axios.
  • And office occupancy downtown is between 80% and 85%, several percentage points lower than rates in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland, says Neil Albert, head of the BID.
  • Hotel bookings in the downtown business district are only 49% of pre-pandemic levels, compared to 58% in the rest of the city.

The scene: That means far fewer patrons at lunchtime joints like Greek Deli on 19th Street NW.

  • "The business, of course, is not like it used to be, because people still work from home," owner Kostas Fostieris told Axios inside his carryout.
  • He said his revenue is down about 25% compared to pre-pandemic sales, but is optimistic about improving conditions.
  • "I see a little bit of light in the tunnel," said Fostieris, who has run the deli for over 32 years.

Meanwhile, it's easier than ever to find an open table. "I mean, I can get a reservation in most restaurants, which is a sign that restaurants aren't doing that great," said Albert, noting that some no longer even open for the full week.

Read the full story.

2. πŸ“‰ Metro's steep decline downtown

Data: WMATA; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Daily Metrorail ridership downtown remains dramatically below 2019-levels, according to the most recently available Metro data from August.

3. No-tent zone resistance grows

An encampment in NoMa

Photo: Chelsea Cirruzzo/Axios

Calls from housing advocates to stop the creation of no-tent zones have increased since a man was hospitalized during a NoMa encampment clearing on Monday.

And D.C. officials say they will be moving ahead with another planned encampment clean-up on Nov. 4 with some protocol changes.

Why it matters: The man hospitalized was inside a tent when he was lifted by a piece of heavy machinery being used by the city to clear the homeless encampment on L Street.

  • The incident happened during a city effort to clear a homeless encampment and create a no-tent zone at the L and M Street underpasses as part of a pilot program to house some residents temporarily.

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless released a statement yesterday calling for the city to stop creating no-tent zones and stop all encampment clearings in accordance with CDC guidance.

  • The group called the L Street clearing "a dangerous effort with disastrous implications for some encampment residents."
  • They join similar calls from the Way Home Campaign, a campaign of community and non-profit partners, and more than 700 D.C. residents who have signed a letter to city officials, including 150 who signed on after Monday afternoon's incident.

Driving the news: Yesterday evening, Turnage and other DMHHS officials told community members the city plans to move ahead with the next permanent encampment clearing at New Jersey Ave and O St. NW on Nov. 4.

Jamal Weldon, a program manager with DMHHS, said the city has begun housing outreach to residents at the New Jersey Ave encampment.

  • Of 48 residents at the encampment, Weldon said, 16 are not on the list of residents waiting for housing programs. He said these 16 residents likely came to the encampment after outreach had begun.

At upcoming encampment clearings, Weldon says changes will be made to protocol, including establishing a firmer perimeter and opening tents to search for occupants.

Read the full story.

4. Around the beltway: Crash data incomplete

Illustration of a text-message balloon that looks like the Washington D.C. flag, with the stars fading in and out like a text-message waiting animation.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸš“ A third of crashes during a six-week period where a driver hit a cyclist or a pedestrian were not publicly reported by police, a new report says.

πŸ’° A pilot program will give $500 a month to 200 low-income families in Arlington for 18 months, WTOP reports.

🍺 After a year-long hiatus, Beuchert's Saloon reopens on Oct. 20, Washington City Paper reports.

5. πŸŽ™οΈ Taylor Swift figures into Virginia gov race

Glenn Youngkin and Taylor Swift are pictured

Photo courtesy of Terry for Virginia

Terry McAuliffe is highlighting a saga involving Taylor Swift and his Republican rival in his campaign ads for Virginia governor.

Axios' Alexi McCammond reports that the McAuliffe campaign's "five-figure digital buy β€” while relatively small β€” seeks to draw on Swift's cultural appeal and relevance to win over younger voters."

  • The ads focus on Glenn Youngkin's role as co-CEO of the Carlyle Group in buying Swift's master recordings in 2019.
  • In recent years, Swift has publicly clashed with the Carlyle Group over rights to her most famous songs.

6. Pic du jour: The drink combo of the season

A picture of the pumpkin spice espresso martini.

Photo courtesy of Red Hen

The espresso martini was the drink of the summer but as fall settles in, the Red Hen is adapting for the season.

  • The Bloomingdale Italian eatery introduced their pumpkin spice espresso martini this week, which includes Republic Restorative's civic vodka, cold brew, coffee liquor, amaro, and pumpkin spice sweet cream.
  • Bar Director Sam Nellis says they use sweetened condensed milk and agave nectar to give the drink a creamy feel, much like a latte.

"People snark at popular things," he says. But if pumpkin spice lattes are popular during the fall months, "there's probably a good version of it," he says.

  • Plus, there's no reason why we can't have a little fun, he adds.

For the PSL fans out there: Washingtonian magazine has a list of cozy fall drinks to find around town.

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