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Bethesda retail shuffles as chocolate bar opens

Thursday - 8/1/2013, 8:23am  ET

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Customers line the window bar at Max Brenner Chocolate Bar in downtown Bethesda on Wednesday morning. Even the coffee drinks come with chocolate in them. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
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BETHESDA, Md. - On an overcast Wednesday morning, a group of co-workers sits under an umbrella outside Bethesda's newest restaurant ready to dig into plates of chocolate -- chocolate chunks pizza, strawberry hazelnut crepes, banana split waffles and, of course, a cup of hot chocolate.

While some customers are excited about the opening of Max Brenner Chocolate Bar on Woodmont Avenue, downtown Bethesda retail is doing a shuffle as a few businesses move in while another moves out.

In mid-September, restaurant and bar Ri Ra will move to Georgetown's M Street. Georgetown offered a more economical option, the company confirms.

"The decision unfortunately came down to a business one, with lease renewal terms that were not favorable," says Andrew Christie, mid-Atlantic group business director for the Ri Ra Group.

The Elm Street property is part of the Shoppes of Bethesda, managed by The Draiman Companies.

At the opening day of the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar, managers shared their confidence in their business' staying power in a high-rent area. Global CEO of Max Brenner stores, Sam Borgese, says the decision to open in Bethesda had to do with the city's growing reputation as a restaurant hub.

"Washington, D.C. is this new culinary center on the East Coast. It's very competitive to New York, Philly and Boston. There's a tremendous amount of resurgence of social network that I really think is incredible," Borgese says of choosing Bethesda as its first U.S. chocolate bar location.

Across from Ri Ra, a new Spanish tapas restaurant Montaditos is under construction, plastered with posters advertising open positions.

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