Georgetown sees solid year despite retail, restaurant shuttering in DC

(Courtesy Georgetown BID)

The Georgetown Business Improvement District has decided to do an inventory of its own backyard, amid reports of retail and restaurant closings in D.C. this year.

But 2023 has been a solid year for one of the District’s oldest and most established dining and shopping destinations.

While 27 restaurants and retail stores in Georgetown have closed this year, including Banana Republic, Bangkok Joe’s and two bank branches, openings have far outpaced closings.

“Our vacancy rates on the restaurant and retail side are back down to where they were pre-pandemic,” said Faith Broderick, economic development director for the Georgetown BID. “This year alone, we have had over 55 retail and restaurants open; and we expect around 30 to 40 more to open next year.”

According to the Georgetown BID, the “appear vacant” rate is 12%, including buildings not currently leased and those that are currently vacant but leased by incoming tenants. The “true vacant” rate is 6%, half what it was two years ago.

About 60% of businesses in Georgetown are locally-owned. The BID said the mix is the same for those opening next year.

Georgetown is on track to see 12 million visitors this year, more than twice the 14th Street Corridor or The Wharf, and more than three times Bethesda Row and Union Market.

A pandemic holdover that is now (probably) permanent in Georgetown has also transformed its dining scene. “Streateries” — approved throughout the D.C. area during the pandemic — allowed restaurants to add outdoor dining areas by occupying portions of sidewalks and street lanes, line vast swaths of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, more than any other dining destination in D.C.

Streateries have meant that more than 40 Georgetown restaurants now have almost year-round outdoor dining that would not have otherwise.

An unexpected bonus of Georgetown’s streateries? Vehicle crashes have been reduced by 60% on Wisconsin Avenue and M Street compared to 2019.

“There is a combination of factors, but I think in particular, narrow streets always tend to improve driving conditions and the safety conditions on our roads,” Broderick said.

Georgetown’s extensive streateries network, funded by the BID — through fees paid by businesses — and by the District, includes semi-permanent, but removable decking that expands sidewalk dining space by 9 to 15 feet.

A few Georgetown restaurants marked milestones this year. Martin’s Tavern celebrated its 90th anniversary. Filomena Ristorante marked 40 years in business, and Cafe Milano reached its 30th anniversary.

Others earned notable awards.

Middle Eastern restaurant Yellow was added to the Michelin Guide, and Baked & Wired’s Teresa Velazquez was named Pastry Chef of the Year, with a RAMMY Award from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. French Bistro Lutèce also won a RAMMY Award for Best Service Program of the Year, and Lutèce chef Isabel Coss made Food & Wine’s 2023 list of Best New Chefs in America.

Other 2023 statistics the Georgetown BID boasts: Three new hotels, five new residential projects, 93,000 Capital BikeShare rides and 15,500 C&O Canal boat riders.

List of retailers
(Courtesy Georgetown BID)
Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up