Despite rash of burglaries, restaurants ‘here to stay’ on H Street

Bronze restaurant owner Keem Hughley speaks to a police officer, among those increasing patrols along the H Street corridor after a rash of burglaries there. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

It’s a popular nightlife spot in the District. H Street Northeast has a full-blown restaurant scene, and some of them have been hit by a string of burglaries.

D.C. police investigators are using community videos, in part, to find who is burglarizing restaurants and small businesses along H Street, said Chief Robert Contee.

“I know that some people are only touched by, you know, when we talk about violent crime things, but if you’re a small business owner, and you put your life savings into a business, and someone is coming in there and stealing things … I mean, that hits personal for you,” Contee said.

Just a few doors down from the press conference where Contee and Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke about her new legislation to reduce crime in the city, sits the restaurant Maketto, which was burglarized. Keem Hughley is a part-owner of the H Street market-style eatery.

“I mean, it’s tough, especially for restaurants. It’s a grueling business. So the last thing you want somebody to do is kind of [steal], especially for Maketto, that gives so much to the community,” Hughley said.

Despite the risk, he opened his African diaspora-inspired restaurant Bronze six months ago, noting that crime is not just an H Street problem.

“It’s happening at Le Diplomate, you know, and they’re still busy. So we’re all dealing with the problem, but I think if we work together, we’ll figure out a way,” Hughley said.

“People everywhere are worried about being out in their communities. And I get that, I get that. But I want people to not worry about H Street. H Street is a safe place,” said local ANC Commissioner Mike Velasquez.

Business owners along the corridor agree that risk is part of doing business in a big city, but they still hope the police can get the one person who Contee believes is responsible for most of the overnight break-ins.

“I think H street is always going to be a street that people patronize and for the immediate shock, and then it kind of wears off that that day or two, it’s just we keep having to happen over and over again. But it’s still a beautiful block. I say every day like, ‘Another day on H. Let’s do it,'” Hughley said with a smile.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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