|Jackie's, not long for this world. All photos by the author.|
But yesterday, she announced plans to close Jackie's and the adjacent Sidebar this March in order to focus on opening more restaurants in DC. (Thankfully, the Quarry House Tavern, which she also owns, will not only stay put but reopen in its permanent home this spring.) It suggests that Silver Spring, like Montgomery County as a whole, have a lot more competition for drawing and keeping good local businesses.
I've heard rumors about Jackie's closing for over a year. But when I heard the news for real yesterday, I was deeply frustrated for four reasons:
- How could a Montgomery County native (she was born in Wheaton and graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School) who took a chance on Silver Spring all those years ago just give up when things are finally getting good?
- If Greenbaum wanted to try new concepts, such as a new Italian restaurant in Petworth that will gain most of the restaurant's staff, why not do it in Silver Spring? Literally thousands of apartments have been built or are being built within a few blocks of her restaurant. Is those new residents' money (or existing residents' money) no good to her?
- What does this say to other restauranteurs about working in Montgomery County? Greenbaum has been a critic of the county's liquor laws. While she said they have nothing to do with her closing Jackie's, she told Bethesda Beat there's "no way" she'd ever open in the county again.
- And what does this say about Silver Spring? Many retailers and restauranteurs are already reluctant to come here, even if there's money to be made here. Greenbaum has long been a booster for Silver Spring, and notes that she isn't closing because her restaurant isn't doing well. Could her decision to focus on DC discourage others from taking a chance on our community, as she did?
|Greenbaum outside Sidebar in 2010.|
- "We still very much struggle with being in the suburbs. My friends who live in Adams Morgan won't come here. They act like they're driving to China.
- "There's no foot traffic. You rely on your friends and word of mouth and hope you become a destination. So you have to do something special."
That landscape looks very different today. Silver Spring is a more thriving place than it's ever been, and there are spots like Denizens Brewing Company that can draw the cool kids up from DC. But it has way more competition for residents and businesses who want an urban or urbane environment, whether it's inner-city spots like 14th Street or suburban centers like the Mosaic District.
It's something for county leaders to think about in their ongoing quest to draw Millennials and nightlife. Montgomery County's liquor laws are a real deterrent to getting businesses to open here, but that's not the whole story. Silver Spring might have people and activity and disposable income, but is there, as Greenbaum put it, "something special" that sets it apart from so many other places?
I would say yes, and if you're reading this blog, you probably would too. The key is saying it loudly enough that it can be heard above the din of dozens of other neighborhoods each trying to be the next great place.