Revenge is best served cold… with batteries

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘vitelone’

So, what would you do? You spend hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing to renovate your historic building to expand your hunting and fishing shop, consulting with the historic preservation board at every step of the way, only to have the principal member of the board change his mind at the last minute, preventing you from moving forward, and forcing your store to close.

If you’re Michael Zarlenga of the Trophy Room, you rent your storefront out to a sex shop to annoy your neighbors. I love it. This is brilliant. But I think my favorite part was the random Old Town passerby who said, “It’s caused a lot of buzz.” BWAHAHA, I see what you did there.  

But seriously, there’s a lot of handwringing about whether or not this kind of business is appropriate to a historic district, and I can only ask, “Why? Did people not have sex in the 1800s? I’m pretty sure that’s how we all got here.”

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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5 thoughts on “Revenge is best served cold… with batteries

  1. Without getting to, merits of the new um…commerce happening in Old Town – let me just say that the city is NOTORIOUSLY bad at fostering anything that even resembles successful small businesses. Radley wrote a great piece about this a while back…

  2. While I love Balko with an intensity that should probably make my darling fiancée nervous, I think he’s dead on with his facts but over-selling his conclusion. Small business owners certainly have less ability to absorb those moronic fees and incidental costs, and maybe they’re sometimes the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but overall it’s the cost of rents on Duke that are going to inevitably result in Gap-i-fication.

    That aside, there’s got to be some kind of reigning in of these historic preservation boards. It’s insane that they can force companies big and small (dare I say from Apple to Zarlenga?) to play Oliver Twist begging for more, making them return over and over again with new plans.

    If they’re going to set themselves up as final arbiters they need to actually arbitrate and provide solutions along with denials, as well as strict standards UP FRONT that they HONOR before people spend a ton of money on architects and plans.

  3. Hey Don. The guidelines aren’t a secret, and hundreds of people get projects approved every year with no trouble. It can be tricky to successfully build something contemporary in the historic context, but anyone (doesn’t have to be an architect) that understands the character of Old Town can get a permit, often in just a matter of days. The Board’s meetings are open to the public, so I’m sure you’ve seen for yourself how hard the members work with the applicants to find common-sense solutions that meet their needs and preserve the history and architecture of the city.

    See for yourself:

  4. Hey SA: I guess $350,000 in fees and three years of consultations with City “experts” didn’t yield a common sense result in this case. A system that relies on non-binding guidelines, allowing petty bureaucrats to run applicants around in circles for years, all the while pretending to negotiate in good faith, is the very definition of Kafkaesque — which is precisely why it is embraced with such gusto in the People’s Republic of Alexandria.

  5. Sure, the squeaky wheels get the grease, but that’s because the sticky wheels are the ones that squeak.

    We never hear from the hundreds of permit applicants that come to the board with good designs that meet the published guidelines, because they get approved, do their construction, and go on about their business. Only those that want to dodge the system get upset and make the papers.

    Additionally, we often underestimate how much the thousands of residents and hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy and benefit from the unique historic character of the city, which the board has been essential in protecting. Unfortunately the ‘pleased’ aren’t as vocal as the opponents, so the misinformation about “petty bureaucrats” continues.