Chef Johnny Spero to open new bar and restaurant in D.C.’s East End

Property Group Partners is adding a pair of food and drink options to the retail mix at Capitol Crossing, including a new bar and restaurant from Chef Johnny Spero and an Israeli-influenced bakery as it seeks to generate additional office leasing activity at the mixed-use project on D.C.’s East End.

Bar Spero signed a lease in mid-December for about 7,000 square feet at 250 Massachusetts Ave. NW, about six months after Chef Tzurit Or’s Tatte Bakery & Cafe leased around 4,000 square feet at the same address. They’re the first two retail leases in the roughly 560,000-square-foot building, which was the second to deliver as part of Property Group Partners’ 2.2 million-square-foot development atop the Interstate 395 Center Leg Freeway.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the menu or style of Bar Spero would be. We’ve reached out to the chef for more details and will update this post if we hear back.

Spero, who previously cooked at Komi and minibar, now owns Reverie, a high-end restaurant that he had been planning for years and opened in 2018. He just recently began running a pop-up pizza joint out of the semi-hidden Georgetown space, at least for the month of January, Eater reported.

PGP, represented by CBRE (NYSE: CBRE) Senior Vice President Kelly Silverman, has sought to put greater emphasis on local talent and notable names for the project’s retail space. That push included landing a Japanese food hall from famed Sushi Taro alum Makoto Okuwa and L’Ardent, a restaurant from Unconventional Diner’s Eric Eden, and it helped finish off retail leasing in the first building at 200 Massachusetts Ave.

David Happ, president of PGP Development, said the aim is to create a greater sense of place for the area around Capitol Crossing, which is more heavily dominated by a daytime population of office workers.

“Now we have four very, very high-quality tenants coming into the project,” Happ said. “The project was groundbreaking in that it went into a neighborhood that didn’t exist before, and now will have a neighborhood and retail vitality, and a livelihood after 5 p.m.”

The larger goal is to attract more office tenants to the development, which has been slower to take off than some expected. There are no office leases at 250 Massachusetts Ave. yet. Though, 200 Massachusetts Ave., spanning about 430,500 square feet, is around 70% leased with tenants including the American Petroleum Institute and WeWork. Smaller tenants in the building include the Portland Cement Association, the ESOP Association and law firm Ice Miller LLP. PGP has retained JLL brokers Doug Mueller and Evan Behr to oversee office leasing.Happ said PGP was impressed with Or and her bakery, which is expanding into D.C. with new locations in Bethesda and in D.C., in the West End and near Dupont Circle. He felt Spero’s restaurant and bar concept would give office dwellers more after-hours options in the area.

“We wanted people to have a place to go and have a drink and a nice meal,” Happ said. “Also, Johnny Spero is out of Georgetown, and we know that they will do it right instead of walking into another formulaic restaurant.”

The feeling was mutual for Or, who first toured the site in 2018 and was impressed by the scale of PGP’s vision, she said, comparing it with walking through a small city given what’s expected from future phases of the project. She and Happ then met about a year later at her Harvard Square location in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to continue discussing a possible location at Capitol Crossing.

When it opens, that planned location at 250 Massachusetts Ave. will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner options, along with brunch Fridays through Sundays. The space will include Tatte’s full bakery menu and coffee bar program, with areas for guests to congregate around the main pastry counter and in a separate coffee bar.

In an email, Or described the plan for Capitol Crossing as a beautiful mix of buildings, with an opportunity for a bustling environment and location she wanted to join. “We wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “We wanted to bring an all-day gathering to the project.”