New Operating Hours at Eastern Market A Smooth Return to Normal

Report of EMCAC Meeting May 26

214
Courtesy Eastern Market/DGS

There are new, expanded operating hours at Eastern Market (225 Seventh St. SE), a result of feedback sought by Department of General Services (DGS), supervisors of the site.

Each part of the market now has differing operating hours. Market Manager Barray Margeson told the May 26 virtual meeting of the Eastern Market Advisory Committee (EMCAC) he was less than thrilled at having three differing end times.

He said that on Saturday, May 22, the first full day of the Market’s reopening, he “was worried that people would be too close to one another and that there would be complaints from all sides.”

However, when management opened all of the doors to the market, as opposed to the single entrance used throughout the pandemic, it went smoothly, Margeson added.

Chuck Burger, Vice Chair of EMCAC chimed in that he was at the Market’s reopening the Saturday previous. “The Market looked like it was back,” he said. “It looked good. Like it was back to normal.”

HOURS

Farmer’s Line weekend hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Arts and Crafts weekend hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

South Hall weekly hours: Tuesday thru Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

South Hall Sunday hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Monday

Masks are still required indoors but there are no longer any limits on the customers or capacity inside the South Hall as was previously required.

Revenue Down

As with many organizations, EMCAC’s agenda over this period of time could be characterized as being in “pause” mode. Businesses have struggled mightily to survive—many have failed—– even as residents have adhered to what guidance was offered by the DC Health Department.

Revenue during the more than fourteen months of the pandemic plunged precipitously at the Market. The strong annual revenue growth of the preceding five years had regularly approached or exceeded $900,000.  FY 2020 revenue, on the other hand, barely managed to reach one third of those numbers. It totalled $261,406 for the first seven months of this year.

Currently the market is on a path for revenues that could reach $500,000, or half the revenue in FY 2019 revenue, if the projected growth in the summer and autumn seasons manifests.

The principal revenue growth of the Market in the years since the District government took over management after the devastating fire of 2008 has been from the expansion of arts and craft vending space rentals and the rapid growth of North Hall booked special and often lucrative private events.

In the days before COVID, when the market hosted a full calendar of legislatively mandated community events and even more lucrative private events, North Hall revenue ranged from $250,000 to $275,000 annually.  Solely due to COVID restrictions, which prevented gatherings indoors for most of the past year, North Hall revenue to date has plummeted to $7,978.

FY 2022 Budget update

EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder reported that the District’s FY 2022 budget was still on Mayor Bowser’s desk and that it would not be released to the City Council until May 27. The Council is expected to hold hearings between June 20 and 24. According to Scheeder, EMCAC plans to testify before Council, as the committee shepherds funding for Capitol Improvements through the budget process. Schweder indicated that EMCAC will also be making comments on some other items.

Market Manager’s Report

Market Manager Barry Margeson reported that EMCAC is “about two hundred thousand dollars short of projected revenue. We are not where we thought we would be and were going to be.” Still, Margeson painted a positive picture of the future, said the Market is going to be adding new farmer’s line vendors. He said there were several bookings already made for the North Hall. “We are thrilled by that,” the market manager said.

Updating EMCAC on the South Hall merchants leases Margeson  stated that the Department of General Services (DGS) is waiting on one vendor to sign a lease  and that the rest of the South Hall indoor merchants are on hold. The South Hall merchants have been without long term leases for nearly two decades.

A proposal to increase space charges for the arts and craft vendors has been shelved thanks to the efforts of the Tenant’s Council. According to Margeson these proposed changes will be held over for a  year until there is a fuller  sense of the economic  recovery.

Peter J Waldron is a long time Hill resident and a former Chair of ANC6B and has been reporting on the Eastern Market for thirteen years. Waldron can be reached at [email protected]