Upgraded post office will stay in town

Inn: Long-term lease, renovation in the works; plans for casual restaurant off the table

The Inn at Little Washington has extended its lease of street-level Krebser Building space to the U.S. Postal Service through November, and an Inn spokesman says a long-term lease (“at least 10 years”) is in the works.

Also, Inn attorney David Fiske said Monday, the Inn is proceeding this week with preliminary work in the stub end of Middle Street — the 170-foot dead-end strip extending west from Main Street and surrounded by the Inn’s Krebser Building and Inn Shops properties.

That stub street, meanwhile, is among the central issues of a lawsuit against the Inn and the town of Washington filed in March by attorney David Konick. Konick claims the town and the Inn, in a 2013 “Town Beautification” partnership with Trinity Episcopal Church (which owns the parking lot across from the post office, which is shared by the Inn), broke laws governing church-state appropriations, conflicts of interest (Inn proprietor Patrick O’Connell being also a town council member) and procurement.

A hearing on town resident Dawn Schimke’s petition to join Konick’s suit — and on the amended claims Konick filed after Judge Jeffrey W. Parker ruled that the attorney, who lives in Rock Mills, did not have standing to pursue the suit — is scheduled for 10 a.m. today (Thursday, Aug. 20) in circuit court.

Meanwhile, Inn general manager Thomas List said the Inn has dropped plans, apparently hatched over the winter, to build another small restaurant in town.

In magazine interviews with O’Connell about his new book,“The Inn at Little Washington: A Magnificent Obsession,” the chef touted the Inn’s plans to create a casual lunch/dinner restaurant behind the Inn Shops building on the northwest corner of Main and Middle Streets, overlooking the meadow and gardens that Inn employees have dubbed the “Field of Dreams.”

List said Monday by phone that the interviews — one of which appeared just last week in Washington Business Journal — were conducted months ago. Mention of the cafe — the “Black Swan Tavern,” O’Connell called it in an interview with Northern Virginia magazine — “made it to the drawing board stage,” as List put it Monday, but those plans “were soon put aside.”

“The focus now is primarily on the street” and post office area, he said.

Fiske and Mayor John Sullivan, who says he’s been keeping in touch with the U.S. Postal Service lease negotiator, said this week that the post office lease, which expires this month, has been extended through the end of November. The goal is to have a long-term lease signed before then.

The postal service plans to renovate the post office, according to sources, spending as much as $100,000 on the project. The Inn plans to move the entranceway of the post office to face the Middle Street stub, which will be landscaped and reconfigured for parking and pedestrians. The post office is now a two-level space connected by a short interior stair. In the new plans, it will be all on one level and will occupy the rear part of its current space, plus what had been Darlene Moore’s hair styling shop.

Fiske said the Inn plans no changes to the spaces occupied by the two other tenants of the building — specifically the Country Cafe restaurant on the Main Street side, and the offices of attorney Frank Reynolds, in the rear. The Inn plans to renovate the exterior of the entire building; Sullivan said plans for those improvements are likely to come up before the Architectural Review Board’s meeting in September.

The renovation would open a street-level space next to the Country Cafe (essentially the space now occupied by the front half of the current post office). Sullivan said he did not know what the Inn plans for that space. Asked about the space, general manager List deferred to Fiske, who said the plans for that space have not “reached beyond the discussion stage”; among the ideas discussed, he said, were a small bakery or some kind of retail space.