Chipotle Inadvertently Makes the Case For Banning Fast Food Restaurants on Barracks Row: StreetSense and Restaurant Reported as in Non Compliance with Operational Agreement
by Larry Janezich
A group of unhappy Chipotle neighbors from Seventh Street, SE, attended Tuesday night’s ANC6B meeting in Hill Center to complain that Barracks Row’s Chipotle and its building’s developer, StreetSense, are not complying with the written agreement negotiated to allow the opening of an otherwise banned fast food restaurant in the 400 block of 8th Street.
The group found sympathetic ears on the Commission. Newly elected Commissioner Philip Peisch, in whose district the restaurant resides, cited “what seems like hundreds of emails over the past eight weeks” concerning the issue. He specifically cited “noise pollution, broken mechanics, and trash issues.”
In July of 2011, representatives of StreetSense, the building’s owner and developer, appeared before the ANC in support of an exception to the ban on fast food restaurants for the two adjoining buildings at 413-415 8th Street, SE. Negotiations with the neighbors to hammer out an agreement under which the exception would receive ANC support were facilitated by Commissioner Ivan Frishberg, in whose district the restaurant was at that time.
Linda Elliott, spokesperson for the neighbors, said that they thought they had arrived at a useful agreement and “flowery emails” were exchanged. On July 12, the ANC voted unanimously to support the request for the exception for Chipotle Mexican Grill. With ANC support, the exception for the two locations was subsequently granted by the Bureau of Zoning Adjustment (BZA).
Elliot said, “one and a half years later, despite on-going numerous meetings and phone calls, Chipotle and Street Sense have not lived up to the agreement.” Elliott was armed with documentation – emails, pictures, and audio files – which she promised to turn over to the ANC.
Frishberg said that the Chipotle had been a test case on how to go through the process to add a fast food outlet to a block over-saturated with fast food. He said he had visited the space behind Chipotle recently, and agreed that they are operating out of compliance with the requirements for the special exception. “This is a lesson for us,” he said, “as these cases (new applications) come forward.” Although the restrictions are written into the BZA order, how they can be enforced is a question that has not been answered.
Commissioner Pate said, “the ANC has been burned,” and suggested a letter to BZA citing the agreement and asking their help in fixing this.
Part of the agreement with Street Sense was that they would seek to put regular retail into the adjacent site – also exempt from the fast food ban – and seek a second special exception if they wanted to put a fast food venue in the second space. Street Sense subsequently leased the space to Kraze Burger, which plans to open as a sit down restaurant. Since this is establishment is opening as a matter of right, they will not come before the ANC until they apply for a liquor license.
The Commission referred the matter to Commissioner Francis Campbell’s Planning and Zoning Committee for consideration. StreetSense and Chipotle will be invited to attend next month’s Committee meeting.