Barracks Row Neighbors Mobilize Against “Out of Control” Alley

The Seamier Side of the Barracks Row Restaurants Backing Up to 7th Street

The Seamier Side of the Barracks Row Restaurants Backing Up to 7th Street

7th Street Alley Between E and F Streets, SE, on October 2, 2013, looking South

7th Street Alley Between E and F Streets, SE, on October 2, 2013, Looking South

7th Street Alley Between E and F Streets, SE, October 2, Looking North

7th Street Alley Between E and F Streets, SE, October 2, 2013, Looking North

Barracks Row Neighbors Mobilize Against “Out of Control” Alley

ANC Commissioner Asked to Broker Meeting with Restaurateurs, City

by Larry Janezich

Barracks Row neighbors along 7th Street, backing up to the alley which services numerous popular Barracks Row restaurants between E and G Streets, including The Chesapeake Room, Ted’s Bulletin, Fusion Grill, Las Placitas, Matchbox, Ambar, Cava, and Lavagna, are asking ANC6B  Commissioner Phil Peisch to organize a meeting including restaurant owners, 7th Street neighbors, and city officials, to address the deplorable and unsanitary conditions of their common alley.

Both residents and restaurateurs are unhappy with the alley.  On August 29, Matchbox Food Group vice president Fred Herrmann told ANC6b’s ABC Committee during a liquor license renewal hearing, that much of the problem stems from the surfacing of the alley itself which collects stagnant water.  He cited problems with rats, grease and odors, saying “it stinks.”  Hermann said he had asked the DC Restaurant Association to intercede with the city to address the problem.

Nevertheless, two weeks after Herrmann’s appearance before the ANC Committee, an investigation by the city’s Environmental Crimes Unit prompted by a complaint regarding a grease spill in the alley resulted in a fine to Fusion Grill and a warning to every other restaurant in the block; all of them had grease containers not up to code and were an attractant to rodents.

The idea for a summit grew out of a suggestion from a city inspector who offered to make herself available on any of six days between October 21 and 31 to meet with all of the restaurant owners on the alley to review with them, as a group, what they need to do to comply with city code.  Neighbors subsequently appealed to ANC6b commissioner Phil Peisch to organize such a meeting, in hopes that a unified approach to the problems and a demonstration of cooperation from restaurants plus input from the Restaurant Association will spur the city to resurface the alley and resolve the drainage problems.

Contacted for his reaction yesterday, Peisch said, “I just heard about this idea a few hours ago, but I think it’s a great idea.  The alley behind the west side of the 500 block of 8th Street SE is out of control, and the restaurants that use that alley need to take ownership of the problem.  I think a meeting with the restaurants is a step in that direction.  In addition, DDOT needs to step-up and fix the condition of the alley.  The alley is not designed to withstand the large commercial vehicles that use it, and it is riddled with potholes.  The potholes create standing water – and also fill with grease and run-off from the dumpsters – which exacerbates the rodent problem.  I’ve been reaching out to DDOT since July about this issue and, although they’ve finally committed to repaving, they’ve provided no timetable for when that repaving may occur or any further detail about what they plan to do.”

Asked how he intended to proceed, Peisch said he was “not sure about logistics for setting up the meeting.”  He also said, the “timetable for getting this situation resolved is asap, but (realistically) I expect this to be a long-term effort to really get the meaningful changes that are necessary.”

Alley surfacing aside, there are other issues which need to be addressed – primarily by the restaurants.  The most critical problems, in addition to alley surface and draining according to one neighbor who has devoted considerable time and effort to identifying the main alley issues:

  • Food waste dumpsters are not being closed
  • Many restaurants do not have inside garbage storage (Krazy Burger and Rose’s Luxury do have inside garbage storage)
  • Restaurants do not all use compacting dumpsters

Below is a contact list for government agencies for complaints about specific outside rat, trash, and food safety issues which being circulated among 7th Street neighbors.


Mr. Gabriel Curtis, Supervisory Pest Controller for the Rodent Control Division, Department of Public Works, 202 724-8540


Ms. Anita Chavis, Environmental Crimes Investigator, Department of Public Works,

202 576-9404, Office: 202 645-7190

FOOD SAFETY (Trash, rats, grease, stagnant water, etc., that may be affecting the safety of the food inside an establishment)

Ms. Jacqueline Coleman Supervisory Sanitarian, Food Safety and Hygiene Inspection Services Division, Department of Health, 202 442-5928

Lenard Harrison, Supervisory Code Enforcement Inspector with the Department of  Health, 202 442-5864


Filed under Uncategorized

6 responses to “Barracks Row Neighbors Mobilize Against “Out of Control” Alley

  1. James

    This blog is always so anti-commerce. Sheesh.

  2. In response to James: the piece seemed to me to be quite pro-hygiene and pro-safety. I expect the restaurants would view the problem in the same way. RK

  3. J.E.Jones

    James needs to get a grip – the restaurants need to be responsible and some seem to have the same concerns that the neighbors have- rats should not be the new pet for D.C./capitol hill – we had the same problem in our alley and in addition to neighbors having to, in some cases take their own actions, the restaurants are usually very interested in maintaining their licenses and being good neighbors

  4. Sheila Fleishell

    James, rat infestation of your property is not a “pleasant” experience and the restaurants must be held accountable. I’ve been there. The restaurants next to my property caused a horrible infestation of my property and my neighbor’s and after 5 months of rat abatement and now 10 months later, the rats are back and the restaurants still don’t grasp the simple process of how to close a dumpster or keep one clean!

    How can requiring a food establishment to comply with existing DC regulations, sanitation codes, etc., be anti-Commerce? These business owners know the city codes, requirements, etc., when they get into the business and simply choose NOT to comply. And throwing the blame back on the city for the potholes and alley surface is simply an excuse. Really, does a pothole cause a dumpster to remain open? Doubtful. Grease and “run-off” from dumpsters collects in the potholes. So maybe if the business owners properly cleaned and maintained the dumpsters there would be no “run-off”. None of these restaurants are neighbor-friendly…if they were, there would be no issues!

    I wish all the affected residents good luck and large fines for these restaurants. And a heads-up for those residents with rat problems…
    Mr. Gabriel Curtis is simply wonderful – he’s responsive, timely, knowledgeable and a pleasure to work with on your infestations.

  5. oi vay

    The same has been happening for some time now on 9th St. behind the rest.s on the east side of 8th St (Nooshi, Senarts, Pacifico etc.). A lot of those residents complained back then, while those not directly affected looked on indifferently, and at times expressed opposing opinions. Now it’s an issue because it effects you? If neighbors paid attention and joined efforts when the same, but earlier problems occurred, we might have better regulations and enforcement and the 7th St. neighbors might not be having this problem. Pay attention people and be active on behalf of the entire neighborhood, not just your mypoic interests. Don’t wait until the shoe bomb is in your face before you say or do anything. 7th St. neighbors — boo hoo; you brought this upon yourself.

  6. Sheila Fleishell

    Baloney! The neighbors did not bring this on themselves! It’s the business owners who care about 1 thing only…the $$$$$$$ and the DC government’s enforcement agency that does not know how to enforce or is already in the pockets of the business owners!