ANC Committee Opposes “& Pizza” Move to Barracks Row

ANC6B P&Z Committee Votes To Oppose Fast Food Exemption for & Pizza (Not shown: 6B08 Commissioner Chander Jayaraman Voting "No"

ANC6B P&Z Committee Votes To Oppose Fast Food Exemption for & Pizza (Not shown: 6B08 Commissioner Chander Jayaraman Voting “No”

ANC6B Commissioners Hear Neighbor Concerns About Another Fast Food Restaurant on Barracks Row

ANC6B Commissioners Hear Linda Elliott Voice Neighbor Concerns About Another Fast Food Restaurant on Barracks Row

ANC Committee Opposes “& Pizza” Move to Barracks Row

Neighbors Call Out ​ Owner on Trustworthiness

by Larry Janezich

ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee voted (9-3) last night to oppose a special exception to the ban on fast food that would allow & Pizza to open up on Barracks Row.  The appeals of a dozen neighbors, some of whose backyards are divided from the commercial corridor on the west side of the 400 block of Barracks Row by only a fence clearly swayed the committee.  Restaurant chain owner Steve Salis is seeking to open a fourth pizza outlet in the space now occupied by OXXO Cleaner​s; several residents and commissioners feel that the block is already overpopulated with restaurants.  And while a restaurant could go into the space as a matter of right, city regulations prohibit fast food restaurants on Barracks Row (and in other designated areas of the city) without the special exception.

& Pizza owner Steve Salis delivered a professional and collegial presentation to the ANC (referring to commissioners as “you  guys”),​ asserting that he was different from the other restaurants on the block because of training and discipline regarding dealing with issues concerning neighbors, including trash, rodents, noise and odors.  He assured the committee he could deal with them in this case to neighbors’ satisfaction.

The neighbors, who say they had begun negotiations regarding the restaurant operations predisposed to lending their support to Salis​, became soured on his project after ​he​ refused to address some of their primary concerns (especially trash) in writing and became ​”not belligerent, [but] close to it,”​ ​ in the words of a neighbor who attended a group meeting with Salis.

Salis is a former NYC entrepreneur who romanced Barracks Row in 2011/2012 with an earnest and accommodating approach, promising to bring new blood to the 400 block in the space formerly occupied by The Dollar Store.  He backed away from that deal after failing to reach an agreement with building owner Street Sense, and opened up on H Street, NE, instead.

The subsequent successful suitor for the Dollar Store space was Chiptole, who offered assurances of their intentions to be good neighbors.  Those assurances were met with open mindedness on the part of 7th Street residents and a belief that Chipotle – with a reputation for quality fast food and with corporate resources – would be a good neighbor.  But, as Commissioner Phil Peisch remarked last night, “Although Chipotle made a serious effort to work with neighbors, implementation fell flat and Chipotle ended up contributing to the (rat and trash) problem.”  According the Peisch, the serious rodent issue in the area is centered on that side of the block. “I’m not sure that block can handle another fast food restaurant.’  (See CHC post on last month’s rat summit here:  http://bit.ly/Qi20my)

In his presentation to the ANC Committee last night, Salis stressed the concessions he had made to neighbors on noise and odors and offered two solutions to the trash and attendant rat problem.  His first suggestion was a state- of-the-art trash compactor such as used by Cava restaurant in the next block.  His second was an offer to construct a trash storage shed similar to one used by Chipotle.  The latter would require a BZA variance (ANC6B had opposed a similar request from building owner Maurice Kreindler earlier this year).

 

7th Street resident Linda Elliott, representing some dozen nearby homeowners, gave a Power Point presentation illustrating how Cava’s trash compactor and Chipotle’s trash storage shed had failed to solve the trash and rodent problems plaguing the neighborhood.  The flaw, she said, was human failure in a situation where success depended on people who are either too busy to provide the extra care necessary to properly dispose of trash, or are concerned about standing in the dark in a rat infested alley to compact trash a few bags at a time.  The resulting “trash dribble” and open trash compactors and receptacles provide an environment in which rats and other vermin thrive.

Elliott said that Salis said, “You can trust me,” and when asked if he had trash violations at any of his other locations replied, according to Elliott, “No.”   Elliott said investigation revealed that & Pizza on H Street – a restaurant whose building most closely resembles the Barrack’s Row location – has had 12 violations.  Elliott’s Power Point presentation included recent photos of trash conditions behind & Pizza on H Street, Cava on Barracks Row, and behind Maurice Kreindler’s properties on Barracks Row that can only be described as deplorable.  “We have a clear problem accepting assertions Mr. ​Salis has made,” Elliott ​told the committee​ .

Salis responded that a restaurant of some kind​was likely to go into the OXXO space “because restaurants are the only ones that can pay rents on 8th Street right now.”  He noted that as a matter of right, any non-fast food restaurant can go into the space without seeking an exception and allowed the committee to infer that he might seek an exception without an ANC endorsement.

He also said that ​he had acceded to all the requests the neighbors had made except for trash.  Addressing the committee members, he said, “You guys will make a decision on what is best for the community … I think we will definitely contribute to the community.”

Elliott noted that another fast food exception is in the pipeline for Potbelly which hopes to locate where Tandoor Grill currently is.  She noted that regardless of whether the exception is granted or not, the long-time building owner Tariq Hussein has pledged that for any restaurant going into that space he will provide indoor trash storage, state of the art sound proofing and odor control.

Commissioner Phil Peish moved the committee take no position on the request for an exception, but accepted Commissioner Dave Garrison’s amendment that the committee recommend that the ANC oppose it.

The final vote was 9 – 3  to oppose, with Commissioner Brian Flahaven and resident members Jennifer Rosen (ANC610) and Brynn Barnett (ANC603) voting in favor of the restaurant.  When the matter goes to the full ANC next week, only duly elected commissioners can vote.  Since seven commissioners on the 10 member commission opposed the exception last night, opposition by the full ANC seems assured.  The one caveat, however, is that new information by the applicant could be presented to the ANC at their May meeting next Tuesday in an effort to change their collective mind.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “ANC Committee Opposes “& Pizza” Move to Barracks Row

  1. Alex

    Thank you for protecting us from the horrors of good, affordable pizza, ANC. Great work.

  2. H Street Resident

    H Street NE also has a zoning overlay that prohibits fast food, and & Pizza meets the criteria, including requiring payment for food before receiving it. How was it able to open on H Street NE?

  3. Jim

    Poor decision by the ANC and a dozen of my neighbors. You’ll wreck this amazing neighborhood with your meddling. Let the market decide a company’s fate, not a dozen people who clearly have too much time on their hands to worry about the placement of a single small businesses in a developing neighborhood.

    • Kathleen

      I disagree Jim. I adore pizza and love the fig one that this outlet sells down on H Street. But part of being a good local business is being a good neighbor, and we can’t ask those closest to take a hit in property values just so others can enjoy what they want, or wait for the market to decide.
      If there is a huge problem with rats on this side, then I think the neighbors are correct to exert pressure on their local representatives, and those representatives are right to respond.

      • Jim

        & Pizza isn’t responsible for the rodent problem, since–you know–they’re not open yet. Perhaps local residents need to complain to the current occupants and stop projecting their problems on businesses that have yet to open. I dislike my next door neighbor–he’s a disrespectful idiot–but I wouldn’t object to someone moving in down the street because of it.

  4. MJG

    First off, & Pizza’s food is delicious! Best pizza in DC!! But what I think is more prevalent is that from what I have witnessed, there may not be another ‘for profit’ organization in this city that is as active within their communities as & Pizza. They have an &pizza CAUSE campaign where they donate to those who reach out to them. I reached out to them to ask if they would be willing to donate pizza’s for my 75 person wedding. I had a shoe string budget so I figured I would ask. They ended up donating 100 pizzas and a note wishing us good luck! It may have been the most thoughtful gesture that I have ever had. I would love to see them in the Capitol Hill community cause sure know I will support them and I know most people that I know would as well. They would be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.

  5. 8th Street SE

    Very disappointing! The sidewalk in front of the OXXO cleaners attracts a lot of undesirable loitering, such as high schoolers getting into fights and religious zealots yelling homophobic messages into megaphones. I doubt that space could support anything but a restaurant, so if the ANC is keeping quality restaurants out is it going to be like this forever? I’ve never seen a rat in Capitol Hill.

  6. AKS

    My understanding is that current residents are trying to work w/ current businesses to address the trash (rodent) concerns but are having a hard time gaining traction. For example, the recent “rat summit” at the Hill Center wasn’t attended by any restaurant reps from 8th! So neighbors wish to find a solution to known problems before a new business moves in. The opposition to &Pizza doesn’t seem to be to the business, but rather that &Pizza’s preferred solution to the rat problem is used by a restaurant only a block away and IS always covered by rat feces. &Pizza has also had violations at other locations for the same issues that neighbors are concerned on Barracks Row and the owner lied and claimed that they had never had violations. The rat situation on this block of Barracks Row has exploded in the past few years to the point that it is a major health concern.

  7. Rediculous

    The block is obviously not overpopulated with restaurants if more restuarants are trying to open. Why should the commissioners or neighbors decide what the neighborhood can handle rather than business owners who are betting their money that it will succeed?

  8. annoyed

    if you live abutting a thriving commercial corridor in a major city you’re going to have some garbage problems. The corridor doesn’t exist merely for the handful of people living next to it, it exists for the whole neighborhood and for the whole city. I live two blocks away from there and have for nearly a decade and I see no evidence of property values being hurt in that area. Everything seems to be at an all time high and by a good margin. You know what helps property values? A thriving commercial corridor with amenities. You know what doesn’t? Empty storefronts that have no garbage behind them because there is nothing happening there.

  9. No to Rats

    Much of the attraction of the eateries on 8th St. SE is their location on a street of well-preserved historic buildings in an historic rowhouse neighborhood. Part and parcel of this desirable setting are its neighbors who also have rights. The folks whose 150 year-old rowhouse residences back up to the many eateries on 8th St. SE. They have a right to live in a rodent-free area. But, after watching the slides they showed at the ANC meeting, I realized their neighborhood is teeming with rats. Rats attracting by the food refuse littering the back alleys behind the eateries. This is truly a public health hazard that anyone who patronizes these restaurants should be concerned about. The record of Steve Salis, as evidenced by the many fines he has received for the food refuse litter behind his H St. restaurant, strongly suggest he is likely contribute to the 8th St. SE public health hazard if permitted to open a pizza place on this street.