City Clears “&Pizza” on Barracks Row – Grants Fast Food Exception
New Operating Rules Likely to Become a Local Standard
by Larry Janezich
On Tuesday, DC’s Board of Zoning Adjustment voted 4 – 1 to approve a special exception to allow &Pizza to sell fast food on Barracks Row under “Best Practices” operating procedures which are likely to set a new standard for restaurants and bars in ANC6b’s commercial corridors.
The Board accepted all of the restrictions listed by ANC6b as conditions of its support for the exception, including incorporation of the operating agreement negotiated by neighbors with &Pizza owner Steve Salis in the Board order.
ANC6b had recommended approval of the fast food exception and a one-story rear addition to the building (formerly XOXO Cleaners at 405 8th Street, SE) on a narrow 6-4 vote, after approving a requirement that the applicant seek renewal of the exception after seven (instead of the requested ten) years and conditional upon BZA formalizing the list of “Best Practice” operating procedures. Those procedures include a detailed trash control protocol providing for (among other things) trash and recycling storage inside the building itself, elimination and/or cleansing of kitchen exhaust odors and particulates, and a state of the art sound mitigation of rooftop mechanicals.
&Pizza owner, Steve Salis, pushed hard for a ten year fast food exception, claiming that it was “challenging” to convince financial institutions to lend money without a ten year exception and that he needed the time to minimize his risk. Salis also made a case that the “Best Practices” operating procedures will require expensive equipment and increase the cost of his investment. The BZA was not convinced by those arguments, noting that his agreement with the neighbors should give him confidence that the exception would be renewed after seven years. The board also cited some of its recent decisions that limited the exception for five and even three years.
ANC6B Commissioner Ivan Frishberg, who represented the ANC at the hearing, described the 400 block of 8th Street as one of the most “expensive blocks on Barracks Row, and one of the trashiest.” He told the Board that almost 100 nearby neighbors had petitioned the ANC, opposing any additional fast food outlet on 8th Street and to require all existing and new restaurants be required to meet best operating standards. Many petitioners, he said, urged a moratorium on liquor licenses as well. Frishberg cited the “extraordinary level of engagement between neighbors and the applicant” and commended them and fellow Commissioner Phil Peisch for reaching the agreement.
On the other hand, Frishberg criticized the city for falling down on enforcement of health and sanitation regulations, effectively delegating this work to nearby residents. With respect to the seven vs. ten year limit on the exception, Frishberg noted that the building’s landlord (Maurice Kreindler, who had sought a 20 year exception) is a “major owner” of Barracks Row real estate, and “another party” who has a long term interest in seeing the business succeed. As such, he said that the landlord is “a part of the equation whose participation has not been adequately explored.” (Kreindler can put a restaurant (not fast-food) in the location by right, but that tenant would undoubtedly be subject to the same operating conditions and might not be able to command as much rent as a fast food outlet.)
One of the nearby neighbors involved in negotiating the agreement, Linda Elliott, was on hand to tell the Board that the neighbors now support the fast food exception with the conditions Salis had agreed to, saying, “The conditions satisfy our public health and quality of life concerns.”
Asked for comment after the meeting, Frishberg said: “The ANC took a very pragmatic but demanding approach in an effort to address some of the problems on this block. The BZA respected that and clearly saw the need for accountability over the operations here through its approval of the shorter term on the special exception. This block is in trouble and the bar is now set very high as we all figure out what can be done to clean things up there.”
Salis did not respond to a request for comment.