Kraze Burgers Out of Barracks Row
Landlord Under Pressure from ANC/Neighbors
by Larry Janezich
Kraze Burgers’ landlord, Streetsense (no connection to the newspaper of similar name), told Capitol Hill Corner that the enterprise has regained control of the space at 431 8th Street, SE, formerly occupied by Kraze Burgers.
The move came after protracted litigation resulting from Kraze Burgers’ inability to pay their rent. The restaurant – wracked by internal disputes (see here: http://bit.ly/1h8zbTV ) – has been closed since March of this year. Streetsense owns the building where Kraze Burgers operated and Chipotle still does.
On Wednesday, September 3, three ANC Commissioners – Brian Pate, Ivan Frishberg, and Phil Peisch – carried their concerns about the Kraze Burgers site and the 400 block of Barracks Row to a meeting with Streetsense President, Guy Silverman. The 400 block is frequently characterized as “in trouble” owing to a multiplicity of problems, many of which concern corporate owned fast food outlets. The commissioners, convinced that “casual fast food dining” on the block has not worked out, were worried about what was in store for the space.
According to Pate, the commissioners discussed the possibility of Streetsense putting something other than a restaurant in the location. The space commands a premium rent of $80 a square foot – one of the highest in the city (for comparison purposes, the average rent at Union Station is $75 a square foot).
Frishberg subsequently told CHC, “It would be great to get retail but anybody who thinks we will get retail at current rent levels is smoking crack. Small retail can’t afford the $80 a square foot – they can’t pay half that rent. For a lot of the retail people who can pay that much, the space is too small. My impression was that Silverman received the ANC’s concerns honestly. I said things that were exceedingly direct…There are problems with that location and they are not all Streetsense’s fault. Not every Chipotle has a security officer to keep order.”
Last Saturday, a delegation of three nearby neighbors met with Silverman and Streetsense co-founder Marc Ratner to emphasize the concerns of the 7th Street neighbors who back up to the restaurants on the 400 block of 8th. Those concerns involve fried meat cooking odors, noise, trash, and vermin. After the meeting, participants said it appeared that Streetsense recognized their concerns, and while not dismissing those concerns outright in the meeting, they nevertheless preferred to not deal with them. Neighbors reported that Streetsense is not willing to take less rent for the space, saying they were told that $80 a square foot is what Streetsense investors expect.
The neighbors represented by the delegation are the very same neighbors that pressured &Pizza into a Best Standards operating agreement last week – an agreement which is likely to become standard for Barracks Row and other commercial areas in ANC6B. (See the preceding CHC post.)
Last May, these neighbors circulated a flyer and petition that was signed by some 95 residents opposing any additional fast food outlet on 8th Street and urging the ANC to require all existing and new restaurants to meet Best Operating standards. Many petitioners urged a moratorium on liquor licenses as well.
Neighbors said it was largely their experience with Streetsense, Kraze Burgers and Chipotle that led them to collect signatures against & Pizza and Chipotle after & Pizza and Chipotle were unwilling to consider indoor trash storage and odor mitigation.
Frishberg says that it’s not clear that Kraze Burgers should have been allowed to open on Barracks Row without a fast food exception. Now it appears, in light of conditions on the block, any restaurant coming into the space will be under increased scrutiny as to whether it meets the Office of Planning’s broadening definition of who needs a fast food exception. Any restaurant requiring the exception – and thus, ANC approval – undoubtedly will become subject to the new operating standards as a condition of that exception. Should a non-fast food restaurant come into thee space as a matter of right, the ANC’s leverage will come from any application for a liquor license, which Kraze Burger did not have but which any non-fast food restaurant would most likely need. Kraze Burgers did not have an operating agreement with the ANC, but did have operating conditions written into its lease with Streetsense. These conditions, however, did not prove to be adequate to protect the neighbors from odors, trash, noise, and vermin.