Off Duty U.S. Capitol Police Officer Allegedly Threatens Elderly Critic of We, The Pizza Restaurant

Spike Mendelsohn's We, The Pizza at 305 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE

Spike Mendelsohn’s We, The Pizza at 305 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE

In the midst of a license renewal and a dispute with ANC and neighbors over trash management, a walk down the alley behind the Mendelsohn restaurants  today at 2:00pm revealed an open dumpster.

In the midst of a license renewal and a dispute with ANC and neighbors over trash management, a walk down the alley behind the Mendelsohn restaurants today at 2:00pm revealed an open dumpster.

Off Duty U.S. Capitol Police Officer Allegedly Threatens Elderly Critic of We, The Pizza Restaurant

Chef Spike Mendelsohn – Who Bowser Appointed to Promote Entrepreneurs– Sets Bad Example

by Larry Janezich

Last night, ANC6B Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk told the members of ANC6B’s Alcohol Beverage Control Committee that one of her constituents had called her on May 9th and alleged that his 87 year old uncle had been threatened by an off duty police officer outside of celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn’s We, The Pizza restaurant.  Both the nephew and alleged victim are well known to Samolyk as neighbors and critics of the Mendelsohn’s family’s operating procedures for three restaurants on the 300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.

According to the account given by Samolyk, the off-duty officer was coming out of We The Pizza and accosted the elderly man.  The nephew asserted that his uncle, who had never met this officer, felt that he was approached by him in a threatening manner.  According to Samolyk, the officer said, “I’m with the police” and told the man that he knew who he was, and gave his correct name and address and told the man – again, according to Samolyk – that “he made too many calls to 911 and ordered him to stop calling 911.”  Samolyk said that the man felt threatened and was “very upset.”  CHC was unable to reach the either of the complainants, though subsequent developments add credence to the complaint.

Samolyk told the committee that on the day following the call from her constituent, she reached out to the First District MPD for an explanation.  She said, “They were on it, and got back to me saying that they had investigated the incident and that it did not involve MPD but that it was an off duty U.S. Capitol Police Officer – a frequent customer of We, The Pizza.”  She said that she had been assured that the matter had been reported and was being investigated.

Mendelsohn has been in a long running dispute with nearby neighbors over what they say are poor operating conditions in three nearly adjacent restaurants on the 300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.  The man who claims he was accosted  is a long time nearby resident who has seen his quality of life suffer and his property values fall as his yard and the yards of his neighbors who back up to the restaurants have been overrun by rats.  The Mendelsohn family – who is currently seeking liquor license renewals for the three restaurants – Good Stuff Eatery, We, The Pizza, and Béarnaise – refuse to sign an  Settlement Agreement with ANC6B which would commit them to on-going efforts to ameliorate the rodent infestation.  The Mendelsohns have hired attorney Andrew Kline to appeal to the DC Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABRA) to give them licenses without having to sign such a Settlement Agreement.  Kline argues that the restrictions the ANC want have nothing to do with serving alcohol, but   restaurants routinely sign Settlement Agreements with the ANC, which limit hours of operation and noise levels and require adherence to best operating practices.

Samolyk, in whose ANC single member district the three restaurants lie, said of Mendelsohn operations, “They’re not nice to their neighbors. I’m upset that the Mayor heralds Spike and appointed him to chair the District’s Food Policy Council. He feels invulnerable and entitled to do what he wants to do.”  One of Mendelsohn’s goals as chair of the council is to “promote the food economy and entrepreneurship”.

ABC Committee Chair Chander Jayaraman, who with Samolyk, has been working to bring the Mendelsohns to the bargaining table, gives credit to the restaurants for the steps they have taken to address trash management and rodent issues, but said that his goal is to put good operating practices into a written agreement and have the restaurateurs commit to maintaining them.  He said their response was, “We’re not going to do it.”

The Mendelsohn’s attorney, Kline, has made a practice of encouraging restauranteurs to retain him to go over the head of the ANC to the Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABRA) to seek relief from restrictions the local community seeks to place on restaurant operations. See here:  More often than not, ABRA – like many of its sister city agencies – gives commercial entities the benefit of the doubt in the interests of the greater revenue they bring to city coffers – even if it’s at the expense of the city’s residents.

Regarding the investigation into the US Capitol Police officer’s accosting a private citizen – apparently on behalf of the Mendelsohn family – odds are it will remain a “matter under investigation” indefinitely.  And officials can’t comment on a matter that’s under investigation – or on personnel matters.

As for Kline – who, in addition to the Mendelsohns is also representing Barracks Row’s Ambar, Tortilla Coast on First Street, SE, and Hank’s Oyster Bar on Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, in their applications for liquor license renewals – Mike Debonis reported in the City Paper’s Loose Lips column in 2008:

“But LL’s  got some bad news for the District’s food-and-drink-purveyors: You will likely soon be deprived of Kline’s services.

That’s because he’s gotten himself into some deep legal troubles of his own. Late last month, a hearing panel convened by the D.C. Court of Appeals’ Board of Professional Responsibility—the body charged with adjudicating matters of legal discipline in the District—issued a report finding that Kline violated nearly a dozen rules of professional conduct, including committing criminal forgery and engaging in behavior “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”

The board recommends that Kline be suspended from the practice of law for 18 months.”Read the full article here:

Kline was subsequently suspended for nine months on March 30, 2010.  On January 13, 2011, the DC Court of Appeals suspended Kline again for three years for negligently misappropriating and commingling  entrusted funds and “committed a significant number of serious ethical violations” representing a client in a litigation matter.



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11 responses to “Off Duty U.S. Capitol Police Officer Allegedly Threatens Elderly Critic of We, The Pizza Restaurant

  1. Fred Strasser

    Businesses that promote rats and ignore their neighbors need to face community boycotts. The refusal to sign the agreement means these companies don’t want to be Capitol Hill residents; they just want our money.

    • anon_1

      I think this is already happening to some extent, but restaurants can draw and thrive beyond the the support of their neighbors. Spike gets a boost from tourists and nearby office workers and places like Hank’s and Ambar benefit from the ‘bridge and tunnel’ effect into Barracks Row and Eastern Market.

      Given the ease of information sharing I remain surprised that more customers aren’t turned off by places with well publicized sanitation issues. You’d think it would be in restaurants’ interests to keep sanitation in check for this reason alone.

  2. Kathleen

    This is obscene and Councilmember Allen should weigh in on this & help to resolve it. Mayor Bowser either doesn’t want to be re-elected, or she doesn’t need Ward 6 voters.

    • freshaire

      AGREE!! The 2 concerns are: (1) unhealthy food waste management practices contributing to rodents infestation in public spaces and private properties of nearby residents; (2) a supposedly off-duty police intimidates an elderly DC resident.

    • John

      Councilman Allen won’t do anything. Both he and Mayor Bowser give lip service to entrepreneurship, but neither one does anything to address the mess that is DCRA, which is what slows down nearly all new business in the city.

  3. Craig D'Ooge

    Yards of neighbors are “overrun with rats” and the best you can do is a picture of a trashcan with the lid left open?

  4. Liz eby

    Let’s organize. When a restaurant refuses to cooperate with the and, we the people, protest their liquor license at whatever level they are applying. Booze is such a large portion of their income they may decide to work with the neighbors.

    As for the cop,is he is promoting police-comment relations?

    Finally,Lets remove chef from Spike’s label. I will agree to call him Celebrity Spike.

  5. Steve

    What is the name of the off duty officer?

  6. Hill Dad

    We the pizza is great if you like eating greasy, over priced and undercooked pies in a filthy poorly maintained space

    Shame because it was nice when it opened…