Neighbors Furious Over Barracks Row Eatery Back Alley Grease Dump
by Larry Janezich
An across-the-alley neighbor of Ambar, set off alarm bells this morning when he circulated a set of photos of “grease, liquid food waste, and other foods” dumped either accidentally or intentionally in the alley behind Ambar on Barracks Row.
The response from the community was fury over this latest in a long series of complaints about conditions in the alley behind restaurants on the west side of Barracks Row.
One resident put it this way: “This is so wrong on so many levels – mostly as it affects the health of the neighborhood and our river. Why oh why do the gentleman who own Ambar and Cava (not to mention Teds and Medium Rare) continue after nearly four years of hand holding and education…to persist in failing to understand that our neighborhood is not a garbage dump to be used and abused in their pursuit of a profit.”
An appeal to ANC6B Commissioner James Loots in whose district the restaurants in question reside brought a prompt response. (Loots, an attorney, also serves as legal counsel to a number of restaurants on 8th Street. He has been active in using liquor license renewals to require Capitol Hill restaurants to adopt “best operating practices” to address complaints by nearby neighbors.)
Loot’s announced a two part plan to address the issue:
- Initiate a campaign to publicize the issue, naming the offending restaurants, and contacting the restaurant ownership.
- Work with DDOT and DOEE to create as necessary and then enforce a ban on grease storage in public spaces. No grease in public space. Period
Neighbors agree that a legal ban on storage of grease on public space is a good first step toward indoor storage of trash, recycling, and grease. But virtually all of them think that more needs to be done. To that end, mandatory indoor trash, recycling and grease storage is the necessary next step. The success of & Pizza and EatBar are good examples showing that these best operating practices work.
ANC Commissioner Chander Jayaraman, chair of ANC6B’s Alcohol Beverage Control Committee, told CHC: “On Barracks Row, we worked very hard to build a bridge between the community and the growing number of restaurants. This is not the first incident with Ambar – they are repeat offenders. It highlights the need for best practices. I’ll work hard with Commissioner Loots going forward to achieve the indoor storage of grease containers.”
2 responses to “Neighbors Furious Over Barracks Row Eatery Back Alley Grease Dump”
I walked by here on both 8th and 7th today and it really stinks of fried grease. I didn’t see the alley, it smells all the way to both sidewalks.
Another and larger cause of the odor is the grease and food particulate that is released into the air by the kitchen exhaust fans of nearly every restaurant on Barracks Row. This unfiltered exhaust is not only a nuisance, it is a known rodent attractant, according to DC rodent expert Robert Corrigan. & Pizza and EatBar are the only restaurants on the Hill that have mitigated the odor and removed the grease and food particulate through installation of pollution control units (PCU). When engaged by neighbors and the ANC, the owners of these restaurants joined our effort to address the environmental and health issues that come with dense restaurant development. They are the exception.
More typical is Medium Rare. After much work on the part of the ANC, Medium Rare, which has had a number of alley grease-spill incidents in the recent past, agreed in its liquor license settlement agreement to install heavy-duty kitchen exhaust filters. The goal was to see if this less expensive alternative to a PCU would mitigate the strong odor of the Medium Rare’s grease-heavy steak and fries menu. (Experts consulted by the neighbors don’t believe the filters will be effective, but the neighbors nonetheless supported the compromise experiment.) Six months ago Steve Abramson, General Counsel for Medium Rare, agreed to give neighbors and representatives of the DC Dept of Health, the Mayor’s office, and the ANC an opportunity to see the filters in action — as soon as he could get permission from Medium Rare owner Mark Bucher. The tour never happened and follow up emails have gone unanswered.
Neighbors and the ANC have worked long and hard to explore all options for dealing with the environmental downside of dense restaurant development in older historical neighborhoods. Unfortunately, many of the restaurateurs in the area have made it clear that they think the public health and nuisance problems that they create are a cost that residential neighbors and non food businesses should bear in exchange for for the privilege of their presence.