As Sholl's Colonial Cafeteria closed its doors last week, owners George and Van Fleishell left some customers disappointed and some questions unanswered about a new location and use of $500,000 in GW funds.
Customers packed the basement of the 1900 K St. building the cafeteria has operated in since 1978 for dinner Tuesday and Wednesday, when friends spoke about good times at the restaurant and local media snapped pictures of its closing. Sholl's has operated out of a number of locations since 1928.
"Let's just hope that George has enough strength and that he can open another one," said Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) at the restaurant Tuesday night. Cleland said he has been a Sholl's customer since he spent a semester in Washington at American University years ago.
Sholl's, which struggled with high rent costs and a post-Sept. 11 decline in business, was forced to close Dec. 5 and is rumored to be looking for a home at GW. Van Fleishell said the restaurant, which depends largely on student and tour groups, lost 35 percent of its business since Sept. 11.
GW agreed to donate $500,000 to feed local homeless people in exchange for city approval of building plans of the new Elliott School on E Street, which failed to include a District-mandated provision to benefit the community. Sholl's was named as the main recipient of those funds.
Earlier this year, University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said the West End community group agreed to support the University in hearings on the ESIA building in exchange for $500,000 donated over the next five years to a nonprofit organization.
The nonprofit organization that will operate the feeding program will be formed once the ESIA is approved, Barber said, and would include representatives of WECA and the University, and the International Monetary Fund if they choose to donate money.
Barber said the University's donation has not been "earmarked" yet, but GW is still prepared to honor the agreement. Other GW budget and development officials said they were not certain where the money will come from.
Another site for the program has not been determined, although WECA president Jack Bathan said the group is staying with Sholl's and will wait for the restaurant to find a new location.
Bathan said that GW and Sholl's "are talking" about the possibility that Sholl's may take over the diner in the ground floor of the Hall on Virginia Avenue.
Michael Peller, managing director for business services, would not comment specifically on that possibility but said the University is "always exploring other opportunities that might benefit the University and students."
Van Fleishell declined to comment on whether her cafeteria was eying the HOVA location, and Barber said he had not heard about the possibility.
Fleishell said it is still not certain the cafeteria would reopen at all but hopes it will.
She said the restaurant will be back "if everything comes to us in the right way, the location is right, the rent is affordable, and it is convenient for employees and customers."
-Russ Rizzo contributed to this report.