The owners of FoBoGro and representatives from the West End Citizens Association came to a deadlock during an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board hearing Thursday, leaving the fate of the store’s alcohol license and hours of operation in limbo.
The arbitration hearing arose out of a dispute between WECA and new owner Kris Hart, a GW alumnus and owner of Relaxed Spa and Tans, over FoBoGro’s proposed hours – 7 to 2 a.m. on weeknights and until 3 a.m. on weekends. Barbara Kahlow, a representative for WECA, objected to those hours, characterizing them as “disruptive to the neighborhood.”
The store’s alcohol license is contingent on resolving the dispute. The license application specifically examines hours of operation, and WECA’s protest of the late hours may derail Hart’s plans to offer a large selection of wines and beers.
“I hope we can resolve this. We’ll see what happens,” Hart said. “If this continues on we may be set back tremendously.”
The store was previously slated to open in early November, but Hart said the opening will be pushed back because of construction issues. The arbitration, which has been scheduled to resume Oct. 28, will not stop Hart from opening the store for business, but may prevent him from selling liquor and operating the deli, another, albeit smaller, point of contention between WECA and Hart.
WECA is protesting the proposed deli, saying that under Foggy Bottom zoning laws, Hart’s plans to sell pizza and sandwiches are illegal. Hart said the store had been previously authorized to sell prepared foods, and that his certificate of occupancy lists Foggy Bottom Grocery as a grocery store with a sandwich shop.
ABRA officials asked the parties to have proceedings remain confidential, but Hart said that his business will be hurt as long as the dispute continues, due to the cost of fighting the community group.
“I have legal fees adding up,” Hart said. “And instead of spending time working on the store, I’m spending time in the halls of the D.C. government.”
Kahlow, the secretary of WECA, declined to comment on the dispute, citing the confidentiality agreement, but Hart said the WECA board’s complaints are not representative of the community.
“It’s frustrating because it’s not a lot of people protesting the store,” Hart said. “The majority of the community is in favor.”