A battle has been raging between FoBoGro, the new grocery store to be located on F Street, and the West End Citizens Association, a neighborhood advocacy group. WECA is opposing the store’s proposed operating hours and its plans to act as a delicatessen. Having baseless complaints, WECA should raise its white flag on this issue. The group is not only hurting the community by attempting to stop the planned establishment of a new business, but its members are jeopardizing the legitimacy of their future claims.
The complaints lodged by WECA have been arbitrary, capricious and without merit. The group’s main concerns about FoBoGro revolve around operating hours and the ability to operate as a deli, yet both of these complaints lack substance. The attempt to stop the establishment of a deli is based on a varying interpretation of zoning laws, but licenses given to the business do allow FoBoGro to provide such a service. Later operating hours, in addition, will be geared toward and a service to the large student population surrounding the business, and will not mean that alcohol will be sold after hours, as a WECA representative has claimed. The idea that late operating hours will not serve the community demonstrates a clear disconnect with reality, given that the business is located directly across the street from South Hall and close to several other student residences.
The larger problem with the FoBoGro battle is that it calls into question the role of WECA within our community. We recognize the need for a community organization to sustain some of the character of the neighborhood, especially when faced with the real estate-hungry beast that is The George Washington University. On the other hand, focusing efforts on stopping the effective development of an otherwise unused location with generally baseless complaints is detrimental to WECA’s role in the community.
This push from WECA seems to be spearheaded by a small and vocal minority within the organization, and is generally unrepresentative of the concerns of the neighborhood as a whole. FoBoGro has had a supportive petition signed by a majority of the neighboring businesses and residents, most notably FoBoGro’s possible competitor, the F Street Bistro. Allowing such complaints to go forward inevitably reduces the efficacy of the group, and could hinder more legitimate complaints later on.
Still, FoBoGro must live up to its mantra of serving the community. We heard similar arguments about serving the GW community when Tonic obtained a liquor license, only to watch prices quickly soar beyond most students’ budgets. We don’t believe that FoBoGro will follow a similar path, but nonetheless pricing is, and always will be, a concern for students.
We are in full support of the establishment of FoBoGro, including its plans to operate a deli, stay open late and sell liquor. It is important to have a functioning neighborhood organization, but not when that group is directed by a minority in opposition to the wishes of the majority of the community. Now is the time for WECA to surrender this battle, as prolonging it will only reduce WECA’s clout in the area and deprive the community of a promising business development.
Readers can visit the Forum to comment on this editorial.