A D.C. agency told the new owners of FoBoGro they could legally operate a deli Wednesday – ending what had been a major point of contention between the new management and a community group protesting the store. But there is still another battle to fight – the two parties remain deadlocked over the store’s proposed hours of operation, something that must be resolved before the store may receive an alcohol license.
Kris Hart, a GW alumnus and owner of Relaxed Tans, said Wednesday that he had procured a new certificate of occupancy from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs that authorizes the store to operate a delicatessen – something Barbara Kahlow, secretary of the West End Citizens Association, had previously declared to be illegal. Kahlow, who has been an integral part of the protest against the store, declined to comment Wednesday evening.
Hart said he and his partners are happy to get the certificate, and said it shows the support of the D.C. Department of Regulatory and Consumer Affairs. Still, he said the store has always had a certificate allowing a deli.
“We’ve already had the approval, my original certificate of occupancy was dated on August
21, 2008, so we already had the approvals,” Hart said. “But a couple of community members tried to get really loud and really protest us, so we submitted basically a briefing to DCRA. Basically they issued us a certificate in the last certificate’s place.”
That certificate should help them on Dec. 9 when Hart and his team will sit down for a third time with WECA to negotiate the store’s operating hours, an integral part of getting a liquor license. Due to construction, zoning and mediation issues, the store, previously set to open in November, will instead be open for the second semester, Hart said.
“The only reason we were behind was that it took us a long time to get to the point where [we were ready to renovate], and then we were reticent to finish up our work until we clarified with the D.C. government that all the permits that we had and what the business was doing we could continue to do,” Hart said. “We’re meeting with the contractors tomorrow morning and going from there we’ll have a real good sense of the timeline.”
Hart said one of the issues holding the store back from opening was whether the store could legally operate. Hart said Kahlow had testified at the last status hearing Oct. 28 that the store did not have a certificate of occupancy.
“Her standing and her basis for arguing against our liquor license transfer was the fact that we didn’t legally occupy the space. Now that issue is cleared up, the zoning administration has chimed in and that’s done,” Hart said.
Hart and his team, which consists of 2006 GW alumnus Devlin Keating and junior Daniel Blake, hope to keep the store open from from 7 to 2 a.m. on weeknights and until 3 a.m. on weekends, hours that Kahlow has said will be disruptive to the neighborhood.
Hart said the legal battle has taken a toll on the team’s preparations.
“I want to work with Ms. Kahlow, but when she decides she’s against something, she’s really strong about her perspectives,” Hart said. “The most frustrating part is here we are wanting to focus on the business. We want to focus on hiring employees, we want to focus on having products, we want to focus on marketing and instead we find ourselves down at the D.C. government.”