In a major victory for the new ownership of FoBoGro, the store’s management team has procured an alcohol license from the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration and won the ongoing dispute with the West End Citizen’s Association over the store’s hours, which will be from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.
The decision came last Thursday after months of debate over whether the store’s hours would be detrimental to the neighborhood. Barbara Kahlow, the secretary of the WECA, led the opposition, arguing over the course of the last semester that elderly people in the neighborhood would be disrupted by the late hours and that the store would violate D.C. zoning laws by selling prepared foods. Kahlow did not return requests for comment on the ABRA decision.
“[ABRA] unanimously voted in favor of our proposal,” said Kris Hart, the GW graduate who bought the store last spring. “I think they looked at our case versus Barbara Kahlow’s and WECA and it was pretty clear-cut that the things they were saying – that we would have an adverse impact on real property values, noise, traffic, parking – it’s ludicrous for a community corner store that’s been there for a long time.”
Hart said the process has been a long one. His building permits that will allow him to finish the walls and flooring came through the same day as the ABRA decision, and he now estimates the business will be up and running by mid-February, nearly six months later than he had originally expected to open. “The zoning issues really pushed back my opening date. But the ABRA thing really cost me a lot of money because of all the legal bills,” Hart said.
While the official opening date has not yet been decided, Hart said construction is nearly finished and kitchen equipment and counters will be delivered and installed by late January. Though Hart said he is excited to open the store, he has lost money since he purchased the townhouse.
“I can’t hide from the fact that [the late opening date] has adversely impacted my business – I’ll be opening having lost over half of the school year and the revenues that would have been there,” Hart said. “We also had to start paying our monthly fixed costs like labor and rent, plus the legal battle with zoning and ABRA. Right now cash has been only going in one direction, and nothing’s been coming back. But it was a learning lesson and we planned for it, so it won’t have a severe detrimental long-term impact.”
The store is still facing potential zoning issues from an appeal filed by Kahlow, but Hart said he can open the store before the hearing in February.
The store’s new Web site is up and running, and Hart said he hopes to hire around 35 to 40 student employees. Applications are available through the site, as is a menu – the first indication of the types of prepared foods Hart intends to sell. The menu features sandwiches, soups and salads, and offers twists on old favorites, like the peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich, hot and cold Italian subs and a breakfast menu with cinnamon buns with icing, fresh pastries, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and toaster strudels with icing.