Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners voted 4-0 Wednesday to support the opening of FoBoGro, following months of mediations between the store and another local community group.
The ANC’s blessing of the grocery store followed a 30-minute verbal battle over the store’s certificate of occupancy between Barbara Kahlow, the secretary of the West End Citizen’s Association, and new owner Kris Hart, a GW alumnus and owner of Relaxed Tans and Relaxed Spa.
Kahlow, representing WECA, has long protested Hart’s plan to open the store, challenging the certificate of occupancy and filing a letter of protest. The group further alleged that Hart would violate D.C. zoning orders by serving prepared foods, which were not served in the store prior to his ownership.
“[Kahlow] contested that we don’t have the legal right to open the business that we’re going to open, even though we do have the permits from the city. I guess she thinks she knows more about zoning laws than the District of Columbia and the Board of Zoning Adjustment, because I’ve received three different certificates of occupancy,” Hart said in an interview after the meeting.
Kahlow said at the meeting that she plans to challenge the city government and the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment at the next BZA meeting Feb. 23. Despite Kahlow’s disapproval, the ANC commissioners put forth a motion to support the idea and concept behind the Foggy Bottom Grocery, passing a resolution 4-0. Two commissioners, Florence Harmon and Commission Chairman Armando Irizarry, abstained from voting.
“I have tried my best to figure out the real problem and where WECA’s opposition comes from and I can’t figure it out,” commissioner Asher Corson said after the meeting.
Hart sees the vote of support as a positive sign for moving forward toward opening the store in February.
“I’m very, very happy with the support of our local government,” Hart said.
But Hart said his experience opening the store has been a disappointment overall.
“I’ve opened up three businesses in four years, and honestly if this is the type of resistance or irrational roadblocks that I’ll have to deal with, I’m not sure if I’ll stay in the D.C. or Foggy Bottom area,” he said.
For now, he said he remains optimistic.
“I’m pretty confident that BZA will rule in our favor,” Hart said. “It’s going to be exciting – I’ll have the tanning salon, the spa, the grocery store… you can come over to F Street, get your salad, your tan, your massage, and then come back and get a bottle of wine. It’ll be great.”