After facing months of community opposition and bureaucratic delays, popular bagel deli Call Your Mother was granted a zoning variance Jan. 15, clearing the way for an expected opening by the end of the month.
The Washington, D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment voted unanimously Wednesday to grant Call Your Mother a zoning exception, allowing the bagel deli to serve hot food. Pushback from neighbors and community officials triggered a process that included four separate BZA hearings on the topic.
The outcome is a long-awaited victory for the deli, according to founder and owner Andrew Dana.
“We are over the bagel moon,” Dana said in an interview with DCist. “We are thrilled that we can now toast bagels and top them for our customers.”
Call Your Mother announced its plans to open on the corner of 35th and O streets in June. The space was formerly zoned as a retail space, but the bagel deli needed to be zoned as a corner store to be able to prepare hot foods. The proximity of another corner store, Wisemiller’s Deli, however, prohibited that option because of corner store rules. The BZA granted Call Your Mother an exception to the proximity rule, allowing it to go forward with the opening.
The new bagel deli’s proximity to Georgetown University’s main campus sparked interest among students, some of whom started a petition in favor of Call Your Mother’s opening which garnered 476 signatures. The BZA’s decision proves that student voices can yield change, according to Georgetown University Student Association Senator Samuel Dubke (SFS ’21), who cosponsored a Nov. 24 resolution urging the granting of the zoning variance.
“This is a huge victory for all of the Georgetown community, and will bring more business and dining options to the Hilltop,” Dubke wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Moreover, it demonstrates that student activists can work effectively with the wider business community to break through the District’s bureaucracy.”
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, a local government body of elected officials that represents Georgetown, endorsed the granting of the variance Jan. 7, with a 6-2 margin, according to The Georgetowner. The deli’s opening will improve food options in the Georgetown area, according to ANC 2E Commissioner Matias Burdman (COL ’21).
“Call Your Mother’s opening is a major victory that will bring affordable and high quality food options to the university’s doorstep,” Burdman wrote in a statement to The Hoya.
Tenants living in the buildings that neighbor the space led the opposition against granting the zoning variance. The opposition group appeared at all four of the BZA hearings to make its case. The vote was disappointing but not surprising, according to Melinda Roth (LAW ’03), a neighbor who was active in the opposition effort.
“It was completely an expected outcome,” Roth said in an interview with The Hoya. “It was clear that the BZA would try and find a way that they could allow Call Your Mother to operate the way that Call Your Mother wants to operate.”
The granting of the variance is concerning because the building will be permanently zoned with the exception, according to Roth. Roth said she fears future tenants may not be as cognizant of neighbors’ concerns.
“Now that variance is with the building forever,” Roth said. “It could come in and be like some sort of other take-away food shop, which hasn’t promised to be a good neighbor, and isn’t a good neighbor.”
While disappointed in the BZA’s decision, Roth plans to support the Call Your Mother opening, she said.
“No matter what happens, you know I’ll be in line with everyone else,” Roth said. “You know I want them to succeed, and I wish them the best.”