Two prominent local government leaders recently penned letters opposing Call Your Mother’s planned opening at the corner of 35th and O streets, despite an earlier vote to allow the deli to operate in the residential neighborhood.
Georgetown’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E Commissioner Rick Murphy and Washington, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) wrote to the Board of Zoning Adjustment calling for the denial of a pending zoning application that would allow the deli’s opening. The BZA, which approves exceptions to zoning rules, was scheduled to hear the deli’s case Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the zoning board postponed its ruling to Dec. 4 to gather more information on how Call Your Mother, which already has a popular Petworth location, could address concerns, according to the deli’s founder and owner Andrew Dana.
“Obviously we wished they had made a decision yesterday because we are paying rent on the space and have already hired some people for this,” Dana said in a Thursday interview with The Hoya. “We promise we’re going to be good neighbors, and this worst-case scenario that the neighbors are worried about is simply not going to happen.”
Four residents who live near the intersection also wrote to the BZA in opposition to the deli’s opening. However, five supporters submitted letters expressing their approval of the project.
The Georgetown ANC 2E voted 6-2 on Oct. 3 to allow Call Your Mother to open its second location two blocks from Georgetown University’s front gates. However, as a restaurant, Call Your Mother requires a zoning variance — an exception to the zoning guidelines — for the 3428 O Street NW location, which is considered to be in a residential neighborhood.
Murphy and Joe Gibbons, who Murphy says supports his letter’s argument, were the two ANC commissioners who voted against recommending that the deli be issued its 10-year variance. The variance would allow the deli to operate in the R-20 residential zone, Georgetown’s protected residential and historical area, and must be ratified by the BZA.
The popular bagel deli had previously hoped to open its second storefront this October on the ground floor of a bright pink two-story building that formerly housed GreenWorks Florist.
GreenWorks closed in late May, according to The Georgetowner. Though it still owns the building, GreenWorks has moved its inventory to other locations, according to a company spokesperson.
Call Your Mother’s opening would degrade residential life in the neighborhood, Murphy wrote in his Oct. 22 letter.
“The issuance of the requested variance would inevitably have a negative effect on the quality of life of the residents in the near vicinity,” Murphy wrote.
He argued that the deli would fit best in a designated commercial zone.
“If Call Your Mother were planning to move to a location on or near Wisconsin Avenue or M Street that is zoned for commercial use, I would be leading a brass band to greet them,” Murphy wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As it is, Call Your Mother is asking to be permitted to open in a zone that was created ‘to retain the quiet residential character’ of the neighborhood.”
Murphy’s Oct. 22 letter came on the heels of a similar letter Oct. 17 from Evans, who represents Georgetown.
The hit deli, recently listed on Bon Appetit’s top 50 nominees for best new restaurants nationwide, would attract unwanted disturbances, according to Evans.
“Large crowds will mean that sidewalks will be blocked by customers. Large crowds will also mean there will be more trash which will inevitably attract rats,” Evans wrote. “This business requires frequent truck delivery of goods needed to keep the shop supplied. This, along with customers who drive to the location, will result in more traffic congestion.”
Evans also recommended that the restaurant be relocated to a commercial space, but Dana contends that locations on Wisconsin Avenue are unaffordable for the budget-friendly Call Your Mother, according to The Georgetowner.
Other commissioners expressed excitement for the deli’s arrival to the neighborhood. Call Your Mother’s opening at the intended location would greatly benefit students in the area, according to Commissioner Matias Burdman (COL ’21).
“Call Your Mother bagels would provide a cheap, quick, and high quality dining alternative for students who otherwise struggle to find good and affordable food in the neighborhood,” Burdman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Furthermore, I believe that although the concerns of the neighbors are valid, many of them can be mitigated by measures such as frequent trash collection and modified delivery hours (the owner of Call Your Mother expressed his willingness to do both).”
Call Your Mother will focus on minimizing the impact of noise and trash it generates on the community when it opens, according to Dana.
“We are constantly thinking through how we can take and fulfill orders as fast as possible to cut down on any potential lines, and we will go above and beyond to ensure there are no noise, or trash impacts,” Dana wrote in a message to The Hoya. “All I can say is we hope to figure out a solution ASAP.”
This article was updated Nov. 1 to reflect the results of the Oct. 30 hearing.