A month after the forced closure of popular late-night haunt Philly Pizza & Grill, students have taken their business elsewhere, exploring new off-campus, delivery and even on-campus student-run options.
Tuscany Café, a restaurant offering takeout pizza, is located around the corner from Philly Pizza’s Potomac Street property. The establishment has welcomed the increased traffic, while Quick Pita, a fast food Middle Eastern operation across the street from Philly Pizza, reported no change in student patronage.
According to Tuscany Café owner Rashid Aigoumeziane, daytime and nighttime traffic has increased at the restaurant. Aigoumeziane said that the new customers were mostly students. Although he said he never considered his restaurant in competition with Philly Pizza, he attributes the influx of students to his establishment to Philly Pizza’s closure.
In contrast, Sam Wazzah, manager of Quick Pita, reported no change in business and lamented the departure of Philly Pizza. Wazzah said that he had been excited by Philly Pizza’s relocation in 2009 to Potomac Street, across from his business.
“We welcomed Philly [Pizza]. We thought it would bring in more traffic,” Wazzah said.
Wazzah said that he thought the two businesses could have had a good working relationship.
Philly Pizza was forced to shut its doors on March 9 after a month-long legal battle. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs revoked Philly Pizza’s certificate of occupancy in October, a decision later upheld by the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Philly Pizza was ruled to be operating as a fast food joint instead of a restaurant, which violates zoning requirements on residential streets. Many West Georgetown residents testified at BZA hearings about Philly Pizza’s operations, citing noise levels, patrons’ rowdy behavior and excessive trash.
Tuscany Café has received no such complaints, according to Aigoumeziane.
“We have had no neighbor complaints because we have more space. . There’s no one waiting outside,” Aigoumeziane said.
Quick Pita has received one complaint from an Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E commissioner who lives on the street, according to Wazzah.
ANC student representative Aaron Golds (COL ’11) said that he was unaware of any complaints from residents about area restaurants.
“There may be some, but not a number significant enough to become an issue,” Golds said in an e-mail.
Students said that they thought the complaints from residents about Philly Pizza were too extreme.
“It’s a shame that the neighborhood and Philly [Pizza] couldn’t come to an agreement,” Hannah Lomax-Vogt (COL ’12) said.
It is unclear what will become of the space recently vacated by Philly Pizza, according to Golds, but students said they felt the effects of its closing a month later. The move to Tuscany has been an unwelcome one for some students. Sam Fubara (COL ’11) bemoaned the loss of what he considered a Georgetown tradition.
“I go to Tuscany where, unfortunately, the pizza is far more oily,” Fubara said. “You just can’t replace Philly P.”
While many, like Fubara, now take the walk to Tuscany, others have opted for delivery offerings.
“[Philly Pizza’s closure] doesn’t affect my life greatly,” said Sara Higa (COL ’12), who has since switched to Domino’s delivery.
Some Georgetown students have also started selling pizza on campus. For several weeks in March and leading into April, the pledge class for Alpha Kappa Psi sold pizza at the Healy Gates. According to Nick Joosten (COL ’12), treasurer and chair of the fundraising committee for the fraternity’s pledge class, they sold pizza for five weeks and made a $350 profit. Joosten said that Philly Pizza’s closure was a deciding factor in Alpha Kappa Psi’s choice to raise money via front gates pizza sales.
At first, the pledge class sold the pizza on campus, but relocated to 37th and O Streets when the Department of Public Safety informed them that they could not sell the pizza on campus. Joosten said that despite visits by DPS and the Metropolitan Police Department, the Alpha Kappa Psi pledge class was undeterred.
“We stopped selling because we didn’t have any more pledge events to fundraise for. [DPS and MPD] shutting us down wasn’t a factor in our decision to stop selling pizza,” Joosten said.
Other groups have tried similar fundraising tactics. Alpha Epsilon Pi sold pizza outside of Lauinger Library, and at least one Relay For Life team sold brownies at the front gates. Shane Sarver (MSB ’12), captain of the Relay team, said that DPS asked the team to relocate its late-night bake sale to Alumni Square.
As the end of the year approaches, however, late-night food options at main-campus crossings have not become a weekly event, and students have continued pursuing off-campus fare instead.