Georgetown University students launched a petition Nov. 14 supporting the opening of Call Your Mother Deli after local politicians called for the Board of Zoning Adjustment to deny the popular bagel deli’s pending zoning application.
The petition protesting the delay of Call Your Mother’s opening has 456 signatures from students and community members at the time of publication. The BZA postponed a decision Oct. 30 about whether or not to permit the restaurant to open at the corner of 35th and O Streets to Dec. 4.
To be allowed to open in the iconic pink building at 3428 O St. NW, formerly Greenworks Florist, Call Your Mother needs a zoning variance, an exception to the space’s current designation for retail. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E passed a resolution supporting the variance 6-2 on Oct. 2.
Washington, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and ANC 2E Commissioner and Chair Rick Murphy dissented and wrote letters to BZA opposing the exception Oct. 17 and Oct. 22, respectively, before the BZA deferred its decision.
Call Your Mother has its first location in Petworth and a stand at the Georgetown University Farmers’ Market. The prospect of the trendy deli, recently listed on Bon Appetit’s top 50 nominees for best new restaurants nationwide, having a brick-and-mortar location in the neighborhood excites students, according to Christian Mandrakos (MSB ’20), who started the petition.
“Like many other students, we were looking forward to the restaurant’s opening, having tried their food before at the Farmers’ Market,” Mandrakos wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Many of us viewed it as an affordable, high-quality food alternative with a convenient location.”
Mandrakos said the news about the deli’s opposition gave rise to the idea, and his friend Esther Doerr (COL ’20) suggested he start a petition to share the perspective of Georgetown students.
Evans cited concerns about the increased traffic Call Your Mother could bring to the neighborhood, from frequent truck deliveries and customers driving to the location, in his Oct. 17 letter.
“All of this would affect the quality of life for these residents,” Evans wrote.
The Georgetown neighborhood already accommodates long lines at popular restaurants without a problem, according to Call Your Mother owner Andrew Dana.
“Well, I don’t know what the detriment to the neighborhood of there being a line is. Even the Georgetown Cupcake line is a very calm line, so I would push back on Jack Evans’ comments and say I don’t know what the negative impact is there,” Dana said in an interview with The Hoya. “We truly do just want to be a neighborhood-based restaurant.”
Dana ultimately wants to open several Call Your Mother locations that will cater to their individual neighborhoods.
“We’re not on TV like Georgetown Cupcakes or anything like that, we just want to be a part of the community, and I also think the fact that we have another location in Parkview and plans to open another one in Capitol Hill shows that our future vision is to truly be neighborhood-based and not to be drawing people in from other neighborhoods,” he said.
The Dec. 4 hearing is an opportunity for Call Your Mother to demonstrate its value to the surrounding neighborhood, Dana said.
“We’re trying to stay optimistic that, on Dec. 4, they will give us approval, and if they give us approval Dec. 4, we’ll be ready to open a couple days after that,” he said. “We’re continuing to show that we’re good neighbors and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure it’s smooth and there’s no issues.”
A bagel at Call Your Mother starts at $2.50, and the deli offers sandwiches like challah sub roll cheesesteak concepts. It fills the need for more affordable breakfast and lunch options close to campus, according to signatory Katherine Evanko (MSB ’20), who lives on 35th Street.
“Saxby’s bagels are very gross,” she wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We need good bagels and inexpensive breakfast options in the neighborhood.”
Cheap and fast off-campus dining options are limited in the Georgetown neighborhood. Currently, Wisemiller’s Grocery and Deli and Saxby’s are the only counter service breakfast or lunch spots within three blocks of campus. They accept GOCard debit dollars, and Dana has said he will look into accepting GOCard at Call Your Mother, too.
Call Your Mother would be both convenient and affordable for students, according to Rachel Staats (COL ’20).
“As a student living one block away, I think [Call Your Mother] would be a great way to address the lack of affordable food options in the area. Any resident who is against their opening must not have tried their za’atar bagel,” she wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Staats also commented on the online petition: “yes!! give me za’atar bagel or give me death.”
The petition is a welcome show of neighborhood support in the face of opposition that would otherwise be disheartening, according to Dana.
“Georgetown students are just as much a part of the neighborhood as somebody who lives in a house there and has, you know, been a resident, so I think it’s important that the Georgetown students’ voices are heard and this just shows us that most of the neighborhood does support us and is into it,” he said. “It just really motivates us in this slog of trying to open. It’s easy to get frustrated, and seeing stuff like this really gets us motivated.”