City Paper Widget

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

UPDATED: Neighbor Attempts to Put Pal the Mediterranean Spot Out of Business

UPDATE Friday, February 21: The neighbors have dropped the appeal today -- see document 22 of case 18716, accessible through the Interactive Zoning Information System of Office of Zoning.

Yesterday, the D.C. Attorney General said the appeal should be dismissed -- see document 21D on same page.

I do not imply this blog post influenced the outcome. The outcome was clearly caused solely by events prior to this post's publication. 

Thanks to U Street Buzz for this information.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street will support the management of Pal the Mediterranean Spot restaurant (1501 U Street NW) in a struggle with an abutting neighbor to the north over whether their space is zoned for restaurant operation.

The northwest corner of 15th and U
The case of Pal the Mediterranean Spot will come up before D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) on March 4. According to publicly-available BZA documents, the abutting neighbors who are bringing the appeal are Christina and Mark Parascandola. They will attempt to prove that the restaurant's certificate of occupancy to operate a 50-seat restaurant was issued in error.

ANC1B voted unanimously to send a letter to the BZA opposing the appeal. The vote took place during ANC1B's regular monthly meeting on February 6.

At the meeting, ANC Commissioners noted the neighbors had recently lost a long struggle to deny Pal the Mediterranean Spot a liquor license. A decision, documented in a D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board order of January 22 (available here), grants Pal the Mediterranean Spot a liquor license for restaurants and also permission to operate a sidewalk cafe until 11pm, Monday - Thursday, and midnight Friday and Saturday. Another ABC Board document (287-page .pdf available here) is a transcript of the October 16, 2013, hearing on the matter.

Having lost the liquor license battle, the neighbors are now attempting to show that the restaurant does not have the right to operate, ANC Commissioners said. An on-line DC zoning map confirms 1501 U Street is zoned R-5-B. This zone is for single-family dwellings and apartment buildings. Its abutting neighbors to the west on U Street are zoned to allow commercial use.

ANC Commissioners at the meeting characterized the restaurant as a Mom-and-Pop operation, run by immigrants who could ill afford the lawyers it needed to defend themselves against the continuing legal actions.

"It's a tragedy and we need to look into this," one said.

This is not the first time zoning regulations have been used to attempt to thwart prospective or current liquor licensees. In July 2013, it was used in an attempt to derail the opening of Compass Rose (1346 T Street).

None of the parties involved identified themselves as present at the meeting.

Documents relating to Pal the Mediterranean Spot's BZA case can be viewed at the Interactive Zoning Information System of Office of Zoning by entering case number 18716 into the search bar.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)


  1. Couldn't be nicer people than the folks who own this place. It's not like there wasn't a restaurant/cafe there before, nor is this the sort of place that's going to be loud. If the neighbors boot them, they'll probably end up being neighbors with a subway or some other chain that has the means to fight the neighbors as opposed to a nice neighborhood restaurant.

  2. What are they arguing the c of o allows or are they just trying to use a technicality to cost the business enough not to fight them.

  3. they should look at zoning case
    Board of Zoning Adjustment Order No. 16518 - Office of Zoning
    It is a case where erroneous c of o's were issued to residential buildings on Mt. Pleasant street and the business between was denied. He got his C of O based upon exception circumstances. It was also R-5 abutting commercial. If there was a previous restaurant use it makes this mor applicable.

  4. Subway - or some similar corporate concern - could be behind the whole thing.

  5. Long time U Street residentFebruary 20, 2014 at 9:32 PM

    Congrats, Nimbys. Now the entire community hates you. Muhammad and Ababa -- we're with you.

  6. Christina and Mark are real gems. Apparently, she is a lawyer (obviously not too successful) ....

  7. While majority of DC residents are wonderful, I am witnessing similar trends like that of Greece and some other European countries going under economic distress. I don't believe things are that bad in DC and yet the hatred against foreigners and immigrants is trailing Greece. It is sad to see this in the great United States.

  8. Not sure if the other commentators are local to ANC 1B but I ask them:

    " How would you feel if a neighboring coffee shop, that traded during retail business hours, became an extended hours licensed establishment in the space below you or on your adjoining wall?”

    The protest was never about discrimination against an immigrant mom-and pop shop owner, corporate bullying or denying the neighborhood of a cheap place to eat and drink - it is about the right of neighboring residents to peace order and quiet.

    As a 1B resident with children, opting for a sustainable and greener way of living in the inner city sans; car, long commutes; high utility usage; etc etc , I welcome the new businesses in the 1B neighborhood – I spend a lot of money at them all the time, but licensed establishments abutting residential property?

    In an apartment above Mediterranean Spot resides a terminally ill resident; the residents on 15th Street , did not purchase their homes with a licensed establishment trading till 11 AM or Midnight on the corner in mind.

    I just hope for the neighbors, this does not evolve to a tavern.

    (to know why - just ask the the residents on the 1400 block of W. When purchasing their homes behind a newly opened bicycle shop, never imagined having to file multiple complaints as the music from the tavern that took over the space vibrates their walls at 2 AM on a weekend.)

    It’s unfortunate those wielding voting rights on the ANCs, almost all reside with a buffer to the commercial zones. Locations such as the 2000 block of New Hampshire Ave or Gresham Place are insulated from the noise of these after retail hours establishments. Is this why they make recommendations the way they do?

    Please show some empathy for those of us who live next door to the action you all love to be part of, but can walk away from at the end of the night.

  9. Dear Anonymous,

    You reference "licensed establishments abutting residential property" as if this is a horror forced upon these neighbors. I see it differently. I see people who have chosen to reside steps away (literally) from U Street -- a street that is, historically, one of the most vibrant (i.e., loud) in all of Washington, D.C. Having made this choice they (and you) don't get to complain when a tiny little restaurant -- one that is a longtime staple of the community -- asks to sell wine and beer in order to stay alive in a hyper-competitive dining market.

    I might have more sympathy if it was a nightclub moving in, but that is clearly not the situation. This was a dramatic over reach by the Parascandolas and I am thrilled to see that they lost...twice.

    I don't know why it needs saying over and over but it clearly does: If you choose to live at 15th and U -- or 14th and W or New Hampshire and U or any of the areas you call "buffer zones" you are likely to have noise issues. That does not mean anything goes. There should be, and are, reasonable and enforced limits.

    But forcing a small restaurant out of business because they want to sell wine and beer is not reasonable.


    Kevin Rooney (not anonymous)
    U Street Buzz:
    12-year resident/homeowner near U Street

  10. What is this nonsense about "forcing an immigrant out of business"? The assertion that a daytime lunch spot and evening take-out joint *needs* a liquor license, late into the night, to avoid bankruptcy, is silly. The restaurant got screwed a bit when the Trader Joe's development forced it to move. They almost went out of business then. Where was this righteous rally when that happened. Were we all to busy licking our chops at the promise of cheap wine and frozen enchiladas?

    And no, it is not relevant whether U St. has always been busy. If that particular parcel isn't supposed to be a late night bar according to the zoning rules, and the restaurant wants to become a late night bar, then let it seek to rent space in a place where that use is allowed. There is no reason to give special exceptions to people just because some of us like them.

    And yes, I know there's a difference between the existing restaurant and a late night bar. But surely you understand that once a liquor license is issued in DC, there is zero ability to ensure the owners continue to operate their business as they have in the past. If the law is structured to serve the interests of owners who do obtain a license, then it is perfectly reasonable to make sure that the law is applied properly on the front end. Move along folks...nothing to see here.