Today saw the end of a long campaign to shut down Philly Pizza’s location on Potomac Street, which has been operating illegally since its license was revoked in mid-February. Its doors closed last night, and today, they remain shut.
After a February 19 Board of Zoning Adjustment ruling that barred its continued operation and a subsequent order to vacate the premises failed to shutter the late night drunk food joint, Philly Pizza got taken to D.C. Superior Court, where a two day hearing that concluded this afternoon ordered the establishment to remain closed, or else find itself in contempt of the court.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Vice-Chair Bill Starrels said that as a result of the ruling, at today’s hearing, Philly Pizza agreed to remain closed. An e-mail from D.C. Office of Attorney General’s Michael Stern that Starrels provided to Vox reiterated the hearing’s success at shutting down the pizza joint for good:
“I am pleased to report that after a hearing for most of the day yesterday, when we returned to Court this morning Mr. Greenberg, the attorney for Philly Pizza & Grill, Inc., conceded our point to the Court and voluntarily agreed to close the establishment. We reduced that agreement to writing, and made it an Order of the Court.”
Well, almost certainly for good. Starrels said that Philly Pizza owner Mehmet Kocak has filed with the D.C. Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs for a new certificate of occupancy.
The DCRA’s decision to revoke its certificate in November, citing activity that violated the certificate like too high a volume of take-out traffic, is the decision that originally endangered Philly Pizza. The DCRA will have to decide whether it wants to issue a new certificate.
Last Friday, while waiting for the hearing that concluded today to start, Starrels and a neighbor of Philly Pizza who had come to the Moultrie Courthouse to hear the judge’s decision expressed great frustration that it had taken so much effort to try to close Philly Pizza. They speculated that it continued to operate so its owners could make money up to the point of its officially closing.
“We’re being dragged into another hearing,” Wolf Wittke, who lives across the street from Philly Pizza, said. “We haven’t ever had such trouble with other [food] establishments in the area. And talking to Philly P always resulted in this attitude of, ‘It’s none of your business.’”
Martin Sullivan, an attorney for the ANC, said that it was unusual for an establishment to remain open after it had been closed by the DCRA, resulting in court action, and Starrels said he had recently learned that Philly Pizza was operating in defiance of another authority, the Old Georgetown Board, which approves structural changes to local buildings, which had cited it for an improper ventilation system.
“We know where we live,” Wittke continued. “It’s Georgetown. It’s a busy street. We like the area, and we don’t mind the students coming and going. But if you’re creating a party hotspot at a business without a license …” He shook his head. “We’re becoming the next Adams Morgan in that area.”
Kocak and his representation both declined to comment.