Having successfully completed a months-long campaign to shutter Philly Pizza, today, neighborhood residents and community leaders received an additional surprise: a visit from Mayor Adrian Fenty, who drove up to the restaurant’s former home in his Smart Car just after 11 a.m.to make brief remarks about the closing of this drunk food hot spot.
“They did a fantastic job, didn’t they?” Fenty said as he shook hands with neighbors gathered to hear him speak, in reference to Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners’ efforts to shut down Philly Pizza after the city had revoked its license to operate.
Flanked by Attorney General Peter Nickles and Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs Director Linda Argo, his podium positioned near where tipsy Georgetown students used to sit on the curb to enjoy their pizza with ranch dressing, Fenty congratulated ANC Commissioners Bill Starrels and Ed Solomon for their work to “shut down a nuisance business causing havoc in the community.”
He likened Philly Pizza’s closure to other illegal businesses that the City has targeted, like used car lots and nightclubs. Later, in his remarks, Nickles volunteered brothels and used car lots that the City had closed as a comparison.
“We listened to our Georgetown residents and it was clear this business was not being a good neighbor,” Fenty said.
Argo, whose department has already received Philly Pizza’s request for a new certificate of occupancy that would allow it to reopen, said that the DCRA would look carefully at Philly P’s claims about its business going forward, saying “You can’t go out and buy plates and silverware … turn in a receipt and call yourself a restaurant.”
Solomon, one of the ANC commissioners whose residents had complained about the business, said he was not focused on the possibility that the DCRA might issue Philly Pizza’s owners a new certificate of occupancy. But Starrels, pictured right shaking Fenty’s hand, was much less optimistic, saying that the possibility was a cause for concern because it is so uncertain whether the DCRA would do so.
Starrels attended the hearings at the D.C. Superior Court held this week and last week which concluded yesterday, ultimately giving the D.C. government the power to enforce the DCRA’s revocation of Philly P’s license.
Until that point, Philly Pizza had been knowingly defying the DCRA’s decision. Today, Starrels said he thought the City Council should look at ways it could better empower the DCRA to enforce its own decisions without the City having to take violators like Philly Pizza to court.
“Frankly, the owners were just disrespectful of D.C. law,” Starrels said.
Neighbors gathered to watch Fenty expressed relief that their struggle to close Philly Pizza had ended. They described frustration over waiting at hearings all day and waking up to an inbox full of community e-mails about Philly Pizza every morning for weeks, just to have Philly Pizza continue operating until it was forced to close by the courts.
“This is a real victory for the City, where they went in, investigated the restaurant, and held a unanimous hearing process before the DCRA to revoke its license,” resident Wolf Wittke said. “But it’s strange to know that when the City puts out a ruling, you have to go through another process to enforce it.”