The week-and-a-half-long 14th and U Street Arts Overlay quasi-crisis came to a quasi-resolution yesterday, when the Office of Planning recommended that the Zoning Commission take emergency action to lift the 25 percent cap on eating and drinking establishments. It might have been the fastest any agency has reacted on a regulation like this anyone can remember, and the MidCity Business Association seemed satisfied.
And one business seems to have taken special precautions. The recommendation includes a request that, if emergency action is not taken, a pending restaurant application for 1361 U Street be consolidated with the public hearing. That’s about as good as a restaurant without a permit can get, at this point.
The address belongs to a joint project between Omar Miskinyar and Aman Ayoubi, owner of Local 16 and the forthcoming Table 14 as well as an unnamed steak place and music venue on the northeast corner of 14th and U street. Despite the Office of Planning getting his back, Ayoubi still worried—it already took them nine months to get the necessary liquor licenses, and further delay has freaked investors out.
“The investors are very very very nervous, and the only people who is making money is the lawyers,” Ayoubi told Housing Complex. “Nobody wants to put good money after bad. They are not going to put more money into construction.”
Meanwhile, it’s created problems with the landlord. “We don’t even know what we’re going to do with the building, “ Ayoubi went on. “Do we have to give the building back to them? I need something in writing to guarantee that they’re going to give us the permit to open. That will calm down the investors.”
Until the Zoning Commission rules—or Ayoubi can secure a special exception for his permits—he’s paying a collected $45,000 per month in rent, with no progress. And there’s no telling if he’ll make it through.
“Nobody knows how long this process takes. Another three months? Another four months?” he asked, rhetorically. “For a small business like me, Two months of rent can be a killer.”