For the love of pizza, the party will go on—with reduced hours, says Mehmet Kocak, owner of Philly Pizza & Grill at 1211 Potomac St. NW. And, that is, only until the place is issued an official order to vacate.
At Kocak’s third hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA), the board concluded that Philly P’s was indeed something it cannot be: a fast-food joint in a zone designated only for dine-in restaurants. BZA said the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affair’s (DCRA) October decision to revoke Philly P’s certificate of occupancy was not issued in error.
Philly P’s will begin closing as early as midnight or 1 a.m. starting today. “So many things are up in the air right now…no reason to close the building right away,” Kocak says. The official shutdown may come in 10 days or 6 months, he says, “we don’t know when they’re going to make the orders.”
At issue in Tuesday’s hours-long hearing—which included cross-examinations over dishwashers and silverware that lasted well past dinner—was whether Philly P’s is a fast-food eatery or a restaurant. Does dine-in equate to restaurant? How existential! (“To be or not to be?”)
Wrapping her head around the nuances of the definitions, Meridith Moldenhauer, the District resident appointee on the BZA, said, “I think it’s what a lot of board members have been struggling with.” Between definitions and regulations, everyone was having a hard time. “Shame on the Zoning Commission for not making this completely clear,” Michael Turnbull, a member of that commission,said at the hearing.
DCRA investigator Terrell Hill noted that, during an hour-long visit to Philly P’s last August, employees “made at least four trips with boxes placed on the back of a scooter” and no dine-in customers were to be found. Hill’s testimony about pizza consumed on paper plates, soda straight out of the can, and customers paying before eating their food—all the trappings of a fast food spot—won the board over.
Kocak is standing his ground, saying Philly P’s has made improvements, that they are indeed a restaurant (no matter how many paper plates he hands out), and it’s the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission that’s tried to shut them down.