Go ahead and suggest to Arianne Bennett that restaurants are to blame for the rat problem in Adams Morgan (check the link for Part I of our story, about a resident who blames the rats). Bennett, who owns the Amsterdam Falafelshop with her husband, Scott, has heard it before.
Bennett considers herself a civilian expert on the subject and, in fact, has been known to sign off on the Adams Morgan Listserv as “Constant Fighter of Rats in the Alley.”
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest Bennett does know from rats. First, there’s the “rat exclusionary work” she has personally overseen at her restaurant on 18th Street. Over here, the glue traps. There, the tracking powder. Rat fences line the patio, which is religiously hosed off with bleach or a similar cleaner; posted signs warn the falafel-eating masses to never feed pigeons (the rats with wings). Small holes, wherever they appear, are stuffed with steel wool; she finds some of them by crawling around in dark corners with a flashlight. Every crevice or potential crack in a basement wall she shares with an attached and abandoned building is pocked with spongey, yellow, non-rat-friendly Big Gap Filler. She uses the stuff on the outside cracks of her building and the one next door, as well. She has a professional “rat guy” who checks the place regularly; she knows how to direct-dial the District to get someone out pronto. She never leaves out open trash and patrols the alley to make sure her neighbors and fellow business-owners are similarly vigilant.
“I will stomp on a rat before I will allow it to come into my restaurant,” she says. And she has. It’s not pretty, she says.
If Bennett comes off as a touch more concerned about rats than your average restaurant owner, there’s a good reason. She and Scott and their two Italian mastiffs live upstairs; so if there’s a rat in the restaurant, there’s a rat in the house. They also park their vehicle in the alley by the Dumpsters and have, as has the star or Rat Tale Part I, dealt with rats chewing through their car parts. Bennett’s solution? Bleach. She hoses off the cement under her car every day. “It’s the food smell,” she says. “You have to get rid of that if you don’t want them under there.”
The Dumpsters, themselves, are unfixable, she says. There’s a gap built into their design that prevents the lids from slamming on people’s fingers. It’s a like putting out a welcome mat for rats to get in, she says. “Unless someone designs a better Dumpster that I can afford,” she says, she’ll have to live with it.
And don’t bother to publicly complain on Listservs and the like that the city needs to do more, as several people have done of late. “The old-timers are not surprised anymore,” she says.
“Unless you’re seeing a team of rats carrying a person down the street, you’re not going to get the attention of the District government,” she says. “It’s like trying to hold back a tide right at your front door.”