The Wendy's at Dave Thomas Circle, which closed on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.
Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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One of the most iconic and infamous locations in D.C. has officially closed for business. The Wendy’s that led the intersection of Florida Avenue NE, New York Avenue NE, and First Street NE to be rechristened Dave Thomas Circle doled out its last baked potato Tuesday. Lines averaged about 25 people both in the restaurant and the drive-thru. Patrons debated gentrification while they waited. One woman sang Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” as she exited the restaurant. Chocolate Frosties ran out around 3 p.m. 

Like it or hate it, this Wendy’s bred chaos. (For proof, consult City Paper’s 2019 transit race, which included a stop at the restaurant.) It’s plopped in the middle of one of D.C.’s busiest intersections, where you need to make two right turns and a left to continue down Florida Avenue NE. If you’re a pedestrian, it’s even more stressful. You have to be on high alert from drivers looking to get out of the intersection as fast as possible. One Twitter user reported nearly getting hit by a car three times only to find the door locked. If D.C. were a video game map, Wendy would be the final boss and this would be her castle.

It makes sense why the D.C. government moved to acquire the property via eminent domain earlier this year. Plans for the intersection, which include protected bike lanes, public parks, and two-way traffic on Florida Avenue NE and First Street NE, are still being shored up and will be completed in October, Everett Lott, interim director of the District Department of Transportation, told WTOP Tuesday

Eckington resident Bridgette, who calls this particular Wendy’s her favorite restaurant, said the day was bittersweet. She understands why Wendy’s is closing but says the traffic doesn’t bother her. She was sad to lose her favorite restaurant on her birthday.

“Closing the Wendy’s on my birthday? It’s a sad birthday present. It’s a sad birthday for me because it’s my #1 favorite,” she said. At least she got a free final Frosty, courtesy of the NoMa BID.

Long-time D.C. resident Oni Jones discussed the loss of Chocolate City to gentrification while waiting in the Wendy’s to-go line.

“How am I supposed to get to my house?!” she asked. “My landmark is gone!”

Jones said she’s lived in the area since the restaurant opened, making a point to say she’s from New York Avenue NE, not NoMa, a neighborhood name that came about when the area was redeveloped in the late 1990s. 

“They say, ‘It’s an eyesore. Get rid of it,’” Jones said. “It’s a marker. It’s not a bad thing for the community. It’s employed some of the community. This is my neighborhood and I feel like my whole neighborhood is gone.”

The fast-food chain has also acknowledged how sad it is to close. “The Wendy’s restaurant at Dave Thomas Circle has been a beloved part of the brand and has served members of the community and commuters for decades,” a statement the company’s headquarters shared with multiple media outlets reads. “The name ‘Dave Thomas Circle’ is synonymous with Wendy’s and honors our founder, making it one of the most special and recognizable restaurants in our portfolio and a highly valuable asset of The Wendy’s Company.”

Wendy’s hasn’t yet announced another D.C. location, so for now, raise a Frosty toast to the Dave Thomas Circle Wendy’s. You were a square burger filling a triangle circle. Everyone either loved you or loved to hate you—but you will always be a legend. Rest in chaos.

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