Thursday, July 25, 2013

Latin American restaurant El Atardecer coming to 14th and Otis has some local opposition

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a contentious ANC 1A meeting where some angry people came to protest against El Atardecer, a new Latin American restaurant coming to 3475 14th Street NW. You may remember that this used to be DC Fish Carryout, the restaurant that served as a front for a crack dealing operation.

In short, El Atardecer applied for a sidewalk cafe license and the ANC opposed -- not because the are against it per se, but because they wanted to negotiate with the restaurant for shorter hours, which is what normally happens. The city's laws say you can stay open until 2 or 3 am in some cases, but the ANCs negotiate that down, usually to around 11pm or midnight. That negotiation is presumably going on now, and they'll come back to the ANC in September.

The owner (a single mom who was at the ANC meeting) also owns La Morenita on Georgia Avenue so they've gone through the process before. The owner said El Atardecer would be a family restaurant, not a club.

However, some neighbors are opposed. One very angry guy who said he lives next door was worried about drunk people and rats in the property, noise and crime. He and another neighbor also said they can hear the music in the restaurant during construction, so he suspects it will be loud. When the owner said they applied to be open until 2 am, the angry guy yelled something about how is that for families? The ANC commish for the area, Laina Aquiline, attempted to defuse the guy's fury, saying she wasn't aware of these complaints, and that they should tell her so she can work with the owners.

The guy also said he was worried that crime would continue, that it was a crack den before and the people who use the drugs still hang out nearby. ANC commish Dottie Love Wade objected to that point, saying the new owners have nothing to do with the Fish Carryout, and that "if it was the [Meridian] Pint I don't think it'd be a problem," which drew applause from the crowd.

I think that's a valid point too, that just because a restaurant is in the same location as crime, it doesn't mean there's going to be crime. The implication Wade had was that if it was a place that catered to the folks who go to Meridian Pint rather than the largely Latin America target demographic of El Atardecer, nobody would complain. That's also true.

I think the angry guy also did himself a disservice by being so furious the whole time and attempting to question everything and everyone. He was the same angry guy complaining about the plan for the Coupe's sidewalk seating: when he asked about noise at 7 am, when they plan to open the sidewalk seating, the rep from the said she didn't think any rowdy people would show up. The angry guy screamed back, "well when do the rowdy people show up!!" The rep was confused and said there really aren't any rowdy people. A pretty bizarre outburst.

However, noise may not be the only issue. A neighbor emailed me the other day saying that La Morenita, the other place El Atardecer's owners run, has had some health code violations. I'm not sure this applies to the earlier complaints, aside from maybe the rat issue. Here's what he had to say.
Thanks for your coverage of the ANC meeting this week – you had a great summary of what went on.  As a follow up to your points on the “El Atardecer” restaurant, I wanted to share some information with you about the owners and their existing restaurant, “La Morenita.”First of all, just do a simple Google search (“dc department of health violations la morenita”) or “la morenita violations” and you will find tons of health code violations.  Check out these sources:
1.      Want to Know Where Not to Eat? New Tool Maps Restaurant Inspections and Health Code Violations, DCist, 
“Over the last year, for example, it's easy to discover that Chinatown's Bistro Med is the worst violator in town, with 56 violations and seven inspections. August 30, for example, wasn't a good day for the restaurant—it got nailed with seven violations ranging from no soap at a handwashing sink to live cockroaches. La Morenita on Georgia Avenue isn't far behind with 47 violations.” 
This story, specifically enumerated “La Morenita” as one of the top recent health code violators in the entire district 

2.      Pest Problems Among Food Violations That Prompt Closures in Washington Restaurants, WUSA9,
The DC Department of Health hit “La Morenita” with so many violations that the restaurant was forced to closed down as recently as May 29th because of the severity of these violations.  This story of “La Morenita’s” closing was featured as part of a news program on WUSA television – please see the embedded video in the 1:35 mark. 
You can also check out:  D.C., Md., Va. health code violations, The Washington Post,   

3.      Attached are two recent complaints from the DC DOH and you will note that.  You can see that, due to the presence of rodents, “La Morenita” has a history of violating Provision 36 of the DOH’s Good Retail Practices. (Here are the links to those, from 2012 and 2013.)

So there's that. In general I'm in favor of new businesses, and if this is a good neighbor and productive place that obeys rules and isn't noisy or messy, I say let them open. What do you think?


  1. My comment is why can't we have more variety of restaurants in this area? Like a good Chinese or Italian restaurant that is reasonably priced.

  2. I walk by this place at least twice a day, and can see that they're hard at work making it look decent. I appreciate that, considering how bleak the corner was before.

    I also walk past Zeba Bar, Taqueria Distrito Federal, and Alero, which all have outdoor seating. Despite full tables, and alcohol being served, I never see rowdiness or hear any obnoxious noise coming from the people sitting outside. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

    I am going to pay close attention to any health code violations though.

  3. If these were good neighbors that obeyed the rules then the neighborhood would not opposed? I live on Otis Pl. and can tell you that our neighborhood enthusiastically supports Taqueria DF, Black Lion and their new deli/coffee shop expansion, and Pho Viet.

    However, the owners of Atardecer, quite simply, don't appear to give a sh*t about our block. Next time you are over in the area, take a look at the back of the building and you will note that there is no trash bin big enough for the building (which has a few residential units above the restaurant). So, instead, residents use the public trash bin on 14th for all of their trash (a complete violation of DC trash collection rules). You will also see that the owners of El Atardecer are joining the other tenants in dumping their trash in that public bin. I wish I could post the photos that I took of the mess they left that WE have to deal with!

  4. Sullivan S, I completely agree with you. I walked past there last night, and there were two men carrying trash out of the restaurant and dumping it in front of an already full public trash can. They even threw out a microwave, just leaving it on the sidewalk.
    I took a photo while they were still carrying even more garbage out.

  5. While I agree that the angry man and the neighbor with questionable motives (a tad of racism?) did not help the cause, I do have to point out that all of the other restaurants people are citing (Taqueria Distrito Federal, Mad Momos, etc.) should not be used as bargaining grounds for Atardecer's hours. Firstly, Mad Momos is on a block that consists almost entirely of businesses. The Taqueria does not serve alcohol and closes their outdoor seating at 10 or 11pm. Atardecer shares a wall with a row of 4-5 townhomes, and sits below a building that seems to have at least 4 apartments inside. If you read their application for the permit, it shows that they have 29 seats planned for the patio. That is a very large number of people to have sitting outside people's bedrooms drinking at 2am on a weeknight - or even 11pm for that matter. I say no to the patio!


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