Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Opposition to TGI Friday's from Monroe Street residents: ANC meeting on Wed. to discuss

The other day I got a couple of messages on Twitter from people with issues with TGI Friday's. When we got in touch via email, I learned that a number of residents of Monroe Street are opposed to the way TGI Friday's is dealing with them and their issues about the coming chain restaurant.

As you may recall, TGI Friday's is planning to open a 300-seat location in the space at the corner of 14th and Monroe, which is under the Samuel Kelsey Apartments for seniors. The neighbors say they've been trying to work with the restaurant on issues about noise, hours, trash and traffic, but the restaurant isn't compromising. The issues will be discussed at today's Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting, which will be at 7 pm at Tubman Elementary (13th and Kenyon.) I expect that it'll be pretty raucous.

The meeting will include a brief presentation from TGI Friday's and also a discussion of the restaurant's "settlement agreement," which is the agreement between the ANC and the restaurant that determines their hours of operation, trash plans and the like. A liquor license has legal limits to what the business can do, like how late they can stay open, how they handle trash, music, sidewalk cafes and so on, but often those limits are wider than what neighbors want. The agreement is a way to change those limits, with the threat that if they don't enter into an agreement, the ANC will oppose their liquor license. Kind of byzantine, but it seems to work. They used to call these "voluntary agreements," but they weren't very voluntary, hence the new name.

Here's more on those issues with TGI Friday's from a local resident, who asked to remain nameless.
(...) Everything went great until we questioned them on a couple of issues. They saw our settlement agreement and basically rejected any type of compromise on most of it. Their discourse on willing to do anything to be a good neighbor went out the door when we asked for them to amend their closing hours to around midnight. At that point their bullying behavior became apparent and they immediately shut us down without any room for discussion. the fact of the matter is that they have not shown any action or willingness to go out of their way to appease our concerns We asked for: No DJ/Livemusic band, No sidewalk cafe (there is not enough room either on Monroe or 14 St) Earlier than 2 amclosing time (12am), No dumpster on Monroe St. No deliveries during rush hour 
And so far we've got NONE of it. They said that they don't plan on having parties but then why do you need live music/DJ license until 2am? They are willing to consider not having side walk cafe but its in the plan right now so why would they be willing after all approvals are received to not do it just for us? If their concern was US, they would have already scrapped that from the plan.
The email is fairly long, but to summarize the next part, the restaurant said they'll put up an outdoor trash compactor, but the residents still fear rodents. They also note that Ruby Tuesday across the street closes at midnight. As for the deliveries, here's their take on that:
The impact on local traffic: Maybe here we got something from them by not having deliveries on Monroe but the hours for delivery on 14th St will make traffic just as bad as if they received deliveries on Monroe. We need to not allow deliveries anytime before 9 or9:30 am. Right now they plan on instructing supplier to deliver between 7 and 11 am which will cause a nightmare during rush hour for all that drive through the intersection as you can bet on having their trucks double parked and completely blocking traffics while they deliver. Having the two parking spaces as delivery only will not guarantee that the spaces will be available when deliveries show up.
The writer also mentioned bullying by TGI Friday's -- I asked for more information on that: regards to the bullying, they basically accepted a meeting with ANC reps and us the Monroe St residents but when it came to negotiating any type of compromise so that the nuisance of their presence is not as bad, their position was "We have the permit so we'll do as we please and make as much money as possible" mostly when negotiating the closing hours. Also, when we mentioned the negative impact their business will have on parking for residents, they completely dismissed our concerns. We asked them to offer complimentary parking to their patrons at one of the two parking garages less than two blocks away and their response was "no one else is doing it around here so why should we" we told them that actually a few businesses do it and that would be a sign of good faith when it comes to showing their intentions on being a good neighbor. Again they dismissed us by saying we'll look into it. In regards to rodent control, they'r telling us that by having a compactor they will not cause an exacerbation of the already serious rat infestation problem we have on Monroe St. Any person with some common sense will know that this is not true. I will not even mention the way the building management is behaving with its residents because they asked not to make it public so I will abstain from commenting further and let them pick that battle if they wish to do so.
So, it's going to be an interesting meeting. There are obviously some strong feelings about TGI Friday's coming in, as the writer makes clear. Some of these complaints are at least somewhat justified, to me: the traffic issue, for example, as I've spent 15-20 minutes or more on the bus in the mornings trying to get from about Newton the Irving. If TGI Friday's loading and unloading cargo is planned at the same time and that affects traffic, that would be bad. That's a big if, but traffic is already terrible there, we don't need more things making it worse. Maybe deliveries on Monroe rather than 14th would actually be better, if that's the case.

I also somewhat agree with the concerns about the hours and DJ. I don't expect there to be a huge dance party at Friday's, but I can see how neighbors would be concerned, especially if Ruby Tuesday across the street seems to have always been a good neighbor and agreed to reduce their hours. It doesn't seem fair for TGI Friday's to not do that, and I expect we'll hear a lot about that.

I'll reserve judgement on the other issues, as to me this seems more like a disinterest in compromise rather than actual bullying by the store, since most of these things they are legally allowed to do.

It's also it's important to note that we haven't heard from Friday's in this case either. We will tomorrow.

What do you think? Do these complaints seem reasonable?

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