D.C. Whole Foods feuds with pol­icy of land­lord

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEBORAH SIMMONS Deborah Simmons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

Since March, the Whole Foods store on Wis­con­sin Ave. NW has been closed while bat­tling ro­dents and other ver­min, try­ing to com­ply with mul­ti­ple D.C. health code vi­o­la­tions and in­spec­tions.

The oner­ous prob­lem now has led to an­other prob­lem.

Whole Foods filed a June 6 law­suit com­plain­ing that its land­lord, Wi­cal LP on Ver­mont Ave. NW, is vi­o­lat­ing the lease agree­ment.

Wi­cal claimed in a May 15 let­ter that Whole Foods vi­o­lated the lease by clos­ing the store for more than 60 days.

The Wash­ing­ton Busi­ness Jour­nal (WBJ) re­ported that, in the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Wi­cal claims that Whole Foods is in “de­fault of its lease be­cause the lease pro­hibits the store from clos­ing for more than 60 days dur­ing any three­year pe­riod.”

Whole Foods, mean­while, claims Wi­cal wants “to strong-arm Whole Foods into pay­ing ad­di­tional rent and com­mit­ting to a longer term,” said WBJ, adding that “Whole Foods calls the no­tice ‘un­law­ful’ be­cause it has con­sis­tently paid its rent dur­ing the clo­sure and is work­ing to rem­edy the in­fes­ta­tion.”

For Whole Foods, the rem­edy in­cludes gut­ting the gro­cery store and re­build­ing it anew, based on con­sul­ta­tions with mul­ti­ple con­trac­tors.

The Whole Foods law­suit is not merely about money.

The or­ganic gro­cer made a pointed ar­gu­ment in its law­suit, say­ing while it al­ready has spent $1 mil­lion try­ing to re­solve health code vi­o­la­tions, the lease with Wi­cal al­lows de­lays “be­yond the con­trol” of the ten­ant and land­lord, and it ex­pects to spend sev­eral ad­di­tional mil­lions in up­grad­ing the store.

In the court papers and on its web­site, Whole Foods refers to the trou­bled store as be­ing lo­cated in Ge­orge­town.

In fact, the store is in Glover Park, Ge­orge­town’s north­ern Wis­con­sin Av­enue neigh­bor, whose no­table sites in­clude the U.S. Naval Ob­ser­va­tory, also known as the vice pres­i­dent’s man­sion, and sev­eral em­bassies.

Whole Foods cur­rently has five stores in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. The Glover Park store opened in 1996, the first in the city.

The new­est is at Sixth and H streets NE, a gen­tri­fy­ing cor­ri­dor near Am­trak’s rails.

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