Bernstein & Feldman, P.A.

Providing Personal Counsel
And Representation For Over
30 Years

Moe's v Chipotle: Is Annapolis big enough for the two of 'em?

The Annapolis Board of Appeals heard from representatives of Moe's Southwest Grill and the national franchise Chipotle recently regarding the latter's request to assume the special exception the board granted to the business that used to be at the proposed Chipotle location. Chipotle wants to serve alcohol at 36 Market Space, in the city's historic district, just as its predecessor, Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers, did.

Chipotle will not just slip into the special exception as it was written for the coffee shop, though. The fast-food eatery is asking to eliminate the bookstore element of the exception and to expand seating capacity by 38 percent.

Moe's is not arguing that the request is unworkable or unreasonable. Rather, Moe's is arguing that the request is coming from a fast food restaurant, the very thing the city code is supposed to prevent from entering the historic district. Fast-food chains attract noise, traffic and trash -- all undesirable additions for Market Space and area residents.

The code defines a fast food restaurant as one that generates more than 10 percent in profits from takeout sales. Standard restaurants must also provide reusable flatware. While Chipotle sites are not "standard" fast-food restaurants, customers still walk up to a counter to order, to pick up and to pay. Restaurant employees may clear tables in the seating areas, but table service is not the norm.

One board member noted, though, that both establishments place themselves in the "fast casual" category of dining concepts. And, Moe's itself requested and was granted a similar exception for its location in 2005.

Further, Chipotle and the coffee shop are not even remotely the same kinds of operations. The coffee shop never had a kitchen; its alcohol exception was granted so patrons could have shots of liquor with their coffee. Chipotle is not just taking over the space; there will be major renovations. It isn't a matter of Chipotle moving in one day and opening the next, an expert for Moe's argued. Why consider an amendment to an existing exception for an entirely different kind of business?

The board is scheduled to decide the matter at its January 2013 meeting. Over the holidays, then, board members will lie all snug in their beds while visions of baracoa burritos with black beans and a side of guacamole dance in their heads.

Source: Annapolis Patch, "Moe's Fights Against Downtown Chipotle Location," Anna Staver, Dec. 5, 2012

We help businesses with zoning and land use matters like the one discussed above. To find out more about our Annapolis, Maryland, practice, please visit our website.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information