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Moe's Fights Against Downtown Chipotle Location

Lawyers for both sides sparred at the Board of Appeals meeting in Annapolis on Tuesday.

Downtown Annapolis' burrito war heated up on Tuesday night as attorneys for Chipotle and Moe's Southwest Grill argued over whether the former should be allowed to open a location at 36 Market Space.

"I state the obvious when I tell you that this is simply a competitor that doesn’t want to see a competitive business come to town," Chipotle attorney Alan Hyatt said. "I think we are entitled to the special exception, and this is a pretty flimsy opposition."

Chipotle is asking the Board of Appeals for permission to take over the location's current special exception, owned by Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers, to be a standard restaurant that serves alcohol.

The national burrito chain wants the board to approve two major modifications to that exception: eliminate the bookstore element and expand seating by 38 percent.

The opposition's argument is that Chipotle is fast food, and Annapolis wrote its city code to prevent fast food chains from opening in the historic district.

Regulations require standard restaurants to provide reusable silverware and generate no more than 10 percent in profits from takeout sales.

"They may be an elite fast food restaurant; they may be one of the more environmentally friendly and sustainable fast food restaurants, but they are still a fast food restaurant," said Shep Tullier, a land-use consultant hired by Moe's, located nearby on Dock Street. "I believe that they will far exceed the 10 percent carryout. How do you stop a customer and make a customer eat in?"

Hyatt countered by saying this is a question of enforcement and not a question of Chipotle's ability to meet the requirements for a special exception.

Board member James Gregory took the argument one step further.

"You mentioned that Chipotle describes their concept as fast casual. How does Moe’s describe their concept?" Gregory asked. "[Moe's] description is fast casual. That’s what it says on their website."

Gregory, who has served on the board for eight years, was one of the members who granted Moe's their permission to open on Dock Street in 2005. He said Moe's made similar promises about providing silverware and staying under the 10 percent carryout limit.

"My point here is that you’ve raised these points about Chipotle and we granted Moe's a special exception under the assumption that they would abide by the same rules," Gregory said. "Were we wrong in granting that same special exception for Moe’s?"

Tullier said the difference is that he doesn't believe amending Hard Bean's exception is permissible. The coffee shop asked to become a standard restaurant so that it could serve shots of alcohol with customers' coffee orders.

Chipotle plans to invest $900,000 to gut and transform the space, and Tullier said it's unfair and disingenuous "for this application to come in under the guise of amending an application of a coffee store with no kitchen."

He also noted that foot traffic to Market Space could greatly increase because Chipotle would attract more customers than Hard Bean. Tullier cited a 2011 annual report from Chipotle that touts its ability to serve up to 300 customers per hour.

He said increased traffic, noise and trash would be detrimental to the neighborhood—a point raised by several area residents during the board's first meeting on the subject.

Hyatt conceded that some Chipotle locations can serve one customer every 12 seconds, but he said few stores do that and it's not a companywide goal. Hyatt said Chipotle believes it can be successful at the Market Space location while adhering to all city code requirements.

The board will decide on the case at its January 2013 meeting.

If Chipotle wins its special exception, Hyatt said the company could be serving burritos downtown before the end of 2013.

See also:

  • Chipotle Applies For Liquor License Downtown
  • Chipotle Wants Hard Bean Coffee Location Downtown
Safety first December 06, 2012 at 05:24 AM
So if i don't like subway or starbucks which i do not they should be closed because they are chain stores as well? Can you see were this could go? We would have Bars and t-shirt shops only. Oh my bad that's what we have now. Sorry. Competition is a good thing and Moe's has had a long run downtown without any. They need to understand that those days are over. Offer a better product and better service then they can survive . Complaining like baby's to the city that it is un-fair just makes them look childish.
Doug Smith December 07, 2012 at 12:50 PM
It infuriates me that so-called "competitors" compete in this fashion. There is nothing competitive or "free market" having lawyers and judges decide what amounts to a government advantage of one business over the other. Capitalism and the free market is corrupt. Consumers do not decide who survives based on patronage, service, or product quality. Lawyers decide by limiting our choices. Likewise, I could care less if it is a chain. When the community wants a GOOD burrito shop the community will support the local vendor that builds one. I have eaten once at a Moes. I'll never go back. The food was not to my taste and in my opinion over priced. Chipotle on the other hand was outstanding and I have been back several times. Perhaps Moes is afraid of competition? This kind of market manipulation does no one any good. It threatens industry, employment, good products, and perhaps even the burrito supply.
Safety first December 07, 2012 at 05:29 PM
It's not just the business community that do's it. Politicians do it as well. So do's every special intreset group out there. I am with you on this. Sort of like when Cohen was given the Democratic ticket in the city when the other person won. It's a shame. We the people need to change it.
Mike December 09, 2012 at 10:02 PM
I'd agree with everything Doug said with one exception on wording and definitions. The statement "Capitalism and the free market is corrupt" has it exactly backwards. Corrupt cronyism, where the politicians and lawyers decide who gets to do business based on legalized payoffs and currying favor, is NOT CAPITALISM and is NOT A FREE MARKET. (It's actually a form of FASCISM, and is the EXACT OPPOSITE of capitalism and the EXACT OPPOSITE of a free market.) By definition, in a free market, anyone is FREE to move into a shop where the landlord is willing to let the space.
naplover January 08, 2013 at 12:04 AM
I do think that the Historic District of Annapolis is unique. Unlike other commentors I do not think that Chipotle , Starbucks, Subway , Jimmy Johns etc.... should be allowed in this area. One commentor worried about having "bars and T-Shirt shops". I will always enjoy the unique locally owned bars and T-Shirt shops over the fast food chains, If I want McDonalds or Burger King or Starbucks I can go to any mall anywhere in the US. Which quite frankly will be what everyone else will end up doing, going somewhere else that is unique instead of the chain owned downtown Annapolis area you "think" you would prefer. Soon you will be able to walk past boarded up businesses and empty run down buildings instead of one of a kind Bars and T-shirt shops. Check out how handing over zoning exceptions to every national chain available worked out in Detroit. At the first sign of a downturn they all shut the lights off and left.

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