ANC 6C Cites Noise and Disruption in Pupatella Protest

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301 Massachusetts Ave. NE, future site of Pupatella Pizzeria in Fall 2021. E.O'Gorek, CCN

“We do want Pupatella, we just don’t want those very late hours that are going to have such an impact on a residential street,” a neighbor told Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC). “It’s not the same as something like Union pub, [where] sometimes it’s open till two and three a.m., but it’s a world of difference when the noise is absorbed by broad Massachusetts Avenue.

The community member was echoing concerns expressed by commissioners. At their July 13th meeting,  ABC 6C voted unanimously to both protest the class C license pending a Settlement Agreement (SA), which is a type of contract between the applicant and the ANC on behalf of the community. They may ask the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to delay the Public Space Committee (PSC) hearing on a sidewalk cafe for Pupatella Pizza (301 Massachusetts Ave. NE). The main concerns raised with the proposal were noise, neighborhood disruption and the storage of trash and grease.

The Neapolitan pizzeria announced that they had signed a lease on the site at 301 Massachusetts Ave. NE last September. At the time, representatives said the building would need to be gutted for both cosmetic and structural reasons.

Hours proposed for the restaurant interior space are Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m and Friday and Saturdays s8 a.m. to 3 a.m. Outdoor hours are Sunday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. The application also includes a proposal for live entertainment inside the premises from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

The future Pupatella site space (in fall 2021) is large enough for a substantial sidewalk cafe. E.O’Gorek/CCN

Commissioner Jay Adelstein (6C03) said he has heard concern from neighbors about the late night noise that this establishment may bring to the neighboring residential communities.

“There was a neighbor who lived two or three houses away who was worried that Third Street (which is residential) itself will bear the brunt of a lot of the noise and that the noise from those sitting outside will generate down Third street,” Adelstein said. “She wants the hours of operation to be limited.”

But Pupatella Chief Operating Officer (COO) Michael Berger said the company was just trying to have all options available to them as they worked to open what has historically been a difficult space. The building has been vacant for the past five years and had fallen into disrepair. Berger said while the application includes a live entertainment endorsement, the company does not have “any specific plans” to implement entertainment at the restaurant at this time.

“We were just looking to give ourselves the best opportunity to exist in the neighborhood and thrive as a business,” Berger said of the application. “We’re a family pizzeria, that’s our bread and butter operation. We’re not a concert venue. We’re not blasting loud music. That’s not who we are.”

Berger expressed hope that both parties could reach a productive agreement.

Commissioners Joel Kelty (6C05) and Drew Courtney (6C06) encouraged Berger to amend the application to reflect this. Courtney emphasized that the ANC is willing to work with local businesses to make changes once they are operating and have established mutual trust.

Commissioner Mark Eckenwiler (6C04) also expressed concern about the size of the sidewalk cafe. He said the enclosure is a “much more substantial structure” than what is typical. The restaurant will seat between 65 and 70 individuals inside, while outdoor seating is estimated at around 125 capacity.

Berger said he is planning to fill the panels of the enclosure with a high density insulation spray to help with soundproofing. He emphasized that while he is not looking to “disrupt the neighborhood” his team has worked hard on plans to mitigate challenges in a difficult situation.

“We’ve spent a lot of time on his plan and it’s a really difficult building to make work,” Berger said.

Kelty acknowledged the awkward nature of the site but reiterated the importance of noise issues to the neighborhood.

“As a licensed architect, I agree with you,” Kelty said. “But that’s not the neighborhood’s concern. It’s not our problem that it’s a tough building.”

In public space concerns, the establishment said it plans to have trash and grease picked up everyday of the week and to power wash once weekly.

If a settlement agreement (SA) is in place with the establishment before July 28, the ANC plans to send a live witness to the PSC hearing to outline the concerns of the committee. The commissioners unanimously agreed and authorized Commissioner Karen Wirt (6C02) to serve as a witness if needed.