Don’t Panic: Greek Deli Is Reopening After Bathroom Debacle

The health department temporarily closed the carryout for not having a restroom within 500 feet

Greek Deli owner Kostas Fostieris in a 2009 video.

Good news for the many Greek Deli fans: the 30 year-old downtown carryout restaurant is reopening tomorrow for the foreseeable future.

The deli was temporarily shuttered by the health department on Monday due to a citation stating that “The establishment does not have a restroom.  The available restroom is located in the basement of the building.” (Hat tip to Popville, which first reported the news.) Owner Kostas Fostieris says he’s operated for decades using the restrooms in the adjoining building and has been repeatedly granted business licenses and passed health inspections during that time. The storefront is not required to have a bathroom for patrons, though it is required to have a restroom employees can access within 500 feet. In February of last year, health inspectors made a routine survey of the deli and cited Fostieris for not having a bathroom within the proper distance. They consequently shuttered the restaurant after two follow-up visits when the situation was not rectified.

On Monday, Fostieris posted a handwritten note on the glass door of his establishment as would-be lunch patrons were turned away by locked doors. It read: “Just to clarify, we were not closed because we improperly handled food or were unclean. After 30 years, with no notice because we do not have a restroom on premises. We are working to rectify the situation and look forward to serving you shortly.”

The owner’s daughter, Maria Fostieris, says her family was worried that regulars would misinterpret the closure: “I don’t want people to think the deli is closed because of rats. There have never been any health issues.”

As a lawyer, Maria says she’s been going back-and-forth with the DC health department, which she says mistakenly thought that the deli had direct access to a bathroom at some point in time. “That was never the case. Our space hasn’t be altered,” she says.

Luckily, a medium-term solution has been reached. A variance was delivered from the Mayor’s Office on Tuesday afternoon allowing the Greek Deli to share neighbor Nooshi’s restrooms through April 2020 while they potentially find another solution. 

Correction: This article incorrectly quoted health inspector Ross Gaterestse saying a deli license would not require a restroom. 

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.