News & Politics

Call Your Mother Georgetown’s Zoning Hearing Got Trashy—Literally

The hearing lasted seven hours, and ended without a resolution.

Photograph courtesy Call Your Mother.

On Wednesday, the DC Board of Zoning Adjustments held a virtual hearing regarding the future of the Georgetown location of the popular bagel chain Call Your Mother, which needs two permits to be approved in order to continue operating as a restaurant in the neighborhood, amid challenges from neighbors on whether or not it can legally operate there under DC zoning code.

About five hours in to the hearing, Call Your Mother attorney Martin Sullivan presented four screenshots of CCTV footage. They showed a figure who appeared to be dumping trash into a city receptacle at 1:30 AM.

Normally, a neighbor’s improper waste disposal could be settled by a knock on their door—at least before it escalated to a government hearing. But in wealthy Georgetown—where many residents have legal or political careers themselves—it’s a flashpoint in a zoning debate between residents who like having a bagel shop like Call Your Mother nearby, and residents who claim the store is a nuisance, bringing undue crowds and waste to the once-quiet street.

Sullivan claimed the shots depicted George Washington University professor Melinda Roth—the lead plaintiff in an earlier suit challenging the bagel place, which resulted in its original permit being vacated—disposing of her home waste in a public trashcan, in order to blame the restaurant for overflowing public waste.

Roth had a rebuttal: “It’s me throwing rat carcasses away,” she said. “But I’m not the one responsible, on a daily basis, for overflowing trash cans…I tend not to want those dead rats in my own house.”

Dead rats, living rats, overflowing trash bins, noisy deliveries, crowds on weekends—Roth, along with 16 neighbors who joined in her suit, claim these have all become commonplace in their section of O Street, Northwest since Call Your Mother opened a location there in 2020.

Mal Caravatti, who said she had lived in the neighborhood for decades, testified that she regularly had to shoo bagel-eating patrons off her property, as well as dealing with rat infestations since Call Your Mother moved in.

“Maybe this is a tale of two cities—that some of us just don’t see this,” Caravatti said. “We most definitely have had our lifestyle affected by this, because we’re having to spend our money and our time mitigating this.”

Other residents who testified at Wednesday’s hearing disagreed with Roth’s assessment.

Amy Kauffman, a fellow longtime Georgetown resident who said she lived within 500 feet of the restaurant, testified that Call Your Mother is an “asset” to the neighborhood, adding the waste problem may simply be due to the proximity of the Georgetown University campus.

“The truth of the matter is, Call Your Mother does a great job of cleaning up—it’s the students in this neighborhood, and that’s really a matter of maturity; I don’t think it’s a matter of zoning,” Kauffman said.

The hearing lasted seven hours in total, and still, the board didn’t reach a resolution; in the meantime, the Georgetown location will remain open. More hearings are scheduled for September. 

Arya Hodjat
Editorial Fellow