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American Flatbread Bids Adieu to Pesky HOA President

by ARLnow.com — January 3, 2011 at 11:38 am 4,830 84 Comments

American Flatbread closed its doors on North Fillmore Street in Clarendon just before Christmas, five months after losing a high-stakes, tooth-and-nail fight to open an outdoor patio.

Now, the restaurant’s management has written a not-so-nice goodbye note to the most vocal opponents of the patio.

Displayed just inside the window is a sign that reads: “HEY MIKEY HOPE YOUR [sic] :) KISS MY [butt].”

The message is almost certainly aimed at Michael Hutchinson, homeowner’s association president of the Clarendon Park townhouses across the street from Flatbread. Hutchinson was among the neighbors who successfully lobbied the county board to deny the restaurant’s request to open a 24-seat outdoor patio.

Photo via ImageShack

  • MktCommon

    Hmm, well I must be feeling pedantic this morning because I don’t think “your” is a mistake/misspelling, rather it’s “your lips/mouth”.

    Nonetheless, on all the occasions I turned down the option to go to American Flatbread, it was never because I couldn’t sit outside on a patio!

    • Lou

      “you’re [happy]” is probably what they intended.

      Maybe they should add a sour grapes pizza to their menu.

      • Clarendip

        Ha

    • R.Griffon

      Well they’re obviously scapegoating the patio issue. It was an OK place, but just. It was off the beaten path and had decent food with high prices and mediocre service. Also wasn’t very cozy inside. Not the kind of place that you’d want to just hang out in.

      Obviously it was a high-risk proposition from the start, but I think to alienate and berate residents in and around their block was the last nail in the coffin. I mean, if you don’t get a lot of foot traffic, how can you offend the only people who DO walk by on a regular basis and expect to survive? The mind boggles.

      • SoCo Resident

        “What’s American Flatbread mean,” I thought upon first seeing the place. If you are a pizza place, call yourself one, don’t be mysterious and require everyone to figure it out. I am glad residential property owners won in this battle because they generally don’t. And, rare that the County Board takes a stand like this.
        Did American Flatbread ever think of catering the HOA meetings, offering free meeting rooms, etc.? A discount night for neighbors? The owner’s classless sign is a reflection on himself – a big sandwich board that hopefully will follow him to his next venture. The business failed because he was not smart!

        • Lou

          All the Board did was reaffirm the conditions of the original site plan approval, which was to not allow outdoor seating on that patio. If they had allowed it, they would have been contradicting their staff’s recommendations and agreements with the neighborhood from back when the building was built.

          If they had decided to allow the seating, they would have been undoing all the work that went into the site plan agreement and basically saying they made a mistake. It probably would have meant a lengthy amendment process with hearings and testimony and all kinds of dirty laundry. Or they could have rescinded it with the stroke of a bureaucratic pen. Neither option is terribly attractive.

        • Lou

          And I’ll just add that this all got started because the lease this guy signed seemed to imply that outdoor use was permitted for that area, when it was not. The shady landlord gave the Board all the cover they needed to just turn up their hands and say “not really our problem”.

          It’s really crass for this guy to make the HOA the scapegoat when the lease language was really the culprit.

        • KalashniKEV

          +1000

          This was the smartest post you’ve ever written in your whole life.

  • Juanita de Talmas

    Classy ’til the end…

  • http://arlingtondirt.blogspot.com/ TGEoA

    So bitter. I love it!

  • JamesE

    Clearly the lack of outdoor seating was the main reason for the closure, the weather has been so ideal the past 6 months.

  • NPGMBR

    Anyone know why the homeowner’s association opposed the patio?

    • http://arlingtondirt.blogspot.com/ TGEoA

      Because the patio wasn’t zoned for such usage in the first place.

    • LVGuy

      There’s a house right behind the patio

      • R.Griffon

        It wasn’t opposed by the house behind the patio – those are old homes and they don’t even have an HOA. I believe it was the townhomes across the street. Not sure if any of the other condo buildings in the area cared one way or another, but would like to hear if anyone knows.

        • Thes

          The owner of that house also testified against changing the zoning code to allow the patio to be used for restaurant seating.

    • JVDC

      I live in those townhouses and the association did not oppose seating on the patio. All of my neighbors that I talked to were for it. The president of the HOA board (Mr. Hutchinson) and some others opposed it. Mr. Hutchinson made it very clear during his opposition that he was the president of the HOA board — thus leaving the impression that the association was in opposition as well. From where I stand the opposition was lead by a very small but active and vocal group or people that have nothing better to do. I’m really going to miss this place…

      • Robert

        Not quite sure what you’re going to miss. Is it the high priced, average pizzas? Or maybe you like a little attitude with your meals. Really dude. This place just wasn’t worth it. The people have spoken. Just because you’re a neighborhood business does not automatically mean you’re good. The outdoor seating issue was a convenient excuse for his own business failings. Scapegoating one particular person is cowardly and shows just how out of touch this guy really is.

        • Maria

          Robert: Just because you don’t like a place doesn’t mean nobody else is allowed to like it either.

  • charlie

    why would he want the person kissing his breasts? and aren’t those a bit big for a dude?

    • Clarendip

      Quick, someone run over and add nips.

      Maybe too much flatbread led to moobs.

  • LVGuy

    wow. I sympathized with this guy right up until now. Good riddance!

  • jkb

    you’re

  • DudeGuy

    Hmmm… patio would have saved that place? I think not. I have never been there but based off the comments here and reviews on yelp and others, the pizza was not very good.

    Here is a hint, if you open up a restaurant make sure you have good food :)

  • Darwin

    I hope a gourmet cupcake place moves in!

    • Darwin

      …or a high end bike store

    • Darwin

      …or another high end pizza place but with gourmet burgers too!

      • mehoo

        I vote for a rooftop cupcake joint with a special brown flip-flop seating area.

        • charlie

          or hi-end pizza place that delivers by bike and if it isn’t there in 30 minutes you get a cupcake.

    • Brandon C

      The next place will be Spike Mendehlsen’s new coffee-flavored ice cream bar/Cannibal Bistro: Ground Up and In The Freezer.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      All run by some national chain.

  • tuesdayschild

    To be replaced with an Irish cupcake bar with lots of TVs that show Virginia Tech games (constantly).

    • Clarendip

      Sounds like my idea of hell.

      • FrenchyB

        + 1,000,000

    • SoCo Resident

      Irish Cupcake bar: Pretty funny, but it could happen!

  • Darwin

    At least they didn’t leave the sandwich board out on the sidewalk where the city would come and remove it!

  • Pernilla Alex

    Seems like Arlington is turning in to a snooty self centered bunch of 30 is something people. I am a biz owner in Arlington and there is some seriosly nasty attitudes out there. What happened to lets grow business and opportunities b/c it benefits Arlington. These are the same people that drive their cars on their Iphones and never use their turn signal – laughing at the people behind crashing into each other when their cars ahead suddenly stops or turns —-sigh!

    • Clarendip

      Driving your car ON your iPhone? There’s an app for that?

    • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

      Actually I have lived in arlington for as long as those 30 somethings you refer to. I actually oppose it because it seems like all you guys cater to any more is those 30 something urbane yuppie wannabees.

      Arlington is a community. It’s not a business district. You dont like the rules of our community – dont – come. And dont justify bad business practices by playing the paternalism-card.

      • mehoo

        “Seems like Arlington is turning in to a snooty self centered bunch of 30 is something people.”

        “…it seems like all you guys cater to any more is those 30 something urbane yuppie wannabees.”

        Says it all.

        • yippydo

          The nasty attitude 30 something crowd is what keeps this arrogant democratic board in power. Maybe a change in the Board’s chemistry would shake these nudniks up a bit.

    • KalashniKEV

      “What happened to lets[sic] grow business and opportunities b/c it benefits Arlington”

      If you want your business to grow in Arlington, you have to cater to us… or just move to South Arlington and speak Espanol.

      • Larchmont

        They cater to me.

      • Callie

        Hey, all you 30-something urban yuppy snobs – you too, before you know it, will be 50+. You will learn – oh will you ever – that life is not a “Friends” marathon and entitlements belong to those who actually work for them. Ha ha ha ha ha

        • KalashniKEV

          I don’t know what you’re “Ha Ha Ha-ing” about- most of us 30 something professionals are educated, hard working folks. I’ll give you that South Arlington is full of old people, immigrants, and criminals living on the dole.

          It’s when a high achieving person advocates policy that feeds the welfare rats that I’m left scratching my head… must be the mind control rays coming over from plastic Jesus in DC…

          • Nancy

            Talk about a mean snob, whoever Kalashnikev is! Have you visited South Arlington lately perhaps Shirlington? There are also many wonderful community organizations in most of the neighborhoods in South Arlington – the diversity most of us welcome. You need to get out of N Arlington more perhaps – I frequent both and enjoy both.

          • mehoo

            White man’s burden is so hard to bear, ain’t it?

        • Larchmont

          @ Pernilla Alex: Confused on who’s not letting businesses grow in Arlington? The 30-something customers? I see all ages of customers out all the time supporting local businesses – assuming they are a “good” business, unlike Flatbread. Or is it the Arlington County Board Members that won’t help grow business. I can help you there, and do from time to time. And who really is it that determines what benefits Arlington? BTW…the person in front of me on Wilson today was driving just as you describe, but was definitely 50+, with smartphone in hand. Could he have been looking for your business?

          @ bArlington: If only the business could get along with the community – and vice versa! There are a lot of all age-urban yuppie wannabees out there – and they come from all over to spend money in our business district(s), and some even come to live in the community.

          @Callie: Confused by your “hahaha” but the way ARLnow is mostly negative, I will assume it is because you’re 50+ and bitter because you can’t enjoy the entitlements out there due to the “Friends” marathon of your 30’s. If it’s a legit warning, I suspect you missed your audience because if those 30-somethings that are socializing (aka spending lots of money) in Arlington are NOT working I wouldn’t expect to find them on Arlnow.

          @KalashniKEV: “…feeds the welfare rats” – that’s the read on you I was trying to get. Don’t disagree with you, but not sure I totally agree with you? Well sometimes. ; )

  • Shan L

    Agree 100% with Pernilla Alex! Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • ArlG

    Good Riddance. I met the owner when I had a complaint there. He also posted (anonymously) to a forum I wrote on, about the experience. He was as snotty and immature in person and on the forum as he was with his goodbye sign. Makes it hard to root for the small business when the owner is such a jerk. Doesn’t sound like he learned a thing though…

    • Clarendip

      I’m off to Yelp to check this out. :)

  • cici

    Agree 100% with ArlG. The outdoor seating didn’t kill this place, the jerk manager did. We tried to frequent the place when it first opened and the guy was a complete jerk. Can’t blame it on the location either. ScrewTop is doing great and has an even worse location.

    • Applaca

      The owner was petty and rude to neighbors and patrons alike. Insulting potential customers is not a viable, sustainable business model. And the food wasn’t very good.

      • NomNom

        I have heard about the Vermont location, which made me even more disappointed with the pizza at this place. Farm-to-table is a trend that can really hit or miss and I think in this case it was a big miss. The selection was too limited and the overall quality and taste of the pizza was unappetizing. I cant say much about the management, but the sign he left was like the pizza: tasteless. To agree with previous comments, I think an Irish frozen yogurt, cupcake, rooftop-bar would fit nicely, since the area is lacking one.

  • karzai

    Can understand that the patio may not explain the problem. However, Clarendon is an urban area and most of us residents want nice outdoor eating options. The townhouse HOA shouldn’t hold the neighborhood hostage to their little pet peeve in favor of excessive “quiet,” which is anyway unachievable at this point.

    • Lou

      The HOA is the neighborhood though. Seems like they have a right to have input about it.

      • david

        Exactly. The HOA has every right to protest whatever they want just as the restaurant has every right to fight for what they want. May the best argument win.

        Also, here are plenty of nice outdoor (and rooftop) dining options in Clarendon. I’d hardly consider that the residents of this area are being held “hostage” by losing out on 4 outdoor tables in an alcove behind a restaurant.

    • mehoo

      I’ve never heard of something called “excessive quiet” myself.

    • Vinh An Nguyen

      Maybe the proprietor should have checked out the zoning regulations BEFORE he signed the lease.

      • LVGuy

        Rumor has it that the building owner wasn’t entirely honest about the zoning laws and that’s why the case erupted. In that case, I felt sorry for the owner of the restaurant, but you’re right, it’s ultimately his responsibility.

        On the other hand, his pitiful outrage is unacceptable. If you’re going to isolate your neighbours like that, you deserve to close.

  • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

    Ba-Bye!

  • http://thegreenmiles.blogspot.com TheGreenMiles

    If there’s a domino effect of closures on that block, I wonder if the homeowner association will then be mad at the county for letting empty storefronts pile up.

  • Anika

    This isn’t about neighbors, it is about zoning and the agreement the county made when approving the building. The owner was out of line in blaming neighbors for his misery when the landlord was not upfront with the owner. Just because a business can’t make money doesn’t mean it is the fault of taxpaying with whom the county and developer negotiated agreements upon construction of the building. So maybe the owner is mad at an HOA resident, but that one resident is not the cause of the failure of the business.

  • LVGuy

    I wonder if Arlnow or some other good citizen could find out the owner’s address. That way we could come to his house and call him names too.

    • Chad

      Woah there, stalker.

  • Novanglus

    This sign reflects the real reason his business failed, and why my family never went back after our first visit: the staff was the rudest group of people imaginable…and the food wasn’t good enough to make up for it.

    Good riddance.

    • RJ

      Agree 1000%

  • KeepItWeird

    Your sure that the sign meant that a stipper bar was going to open up in Flatbread’s place??? We could also use a good drag bar in the urban village –nothing like drag queens to activate the street!

  • Cherrydaler

    Too bad the owner was such a poor businessman. Some chains just can’t replicate the original– this may be one of them. The original American Flatbread is near Sugarbush in Vermont, and the lines are legendary. During ski season you get off the slopes early the night you want to go to Flatbread, head over put your name in starting at 4pm, and get a table around 8pm. Great atmosphere too. This location had the good pizza, but could never replicate the atmosphere.

    If you miss it at all, you can go to whole foods, which sells American Flatbread in the frozen cases.

    • Robert

      American Flatbread sold their frozen pizza licensing rights to a New Hampshire company last Feb. The frozen pizza you buy may not taste like what you purchased at the restaurant. http://www.wcax.com/global/story.asp?s=11959918

      • mehoo

        No frozen pizza ever tastes as good as its restaurant version.

    • ClarGirl

      I never even realized these two places were related. I grew up skiing at Sugarbush and have waited in those lengendary lines when there was a mixup about who was supposed to get there first to put the name in. I think of the Vermont one as being warm, cozy, and inviting. I only went to the Clarendon one twice and it was fine, but just that. Certainly wouldn’t describe it as cozy, warm, or inviting.

    • Josh S

      I think everything tastes better after a day on the slopes, no? Maybe he thought proximity to the nearby gyms would give him a similar client base?

      • Lou

        So true

  • Sunny617

    While I sympathize with the owner getting screwed by the landlord, I agree with the others who say the outdoor patio had nothing to do with it. I frequently pick up dinner on my walk home…yet I walked by that place dozens of times and never once wanted to go in. It was dimly lit and uninviting and from the front it looked like there were just two tall tables…the back was largely hidden by stacks of flour. It came off as intimidating and pretentious. I never tried it. Plus, it’s off the beaten path for most people, pure and simple. While I wish there were more places back there, it’s just not practical right now. The outdoor seating may have helped a littler, but I doubt enough to make a huge difference.

    • Kate

      I agree.

  • Clarenmime

    Would make a good location for a Mime-supply shop. Nice and quiet for the neighbors.

    • mehoo

      My silent reply was deleted. Oh well. I guess even mimes have to talk sometimes.

  • TGEoA

    Clarendon City Restaurant.

    We need more strip clubs.

  • CourthouseDude

    I actually really liked their pizza, and this was one of my favorite places. I never had a problem with the wait staff (always nice), the bartender, or the owner.

    One of the things I liked about it was that it wasn’t packed and noisy like every other place in Clarendon. Of course, that’s the catch-22 since you kind of need customers.

    If I recall, they also weren’t open for lunch.

    Although I never had an issue there, leaving a sign like that is indicative of a personality type that is consudive to failure: petty, snarky, and childish.

  • 20yrsinClarendon

    We ate there several times. The Flatbread was good, but if you didn’t want Flatbread, the choices were limited. Service was good too, no complaint.

    I live nearby and supported the rear seating area, but I understand the reason to deny it. We ate there the first night it opened and were taken aback by the owners comment that he didn’t realize the location was two blocks off the main drag. I thought it was odd he wouldn’t know that major fact. The same goes for the rear seating…he didn’t know it wasn’t allowed…then blamed everyone for denying the use of it. It was a case of him not doing is homework on location and terms of lease. He claimed a loss of $500k in revenue from no outdoor seating, unlikely. I’m sorry to lose a local business, but I’m not shocked either…in this case.

  • Lou

    OK, so on the July 9 County Board meeting agenda is this item:

    U-3258-10-1 American Flatbread to renew outdoor café in public right-of-way in the C-TH zoning district. Property is approximately 50,000 sq. ft., located at 1025 N. Fillmore St. and is identified as RPC: 18-024-020.

    Anyone?

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