Locally-owned Good Company Doughnuts & Café in Ballston is trying to save its bustling outdoor patio from being downsized by a county transportation project.
Arlington County is installing a bus shelter in front of the business at 672 N. Glebe Road before the winter. Good Company co-owner Charles Kachadoorian says the shelter will obscure much of the storefront from the street and halve the available outdoor seating, both of which will hurt business.
“Our indoor space is small, so we continue to limit seating to our beautiful outdoor patio in order to keep our staff and neighbors as safe as possible. Unfortunately, we are at risk of losing more than half those patio seats,” he said. “We requested the county delay the installation and relocate the shelter to an area on the sidewalk that will serve the intended purpose while allowing for Good Company, a locally-owned and operated business that truly cares about its neighbors, to continue to thrive.”
Located on the ground floor of the 672 Flats apartments, Good Company not only stayed afloat during the pandemic but provided free lunches to Arlington public school kids. Meanwhile, the patio became a popular open-air gathering spot for locals and tourists seeking coffee, breakfast, lunch and of course, decadent donuts. Kachadoorian says there’s been a “huge response” from patrons and neighbors who want to see the patio stay.
The plan to build the shelter at the corner of N. Glebe Road and 7th Street N. was approved as part of the site plan for 672 Flats in October 2015, said Ben Aiken, the director of constituent services for the county. Arlington received $12,500 for the bus shelter from 672’s developer and a $6,000 bus shelter grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation as part of the bus stop improvement program.
That’s four years before Good Company opened in April 2019.
“There was no way they would’ve known in 2015 that there’d be this restaurant with neighborhood appeal,” Kachadoorian said. “The important thing for us is to get the site plan adjusted and move the bus stop.”
Arlington County says the project will not impact the seating Good Company is permitted to operate.
“Arlington is committed to supporting our small businesses and we have been in close contact with Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe on this issue,” Aiken said. “The business will still be allowed to keep their approved outdoor dining, as it does not impede access to the bus stop…. While the restaurant has indicated the bus stop’s location will take away half of their dining, it appears this is because of an unpermitted expansion beyond their approved seating area.”
The row of seating closer to the road is not permitted because of the dimensions of the proposed bus shelter, confirmed Kachadoorian. He says he’s been talking with the county about his extra seating and his desire to see that row made permanent.
He says the patio can’t expand around the corner, as the sidewalk is not wide enough, but the shelter could move further south on N. Glebe Road where it wouldn’t block a business.
“For us, it’s more important to have the patio, so we’d be willing to help defray the cost or do whatever needs to be done to move the shelter,” he said.
Aiken maintained that Good Company’s storefront should still be visible after the shelter is in place.
“The bus stop uses our lowest profile shelter design, is transparent, and should not significantly impact the visibility for Good Company,” he said.
Good Company knew the shelter would eventually be installed, but Kachadoorian says co-owners didn’t foresee the pandemic or the patio’s success.
“It’s not that we didn’t know it’d eventually be going in. It’s the fact that it’s going on now, when COVID-19 is still going on and we still don’t have indoor seating,” he said.
Good Company was one force behind getting the county to allow permanent outdoor seating for certain Ballston-area restaurants whose zoning did not permit it. It’s also one of a few successful eateries on the west side of N. Glebe Road, which has had numerous high-profile closures — something business leaders would like the county to address.
The county acknowledged the role the donut shop played in getting zoning ordinances changed.
“We’re glad to have provided that flexibility, and are optimistic that Good Company will continue operating successfully under their approved outdoor dining plan,” Aiken said.
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