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Whole Foods Sues its Glover Park Landlord

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

The formerly popular Whole Foods in Glover Park at 2323 Wisconsin Avenue closed suddenly in March after a string of DC Department of Health inspections revealed violations of the health code, in particular evidence of mice. The problem did not seem monumental, and Whole Foods quickly remedied the list of issues and was cleared by DCDOH, but then they did not re-open. The storefront windows soon were papered over and it sat closed for a few months as neighbors wondered what the issue was and the neighborhood listserv exploded with rumors of giant hoards of mutant rats running rampant in the store (ok, exaggeration). Glover Park's advisory neighborhood commission asked management for an update on issues and a re-opening plan and received a verbal report of a plan to completely rehab the interior for a better customer experience, but they would not give a time frame. The storefront was papered recently with a "stop work" order from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs as Whole Foods had not obtained any permits for renovation work apparently begun.

On June 6th, Whole Foods filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the landlord, Wical Limited Partnership. Wical LP is led by Sylvan Herman, a native of Baltimore, MD and a commercial real estate investor in the DC metro areas since 1963. Mr. Herman purchased the Glover Park property from the Nazarian family in 1986. According to the S.C. Herman and Associates website, they currently manage over 2 million square feet of commercial space in DC. Sylvan Herman's tenant back in the 1990's, if you are old enough to remember, was Bread & Circus, an up-and-coming natural foods store owned by Whole Foods.

The lawsuit is Whole Foods' response to a Notice of Default in which the landlord claims Whole Foods had violated it's lease agreement by closing the store for more than 60 days. Whole Foods alleges in the lawsuit that the interior of the store needed substantial demolition as a result of the rodent infestation so they had no choice, as their lease says they are required to keep the store "free of pests". Management claims the total cost of the renovation will be in the millions of dollars and that Wical declined to provide their stamp of approval on the DC permits required for the work, which caused more delays and the "stop work" order from DCRA. Instead, Wical issued a 15-day notice to cure (i.e. open the store) which of course seems impossible now.

Whole Foods feels they will be shaken down for a higher rent if they are found to be in default, even though they have continued to make all rent payments on time, and claim they have not breached the lease. Wical and Mr. Herman's representatives have not yet responded publicly to Whole Foods claims, though an initial hearing in court is scheduled for September 1st, 2017. Stay tuned - will Whole Foods re-open??


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