- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

Restaurant owners in the Georgetown and Adams Morgan areas of D.C. approach things a little differently when it comes to trash, which is evident when it comes to the problem of rat control.
Georgetown has succeeded in reducing the rat population, but Adams Morgan has not.
Rats used to be a big problem because the city didn't keep the alleys clean, said Pom Sothana, manager of Georgetown's Bistro Francais. But her explanation about why Georgetown's recent rodent-control initiative is so successful has very little to do with anything the city does.
Now, she said, Georgetown restaurants pay extra to have their trash picked up every day "except Sunday," and many of the restaurants have bought new trash bins, or have trash haulers replace their Dumpsters once a month.
"The Bistro hires Ecolab, a cleaning and sanitation service, to come in and spray a solution once a month inside, and they also spray a solution in the back alley to keep rodents away," Mrs. Sothana said.
In Adams Morgan, there has been no reduction in the rat population, at least none that Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Andy Miscuk can see.
The reason, said Robert Catanuso, manager of I Matti at 2436 18th St. NW, is that "some of the restaurant owners in this area are not proactive about their trash levels, and they think that as long as the rats don't come inside, it's OK."
Trash is picked up twice a week on average along that strip on 18th Street, and most restaurants don't call and complain if the collection is late or skipped, Mr. Catanuso said, adding that I Matti pays for an extra day of trash removal.
"We sweep and clean the back three days a week on days when the trash isn't picked up," he said.
Many of the other restaurants do the same. Some, like Cities, a new restaurant in Adams Morgan, go all out like the Georgetown restaurants, but "I have seen some amazing, egregious situations in the alley here," Mr. Catanuso said.
Both Mrs. Sothana and Mr. Catanuso said the problem is that the District should strengthen enforcement of its sanitation policy.
Mrs. Sothana said that there would be little work in her area, but she would like to see the inspector look into the alley more than once a year. Mr. Catanuso said he saw a health inspector in the alley once last year, but the inspector promised he would be around to keep an eye on things.
"Mayor [Anthony A. Williams] came here once with a group after he first got elected, but I haven't seen him since," said Mr. Catanuso.
He added that since the city paved the back alley, the increased car traffic has scared many of the rodents out, but there are still nights when hundreds of rats can be seen in the early-twilight hours rummaging through the trash.
The mayor's rat-control program is supposed to target restaurants and residences in Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill and Georgetown that attract rats because of poorly stored garbage. But so far, only 100 citations have been issued to food establishments in the city. None has been issued to a residence. Businesses are fined $1,000 and residences $75 per citation for sloppy trash management.
In some areas of downtown, building owners are especially conscious of the upkeep of their alleys, but some problems still persist. La Colline Restaurant at 400 North Capitol St. and Kinkead's at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. have no problems with rats because their sanitation is controlled by the owners of their buildings.
"My personal feeling is that the current rodent problems in our alley come from [a nearby hotel], simply because of the volume of trash they have to deal with," said Paul Ducconi, manager of La Colline.
Mr. Ducconi said that he looks forward to trash removal being required daily rather than twice a week as the Department of Health requires.
"And I wish they could find something that was more effective to kill the animals," he said.
Both Mr. Ducconi and Kinkead's kitchen manager, Tom Duda, see construction as another aspect of the rat-control problem because many rat burrows have been destroyed by construction downtown.


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