- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Since March, the Whole Foods store on Wisconsin Ave. NW has been closed while battling rodents and other vermin, trying to comply with multiple D.C. health code violations and inspections.

The onerous problem now has led to another problem.

Whole Foods filed a June 6 lawsuit complaining that its landlord, Wical LP on Vermont Ave. NW, is violating the lease agreement.

Wical claimed in a May 15 letter that Whole Foods violated the lease by closing the store for more than 60 days.

The Washington Business Journal (WBJ) reported that, in the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Wical claims that Whole Foods is in “default of its lease because the lease prohibits the store from closing for more than 60 days during any three-year period.”

Whole Foods, meanwhile, claims Wical wants “to strong-arm Whole Foods into paying additional rent and committing to a longer term,” said WBJ, adding that “Whole Foods calls the notice ‘unlawful’ because it has consistently paid its rent during the closure and is working to remedy the infestation.”

For Whole Foods, the remedy includes gutting the grocery store and rebuilding it anew, based on consultations with multiple contractors.

The Whole Foods lawsuit is not merely about money. The organic grocer made a pointed argument in its lawsuit, saying while it already has spent $1 million trying to resolve health code violations, the lease with Wical allows delays “beyond the control” of the tenant and landlord, and it expects to spend several additional millions in upgrading the store.

In the court papers and on its website, Whole Foods refers to the troubled store as being located in Georgetown. In fact, the store is in Glover Park, Georgetown’s northern Wisconsin Ave. neighbor, whose notable sites include the U.S. Naval Observatory, also known as the vice president’s mansion, and several embassies.

Whole Foods currently has five stores in the nation’s capital. The Glover Park store opened in 1996, the first in the city. The newest is at Sixth and H streets NE, a gentrifying corridor near Amtrak’s rails.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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