Local Business

Despite Concerns, Church’s Chicken Coming to Ward 7

Some Ward Leaders Wanted Healthier Food Options

Church’s Chicken will open a new restaurant on Minnesota Avenue NE in a couple of weeks and there are mixed feelings among community leaders about its presence.

As first reported by The Informer, Douglas Development Corporation, led by well-known developer Douglas Jemal, wanted a Church’s Chicken restaurant at his 3780 Minnesota Avenue NE property to replace the shuttered Domino’s to the chagrin of some community leaders.

Tyrell M. Holcomb, the chairman of the 7F advisory neighborhood commission, wrote a letter to Jemal on June 29 expressing his concerns, saying that he and other community leaders wanted “fresh food eatery options in our community whether that be through Chop’t, Sweetgreen or a food innovation swing space for caterers.”

“There is a misnomer that residents in Ward 7 prefer an emphasis on meal deals and not healthier food options,” Holcomb said. “Church’s Chicken opening would be a step in the wrong direction for our community with another fast-food option that would further contribute to chronic diseases.”

Despite the concerns of Holcomb and other neighborhood leaders, Douglas Development apparently proceeded with allowing Church’s to set up on its Minnesota property. Matthew Jemal, vice president of the Douglas Development Corporation, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rakesh Kalotra, owner of both the Minnesota Avenue Church’s and the L’Enfant Plaza location, said the Minnesota Avenue location will open in mid-January and is in the process of hiring workers.

Church’s web site indicates that are no locations in Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Cinque E. Culver, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for single-member district 7D04 in the River Terrace neighborhood, expressed unhappiness with the opening of Church’s in his vicinity.

“Ward 7 has enough fast-food casual establishments,” Culver said. “We need healthier food options and more upscale restaurants. We want other people to come to Ward 7 to have a good dining experience.”

However, Dontrell Smith, a former Ward 7 commissioner, supports Church’s presence.

“I’m glad it is coming,” Smith said. “We need major businesses in Ward 7 and we aren’t in a position to pick and choose.”

Smith noted that Church’s has over 1,000 locations worldwide and generates hundreds of millions in revenue.

“Why turn that type of company away?” Smith asked.

Smith said he doesn’t see fresh food companies coming to Ward 7 anytime soon because of the high costs of their offerings.

“Many people here can’t afford to go to Sweetgreen,” he said.

In Holcomb’s view, the issue isn’t cost but access and he wants city leaders to address fast-food restaurants permeating east of the Anacostia River areas.

“I call on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council, especially D.C. Council members Vincent Gray and Trayon White, to support a moratorium on fast-food outlets east of the River,” he said. “We need healthier food options here.”

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