Annapolis' burrito war between Chipotle and Moe's Southwest Grill has ended.
The city's Board of Appeals voted unanimously to grant Chipotle a special exception permit to open a location at 36 Market Space—the space currently occupied by Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers.
At the board's December meeting, attorneys on behalf of Moe's brought a land-use consultant and pages of documents which they said proved Chipotle is a fast food restaurant, and it would not be able to comply with the city's rule that restaurants only derive 10 percent of their revenue from takeout.
Board member James Gregory challenged Moe's representatives to explain how their restaurant was fundamentally different from Chipotle in that regard in December.
A point he reiterated during deliberations on Wednesday night.
"This board granted the special exception for Moe’s," Gregory said. "I don’t see how we can deny this request when the board approved Moe’s request."
Whether Chipotle will keep its promises is an enforcement issue—which goes beyond the purview of the board, said Vice Chair Christian Elkington.
"This is a separate location and they have addressed the things they need to in order to satisfy the special exception," Elkington said.
Moe's also argued in December that a Chipotle would bring increased traffic, noise and trash that would harm the Market Space neighborhood—a point raised by several area residents during the board's first meeting on the subject.
"This board has already made a decision that a standard restaurant should be in that spot," Elkington said.
The board granted Hard Bean permission to operate as a standard restaurant that served alcohol in 2008.
"When you’re modifying the special exception, you don’t have to totally address the standards," Planning Administrator Jacquelyn Rouse said. "It’s really in the context of what those amendments are for."
By obtaining Hard Bean's permit, Chipotle also becomes the first chain restaurant to own a liquor license in the historic district.
Elkington did take a moment during deliberations to recognize the testimony he heard from concerned Ward One residents about whether Chipotle would lower the value of their homes.
"That is unfortunately not one of the standards ... that is currently permissible for us to consider," Elkington said.
He noted that the city may want to incorporate that standard into the code in the future.
Now that Chipotle has permission to move forward, the company could be serving its first burritos before the end of 2013.
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