WASHINGTON - For the past few years, Barracks Row has seen an explosion of trendy bars and restaurants in this area of Capitol Hill. But with them also came an explosion of rats.
“When I hear families say, ‘I can't let my child play in the backyard because I'm afraid that they are going to get bitten by rats,' we've got a problem,” said ANC 6B commissioner Chander Jayaraman.
“Over the last four to five years, it has been a steady downward spiral,” said resident Catherine Szafran.
For her, it has meant having to uproot her front yard.
“We had rat burrows everywhere,” she said. “We had to tear up all of the plants that we had there. We obviously don't want to attract and be a harbor for some of the rats.”
The main culprits behind the vermin magnet are dumpsters filled to the brim and grease leaks behind these Barracks Row restaurants.
"It shouldn't be at the expense of property owners who have lived on either side for decades,” said Jayaraman.
The evidence of rat traps has not been enough to deter the rodents, which have caused the shutdown of several restaurants on this street.
Feces, fresh and old, have found its way to Capitol Hill Tandoor and Grill. It is an establishment that has faced constant health inspections since 2013, and yet still this summer, a food establishment inspection report cited a "heavy infestation of rats, gnaw marks on walls and floors."
"I just want the restaurants to be good neighbors,” said Szafran. “Some of them are good neighbors and they have really stepped up and tried to deal with the trash issues. Others literally drag bags of garbage and food and it leaks all over the sidewalks and alleys. And of course that attracts rats."
For now, the local ANC commission is virtually forcing all new eateries to sign an agreement that ties their trash practices to their liquor license -- and violations could threaten that license.
“It's the only leverage that we have,” said Jayaraman.
Despite the efforts, just recently, Pizza Boli's was closed for rat droppings. And just across the street, Banana Cafe shut down temporarily for rodent feces.