WASHINGTON - It is the talk of Tenleytown. The new Chick-fil-A, which just opened in August, is no longer allowing customers to sit down and eat inside the restaurant during mid-afternoon hours when nearby students are being dismissed from school for the day.
For about the last week from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Chick-fil-A managers have greeted customers outside to let them know they can't sit down inside the restaurant during that time period. Customers can order whatever they want, but they can only get that order to go.
“It gets pretty crazy,” said Jahahri Sydnor, a Woodrow Wilson High School student. “There are a lot of kids, there is a lot of traffic in the dining area. It’s pretty much – you have to take it and go or else you will be trampled over by a lot of people.”
“We enjoy actually purchasing our food and sitting down and dining, and I think they could come up with a better policy,” said Jakia Muhammad, who works in the area.
Kristen Johnson, the franchise owner, said the problem isn't with rowdy teenagers from nearby Wilson High School, but it is simply a capacity issue.
“We have kids from Wilson actually working as our team members, so no, we are just noticing there is an influx of guests between those mid-afternoon hours,” she said.
But on local blogs like PoPville, customers are reporting that they are being told at the restaurant that the decision was made because of problems with students.
“I understand the restaurant’s decision to do that,” said one person. “I'm not saying it's a great thing to do, but it is understandable.”
“Every day, Wilson High gets out at same time for years and years and every restaurant has had to deal with same thing – the influx of students coming to eat after they get out of school,” said Ashlea Steiner, who also works in the Tenleytown area. “It just seems strange that they wouldn't want to open their doors and be more of a community or neighborly partner.”
There are lots of schools in the area and therefore lots of teenagers. Issues with them ranging from general boisterousness to more serious misconduct spurred the creation of a Tenleytown task force earlier this year.
“We also had a small percentage of kids who caused more serious problems – taunting, maybe bumping into people, maybe when it's not entirely accidental,” said neighborhood ANC chair Jonathan Bender.
He said D.C. police, Metro Transit Police, the school system, city leaders and more have already put some changes into place and are continuing to work on the issue.
“What we ultimately want is an atmosphere of mutual respect for everybody,” said Bender. “The students need to respect local businesses and local business people. And local business people need to have respect for our kids. I think we mostly have that, but we can do better.”
The next step for the task force is to loop in local businesses on the conversation so they can work together to create what they call an atmosphere of mutual respect.
The owner of Tenleytown’s Chick-fil-A said this mid-afternoon policy will stay in place until future notice.