If World War II hadn't ended, Sidney Margolis' mens clothing, cleaning agency, and uniform processing plant might still be doing a lucrative business with the military. Now the cleaning shop is gone, military business has slacked off and the mens clothing shop at 2145 G Street NW is barely surviving.
If his wife of 37 years hadn't been plagued with cancer, he might not have had extensive medical bills. If in 1974, the year after his wife's death, he hadn't shot during a holdup in his store, the 63-year-old Foggy Bottom businessman might still be in reasonably good health.
Those are a lot of ifs. The biggest one, however, came last week in a Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing. Morgolis requested a special zoning exception to change his retail shop into a pizza restaurant, seating 76 people. His intention, he said, is to cater to the George Washington University crowd since his shop sits in the middle of the campus.
The university opposes the request because it would constitute a non-conforming use in a residential neighhorhool. The clothing shop is also non-conforming but they said they can live with that.
Some residents, many living within the few remaining row house surrounding the shop, agree. The argue that a late night, student restaruant ipen seven days a week, as Margolis is proposing , would ruin the West End. It would create traffic problems, noise pollution, trash problems, congest the sidewalks and disturb what are now, they said, peaceful evenings and weekends in a residential community.
If Margolis is granted his special exception, he said, he'll lease the shop to Harvey Blumenthal, a friend of 30 years. Blumenthal presently runs two pizza restaurants in Rockville and upper northwest. If his request is denied, Margolis said, he doesn't know what will happen.
"They've made it impossible to find a purchaser," said Margolis. "They're trying to use the non-conforming zoning as a condemnation. It's not convertible into its best usage because of the non-conformity.
"We can't continue mich longer here," he added. I've been in legal proceedings a year. I'm not rich. I won't be able to continue my business if this keeps on."
Margolis said some 700 area people had signed a petition supporting the restaurant. Many of the older residents, he said, also sought a nearby, inexpensive late night eating place. Some of the women students felt the lighted street and activity would discourage neighborhood attacks, he said.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission representatives James R. Black and Jim Slicer testified that there were already adequate restaurants along Pennsylvania Avenue servicing the university students. Neighborhood stores, they said, closed early and few remained open on weekends. Student canteens provided food during late hours and dorms served food as well. The restaurant, they said, would not fit in with the character of the neighborhood.
Sympathizing with Margolis' retirement plans, GWU attorney Norman Glasgow said the university had provided an option by offering to buy him out. BZA chairman Leonard McCants said he felt the university's admission raised a serious question concerning their motive for opposing the special exception. Other board members agreed.
If he was to lease the property, the fair market value would be higher when he sold, explained Margolis.
Glasgow further stated that he felt Margolis was entitled to everything the property was worth today. The attorney also conceded that he had the right to run his clothing shop, however he did not have the right, he said, to expand at the expense of the university sity or the community.