After 11 years at 2122 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, the District's only "authentic" Swiss restaurant was forced to close last month, leaving the owner upset and confused over her future.
The Swiss Chalet is being torn down to make way for an addition to the Joseph Henry Building, owned by George Washington University and leased to the National Academy of Sciences. The restaurant is one of a number of small businesses that have been eliminated by GW development in the Foggy Bottom area of Northwest.
Swiss Chalet owner Doris Waser said her trouble started in the fall of 1978. She was two weeks away from signing her fourth, three-year lease, she said, when the building's owner, Elizabeth Olbert, died.
GW then was able to buy the building and Waser was told to vacate.
Waser maintains Olbert had always "told me not to worry, that GW would never get the property. GW came to her door and begged her to sell, but she refused because she didn't like what the university was doing."
There was no stipulation in Olbert's will about not selling her property to GW, however.
Waser said she "once had it in mind to sell the business; now I can't.
"I've poured thousands of dollars into the building," said Waser, a native of Switzerland. "Three years ago I installed a new air conditioner that cost $12,000 and I can't take it with me."
Last fall, Henry Cohen, Waser's accountant and financial advisor, said a university official told him the restaurant could remain open until the end of June to allow Waser to operate during her busiest season.
"I had a conversation with Kenneth Brooks (GW's real estate development project manager) and he told me it would be no problem for Mrs. Waser to stay until the end of June," Cohen said. Cohen also said he was told the rent would remain the same.
But Altman later said the restaurant would have to close by the end of February, Cohen said. When he appealed to GW Vice President Charles Diehl, Cohen asserted, Diehl "denied that a conversation had taken place between Brooks and I." Cohen said brooks called him later and denied making any promises.
Brooks said the university did not legally own the property then and could not have made such a promise.