Waffle Joint Blame Blamed Groupon For Closing But Didn’t Have Permits To Sell Food Anyway

Last week we heard about a waffle joint in D.C. that blamed its closure on a Groupon deal and the company’s “shocking business practices.” But a new report checked in on the restaurant and found that while that definitely could’ve been the case, the waffle spot never had the permits allowing to legally sell food in the first place.

DCist.com reviewed the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs database and found that the business hadn’t received a basic business license or Certificate of Occupancy. Without that certificate specifically, the waffle spot didn’t have a “pre-operational inspection” from the D.C. Department of Health, which is required before any food establishment can open.

The DOH said it hadn’t inspected the waffle joint and had in fact, sent a cease-and-desist letter three weeks ago after inspectors received a complaint.

According to DCist, the owner gave an interview where he said the permitting process would’ve taken at least three months, but that he’d been fully prepared to complete it. Because of the Groupon snafu, however, he claims he never got the chance. He said because Groupon had delayed sending payments for the vouchers they sold to the waffle spot, they weren’t able to keep up with the costs of running the place.

“We had our knees knocked out from under us before we could complete [the whole process],” he said, adding that he never saw the cease-and-desist letter.

Was this a case of blaming the big bad wolf for the house that was already falling down, or would the restaurant have made it anyway? At this point, it’s hard to tell. But the owner said on the joint’s site that he’s already getting pressure to reopen, ostensibly with all proper permits in hand.

*Thanks for the tip, Gregory!

No Waffling Here: (Restaurant) Lacked Permits to Serve Food, Was Sent Cease-and-Desist Letter [DCist.com]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mr. Fix-It is trapped in a collection of half-working appliances says:

    So… it’s Groupon’s fault they don’t have a Food Vendor’s License?

  2. Torchwood says:

    Uh, you don’t BLEEP with the health and food safety inspectors. Never, ever. Unless DC operates differently, you don’t even open unless you are inspected.

    • Shinzakura says:

      Nope, even here in the Ninth Circle of Hell (aka DC) you don’t open unless inspected first.

  3. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    It doesn’t sound like the owner of this waffle joint had the slightest clue how to start a business. You don’t just wake up and say I want to sell waffles and do so.

    You must create a business plan, get permits, etc. To me it sounds like he was going sell Groupons, collect the money, and disappear. There is no way giving away 24 waffle plates would harm a properly organized and funded business.

  4. deesee says:

    What, no love for my tip on this story? https://twitter.com/mattashburn/status/228858015783198720

  5. consumerd says:

    yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaah, not having a permit is groupon’s fault….. yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaah sure, I believe you.

  6. Chairman-Meow says:

    So……..let review shall we ?

    It’s the DOH’s fault ?
    Oh wait, it is Groupon’s Fault ?

    It’s everyone’s fault but meeeeee!!!!

    • 180CS says:

      Reminds me of the guy who tried to sue McDonalds for making him fat…

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        …so that would be, what, 75% of America?

        • HalOfBorg says:

          Except me. I made me fat. I used McD’s and BK and a bunch of other places (like grocery stores) but I blame no one but me.

          • GadgetsAlwaysFit says:

            Shhhhhh. You will ruin the plans if you accept any responsibility for your own actions or display that you are capable of independent thought.

  7. 180CS says:

    You know what? This idiot is probably going to make a big enough stink that the county will end up ruining him personally with fines. Illegal businesses of any kind are a big deal where I live, and illegal restaurants are a HUGE deal. You could kill someone. Literally.

    In the middle of the broken and backlogged state of Illinois, it only took me a month to get my business license. Despite knowing how I wanted to conduct my business and where I wanted to be located, I waited until I had that license in my hand. The fines this guy could be facing are horrific if you’re not some multimillion dollar cooperation.

    • soj4life says:

      Well if he did not want to operate within the law, let the law show him how it it done. There is a reason why it takes sometimes half a year to a year for a restaurant to open up.

  8. Jevia says:

    The owner didn’t even have the money for the license before he opened shop and sold the Groupons. Groupon didn’t cause him to lose business, he never had a real operating business to begin with.

  9. SirWired says:

    He was “prepared” to get a permit? As in, future tense? After he opened?

    Errr… that’s not the way the permit process works.

    This is not some obscure corner of the bureaucracy he forgot to inform about his new eating establishment; it’s the most basic legal step any restaurant owner knows they need to go through before opening.

    And Groupon already detailed the many ways in which this guy is full of $hit. And in this follow-up article, he blames a late check from Groupon for why his basic business license application bounced. Translation: He was selling a Groupon for a business that couldn’t legally even be open yet. (Any business, much less a restaurant.)

    Sounds like he’s trying to blame Groupon for his many failings as a business owner.

  10. JacobRyan says:

    It makes me laugh that people try to blame Groupon when their business fails. Sure Groupon doesn’t have the best business practices but you know your own business better then anyone, you know your margins, your cost, and you should damn well know what you can realistically get away with when selling Groupons so you don’t cut so deep into your business that you will have to close. Every time there is a story like this saying Groupon made the business go bankrupt because the the business CHOOSE under their own free will to oversell on a Groupon I just have to laugh. Obviously business is not these peoples forte, and I hate to say it but they were doomed to fail to begin with. Which is made painfully obvious in this case by not even having the proper permits.

  11. RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

    In the linked article, he says that they started with four customers, and soon had lines out the door. He makes it sound like he didn’t intend for it to get big, saying it started out as a free waffled giveaway at his art gallery, but got popular quickly and took him by surprise, that they were struggling to keep up, get new equipment and supplies, etc.

    In which case, why would he set up a promotion with Groupon to get MORE people in the door, if he was having so much trouble keeping up? No, I think this was a money-grab. He found a niche, exploited it for every penny he could for as long as he could, and then got burned.

  12. Jimmy37 says:

    This place is looking to blame someone for their failures. They didn’t have enough money to support the operation and would have folded anyway.

  13. sparc says:

    how does 132 Groupons kill a new business? At best that’s maybe 1 or 2 thousand dollars. Wouldn’t most people anticipate some expenses like advertising to start a new business?

    A business without a permit to operate doesn’t have any right to complain. It’s not like they had any clue how to run a business in the first place.

  14. DirtyWater says:

    Who has ever found anything on Groupon worth getting even if free? More frustrating are offers of 69% off with no idea of what the thing is gonna cost. May I also complain about grocery stores that offer a BOGO and then raise the everyday price to offset the loss? Grrrrr. My ice cream sandwich I ate today (the first in maybe 25 years?) is now the size of the Hershey bars of my youth.

  15. Mark702 says:

    FTA: “…his check accompanying his application for a basic business license—which costs $324.50 for the first year—bounced.”

    First off, he wasn’t running a legit business, it was illegal to start with. Secondly, if you can’t afford to operate your “business” because you don’t even have $500 to spare for required expenses, you have failed as a business owner.

  16. shufflemoomin says:

    They sent a cease and desist? Are you seriously telling me that’s the total punishment for you operating an illegal food business in the US? Why the hell isn’t he getting fined up the ass? He sounds like a shady character in every sense. Why he’d risk running to the media complaining about Groupon when he should have KNOWN his business wasn’t legit is beyond me.

  17. 401k says:

    So they needed the money from Groupon to get the COO…but without the COO they weren’t legally allowed to be open and selling food…so how could they put out the Groupon?

    If this guy had gone through the proper permitting process first then he could reasonable blame Groupon. Instead he puts out a Groupon to sell food to make the money he needs to get the permits to be allowed to sell food.

    He put the cart before the horse and is trying to blame the cart.

  18. mrstu says:

    This reminds me of the owner of the pizza place I used to work at. He was a die-hard conservative, always had rush limbaugh on in the office, and ranted constantly about how Obamacare was gonna put him out of business…

    The place closed about 4 months BEFORE the health care bill passed.

    • cactus jack says:

      The two are alike how?

      Both closed?

      1. Guy sets up shop illegally, uses Groupon, closes.
      2. Guy sets up shop legally, has political leanings like everyone else, closes.

  19. Portlandia says:

    Is it anyone else, or does it seem like most of the Groupons you see out there are for businesses that are already struggling (ie mediocre food, poor yelp reviews, bad service) and are using groupons as a last ditch effort to drum up business without actually addressing the core problems with their business?

    There are several restaurants I see here locally that have certificates on Groupon fairly regularly as well as places like Restaurant.com and they are all places I would never go to without a coupon because the food is just nothing exciting and without being a great deal I just would avoid.

    • RiverLee says:

      It used to be that if a restaurant offered 2-for1 or other big discounts they were on the way out and were desperate to attract ANYONE to help cover costs as the last ditch effort. I think that is still the case today.

      A very nice and popular restaurant near my home ran a Groupon about a year ago – we live out in the country. Their objective was to attract the suburbanites to come out this way. It worked. Of the 200 or so Groupons sold, 90% were from the suburbs and city. Only a few of us locals actually purchased them, which the owner gladly honored, but she got what she wanted – exposure to the ‘burbs.

  20. JEDIDIAH says:

    This is a perfect example of “the rest of the story”. It seems like any more if you have any personal firsthand or special domain knowledge of a subject area then the reports of so-called profressional journalists are utterly disapointing. You find out that they left out half of the relevant details or that their portrayal of something (tech) is 10 years out of date.

    Always seek out “the rest of the story” and see what kind of “narrative” the journalist is seeking to create.