Ben's Chili Bowl H Street project scrutinized by the city over permit

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - A historic D.C. business faces a serious problem.
Officials in the district are trying to determine whether Ben's Chili Bowl broke the rules on historic preservation.

Ben's Chili Bowl plans to expand its thriving restaurant business into the revitalized H Street corridor.

It bought an old building at the corner of 10th and H streets NW and got a permit to commence work on a new restaurant.

Kamal Ali, son of founder Ben Ali and current co-owner, says he got a green light to demolish the building as along as he reuses some of the materials.

“We are not tearing it down,” Ali says. “We are deconstructing the building with the purpose of reconstructing.”

But the city launching an investigation. The permit does approve demolition but only limited demolition. The owners of Ben's believe the city and they simply interpreted the permit differently.

They plan to rebuild along the original lines.

At the department which issues the permits, they have a different take on this project. Also some residents here doubt the city would ever sign off on tearing down a classic example or prewar architecture.

“It's like an older part of D.C.,” says district resident Weston Victor. “There is a lot of history here and tearing something down is you know it's unfortunate.”

But Ben's has its supporters. Anwar Saleem owns the building next door. He thinks it’s fine to tear down the old building as long as it's resurrected.

“That is my understanding of the plans that the building is to be built up exactly the way it looked before it was torn down,” Saleem says.