The opening of the much anticipated Aroma Espresso Bar at Montgomery Mall could be delayed a few weeks after owners failed to get a beer and wine license at a county liquor board hearing today.
Board of License Commissioners said they did not think Aroma’s proposed system for serving alcoholic beverages would be enough to stop underage customers from drinking in the restaurant.
They asked owner Eddie Benaim, the owner of Potomac’s Bezu restaurant and owner of Aroma’s franchise rights in the D.C. area, to submit a new plan for the next board meeting on Jan. 3.
At issue is how staff would deliver beer or wine to customers. All customers would order at a cash register. If they order alcohol, which Benaim said he expects to be 10 to 15 percent of his business, the cashier would card them and bring their order to their table when it’s ready.
If a customer orders coffee, food, or a pastry but no alcohol, that customer would be able to pick up their order up front when it is ready.
That didn’t satisfy Board member Fred Silverman, despite its implementation at popular fast casual restaurants such as Chipotle.
Benaim and Yuval Bezerano, a franchise development official with Aroma, agreed to formulate a new plan and ask for a continuance instead of risking their alcohol application be denied.
The Israeli import has locations in New York, New Jersey and Florida and is looking to add to its 140 locations in Israel with 10 in the D.C. area, according to Bethesda Magazine. It is similar to favorite fast casual franchise Panera, with a menu of salads, sandwiches, pastries, but with more of a focus on coffee and teas.
It was set to open in mid-November and will have 60 seats inside the mall near the Old Navy and about 20 more on an under construction outdoor patio.