BETHESDA, Md. — Plenty of the booths are empty at one of the D.C. region’s most famous and popular diners.
Tastee Diner in Bethesda, Maryland, still serves up eggs, pancakes and grilled pork chops, but construction of the nearby new Marriott headquarters and the accompanying loss of parking spaces have dramatically hurt sales, according to the diner’s owner.
“I’m trying very hard to run a business, but it’s costing us a ton of money. We’re losing $1,000 a day in sales,” said Gene Wilkes, who has owned the decades-old diner at the corner of Norfolk Avenue and Woodmont Avenue since 1970. Tastee Diner first began operations in 1935.
The diner warned that it may have to lay off some of its 45 employees.
Business began plunging last week when the county banned parking at all 12 meters in front of the restaurant on Norfolk Avenue. Parking is also restricted on Woodmont Avenue to accommodate construction crews, where the Marriott project is underway.
The loss of parking has chased away customers at the diner, which doesn’t have a parking lot.
“They come by and see all the congestion, no meters, no place to park — they leave,” Wilkes said.
County officials concede there is a parking problem for the diner.
“I’d like some help from the county. I feel that when they bag the meters, it should be during the construction hours. When the construction folks leave, parking should be available to our customers, especially on weekends,” Wilkes said.
Tastee Diner is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Construction is idle at nights and on weekends, but the parking ban remains in place.
County officials have verified Wilkes account of events but insist that once a parking ban is in place for an extended period of time, it cannot be lifted to accommodate the needs of the diner.
The construction project is scheduled to last until 2022, and the first temporary parking restrictions in connection with the project are in place until the end of August or until mid-September.
“Looking at future schedules, we’re going to start laying some folks off or cutting their hours in order to try to survive,” Wilkes said.
Diner manager Beth Cox added, “Waitresses, this is their livelihood, and I can’t afford to keep them right now.”
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