The Wash
Bethesda Streetery at Norfolk Avenue

Bethesda Streetery faces concerns over panhandling and disputes

Restaurant owners and workers are brainstorming strategies to maintain a peaceful environment within the Streeteries. A small faction of individuals has been causing disturbances for restaurant patrons along Norfolk Avenue.

The popular Bethesda Streetery, designed to provide additional outdoor seating for restaurant patrons, is currently grappling with an ongoing security issue.

The Urban Partnership, an organization that promotes downtown Bethesda, confirmed some “unhoused individuals” are causing problems. Restaurant owners and customers have complained about panhandling customers, fights and other concerns. 

Restaurants around the Bethesda Streetery

“Conceptually, the Streetery is a great idea and initially provided a pleasant atmosphere. Unfortunately, a small group of individuals has escalated issues to the point where they trespass into the restaurant area, engage in loud altercations, and even initiate physical fights,” said General Manager of Olazzo, Moises Cruz. “We’ve had to call the police on four occasions. Managing this situation has become a challenge. We’ve added extra staff to oversee the tables in the Streetery, but it has reached a point where customers don’t want to hang out here anymore.” 

Cruz talked about some incidents that occurred over the last couple of weeks, including: 

  • A couple walking down the sidewalk in front of the restaurant were allegedly assaulted by a man who reportedly sleeps on the Streetery.
  • A mother and daughter riding bikes were verbally harassed by some people who hang out in the Streetery.
  • Non-customers trespassed the restaurant area to get access to the charging station.

 Cruz went on to express concerns for the safety of restaurant patrons and female staff when exiting the Streetery late at night. 

A man hanging out on the Bethesda Streetery table

“Just last Monday, a fight broke out, and it took the police nearly 50 minutes to respond. We can’t continue to handle this on our own,” added Cruz, while urging the Montgomery Police Department for more timely assistance. Restaurants and businesses are now seeking increased security presence in the Streetery to address these issues. 

The Wash emailed and called the Montgomery Police Department asking about security in the area, specifically about the accusation of slow response times, and has yet to receive a reply.

Other local businesses surrounding the Streetery have also voiced their grievances.

“There are some individuals who are a little too much sometimes. It would be better if there is more security around the area so that customers feel safe to hang out here,” said Craft Beer and Wine store worker John Lyon. 

Restaurant proprietors are growing increasingly anxious about the potential impact on their sales if these issues persist. 

Bethesda Urban Partnership has acknowledged the situation and actively engages in discussions to develop strategies for addressing the ongoing challenges. 

The organization sent a statement to The Wash that addressed the issue. 

“We are fully aware of the issues related to some unhoused individuals at the Bethesda Streetery and are working closely with our partners at Bethesda Cares, Montgomery County Government, and the Montgomery County Police to resolve this matter.”

The Wash contacted Bethesda Cares but failed to receive a comment about the upcoming strategies for the Streetery. 

Bethesda Streetery is one of many areas in the county to seeing an increase in unhoused individuals. According to the latest 2023 Point-in-Time survey report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Montgomery County observed a 53% increase in the number of persons suffering homelessness compared to the 2022 figure. 

One small business owner in the area, who asked her name not be used, raised concerns about how unhoused people lack access to adequate mental health resources. 

Siddhi Mahatole

Siddhi Mahatole covers Bethesda and Chevy Chase for The Wash. She currently studies international journalism as a graduate student at American University. She is also a Fulbright Scholar from 2022.

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