Reincarnating Santa Fe Cafe — a bar glorified with legendary status among upperclassmen who experienced its classier charm — appeared to be a simple endeavor in February when Mohammad, Salomeh and Yasmine Afshar purchased the old property on Knox Road. Students eagerly anticipated the arrival of a new bar so close to the campus, and for those with dreams of downtown College Park fully transforming into a vibrant town center, Terrapin Turf (as the bar will be renamed), offered additional cause for optimism.
Nearly a year later, the odyssey of Terrapin Turf’s delayed opening has been a maddening and all-too-predictable display of bureaucratic ineptitude and irrational obstructionism. Though the bar was supposed to open in May and then October, we’re days away from completing the fall semester and the space still looms over Knox Road with its unfinished exterior and aura of empty promises.
After painstakingly gaining the appropriate permits from the county and installing a new sprinkler system as per mandate, the Afshar family is now only waiting for the water to turn on in the building. The withheld running water is the only obstacle preventing Terrapin Turf from opening its doors.
Given how long and drawn out this process has been, it’s only fitting the new bar is now constricted by something so simple as turning on the water — even as this saga reaches its prolonged conclusion, Terrapin Turf cannot escape the nightmare of bureaucratic impediments.
The original holdup can be attributed to the county licensing office lacking the proper records for the property — an excuse that just reeks of absurdity. How does it take months to find a property’s records? This, along with the seemingly unnecessary delay before granting permits to the bar owners, leaves this editorial board wondering if county officials are sincerely committed to bringing business to College Park.
Yes, it’s entirely reasonable for the county’s licensing office to follow protocol and due diligence regarding new permits, especially since Santa Fe Cafe closed because its owner would not install a sprinkler system. While it’s expected for county permits, such as the Use and Occupancy Permit, to take several months, it shouldn’t take small businesses more than a year after purchase to launch their operations. This endless bureaucratic nightmare will likely serve as a caution sign for potential business owners debating whether to open up shop in College Park and the rest of Prince George’s County. Few business owners will want to submit to such a frustrating experience. You wouldn’t know by living in College Park, but construction and renovations do not always need to be mired by delays.
There’s a difference between taking due diligence and dragging one’s feet for the sake of bureaucracy itself. Sadly, it appears the county licensing office would prefer to have businesses desperate and begging before granting them the appropriate permits.
Again, if there were truly valid reasons for the county to have delayed Terrapin Turf’s opening, we’ve yet to hear them. For the sake of current and future businesses in Prince George’s County, we hope the county licensing office was taking appropriate caution throughout this process and had the best interests of the city and the university community in mind when addressing the permits. And we hope there’s a justifiable reason for why Terrapin Turf still doesn’t have water. At this point, it’s hard to find that faith and trust wholeheartedly.
The bar is expected to open in January — though at this point who knows if that will actually happen. Moving forward, we hope Terrapin Turf’s ordeal proves the exception and not the norm for local businesses. But for now, the doors remain closed. So for God’s sake, turn on the water already. We’ve waited long enough.