Washington DC’s Union Station used to have restaurant services that made “Meet me for lunch [or dinner] at Union Station” a common local saying. On the main floor were several high-toned restaurants. Downstairs, in a former baggage facility, was a food court that featured many locally grown fast-food services, including Indian, Japanese, Italian, and many other ethnic foods, plus a very nice local bakery.
Today, almost all of them are gone, replaced by chains such as Taco Bell and Chipotle’s. Union Station’s finest restaurant has been turned into a Shake Shack. A large part of the downstairs food court has been turned into a Walgreens.
Apparently, back in 2007 the station’s retail leases were taken over by a company called Ashkenazy Acquisitions. Ashhenazy must have decided that chain restaurants paid more than locals. The company ordered the local restaurants, which were regularly paying $16,000 to $20,000 a month to lease their spaces, to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars remodeling. Those that didn’t, which included most of them, were evicted.
Today, all that I could find of non-chain restaurants were ones specializing in crepes, Japanese, and Cajun foods. Meanwhile, it doesn’t appear to me that the restaurants that replaced them spent any money on remodeling. Instead, many simply sit in the spaces once occupied by local restaurants.
This isn’t news for DC residents. But for someone who used to ride Amtrak a lot, it is a shock. I can’t imagine anyone local saying, “Meet me at Union Station for lunch.” It is also unappetizing for people who are just traveling through, especially those who aren’t interested in food they can get anywhere.