Tom Coburn: D.C. IHOP Pancake Restaurant Is Government Waste

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released his annual "Wastebook" this week and singled out a District of Columbia IHOP restaurant as an example of government waste.

According to The Hill:

Among the projects listed as wasteful in Coburn's book are $113,227 for a video game preservation center in New York, $10 million for a remake of "Sesame Street" for Pakistan, $765,828 to subsidize a "pancakes for yuppies" program in Washington, D.C., and $764,825 to study how college students use mobile devices for social networking.

Coburn's report cites a Washington Examiner opinion column by David Freddoso on pancake situation involving Columbia Heights' IHOP restaurant, which opened to great fanfare in the closing weeks of then-Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration.

Coburn's report contends:

The new IHOP is not located in an -- underserved community but a popular Washington D.C. neighborhood. The neighborhood is Columbia Heights, which has become a local shopping hot spot for some and -- one of Washington's more desirable neighborhoods. Other businesses in the area include Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, and Starbucks.

IHOP set up shop in a massive Columbia Heights shopping center, part of a major mixed-use redevelopment of a once-vibrant commercial corridor that had been fairly barren even years after a Green Line Metrorail station opened.

Last year, Lydia DePillis in Washington City Paper profiled the newly opened IHOP restaurant. The D.C. government set aside $46.9 million in tax increment financing for the massive DCUSA shopping complex and the developer reserved 15,000 square feet for small, local and minority-owned businesses in the building.

The IHOP franchise owner is Tyoka Jackson, whose family-owned investment company signed a three-restaurant deal with IHOP.

According to DePillis:

In some ways, the Jacksons' IHOP enterprise is a small business. They've put in the $1 million for construction, made hiring decisions, and will be the ones to lose their shirts if the place fails.

But the Jacksons have a few advantages an independent business could never claim. They get expert business consulting courtesy of the mothership, pooled television advertising, and supplies from a nationwide sourcing cooperative shared with corporate sister Applebees.

After the Wastebook report was released, City Paper followed up with Coburn's office.

The senator's spokesman wrote in reply: "If the D.C. government wants to invest more in IHOP they are certainly welcome to do so. We don't believe this should be a priority of the federal government when we're running a $15 trillion debt and our entitlement programs are on the brink of insolvency."