Category Archives: DC Bar News

Guest Post – Tony T Remembers Capitol Lounge

   

[This is a guest post from Tony Tomelden. You may know him by Tony T, who owns (solo or w/ others) The Pug, Union Trust, and Brookland’s Finest. Before these joints opened, he managed Capitol Hill’s Capitol Lounge for years, which announced yesterday on social media (Twitter (post went viral), Facebook, and Instagram) that it was closing after Sunday, September 20th, saddening former and current customers and staff all over DC and beyond. The current owner Jimmy Silk explained to Jessica Sidman of Washingtonian that its revenues of about 10% of average normal revenues weren’t sustainable but he was keeping the decor/memorabilia for future possible reopening at a different location in the future.]

By Tony T

I dated the server in this pic above while I was at the Lounge. More on that later.

The Lounge opened mid April 1996 I think (someone will look it up and give the correct date; Editor’s Note: appears to be May 15, 1996). Like that first U2 show in the states, everybody was there. Not me. I wasn’t even there the first fucking night. I was still at 15 Min Club and Planet Fred.  I was gonna be a shift manager at the Lounge. As often happens, there were pretty quick shake ups and Little Joe and I ended up managers. Big Joe Englert was hoping for a cocktail/martini friendly bar with a cigar lounge in the basement.  Little Joe and I were probably not the best choices in that regard. Unlike his other spots, Big Joe was pretty hands on at the Lounge. Pretty quickly though he ceded control of the jukebox to me. (pre-internet jukebox you heathens).

It was pretty touch and go, summer is never busy and on the Hill, campaign years are tough. Easter weekend that first year we did $0.25 drafts Good Friday and maybe 20 people came through (Way less than opening night).  Joe and I worked for tips alone. At one point Austin Grill expressed an interest in taking over, and Big Joe was stoked, but it fell through and we kept at it.

The $2 Cap Amber was Dominion. We offered Guinness, Newcastle, Sierra, and the usual fare for the mid 90s. We finally started getting crowds. I worked Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday. Happy Hour on Fridays was really getting to be a thing. For whatever reason, one of our beer deliveries was every Friday. They were always late. After the 3rd or 4th happy hour delivery in a row, I told the driver if he came during happy hour again, I would drop Miller Lite. “No you won’t.” So now you know that bit.

The MLS started in 96 as well. Big Joe hired Old Town Trolley to run back and forth between the lounge and RFK. We sold tickets to section 232 at the bar. The Capitol Lounge Choir. Along with Summers and Lucky Bar, we were it for soccer. The DC Belfast supporters club spent a season there arguing with Lavo. Joe worked on the odd hour waivers for the World Cups.

Big Joe was from some dusty ass suburb of dusty ass Pittsburgh. As soon as it was available, he had the NFL package going. I had to listen to polka every time the Stillers scored. For two awful years before Politiki, we were the Steelers bar. Bunch of the Steelers regulars brought Jerome Bettis in one night for drinks. Course I had no idea who he was.  After the fire, DirecTV gave us no break on fees, so yeah, they can go fuck.

The MPD first district substation is around the corner. A lot of LEO [ed. note: law enforcement officers] regulars. The IMF World bank demonstrations/disturbances from so long ago were organised by some folks working in an office above the Chinese restaurant a few doors down.  On a walk through one night all of the anarchists were shooting pool with the MPD bomb squad. No one ever knew. No Politics. Tough in DC, but we did alright. Those last couple Sundays in an NFL season, after a campaign cycle, there were more often than not opposing campaigns drinking together.

Yep, I DJed Saturday nights. It was good fun.

I met a huge crowd of people at the Lounge who have meant an awful lot to me over the years. When my kids started school, there were three types of parents, 1. “hey, why do i recognize you?” 2.  “TonyT!!! What’s up?!” and inevitably, 3. the ones who looked away. Mostly, I had chucked them out one night or another

Yes, Big Joe made me fire the server I started dating. Stephanie and I have been married 17 years.

Never saw lobbyists pick up big tabs, even after the rules changed. Never got prominent politicians drunk. I always made kamikazes, cosmos and appletinis when asked. Was never treated like shit by an elected official. We did not consume a case of Jamesons my final shift.

I hated that place and I will miss it terribly. For a bit, it was the best bar on the planet, and DC will be worse off after all this shit is over and all the little places are fucking gone.

Where to Get In-House Restaurant Delivery in DC

Bluejacket delivers.

A lot of ink/pixels have been spilled on the drawbacks of third-party delivery apps (Caviar/DoorDash, Grubhub, UberEats, and Postmates specifically), including

  • high commissions (temporarily capped at 15% in DC during pandemic)
  • predatory behavior (like setting up phone numbers/websites deceiving customers that they’re ordering directly from restaurant, or including restaurants w/o consent)
  • customer service issues (misplaced anger/blame towards restaurants)

Still, many restaurants consider them a necessary evil and believe there’s a positive to be on the apps to allow people who don’t live nearby to easily find and order delivery. That being said, I’ve received many questions about spots in DC who do their own in-house delivery as people want to support those establishments who’ve made the difficult decision to do so.

So here’s a (incomplete) list of those who appear to be doing in-house delivery

To more easily support in-house delivery, download Chownow, Toast (though not all who use Toast are on the app), DC To Go-Go, and Beyond Menu apps.

Note that most of these will deliver outside their neighborhoods but their range is usually 1-3 miles max (if its 2 miles or shorter I’ve noted it if information is available). In most situations, spots (particularly those that use BeyondMenu or are low-key pizza spots) will accept phone orders and may prefer it. For several of those on the list (particularly those who use Chownow or BeyondMenu), I made an educated guess that the spots are doing in-house delivery. If you know that is not the case, or want to add more, please respond in comments, email barredindc@gmail.com, or @ or DM @barredindc on Twitter.

Breweries/Cideries/Distilleries

Right Proper, Atlas, Hellbender, Bluejacket, 3 Stars, DC Brau, Red Bear, AnxoCapitol Cider House, Republic Restoratives; Don Ciccio & Figli (no food purchase for delivery required for all except Capitol Cider House).

Multiple Locations

  • Manny & Olga’s Pizza (Petworth/Park View, Georgetown, 14th/U, H Street, Tenleytown,  Woodridge) Online / BeyondMenu / DCToGoGo. $3.50 fee. $10-15 min
  • Pizza Boli’s (Adams Morgan, Hillcrest, Congress Heights, Brookland, Barracks Row, : Online/BeyondMenu. $10 min. $2 fee.
  • Angelico La Pizzeria: (Tenleytown, Shepherd Park, Glover Park, Mt. Pleasant): $10-11 min. $3 fee
  • &pizza (all over): Online/App. $3 fee.
  • New York Pizza (Cap Hill, Eckington): Online/BeyondMenu. $15 min. $3 fee.
  • Bethesda Bagels (Navy Yard, Dupont): Online. Next day, order by 8p previous day. $25 min, $5 delivery fee
  • Firehook Bakery: (Dupont, Cap Hill, Judiciary Square, Farragut Square) $35 min. morning or early afternoon delivery windows. Free Delivery.
  • Neighborhood Provisions (Neighborhood Restaurant Group spots like Churchkey, Red Apron): $35 min. $7 fee.

H Street/NoMa

  • Fresca: Online. Free.
  • The Haymaker: Online/Chownow or call 202 399 0020, $20 min 1 mile radius. Free delivery
  • Copycat: Online, $28 min, $5 delivery fee
  • Cusbah: Online/Chownow. $15 min. $2 delivery fee
  • Masseria a Casa: Tock. $85 (tax/delivery inclusive) 3 course meal. Delivery window 4-7p daily within Beltway. Reheat.
  • Imm Thai on H: Online/Toast. $15 min. $3 delivery fee. 15% off using IMMLOVER as code
  • Sicilian Pizza: Online/Beyond Menu/Slice: $12 min. $3 fee.

Capitol Hill/Eastern Market/Barracks Row/Navy Yard/Southwest Waterfront

  • Trattoria Alberto: Call 202-544-2007. Delivery to Capitol Hill and Navy Yard neighbors
  • Nooshi: Online/Chownow. $20 min. Free delivery.
  • Trusty’s: Not advertised but may do bike delivery if you call to Hill East neighbors.
  • La Plaza: Online/BeyondMenu. $4 fee w/in 1 mile, $5 w/in 2 miles, $10 w/in 3 miles. $20 min
  • We the Pizza: Online. $9.99 min. $2 fee
  • Aatish on the Hill: Online/BeyondMenu. $4 fee. $15 min
  • Sushi Hachi: Online/Chownow. $7.55 min. $5 fee
  • Shilling Canning Company: Online/Toast. Free delivery to most if not all of 20003 zip code (Navy Yard and southern part of the Hill)
  • Station 4: Online/Toast. $50 min. Free delivery.
  • Young Chow: Online/Beyond Menu. $13 min. $0.50 fee.
  • Mandarin Carryout: Online/Beyond Menu. $12 min. $2 fee. 1.5 miles.
  • Szechuan House: Online/Beyond Menu. $15 min. $1.10 fee.
  • Sanphan Thai: Online/Beyond Menu. $25 min. Free within 1.2 miles
  • Pizza Iole: Online/Beyond Menu/Slice. $15 min. $2.50 fee.

PQ/Chinatown/Downtown/Mt Vernon Square

Dupont

  • Bua Thai: Online/Chownow: $18 min. Free delivery. 1 mile radius
  • Agora: Call 202-332-6767. Possibly via DoorDash
  • Ankara: 202-293-6301 202-286-9808 (text/WhatsApp) or manager@ankaradc.net. $90 min, within 5 miles. 1 hour advance. Reheat
  • Astoria: Online. Min delivery $28, $5 fee.
  • Nooshi: Online/Chownow. $20 min. Free delivery.
  • Thaiphoon: Online/Chownow, $16 min, Free Delivery.
  • Banana Leaves: Online/Toast. $20 min. $1 fee.
  • Luna Grill & Diner: Online/Beyond Menu. $20 min. $2 fee.
  • Recessions: Online/Beyond Menu. $30 min. Free delivery within 3 miles.
  • Asia 54: Online/Beyond Menu. $15 min, $2 delivery fee.
  • India Gate: : Online/Beyond Menu/Delivery.com $22 min. Free Delivery w/in 1 mile
  • Bangkok Thai: Online/Beyond Menu. $25 min. $2 fee.
  • New Dynasty: Online/Beyond Menu. $15 min. Free w/in 1 miles.
  • Flippin’ Pizza: Online/Beyond Menu. $20 min. Free w/in 2 miles.
  • City Lights of China: Call 202-265-6688. $15 min. Free to Dupont Circle area

Logan Circle/U Street/Shaw/Bloomingdale

Adams Morgan/Mt Pleasant/Columbia Heights

Park View/Petworth/Brightwood Park

Woodley Park/Tenleytown/Van Ness/Upper NW

Foggy Bottom/West End/Georgetown/Glover Park/Palisades

Eckington/Ivy City/Brentwood/Brookland/Fort Totten/Other NE

Anacostia/Other SE

DC To-GoGo

Owners of Ivy and Coney introduced local delivery platform. Read more here. More spots added every week.

Quasi In-House Delivery

A few alternatives should be mentioned. Several restaurants in DC use services like Chownow, Toast, or Tock to accept pickup orders. Many of those spots also offer delivery; most of the time (this may show up in web version of Toast not app) these are not delivered in-house but in partnership with DoorDash. However, DoorDash does not charge a % commission on orders through these services (often don’t even show up on DoorDash app), instead, they charge the business a flat fee (around $7 plus sometimes extra for mileage). The business can in turn charge the customer whatever amount they want to recoup part or all of the fee, and/or set a minimum order so it makes economic sense for a flat fee order. This is a better deal for the businesses than using a third party delivery service so try use these if you can.

Chownow/DoorDash

  • Sol
  • Fare Well
  • Lavagna
  • Sette Osteria
  • Supra
  • Toku
  • Taylor Gourmet
  • Poki DC
  • Sushi Aoi
  • Retro Bottega
  • RPM Italian
  • Al Volo
  • Circa
  • Mai Thai
  • Lucky Buns Union Marlet
  • Somtam
  • Georgetown Gourmet
  • Po Boy Jim
  • Al Volo
  • Choong Man
  • Sticky Rice
  • Pow Pow
  • Pie Shop
  • El Bebe
  • Little Red Fox

Toast/DoorDash

  • Chef Geoff’s
  • Astro Doughnuts
  • Tryst
  • Busboys and Poets
  • Colada Shop
  • Sospeso
  • Rasa
  • DC Pizza
  • The Diner
  • Chaia Tacos
  • Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls
  • TaKorean
  • Café Fili
  • Eat Brgz
  • The Red Hen
  • Boundary Stone
  • All Purpose
  • Fig & Olive
  • RedRocks Columbia Heights
  • Thunder Burger
  • Tico
  • Alta Strada/Nama
  • Mi Vida
  • The Grill
  • Hook Hall
  • Makan

Tock/DoorDash

For Tock, the DoorDash fee is charged to the guest.

  • Rooster and Owl
  • Maydan
  • Compass Rose
  • Bistro Bis
  • Seven Reasons
  • Slate
  • Columbia Room

Skip The Line

​The service SkipTheLine, used by many higher-end DC restaurants, has a different setup. In this service, a customer reaches out to SkipTheLine to schedule a pickup with a restaurant. The customer then orders directly with the restaurant, indicating SkipTheLine will pick up the food at the scheduled time. SkipTheLine charges the customer directly with no fee/commission paid by the restaurant. They’ve partnered with the below spots but you can use to order from any restaurant. Fee is $12 w/in 2 miles, $15 2-6, $18 6-11, $22 11-16.

  • Little Serow
  • Happy Gyro
  • Albi
  • The Dabney
  • Bresca
  • Chaia Tacos
  • Little Pearl
  • Convivial
  • Bar Charley
  • Flight Wine Bar
  • Reverie
  • Thip Khao
  • Gravitas
  • Rose’s Luxury
  • Rooster & Owl
  • Taqueria Xochi
  • Izakaya Seki
  • Thamee
  • ​Sushi Taro

One of DC’s Best Lowkey Cocktail Bars – 600 T – Reopens for Patio Seating and Take-Out Thursday

A selection of 4 cocktails to go at 600 T

Patio in progress of being finished at 600 T last week.

One of DC’s best lowkey, unassuming cocktail bars, 600 T (Facebook, Instagram, website, 600 T NW at Florida), opens its new colorful back patio, with takeout drinks available, starting this Thursday. The spot will be open Thu-Sat evenings from 5p-midnight. Reservations for the 24 seat patio can be made via Resy.

To comply with ABRA regulations, a short snack menu of housemade beef jerky ($7 chili-garlic or siracha were the flavors available early), savory nuts ($3), or popcorn w/ berbere ($3) is available.

At first, takeout bottled cocktails (some stirred cocktails will come with ice, otherwise ready to drink) will be sold to walk-ins or those at the patio. Starting next week, cocktails can also be purchased in advance on 600 T’s website.

I was invited to try out four of the bottled cocktails (mostly $12):

1) mezcal (muddle cucumber, blackberries, lemon basic, soda)
2) chartreuse (bell pepper juice, lime, prosecco)
3) rum (lime juice, creme de banana, cardomom maple syrup, pineapple juice, ginger juice, paranubes, tepache (sweetened fermented drink from pineapple rind/skin)
4) absinthe (Italicus (Italian liquer), lime juice, aperol, grapefruit-vanilla shrub, muddled mind, float of Peychaud’s bitters).

All of them were creative and unique (only the chartreuse wasn’t my cup of tea). The jerky was awesome as well.  Owner Stephen Lawrence to expect boozy Italian ice drinks as well as beer cocktails made with tapeche in the future. 

Menu below (subject to change)

 

UPDATED – DC Approved for $300 Supplemental Unemployment Benefit

    Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

 

9/8 Update: DC announced that FEMA approved their application. It is possible this will turn into a one-time $1800 additional payment early October to cover July 26-Sept 5th.

UPDATE: Today, August 31st, at the very end of a press conference, when asked, Mayor Bowser announced that DC WILL be applying for the FEMA supplemental $300 benefit. She said it won’t be technically hard to change the DC system to pay this out. “This is the only thing we got.” Like almost all states, DC doesn’t have the money to kick in an extra $100.


[8/26 Update: Although the Mayor and her administration have not said anything other than what’s below, and very disappointingly there’s been very little news coverage about this in DC aside from this blog post and a DCist article, I just want to be clear that they have not formally rejected the funds. I’ve heard they are still weighing the options but there’s no way to know that because that hasn’t been said publicly.]

On Monday, Mayor Bowser appeared to state that DC will not be (at least for now) seeking to augment DC’s unemployment benefits (maxed out at $444/week currently) with the recently authorized $300 “lost wages assistance” FEMA payment. Via a creative-to-some and illegal-to-seemingly-most-legal experts Presidential executive order, FEMA is authorized to issue grants of $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund to states for lost wage payments approximating unemployment payments. States can add another $100 on top if they have the monies but it seems that most can’t afford to do so..

In response to questioning from journalist Tom Sherwood, the Mayor stated:

We don’t fully appreciate the legality of the President’s actions at this point. We think that the House and Speaker Pelosi have presented a plan that works, not just for D.C. but the whole country. So we continue to call on the House and Senate to pass a bill that would provide unemployment relief for people who can’t go back to work, their jobs don’t exist, and they need that support…I don’t think we’ll get there [in providing an extra $100 states are authorized to provide along with the $300] because I think we’ll have a better plan that is approved in this negotiation that the Congress and the Administration is having.

So although the Mayor didn’t say no, it’s pretty clear that we won’t see DC immediately join other states in providing this money. The explanation was very thin and there was no fuller explanation about the legal consequences to DC (vs the President) if DC took the grant money and the order was illegal. Would DC need to pay  it back? Would anyone getting the extra funds need to pay it back? Thousands of struggling unemployed deserve a better answer.

Update: On Aug 18th, Councilmember Elisa Silverman’s office (who provides oversight over DC’s unemployment efforts tweeted a reply: ‘we need more info about DC’s financial ability to fulfill the match requirements, what administering the match would require on DC’s end, the fine print of any agreement with the feds, etc.” The Deputy Mayor/Chief of Staff John Falcicchio retweeted the remark. This is still not much of an answer (but there’s no match required).

To get the money, each state must apply for a grant from FEMA; payments would be made  retroactive to where the previous CARES Act $600 left off at end of July. However eligibility is narrower than normal unemployment insurance. The payments can only goes to anyone who is currently receiving at least $100/week in unemployment insurance (including pandemic emergency unemployment for 1099s); on annual basis in DC that means roughly anyone who makes $2,000- $10,400 in wages annually would not qualify. The unemployment has to be related to COVID-19 as well; the original $600 supplemental benefit went to everyone unemployed. States administer this via its unemployment system, adjudicate appeals using this, and are responsible for recovering improper lost wages. 5% of the grant award can be used for administrative costs. DOL issued additional guidance.

The FEMA supplemental payments continue until the first of these: 1) $44 billion of fund spent 2) Disaster Relief Fund balance reaches $25 billion 3) Congress passes law to provide unemployment benefits 4) Dec 27, 2020. Funding is based the projected amount of claimants/weekly and will be disbursed for first 3 weeks. Grant applications must be received by September 10, 2020. FEMA/DoL estimates payments will take 3 weeks given how long it takes for a state to adjust their system.

States that Have Been Approved by FEMA

  1. Arizona
  2. Colorado
  3. Idaho
  4. Iowa
  5. Louisiana
  6. Maryland
  7. Missouri
  8. Montana
  9. New Mexico
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Utah
  12. North Carolina
  13. Texas
  14. Michigan
  15. Kentucky ($400)
  16. Massachusetts
  17. Alabama
  18. California
  19. Indiana
  20. Rhode Island
  21. Alaska
  22. New York
  23. Georgia
  24. Vermont ($400)
  25. Mississippi
  26. Tennessee
  27. Washington (state)
  28. Pennsylvania
  29. New Hampshire
  30. Connecticut
  31. Arkansas
  32. Maine
  33. Virginia
  34. Ohio
  35. West Virginia ($400)
  36. Oregon
  37. Wyoming
  38. Hawaii
  39. Florida
  40. Minnesota
  41. Delaware
  42. North Dakota
  43. South Carolina
  44. Illinois
  45. Wisconsin
  46. New Jersey
  47. Kansas ($400)
  48. DC
  49. Nebraska

States That Have Applied/Are Applying

  1. Nevada (has applied)

States That Are Rejecting 

  1. South Dakota (confirmed)

Where to Get the Best French Fries, Tater Tots, and Poutine in DC

Rooming Rooster’s french fries received many votes (also only pictures of fries I’ve taken I can find online)

[Up-to-date as of August 9th, 2020)
Next in the series of Barred in DC food guides is a 3-for-1 combining fried potato-specifically French fries as well as tater tots and putine in DC. Again, most of these guides are generated  from an open Twitter threads-they are based on what my Twitter followers believe is the best in the District of Columbia rather than my personal experience, as I’ve not had all them (my expertise would be useless as I’m not a food critic). See original French Fries Tater Tots and Poutine Twitter threads.

(ketchup general available or provided when nothing is mentioned, and often in other situations)

FRENCH FRIES

The Best of the Best

  • Le Diplomate (14th St)
    • $8 pommes frites
    • Included with mussels/lobster/steak frites, burger (also on Best Burgers List)
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor/Outdoor Dine-In
  • Granville Moore’s (H Street)
    • $7 frites (hand-cut, twice fried)
    • Choice of 2 sauces (truffle mayo, chipotle mayo, old bay aioli, samurai sauce, curry mayo, dijonnaise).
    • Included with burgers and most entrees
    • currently not available pop-up Italian spot open Fri-Sat
  • Medium Rare (Cleveland Park, Bethesda, Arlington)
    • Not available a la carte
    • Secret Sauce
    • Part of $24 steak frites prix fixe. $28 bottomless brunch
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor/Outdoor Dine-In

The Next Best

  • Five Guys (several all over city)
    • $4.09 (little), $5.19 (regular) $6.79 (large) fries. Cajun fries available. (cooked in 100% peanut oil)
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor Dine-In
  • Red Apron Butcher/The Partisan (Penn Quarter)
    • $6 aged beef fat fries
    • Ranch aioli
    • Included with steak frites
    • Pickup/Delivery
  • The Queen Vic (H Street)
    • $8 ($6.80 call/pickup) hand-cut “chips” (British-style, a bit thicker
    • House aioli
    • Included with fish & chips (considered best in DC), fried chicken BLT, kids chicken fingers/cheese burger
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor Dine-in

Lots of Support

  • Roaming Rooster (Bladensburg/NE, U Street,)
    • $2.50 (small), $3.50 (large) hand cut twice-fried
    • Honey mustard, sriracha mayo
    • Pickup/Delivery (best chicken sandwich)
  • Amsterdam Falafel (Adams Morgan, L’Enfant)
    • $4 (small), $5 (regular) Dutch-style, twice fried
    • Unlimited sauces apparently (garlic cream (both vegan and not), curried ketchup, ketchup, Dutch mayo, tahini, peanut sauce
    • Pickup (Adams Morgan only)/Delivery
  • Lucky Buns (Adams Morgan, Union Market)
    • $6 thick “chips”, $7 curry chips (chips with Irish pub curry sauce over it)
    • Malt vinegar mayo w/ thick chips. $1 extra for spicy sambal ketchup, lucky sauce, or mumbo sauce
    • Pickup/Delivery/Outdoor Dine-In (Adams Morgan) (one of best burgers)
  • Belga Café (Barracks Row)
    • $8 Belgian frites
    • 3 types of mayo served
    • Included with roasted chicken, burger, steak, stew, steak tartare
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor/Outdoor Dine-In
  • Beuchert’s (Eastern Market)
    • $8 Kennebec (potato) French fries
    • Sauce ravigote (classic French herby sauce)
    • Included with $2 surcharge with burger and sandwiches
    • Pickup/Delivery/Outdoor Dine-in
  • Bourbon Steak (Georgetown)
    • $10 Duck fat french fry trio (truffle, garlic & herbs, old bay).
    • 3 small baskets of fries with different seasonings and 3 different sauces
    • Comes with entrée (like bread). Sometimes part of a weekday burger lunch deal (one of best burgers)
    • Pickup/Outdoor Dine-In

Mentioned At Least Twice

  • Swizzler (food truck)- $2.25 (hand-cut French fries), $4.25 (parmesan truffle fries)
  • Federalist Pig/Fedwich (Adams Morgan/Dupont)- $2.50 (small), $6.50 (large) skin-on fries seasoned w/ house bbq rub. Included with sandwiches at Fedwich ($3 extra if more)
  • MGM Roast Beef (Brentwood) – $3 (half), $4 (full) fresh cut French fries
  • The Greek Spot (U Street) – $4 fries seasoned with Greek Spot special seasoning
  • DC9 (Shaw) – $5 garlic fries (garlic, herbs, sea salt w/ horseradish sauce). Included with burgers and sandwiches.
  • Looking Glass Lounge (Park View) – $5 fries, $6 garlic/old bay/seasoned curly fries, $7 cheesy fries
  • Brookland’s Finest – $5.50 hand cut fries. Included with burgers and sandwiches
  • The Berliner (Georgetown) – $7 fries (w/ mayo)
  • Cork (14th) – $8 – garlic/parsley, lemon, fries w/ house-made ketchup
  • The Salt Line (Navy Yard) – $8 fries. Included with burger and sandwiches.
  • Bonchon (Navy Yard) – $8 seasoned French fries (herb seasoning, Parmesan cheese, parsley flakes)
  • Primrose (Brookland)- $9 pommes frites w/ ketchup & Mayo
  • Blue Duck Tavern (West End) – $13 ($14 at dinner) – Hand-cut Blue Duck Tavern triple fries (duck fat fries). Pretty thick.
  • Ivy and Coney: (Shaw) $6 – curly fries

Others Mentioned: Roy Boys, The DIner, Bom, Walter’s, Burger IM, Muncheez, Andy’s Pizza, Eat Pow Wow, Joselito, Shake Shack, McDonald’s, Falafel Inc., Capital Burger, Duccini’s Alladin’s, Finn McCool’s, FIrefly, DCity Smokehouse, East Potomac GV, Emilie’s, Residents, Good Stuff Eatery, Soussi, Wingo’s, Zorba’s, Kramer’s, Tune Inn, Hank’s Oyster, Little Miner Tacos (carne asada fries), Slash Run (Curly fries), The Alex, Popeyes, Half Smoke (Crab fries), Bistro du Coin, Old Ebbitt, Cafe Riggs, The Sovereign, St. Arnold’s, The Green Zone, Brasserie Liberte

TATER TOTS

The Top Tot

  • Bluejacket (Navy Yard)
    • $7.50 tots (housemade)
    • Ketchup, dijoinnaise
    • $2 extra to smother it in cheddar, tasso ham gravy
    • Pickup/Delivery/ Outdoor Dining

Runner-Ups

  • Sticky Rice  (H Street)
    • $6.83 (mini), $10.75 (large bucket)
    • Secret tater tot sauce
    • $12.50 Tater-achoes (topped w/ chili, Sriracha, cheese, bacon & sour cream)
    • Pickup/Delivery
  • Tonic (Foggy Bottom)
    • $8.50 famous tater tots
    • Chipotle honey mustard, jalapeno aioli, curry ketchup
    • Included with sandwiches and burgers. $5 extra on entrees (or during HH)
    • $14 totchos or buffalo chicken tots
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor & Outdoor Dining

Next Group of Favorites

  • Churchkey (14th St)
    • $8 housemade tater tots
    • Add $3 to get it with sandwich/plate
    • Currently closed
  • Union Pub (Capitol Hill)
    • $10 plain ole tots
    • Chipotle ranch
    • Add $2 to sandwiches, plates, burgers to sub side of tots
    • $16 chicken totchos / old bay crab tots/ or buffalo chicken totchos
    • Pickup/Delivery/Indoor & Outdoor Dining
  • ChiKo (Dupont/Barracks Row)
    • $8 ChiKo Tots (just available at Dupont)
    • Chili miso aioli
    • Nats Game Day special available at both :$14 Bulgogi tots (bulgogi beef, kimchi cheese, green onion
    • Pickup/Delivery

Those With Multiple Mentions

  • The Big Hunt (Dupont)
    • $7 (plain or cajun seasoning)
    • $1 extra for chili, or cheese. 50 cent diced onions
    • Currently Closed
  • Tune Inn (Cap Hill)
    • $4-5
    • Currently not available
  • Red Derby (Columbia Heights)
    • $7
    • pickup/delivery/dining indoors and outdoors
  • Calico (Shaw) 
    • $6 regular tots
    • $10 loaded tots (cheddar, sour cream, bacon, scallion)
    • Pickup/dining indoors and outdoors
  • Pearl Street Warehouse (The Wharf)
    • $5 original
    • $10 Viet-Tots (Hoisin, sriracha, cilantro, scallion, peanuts), $11 loded tots (queso, bacon, scallions, sour cream)
    • Currently may not be available.
  • The Haymaker (H Street)
    • $5 tots
    • Sriracha mayo
    • $10 hot mess tots (Crispy tater tots w/ shredded cheddar cheese, bacon, scallions, & sriracha mayo)
    • Pickup/Delivery
  • Duffy’s Irish Pub (H Street)
    • $6.50 tots
    • Lots of extra toppings available for $ – chopped corned beef, cheddar cheese, old bay, bacon, chopped raw onion, queso, shredded provolone, jalapeños, chili
    • pickup/delivery/outdoor dining

Others Mentioned: Nellie’s, Tortilla Coast, Union Trust, Yellow, Duffy’s, Rebellion, Stoney’s, Kelly’s Irish Times, The Bottom Line, PJ Clarke’s

Suburbs Mentioned a lot: Galaxy Hut (Clarendon), Quarry House Tavern (Silver Spring)

POUTINE

  • The Queen Vic (H Street)
    • $19 (roughly $16 takeout) Pork Belly Poutine
    • Most mentioned
  • The Airedale (Columbia Heights)
    • $9 (?)
    • Belgian frites, brown gravy, cheddar cheese curds
  • Pow Pow (H Street)
    • $6 Pow-Tine
    • fries w/ warm curry gravy, house made soy feta & scallions (Plant-based
  • The Big Board (H Street)
    • $10-12 Quebec City burger is topped with poutine
  • Elephant & Castle (Downtown/Penn Quarter)
    • currently unavailble
  • Churchkey (Logan Circle)
    • temporarily closed
    • tot poutine
  • Haikan (Shaw)
    • Currently unavailable

 

$100 Million Business Support Grant Program Approved by Mayor Bowser

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

On Monday, Mayor Bowser signed the “Business Support Grants Emergency Amendment Act of 2020“; the bill was returned to DC Council earlier today. The bill, introduced by Councilmembers Allen and McDuffie, passed by the Council of DC three weeks ago and sent to the Mayor’s office two weeks ago, can provide some help to DC businesses affected by COVID-19 and the restrictions in place to slow the spread.

This new Business Support Grant program authorizes (but does not require) DC to spend up to $100 million in CARES Act funds for grants to certain DC businesses. [UPDATE: Mayor’s chief of staff/Deputy Mayor told me that currently DC doesn’t have the CARES Act money to fund these grants. It is contingent on Congress restoring the $750 million it shortchanged DC in original CARES Act money.]

Like the $25 million Public Health Emergency Grant program from March/April, this program authorizes the Mayor to issue a grant to affected business who apply for a grant.

Eligible businesses include:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Entertainment venues
  • Hotels
  • Food trucks and carts
  • Theaters
  • Sports & recreation venues
  • Art galleries
  • Child care center/daycare
  • Hospitality-related retail, including any business that “derives at least 80% of its revenue from sales of merchandise, food, beverages, accommodation services, ticket sales, advertising, media, or sponsorship, or a combination of the foregoing”

The law’s criteria requires that the business show:

  • 50% or more loss in gross receipts of sales in April 1 – June 30, 2020 compared to same period in 2019 OR
  • For new businesses that opened after March 11, 2019, a 50% or more loss in gross receipts from 3 months before March 11, 2020.

A grant would be up to 15% of the lost revenue for the business during that time period (though it cannot exceed a single month in 2019). Grant can be used for costs related for:

  • complying with the demands of the public health emergency;
  • reopening;
  • accommodating the emergency business environment; or
  • any other reason determined by Mayor to likely spur economic recovery

12.5% of grant funds are set aside for DC resident small businesses that are economically-disadvantaged individual or woman owned.

The Mayor is required to consider prioritizing those businesses closed due to public health emergency and unable to open until Phases 3 or 4 of ReOpenDC Plan as follows: Restaurants (38%), Hotels (28%), Retail (14.5%), Sports/entertainment sectors (14.5%), and Child care facilities (5%).

Landlords can also apply for grant for rental income leased to an eligible business if they’ve abated (i.e., waived) some amount of rent to the tenant. They would be eligible for essentially a grant to cover half of their lost rent.

The list of grant recipients must be published online by December 1st.

If this grant program goes like the one in March, applications will be due in mid August with funds disbursed in late September.

Emilie’s – What the Hell is Going On?

[Author’s Note: About 4 hours after this story was published,  Johann Moonsinghe reached out to Barred in DC via email to state that the timeline/story in my article had “a lot of inaccurate information” and asked to speak on the telephone. A conversation ensued (minor edit noted in 1st paragraph). He stated he would send me an email addressing claims that he could, but instead at 6:30p, a press release was issued, which is added at the end of this.

A few hours later, Moonsinghe provided me another statement; this is also added verbatim t to the end. Almost immediately after that, several former Emilie’s staff members wrote to me to tell that the statement was false and provided additional information, which is also added to the end.]

Earlier this week, all hell broke loose on a segment of DC food social media. Local artist Martin Swift shared an Instagram post which described how a mural of George Floyd he had loaned to [revised] Chef Kevin Tien of Emilie’s, a Capitol Hill restaurant, and had been kept by Emilie’s for 6 weeks beyond when he asked for it back [Note: Moonsinghe says that Swift agreed to leave the mural up 30 days after Tien left, so according to him, 6 weeks is inaccurate] because his friend, Chef/co-owner Kevin Tien, was no longer around with the project. The post includes very serious accusations about two investors/owners of Emilie’s, Sam Shoja (also a local franchisee of Jinya Ramen and owner of Sheesh Grill) and Johann Moonsinghe (CEO of inKind, a restaurant financing entity), and the comments to the post also echo complaints that former Black staff members levied at ownership creating a hostile environment.

So it might be helpful to sort everything in a timeline, in the only way I can write these articles, in bullet form.

  • Sept 13, 2018: Barred in DC breaks news about “Emilie” coming to Capitol Hill from Chef Kevin Tien.
  • November 16, 2018: Tien mentions that the name Emilie’s comes from a common name in family of a close family friend (In addition, close to his fiance’s name as well). Article states that although Emilie’s is a partnership with Shoja, “Tien has complete autonomy over the project,” with Tien saying Shoja “puts all the systems in place and gives me the freedom.
  • October 10, 2019: Emilie’s opens.
  • March 16, 2020: Emilie’s starts first day of take-out (limited delivery starts later) only due to coronavirus.
  • Late March 2020: The April 2020 issue of Washingtonian magazine is released. Magazine was prepared and published pre-pandemic, and includes an article by Jessica Sidman, entitled “Meet the Millennial Investors Funding DC’s Dining Future.”  Article mentions Emilie’s, Tien, Shoja, Moonsinghe, as well as another investor/consulting partner, Arris Noble. Unlike most Washingtonian articles, which are published online within a month or so, because of real concerns of tone-deafness, the article isn’t published online (with an addendum) until July 23, 2020.
  • April 26, 2020: 
    • Tien tells me “Honestly I won’t reopen the dining room until there is a vaccine. Our business was already breaking even with 100% capacity and we are barely breaking even with take out and a reduced staff. And that’s the truth for a majority of businesses. I’m lucky to be breaking even.”
    • Tien follows up with Sidman during same time frame that he worried about putting his staff at risk and having to make service compromises if he were to open at limited capacity.
  • May 18-21, 2020: Emilie’s closes temporarily because staff member had contact with some who tested positive. People appreciate the transparency.
  • May 23, 2020: 
    • Tien and members of the morning staff are locked out of Emilie’s with armed security staff guarding the building. All reports indicate that the locks were changed and the security staff hired on orders of Shoja. In a video posted on IG stories you can hear Tien explaining to security staff and MPD that he is one of the owners and his name is actually on the lease.
    • One of the security staff explains that they are trespassing. Tien tells MPD that “Sam [Shoja] is one of the investors in the building. The reason he locked us out is because I called him out on stealing from us [and] a non-profit and I had issues with him calling all my workers that are people of color ‘thieves’ and ‘gangsters.
    • Appears that everyone kept working after this, but this may have been the final straw.
    • Date is based on Swift’s IG post.
  • June 1, 2020: Emilie’s posts on IG expressing support for Black Lives Matter, which includes photos of signs of support on the exterior of the restaurant.
  • (possibly) June 1-3, 2020: I can’t find it anywhere publically, but per Eater/Gabe Hiatt,  “Former employees criticized an Instagram post from the restaurant that promoted Black Lives Matter by saying the restaurant had created a hostile environment for its diverse staff.” This may have occurred in the comment section of the IG post and/or an open letter.
  • June 3, 2020: Tien announces $12,000 in personal donations to 3 anti-racism related causes, and offers to throw event if anyone matches. Jessica Sidman Anna Spiegel writes article next day about it.
  • June 22, 2020: Emilie’s announces on IG that they will be opening for dine-in the following week after all.
  • June 24, 2020: Jessica Sidman breaks the news that Tien is leaving Emilie’s. Gabe Hiatt of Eater follows up with more information. Only 2 employees carry over to new team (management team was laid off on June 21st). Hamilton Johnson brought on as chef. Shoja will continue to operate Emilie’s, with no longer his 40% stake in TIen’s Hot Lola’s. Tien says he’ll take a breather and experiment with new dishes at Hot Lola’s. My understanding is that as part of separation is that he signed a NDA and has some sort of non-compete (this may last a year at least) to either not cook or not open another restaurant .
    • Tien: “I think at the end of the day [Shoja] was looking for more of a culinary director for like a restaurant group. That’s not really a role I wanted to get in. I’ve always had my own very independent business. …Honestly I felt like I was having a hard time figuring out who I was as a cook and how I wanted to cook. So I’m just taking the time to reflect on the kind of food I want to do going forward….For me it’s hard as an Asian American, because sometimes I don’t feel Asian enough, and sometimes I don’t feel American enough, so I feel a little bit lost in translation.”
    • Shoja: “The story is long, but I just stick with the official line… We basically had a mutual agreement to go our separate ways … We want to go toward a different type of restaurant…a different direction, different food, different management style and systems… We want to promote and bring in a lot of specifically African-American chefs, sous chefs, and people who basically want to grow with us in the industry so they can work under chef Hamilton and then possibly, as they grow, we may become partners.
  • July 23, 2020: The Sidman story regarding restaurant investors (including Emilie’s) is posted online and gets plenty of reaction, including negative ones from former Emilie’s staff (see below).
  • July 27, 2020: Swift posts on IG. I addition, to essentially claiming that his mural was held hostage by Emilie’s ownership for 6 weeks, he stated:
  • July 28, 2020: Several former Emilie’s staff members react to Swift’s post:
    • Erica Christian, a sommelier who worked at Emilie’s previously (see great Washingtonian interview) posts that “I am a former employee of Emilie’s and spoke out intensely publicly and privately. The owners were incredibly racist and refused to realize it. Even Kevin let this treatment occur, but in his efforts to mend, that were honestly still quite toxic, they pushed him out. They reached out me through my DMs in this very platform to offer me an option to return to this toxic place of work. According to the owners/investors, the racist management and ownership had changed. They refuse to acknowledge that they took part in that harm. They were wildly rude and demanding. Privilege isn’t even the word to describe how unaware they made themselves or how they took advantage of labor. Thank you for speaking out. Sam Ashoka and Johann Moonsinghe should not be supported. They harmed so many Black women who worked at Emilie’s and the entire staff. This needs to be brought to light.”
    • Another former staff member posted the now deleted IG story), thatJohann is not the ally that he claims to be. Johann along Sam Shoja, current owner-operator of Emilie’s made our lives hell. Sam called our Black and Brown staff ‘gangster’ and ‘thugs’ because he was unhappy with outfit choices and what he deemed to be ‘not suited for fine dining.’”
    • Willa Lou Pelini, formerly a pastry chef with Emilie’s, and a co-founder of Bakers Against Racism (with Paola Vez, Rob Rubba), posts IG stories echoing what has been said about hostile environment, including Johann “berating” a sommelier for featuring women winemakers (“No one cares about that,” he is alleged to have said.)  and that Shoja and other investors showed “disrespect, entitlement, bullying, and total lack of compassion.
  • Finally, on July 28th, Emilie’s responds in the comment section of Swift’s IG post to state “After several attempts to reach [Swift] we can confirm that that he removed his art yesterday. Our team has exciting collaborations coming – with local Black artists, farmers, and vendors, that we are thrilled to share with you all soon.
  • On July 29th, following publication of this story, Emilie’s sent me a press release, set forth below.

Statement on Former Staff Accusations

Washington, DC (July 29, 2020)—This week, public accusations have been directed at Emilie’s ownership and former staff. Since the reports were published, the restaurant’s leadership has been disseminating each claim to provide accurate information and clarity to those involved, our current staff, and the community.

Emilie’s is currently owned and operated by Sam Shoja and Johann Moonesinghe. When Emilie’s opened, then chef and co-owner Kevin Tien was the operating partner of the restaurant. Chef Tien chose to leave Emilie’s in June 2020.

As owners, we acknowledge that we should have played an active role in establishing an environment that provided and promoted open dialogue and safeguarded employees and partners from unfair treatment. We acknowledge the culture of mistrust and disrespect that happened since the restaurant opened and acknowledge as investors, we are ultimately responsible for things that happen within our business. We recognize that if we want better, we must do better.

We are now learning from former employees about specific instances of mistreatment and are working in real time to speak to those individuals. We hope that an open dialogue will help inform how, as owners of Emilie’s, we can better engage with staff and the communities we serve. After continuing these conversations, we expect to be able to address specific claims. Moving forward, we are making it an essential part of any investment to ensure that this type of environment doesn’t exist here, or any other business we support.

Since June, we have dedicated time and space to focus on actionable steps that we, as the current restaurant team, can take to facilitate the kind of professional and inclusive environment that the staff and guests deserve. To that end, we:

    • Are soliciting a third-party vendor to provide a hotline system that both employees and guests can use if they face problems in the restaurant;
    • Are working with artists of color to amplify their voices;
    • Are reinforcing diversity and inclusion in our hiring process, and;
    • Will begin offering implicit bias training starting in August.

Emilie’s has been mission-driven by trying to combat social justice issues through food – implementing programs that include:

    • A mentorship program for refugees in our area;
    • A kitchen training program focused on supporting minorities, to further develop an inclusive pool of talent;
    • Multiple farm and vendor partnerships focused on supporting local underserved businesses, and;
    • A diversity in wine program series, which launches in August.
  • The artist Swift also posted in the comment section below.
    • Hey, this is the artist Martin Swift. Thanks for writing this all out. I just want to clarify a few things. First of all, the mural was loaned to Kevin personally. At the time of installation Kevin had not decided to depart the restaurant and as owner/ operator he elected to put it up. I would not have painted it had he known he was going to have to leave the business. Secondly, I never agreed to a three week time period. I had only one phone call with Johann directly (on June17th) and one email thread with them last week. On the 17th I reluctantly agreed to give them 10 days to resolve this situation due to the demands that they issued which are mentioned in my statement. Any intervening contact I had with them was through third party legal counsel which Kevin and I both agreed was for the best. When I heard about the three week window I told Kevin that it was unacceptable. My hands were again tied by the demands I mention in my statement. You allude to the fact that Kevin is legally bound from speaking about this or defending himself. Keep that in mind when you read any of their statements. I know for a fact that these individuals tried to get all of the departing staff to sign NDAs. People who don’t have anything to hide don’t make others sign NDAs.
      I stand by my statement.
  • A few hours after the press release was sent out (and posted on social media), Moonsinghe sent me this statement that goes into his view of the business relationship and explains his view of the events leading to Tien’s departure (again, none of these facts are confirmed):

First, just to be clear my investment in Emilie’s was a loan and was not technically a partner. Sam Shoja was supposed to be the operational partner and Chef Kevin Tien the culinary partner. However, as soon as the restaurant opened, Kevin unilaterally decided to take over operations. Sam was a bit concerned by this but decided to let Kevin run with it at first. Kevin remained the operational owner of the restaurant from opening until the end of June, at which point Sam took over. Also, I personally never had any interest in being involved in, much less taking over the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. First, I don’t live in DC and travel frequently and second it rarely serves the restaurant to have someone without an intimate understanding of the day-to-day be in charge of operations.

However, I did believe in Emlies, and continued to show my support by lending additional money to Emilie’s in December and January, so the restaurant could pay its bills and employees. Additionally, in the interest of keeping Emilie’s financially healthy out of the gate I, personally, never once collected any loan payments from Emilies. I figured I would wait until they were healthy and then worry about it then.

Things started to really go downhill when on May 5, Kevin removed Sam’s access to the point of sale system and switched the bank accounts of the restaurant to another bank without notifying Sam. This obviously worried Sam as Sam had invested a significant amount of his personal money and he now had no idea where it was going. As a result, Sam invoked a clause in Emilie’s Operating Agreement, which allowed him to remove Kevin as the operational partner in the restaurant while STILL maintaining ALL of his ownership.

Kevin and Sam continued to argue and the situation deteriorated. At this point I got involved as a mediator since Kevin and Sam saw me as more of a neutral party, to figure out a solution to which all of the stakeholders (Sam, Kevin, inKind, myself, and the Landlord) could agree.

After many back and forths, we were able to settle on a few options to resolve the matter. It was agreed upon by Sam and Kevin that either

1) Kevin could keep Emilie’s and give Hot Lola’s (also part of the group) to Sam, or

2) Kevin could keep Hot Lola’s and give Emilie’s to Sam.

This would allow each partner to keep an establishment without having to work together. At this point Kevin made the decision to give Emlie’s to Sam and keep Hot Lolas because Emilie’s was not doing well due to Covid. With that decided, Sam paid Kevin out for the capital that he contributed to the restaurant and Sam gave his ownership of Hot Lola’s to Kevin. Kevin was cooperative during the transition, helping Chef Hamilton Johnson (his replacement) to get to know the kitchen and menu before leaving.

With reference to the mural, Martin, who did not work at Emilie’s, called me the day before the transition and asked that either the mural he painted be taken down, or that he get paid $6,000 to keep it up. Sam told him that he would appreciate it if he would wait 30 days in order to avoid the mistaken impression that he doesn’t support Black Lives Matter because, as a refugee from Afghanistan, he wholeheartedly supports the movement. Martin agreed and contacted me on day 30 as I was the one who helped negotiate the settlement. I immediately included the GM of Emilie’s on the email and she worked with Martin on the logistics of taking down the mural. The GM ended up taking down the mural for Martin because he had trouble working out how his insurance would cover him at Emilie’s.

It was not until after this seemingly reasonable exchange that Martin decided to start misrepresenting the situation and accusing us of working against social justice. As a brown, gay man and a first-generation American, I could not be more aligned with the need/fight for racial and social justice in the United States.

  • Following the publication of this statement, I received multiple messages from former Emilie’s staffers who, to say the least, uh, disagreed with Moonsinghe’s statement.
    • Here’s one, from a former staffer (they say monetary figures are ballpark, not exact):
      • The reason Kevin took bank access away from Sam was that Sam took $15k out of the bank account in March right before the shutdown unannounced. This put us in financial trouble as is. Then in the middle of April, inkind (Johann’s company) decided they would start collecting on their loan again in the middle of a global pandemic. Kevin asked them to hold off so we could build our grocery program until the beginning of May. They agreed. Sam also only wanted to give the landlord half rent, but Kevin told him that we should pay the full rent so we don’t owe money down the road. Kevin went and paid the full rent. Johann caught wind of this and decided it would be appropriate to send Kevin a demand letter insisting he pay the full balance back to inkind by that Monday. Sam saw the demand letter and freaked out. He decided to pay inkind around $39,000 and pay our quarterly sales tax which was $92,000. He decided to do this on the same day that we processed payroll, so Sam actively put a stop payment on payroll to pay inkind. So all of our employees were paid late. At this point, Kevin was advised to take away their bank access because they were acting in a direct detrimental way towards the longevity of the business. While Kevin was rerouting the POS sales into the new account, that account number was accidentally shared with Sam’s nephew, who then gave it to inkind. Inkind then attempted to pull $15,000 more out of the new account that Sam had no permissions on. Luckily Kevin caught it and flagged it as fraudulent… But also know that Kevin was never paid back his initial investment and is in massive debt because of Sam and Johann. They are liars and unethical business owners. Everything in his statement is a bold faced lie…
      • also they never had an operating agreement signed for Emilie’s LLC. So that’s another lie. What a complete shitshow this place is/was.
      • [ADDED MORE 7/30]:
      • Kevin and Sam had a different LLC called KS Holdings registered in Virginia that was meant to be a “consulting group”. They did have an operating agreement signed for that, however it was never valid for Emilie’s LLC. Sam would refer to that operating agreement whenever he wanted to try to strip control from Kevin. Sam also was never an owner of Hot Lola’s. Kevin has an operating agreement signed there naming him as the only member of the LLC.
    • Another former staff member said
      • the statement …. Johann sent you is 100% untrue. There is an NDA in place and Kevin is not allowed to comment on anything that is being said…Johann and Sam are continuing to sit safe at home and count their money while people are risking their lives working hard and long hours for shitty pay…my intent in this is not to undermine any good work they are doing but to make sure that no one was put in the same situation we were. Honestly one of the most tumultuous, stressful and heartbreaking times in my life.” 
      • This staff member also explained their view of what occurred when Tien and staff was locked out, “We arrived for work that morning (7am after leaving work the night before at around 11pm) to find the door locked, armed guards posted out front and a sign saying the restaurant was closed…Sam waited until we left the restaurant the night before, came in and changed all the locks, took over $500 worth of raw proteins and packaged foods from the premises and sent an email to Kevin saying he would only grant us access to the building if Kevin gave him access to the bank account….Kevin [had] changed the bank account because of the unauthorized and abusive withdrawals that Sam made from the previous Emilie’s account.”
      • They further said “Side note: Sam withdrew the Emilie’s PPP application WITHOUT telling Kevin because Sam found out it had to be used for labor and he couldn’t take any of the money himself. Kevin found this out from the bank, not Sam himself. This money could have made a huge difference in the lives of our employees who worked extremely hard during the shut down under intense stress.”
    •  Another former staff member actually annotated Moonsinghe’s statement:
      • They explained that “it is filled to the brim with lies…At this point from what I can tell, Johann is banking on the fact that Kevin is bound by an NDA and cannot speak out against him and all the pertinent documents are also legally bound. So now he’s writing his own fantasy version of events.
      • Kevin was always the operational manager.”
      • Johann constantly made demands on how he wanted things to be done. He rushed us into to opening the back room. He rushed us into opening 7 days a week (2 more days than we were ready for). He did not care about overburdening staff or about our hiring limitations.)”
      • InKind regularly collected money and Johann sent a letter demanding the rest of his investment in full IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC.”
      • Kevin [removed Sam’s access to POS system and switched bank accounts] to stop Sam from continuing to steal tens of thousands of dollars from our bank account.”
      • There was never an operating agreement and therefore there was no clause allowing Sam [to allow him to remove Kevin as an operational partner].”
      • Johann was never a neutral party.”
      • Kevin was bullied into [the two options.] He was given a choice between two of his restaurants, but he had no other options.”
      • Martin … was told Kevin would be charged $10k if the mural was removed. He was then told they would call the police on him if he removed it.

Analyzing ABRA Phase 2 Violations – A Hierarchy of Violations Becomes Clear

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

This week, the Mayor and ABRA posted that to date during Phase 2 it had fined four bars/restaurants (including two covered here last week), and issued verbal or written warnings to more than 40 of them as of July 23rd for violations that took place during the first month of phase 2. Barred in DC has obtained copies of the investigative reports for all four fines and a couple other ones, and has found some interesting observations. Note that some of the “violations/observations” listed in ABRA’s chart don’t match up to the reports I received (I used the report info for those I had) so take some of the info in the chart with grain of salt. DCIst wrote about some of these as well.

[Note: On 7/27, ABRA released their policy guidance that notes what they will be charging for each of them. They match up closely, and I’ve noted them before.]

1. Serve alcohol without prepared food – likely $1,000 fine.

ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (no warning); 2nd: $2000
Although most had other violations, all four spots fined had let people order booze without the table ordering a least one prepared food item, as required. Some weren’t even offering food at all at the time. Only one spot with this violation received a written warning, but that occurred the first weekend of Phase 2, where only warnings or education were issued.

How did ABRA determine this was an issue? For 3 of the 4 spots, it looks like they did this based on visual observation. For Marleny’s, a Salvadoran-Mex spot in Mt Pleasant, the investigator further asked the owner to provide copies of the guest checks so ABRA could review. The owner had explained that “most of her customers do not want food, and only want alcohol.”

I’ve been told that many spots in DC have not been enforcing this rule but ABRA clearly is trying to, so good idea to start doing this to avoid a $1000 fine or worse.

As a reminder, each spot open must offer a food menu with at least 3 prepared food items (pre-packaged snacks like a store bought bag of chips do not count) at all times open. One food item must be purchased per table. Food trucks can be used.

The rationale for this rule and the importance of this is clear: bars are generally considered some of the highest risk activities during COVID. Although requiring sitting mitigates this a bit, bars are designed for the consumption of alcohol-and it doesn’t take a pubic health expert to recognize that more alcohol people drink, harder for them to adhere to the rules and adds the difficulty of spot being able to enforce the rules. Many states have closed bars due to the pandemic; NY state explained that such rules are designed

to ensure that patrons are enjoying a sit-down dining experience among a small group with drinks, i.e. a meal, and not a drinking, bar-type experience.  A drinking, bar-type experience often involves or leads to mingling and other conduct that is non-compliant with social distancing and the use of face covering and is therefore not yet a safe activity during the current health emergency.

Since there is no legal definition of a “bar” in DC, and to allow all spots to work on the same footing, ABRA came up with this menu/food requirement. It’s not perfect since you don’t have to offer much to be compliant (unlike NY state which is requiring substantial meals like sandwiches/hot dogs at a minimum for most spots except breweries/distilleries.

2. Serving alcohol after midnight – $1000

ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (no warning); 2nd: $2000

Currently, bars/restaurants cannot serve alcohol past midnight. No one can be on the premises eating/drinking after that (unless spot w/o liquor license), though carryout/delivery of food only can continue. Carryout/delivery of booze also ends at midnight.

About 13 spots were cited for this violation; all of them were issued a written warning (but this will change).

The rationale for this early closing is not because coronavirus only comes out after midnight, like some myopic people keep saying. It’s similar to why food is required-late hours are usually associated with bar-like environments and people who are out in public after midnight may be more impaired and harder to ensure they are following the rules. Also limiting the amount of hours necessarily limits the amount of time people who don’t live with each other can spend in relatively close proximity. Of course, this is not perfect either but public health rules are about mitigation of risk, not hyper-targeted rules.

A violation after a written warning is likely a fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if this conduct is fined in the future.

Note that offering entertainment (like live music or DJ) will be $1000 (no warning permitted) for 1st offense; $2,000 for 2nd offense.

3. Certain other violations are likely to lead to a written warning.

A few other less common violations are also considered more serious and come with at least a written warning:

  • Patrons not seated as required (3 spots cited)
    • ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (warning permitted); 2nd: $2000
  • Patrons allowed to order/sit at bar where bartender is working (4 spots cited)
    • ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (warning permitted ); 2nd: $2000
  • Failure to register outdoor seating if using something not currently allowed (1 spot cited; free and relatively easy)

4. Other violations have so far generally only led to verbal warnings.

Verbal warnings are more education than anything. Verbal warnings are usually being issued for (when other violations listed above are not present):

  • Music not at a conversational level (about 12 spots cited for this)
    • ABRA: 1st offense: Verbal/written warning; 2nd: $1,000; 3rd: $2,000
    • Entertainment (live music, DJs, etc.) are currently not allowed. Background music at a conversational level or lower is allowed.
    • Rationale is likely for two things: 1) outdoor space dining/drinking is allowed in spaces that are normally not allowed with longer hours than normal so intended not to overly disturb neighbors who didn’t have chance to object; 2) louder it is, harder it is to talk without yelling which is confirmed to be more likely to spread coronavirus)
  • Table spacing insufficient (about 12 spots cited for this)
    • Chairs (not just tables) have to be 6 feet apart from chairs on adjacent tables both inside and outside
    • Using plexiglass to separate booths is not sufficient
  • No reservation system (about 3 spots cited)
    • ABRA rules require spots to implement a phone, online, and/or in-person reservation system. Easy to do in-person-similar to wait-list.
    • ABRA: 1st offense: written warning; 2nd: $1000; 3rd: $2000
  • Staff or patrons not wearing masks (2 spots cited)
    • ABRA: 1st offense: $1000 (warning permitted); 2nd: $2000
    • In one instance, this was the only violation and a verbal warning was issued, but this was the first weekend. The other instance-the bar was fined $1000 but there were several other violations. At least for staff not wearing, I suspect this will be at least a written warning in future.

The ABRA report also noted that at least one spot violated the rules by having a DJ (though it was unclear what penalty would entail since other charges) and by hookah (though unclear if ABRA has legal authority (DC Health instead) to cite hookah smoking-though it is included in its guidance.

5. Most of the citations have come from inspections/routine monitoring by ABRA investigators, not citizen complaints.

None of the 6 reports I received (including 4 fines) appear to have come directly from a citizen complaint. Indeed, many of them clearly were issued as part of ABRA’s review of the Adams Morgan open street/steatery as several spots in Adams Morgan were cited. ABRA investigators have been driving around and stopping by certain spots with many places open. That’s not to say citizen complaints may not drive a focus on certain areas, however.

A breakdown ((+) refers to fact that there were other violations present))

  1. No prepared food w/ alcohol
    1. DSF (+) – $1000
    2. Red Lounge (+) – $1000
    3. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    4. Marleny’s – $1000
    5. Soussi – written (6/26)
  2. After-hours service
    1. Red Lounge (+) -$1000
    2. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    3. Café Milano –written
    4. Ben’s Next Door (+) – written
    5. Residents – written
    6. Empire Lounge (+) – written
    7. Costello’s – After hours
    8. Kiss Tavern – referral to OAG
    9. Luna Restaurant (Petworth) – considered next week
    10. Ben’s Next Door – written
    11. Don Juan – written
    12. Nile Ethiopian – written
    13. Odaly’s – written
    14. 1942 – written
  3. Patrons not seated
    1. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    2. Empire Lounge (+) – written
    3. Grand Central – written
    4. Elevate (+) – $1000
    5. Lyve at U (+) license suspension
  4. Bar service while people working at bar
    1. DSF (+) – $1000
    2. Red Lounge (+) – $1000
    3. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    4. Next Door – written
    5. Luna Restaurant (+) – $1000
    6. Churreria Madrid (+) – $1000
    7. Smitty’s – written warning
  5. Failure to register outdoor seating
    1. Heaven & Hell – written
  6. Staff not wearing face coverings
    1. District Soul Food (+) – $1000
    2. Right Spot – verbal
    3. Assets – written
    4. Elevate (+) – $1000
  7. Music not at a conversational level
    1. Lounge of Three (+) – 1000
    2. Empire Lounge – verbal
    3. Costellos (+) – written
    4. Empire Lounge (+) – written
    5. DSF – verbal
    6. Barcode – verbal
    7. Heaven & Hell – verbal
    8. Pitchers – verbal
    9. Spacey Cloud – verbal
    10. The Town Tavern – verbal
    11. Retobottega – verbal
    12. Elevate – verbal
    13. Elevate (+) – $1000
    14. Churreria Madrid (+) – $1000
    15. Chi-Cha Lounge – written
  8. Table spacing insufficient/Patrons not social distant
    1. DSF (+) – $1000
    2. Red Lounge (+) – $1000
    3. Grand Central – verbal
    4. Johnny Pistolas – verbal
    5. Joyti – verbal
    6. Meze – verbal
    7. Retrobottega – verbal
    8. Harry’s – verbal
    9. Brooklyn – verbal
    10. Colada Shop – verbal
    11. Mission NY – verbal
    12. Zeppelin – verbal
    13. Luna Restaurant (+) – $1000
    14. Churreria Madrid (+) – $1000
    15. Lyve at U (+) license suspension
    16. Creole on 14th (+) $1000
    17. Dacha Navy Yard – written
    18. MK – written
  9. No reservation system
    1. Tiki TNT – verbal
    2. Zorba’s Café – verbal
    3. Zeba Bar & Grill – verbal
  10. Entertainment
    1. Red Lounge (+) – $1000
    2. Elevate (+) – $1000
    3. Luna Restaurant (+) – $1000
    4. Lyve at U (+) license suspension
    5. Creole on 14th (+) $1000

Two DC Establishments Fined $1,000 For Phase 2 Social Distancing and Other Violations

ABRA Inspection Form Tailored for Phase 2 Issues

On Wednesday, DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board issued $1,000 fines to two DC bars/restaurants, District Soul Food (Barracks Row) and Red Lounge Hookah (14th and U) for violations of ABRA’s Phase 2 regulations that followed from the Mayor’s Phase 2 order. These violations stemmed from incidents July 4th weekend. These are the first penalties Barred in DC has seen in Phase 1 or Phase 2 in DC as ABRA has been focused on education, but the infractions were serious enough that warranted immediate punishment.

Barred in DC (exclusively? probably, but who cares) requested and obtained copies of the investigative reports (with pictures) in this matter which state what happened.

For District Soul Food, the spot got dinged for a Friday July 3rd incident for:

  • Allowing employees to walk around w/o face masks while interacting with patrons
    • Manager even approached the ABRA investigator without one, c’mon
  • Allowing patrons to sit and drink at a bar while a bartender was working behind the bar
    • Owner said that they were waiting for food they ordered, but that’s not allowed.
  • Allowing on premises alcohol consumption w/o food purchase
  • Not placing chairs and tables six feet apart indoors and outdoors
    • Owner first said he didn’t know that said that though 1) investigator herself had told him during Phase 1 and 2) ABRA had literally been there 2 days before.

The restaurant had already received a warning for playing music louder than allowed during Phase 2; otherwise they may have gotten off without a fine. Read the report here for more details and pictures.

[Edited: District Soul Food responded to ABC 7, claiming they were singled out due to being  a black-owned business]

The next night, Red Lounge was cited for:

  • Operating past midnight (ABRA investigator showed up at 1am)
  • Allowing patrons to walk around without masks
  • Not placing booths and seats 6 feet apart
  • Allowing patrons to sit at 2nd floor bar when bartender was working
  • Having a DJ.

The owner told the ABRA investigator that she thought the only Phase 2 restriction was that patrons have wear masks (owner wasn’t wearing one because “she forgot to use” when speaking to the investigator). She thought she could close at 3am.

Because of the late hour, the spot was forced to shut down (40 people were still left), though it took 30 minutes for everyone to leave. One person even was “upset” because she had called the owner beforehand who said they could close at 3am. The report for Red Lounge can be read here.

If you think these penalties are low, note that currently the ABC Board is generally postponing all of its penalty decisions (unless business agrees to one) due to pandemic emergency but they may have been allowed to impose a limited penalty like this now. Additional penalties may apply to either spot in the future.

Victura Park – from Ian Hilton and Co. – Comes to The Reach at the Kennedy Center Today

Pic from Victura Park –
Mykl Wu

Pic from Victura Park –
Mykl Wu

The REACH at the Kennedy Center, which opened last September, has partnered with nightlife impresario Ian Hilton and his partners (American Ice, El Rey, Chez Billy Sud, etc.) to operate a seasonal outdoor cafe/wine garden. Victura Park, “soft” opening on Friday July 10th with full opening next week, will be an outdoor pop-up based out the River Pavilion (pictured above). The name comes from one of JFK’s sailboats. The space is dotted with outdoor picnic/cafe tables (shade umbrellas). People will be allowed to spread out on a blanket on the grass.

Hilton told me the concept was inspired by the casual nature of wineries. Beverages will be (at least mostly) in cans, including macro/craft beer ($7-8), cider ($8), wine (mostly $9), boozy seltzer/canned cocktail ($8-$9), and water (4); food will be casual-charcuterie/cheese boards ($29 for full, though you get smaller), olives, seasonal fruit, baguette/evoo. The spot, easily accessible by the new pedestrian/walk-your-bike bridge from the Potomac River waterfront (across Rock Creek Parkway), will be open throughout the summer Fri (3-10p), Sat (Noon-10p), Sun (Noon-8p).

The spot invites those to tag @victurapark (Twitter, Instagram) using hashtag #OasisWithinReach. 2700 F St NW is the address.

Before learning of this news, Barred in DC biked by the REACH and checked out the serene space that feels like it’s over the water, pics below; booze may only be allowed in certain areas).

The REACH at Kennedy Center (pic by Barred in DC) . Patrons will be allowed to hang out in specific areas socially distant from one another on the grass

The REACH at Kennedy Center (pic by Barred in DC)

The REACH at Kennedy Center (pic by Barred in DC)

[Note: This is Barred in DC’s first ever “embargoed” news scoop. Hilton reached out and told Barred in DC about this last Thursday but asked him to hold off until later to avoid crowds at opening]