Category Archives: DC Bar News

DC to Award $6,000 Grants to DC Restaurants/Bars to Winterize Outdoor Spaces – Application Open September 21st

Today, at the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) awards (the RAMMY’s), Shawn Townsend, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife & Culture (DCMONC) along with Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio, announced the “Streatery Winter Ready Grant Program.”

Under the $4 million program, DCMONC will issue $6,000 grants to “help businesses defray outdoor dining winterization costs.” These one-time grants will be provided to establishments that are offering outdoor dining in the District for future costs only for outdoor dining winterization purposes and to maintain outdoor dining operations to include tents, heaters, propane, lighting, furniture, advertising/marketing of business, and outdoor dining operational costs. The FAQ provides helpful information.

Only independent and locally-owned businesses can apply. “Non-local franchises” are ineligible (such as IHOP, Denny’s, or McDonald’s). There are also requirements for EITHER 1) 50% ownership by DC residents 2) 50% gross receipts originated in DC OR 3) 50% employees are DC residents, but prong #2 should mean 99.9% of restaurants can qualify. I can only speculate about why non-local spots (who admittedly contribute some tax revenue and employee DC residents) were not included but here are some ideas 1) limited amount of funds and want to focus on businesses who don’t potentially have a parent company who could provide support and 2) the whole point for supporting local businesses is so DC isn’t exclusively chain restaurants or out-of-town owners in a few years. Townsend supported this explanation saying, “Although we appreciate the non-locals, the focus of this grant-with the limited resources we have, was to support the locally-owned estabs.”

Before applying, the establishment will need to either make sure it has an active patio (summer garden or sidewalk cafe permit/endorsement) or approved streatery application. If the business is operating via a BID/Main Street parklet/application, then it will need to get a copy of the temporary permit from the BID/Main Street and submit with applicaiton.

The application goes live, tomorrow, Monday, September 21st. Significantly, businesses who seek the funds have to provide a budget how the funds will be utilized, if awarded, and will be required to show the funds are spent no later than November 30th, including receipts and paid invoices (quotes are not enough).

Funds disbursement will begin on October 1st on a rolling basis. If all awardees receive $6,000, there will be 666/667 awards made.

Note, as of May there were approximately 800 open establishments that serve alcohol permitted to serve booze outdoors in DC (plus other non-alcohol serving spots like a Cava). Out of the roughly 600 approved “streateries,” only about 1/3 (around 200) don’t already have approved outdoor space. I don’t expect that many non-alcohol serving spots (most of which already just cater to takeout) to apply, so let’s say there are potentially 900 spots who are eligible to apply. I would be surprised if there isn’t enough money for all applicants

My reaction is that this more than I expected. I had argued last week that DC needs to do something, and I was hoping just for bulk purchase pricing on heaters and reduced fire permit fees. The grant program doesn’t include reduced or waived fees, but I’ve been told that news of that should be coming soon. Although for many (most?) spots, this won’t pay for full winterization (heaters that restaurants use can cost $1500/each, portable heaters you may use for your own patio are a few hundred), $6000 is meaningful and will allow spots to get some revenue this winter for on-premises dining/drinking and may cause some spots to decide not to close for the winter (or permanently).

But still, every single restaurant owner would tell you: just like if their spot has filled their outdoor/streatery tables doesn’t mean they are not losing a ton of $$, same goes if they receive this grant from DC. For most indoor revenue >>>>>outdoor revenue (not to mention loss of holiday party revenue, which is massive in many neighborhoods in DC) and even a heated outdoor space isn’t going to replace that money. So keep hoping Federal government/Congress will provide financial support (there’s only limited, targeted funds from DC like this otherwise), and keep supporting the spots you want to make it to the other side.

Also, if your favorite restaurant isn’t on social media and/or has language barriers or other issues, try to alert them to existence of this program. 

 

Guest Post – Trying to Clear Up Confusion Surrounding Tips and Service Charges

A couple lawyers/Barred in DC followers at Veritas Law Firm wrote this guest post

Guest posters Scott Rome and Dan Koffman are attorneys with The Veritas Law Firm, a general practice DC business law firm with a specialty in hospitality law. Scott is the head of the litigation team at Veritas, has handled numerous employer-employee claims, and has partnered with Andrew J. Kline for over a decade as owners of Veritas. Dan advises hospitality clients on corporate transactional/compliance issues, particularly commercial leasing issues.

[First, let’s get the disclaimers out of the way.  This post is for informational purposes only and not in any way meant to provide legal advice.  If you have specific legal concerns, be sure to contact a lawyer. Also, we apologize in advance for this post being less entertaining than you have come to expect from this blog.  Law firm lawyers can be extremely boring, but if you need one, we believe we are of the less boring variety.]

By Scott Rome & Dan Koffman

We were asked to contribute to this blog, due to the never-ending confusion surrounding tips, service charges, how restaurants can treat tips, and where your money goes when you leave a tip. We will try to provide some information, so that you know where your money might be going, but we are accustomed to tedious legal writing, so maybe Barred can drop a twitter poll about Nashville hot chicken or something in the middle of our post.

Here are some common questions we have seen and the law’s take on each.

Service charges seem to be popping up everywhere during Covid. What is the difference between a service charge, an automatic gratuity, auto-grat, and a standard tip?  How are they treated differently by restaurants and what should I know about these charges?

What everyone thinks of as a standard tip or gratuity is treated differently from all other money that comes into a restaurant or bar, because it is discretionary, and considered as a gift from the customer to the employees.

  • If the customer determines the amount, it’s a tip.
  • If the amount is pre-set on the bill or elsewhere, it’s not a tip, and is revenue of the restaurant.

This simple test determines who can and cannot receive the money, but confusion still exists.  Some people believe that if a line item on your check is called a GRATUITY then even if the percentage is set by the business, it has to go, at least in part, to the servers.  This is not true.  A bar could call this line the “20% Help My People Out Gratuity Fund” and the bar would still be legal obligated to treat it as a service charge, tax it, and be entitled to keep all of it. This does not mean that the owners will often keep it, and sometimes a fund like this is used to make sure that the kitchen staff and others can share in what used to be only for tipped employees.

In DC, there’s no distinction between so-called automatic/mandatory gratuities and service charges.  A mandatory gratuity is not discretionary and thus is treated as a service charge.  The IRS treats them the same as well, and restaurants must pay sales taxes on these amounts just like any other income.  We have had clients suffer an unpleasant OTR audit because they did not pay sales taxes on service charges for large parties. (Some states, like NY, may not tax mandatory gratuities if certain conditions are met, but this is not BarredinNYC, so we will spare you that information).

Tips, on the other hand, are not the property of the business, cannot be kept by the business or managers, and are not considered wages paid by the employer (this affects things like the withholding and payment of Social Security and Medicare tax).

A restaurant/bar has to pay sales tax on service charges and automatic gratuities, but can they charge sales tax to the customer on a service charge / automatic gratuity? 

Yes, while a company owes no sales tax on tips, service charges/automatic gratuity are considered the property of the employer, sales tax is required to be paid on such amounts, and thus these charges are often included above the tax calculation line on a bill. People can argue for days about whether to tip pre-tax or post-tax, but with a service charge the restaurant has the right to tax you on top of the charge.

What do you mean that the service charge is the property of the employer?  Doesn’t it have to go to the employees?

Nope, there is no requirement that these service charges or Covid-fees go directly or indirectly to any staff.  In practice, these are often passed along, and many establishments are requiring service charges right now to make up for employees receiving less in tips, but this remains business income like any other non-tip income.  This gives restaurants a lot of flexibility to use the money towards the back of the house and others who don’t get to share in standard tips, but can also be used by the establishment for any other purpose (rent, legal fees, bank loan, legal fees, owner draw, legal fees, anything, legal fees).  Restaurants should not use misleading language though, we have seen the AG’s office sniff around when fees are labeled as though they are going to the employees, but kept by the house.

If a business does pay out a portion of the service charge to its employees, how are those payments taxed?

Any portion of the service charge paid out to employees would be treated as wages, not tips.  This means the employer must withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare tax on these amounts, may not claim a credit against its tax obligations for these amounts (as it can for tips).

Going back to tips, in the typical dine-in situation where I’m served by a server or bartender, does my tip always go to that server/bartender?

Not necessarily, but it needs to go to “tipped “employees.  The business can choose to pool/share tips, with certain restrictions as to how such tips can be pooled: (1) An establishment can mandate the use of a tip pool for all who are allowed to share one by law, provided that all employees are notified of any required contribution amount; (2) Ownership and management cannot share in any tip pool; and (3) Tips can only be shared by employees considered to be tipped employees, unless the employer does not take the tip credit (an employer does not take the tip credit if it pays everyone including servers/bartenders/etc. at least the (non-tipped) minimum wage).  In our experience, management dipping into the tip pool has led to many lawsuits, and likely many fistfights.

Why can’t everyone, including cooks, just be deemed a tipped employee?

Well, in a bit of circular reasoning (which is very popular in the law), a tipped employee is defined as an employee who customarily and regularly receives tips AND receives more than $30/month in tips.  Those who customarily receive tips are often defined as those who have significant customer interaction, including servers, bartenders and bussers.  This gets trickier when employees are serving dual roles, but in order to get more nuanced you should probably contact a lawyer for a consultation (contact us, it’s free).  We have had cases where employees were asked to perform dual roles but paid the tipped minimum for all time worked, and this gets you into legal questions like the 80/20 rule, where employees can only be paid the tipped minimum if they spend 80% of their time doing the job of a tipped employee.  Either way, the back of the house is left out of standard tip formulations, and this is another reason some places are exploring the service charge model.

Can employers deduct anything from a tip?

Yes, but not much. If a tip is paid by credit card, an employer can deduct a percentage of the tip to use to pay the credit card charge, provided that (i) the employer previously provided notice to the employee of what percentage would be taken out, and (ii) per the Department of Labor, the charge deducted can be no larger than the one taken by the credit card company.  In practice, establishments should note this deduction in the paperwork signed by new employees or in the handbook.

I’ve seen a lot of skeleton staffing at establishments due to COVID.  What if the only three people working are owners/managers of the establishment?  Can they share in the tips since there are no non-owner employees?

These types of hypotheticals are where things start to get more confusing, but we think the better answer is – yes.  The restrictions on owners/managers sharing in tip pools stem from federal regulations.  Such regulations are most often enforced through employee lawsuits against the employer for improperly paid wages/tips.  However, if COVID has led to a business having no employees who can share in a tip pool, then there is no employee present whose rights have been violated by any tip pooling with ownership.  So if no non-owner/managers are present, then such laws wouldn’t be applicable/enforceable and such tips could be shared among the owners/managers working by themselves.

OK, I know who can receive the tip left if I do dine-in, but what about takeout tips?  Who receives those?  I’m not even sure if tipped workers are even present at some of these takeout-only restaurants. 

This is where things get even more tricky.  For an establishment using the tip credit, the rule is clearly that only tipped employees can share in tips, but it gets harder to follow with takeout.  If, for example, there is only one server for outdoor diners and 80% of sales are carryout – is the lone server supposed to get all of the takeout tips?  Does the rest of the staff alternate bringing the bags to carry-out customers to ensure they all qualify as those interacting?  There is no clear guidance from the IRS or DC, and creative solutions may be necessary to make sure many can share equitably in tips.

The easier scenario comes about when there are either no tipped workers or there is no one receiving the tip credit – then it’s clear that the tips can be shared among all (non-owner/manager) employees.  This would be the same as tips left for a barista. A coffee shop usually has no one living off the tipped minimum wage + tips, and there is no back of the house, so the tip splitting is a lot easier.

One last thing to keep in mind is that this area of the law will likely continue to evolve.  Looking back over the past decade, both the IRS and the Department of Labor have made significant regulatory changes as to how they treat tips and service charges, so further change isn’t just possible, it’s probably likely.  Federal regulations could greatly differ in the next few years depending on the results of November’s election. This was written in 2020, if you’re somehow reading this post in 2032 (congrats on having paid your domain name fees for 12 additional years, Barred!), don’t assume this information is up-to-date.

What Can DC Do To Prevent Even More Bars and Restaurants From Closing?

Statement from Ian and Eric Hilton (The Hilton Brothers)

In news that stunned many in DC (though should not be shocking if you’ve been following what’s been going or saw some tweets), Eric and Ian Hilton announced (via Laura Hayes) yesterday that U Street area spots American Ice Co., Brixton, Echo Park, El Rey, and Gibson would only remain open until October 31st, and, along with Marvin and Players Club which never reopened after closing mid-March, would close “for the foreseeable future” after that. Whether they come back in the spring will likely depend on a number of factors including any breaks landlord gives (I imagine one reason closing is because they feel they are in better negotiating strength being completely closed vs limping along), customer demand in next 6 weeks, and of course how the pandemic/treatment is going at the time.

Many on social media lamented the potential loss of these spots; others also pointed blame at Republicans in Congress vindictively shortchanging DC in the CARES Act $750 million by treating it as a territory that doesn’t pay Federal income taxes instead as state like it almost always does in funding issues. Many correctly realize that DC’s best shot at money that could help struggling hospitality and other businesses (and their underemployed and unemployed staff) is another round of funding appropriated by Congress.

But what if, which is looking increasingly likely, no more substantial federal relief is coming?  Again, as I did back in May, I urge DC to act creatively, decisively, and publicly. Mayor Bowser, her administration, and the Council of DC must think of creative solutions, make decisions quickly, and announce them to the public so businesses and the public can see that their government is doing something, anything to prevent DC from becoming devoid of the places that make it an energetic place to live, as well as provide some sort of hope to businesses to weather this terrible times.

As a starting point, here are some of my ideas that I hope the DC Government can explore.

1. Figure Out if There is Any Way to Find More Funds to Support Struggling Bars and Restaurants, and Explain to Public If/Why There Isn’t.

Many say DC needs to provide more funding to these struggling bars and restaurants to survive. However, the budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (starting October 1st) has already been sent to Congress and it will become law. DC also faces reduced tax revenue (in part due to struggling bars and restaurants). Unlike the Federal government, DC has no real legal ability to deficit spend (i.e., spend money it doesn’t have) and faces a real risk of being taken over by a Federal control board (like it did in the 90s) if it does.

But the Mayor, her administration, and council members (and the local media to be honest) have completely failed to explain to the public either 1) why there is no additional funding possible or 2) it would be impossible (if true) to now change the budget for the upcoming fiscal year to provide additional relief.

In the meantime, DC should continue to use its regulatory flexibility to not collect and charge fees (like late fees) that aren’t connected to any increased costs or wouldn’t have been incurred without the pandemic

2. Continue to Create Additional Outdoor Space for Bars and Restaurants.

People will continue to feel much more comfortable eating and drinking outdoors, even when the temperature gets cooler. Since I first proposed this back in May, there have been successes including a couple fully closed blocks in Dupont, large streateries in Georgetown, 14th Street, Adams Morgan, and Dupont (among others), and some huge failures (the 18th Street full closure lasting one weekend, an utter lack of streateries on H Street (so far just one)). Based on what I’ve heard, DC relied too heavily on some BID and Main Street organizations to wrangle businesses which contributed to delays.

DOOT has recently become more proactive in visiting businesses, but the Mayor’s office and DDOT need to continue be more aggressive and quickly open up more public space to restaurants so they can capture revenue in the next couple months before the weather gets too cold in DC to drink/eat outside (without heaters, see below though). This should include trying the 18th Street closure again and closing other streets around the city to attract diners (in a socially distant manner.

3. Facilitate Heating of Outdoor Spaces.

The average high in DC goes under 60 degrees November 12th; under 50 degrees December 7th. Although I fully expect some DC residents to bundle up eat outside in the 40s and 50s (don’t forget these are just high temperatures, when drinking/dining even in early evening when sun goes down the temperatures will be even lower) like they do in Europe, the numbers of cusotmers will surely go down drastically. Heaters (typically propane) will be high in demand.

DC (or BIDs or Main Streets) can facilitate this in a number of ways. Perhaps they can procure heaters or at least allow bulk discounts ti be available to restaurants and bars. Most importantly, DC needs to streamline DC Fire Department permits for outdoor heaters (for tents or otherwise), including regulating only what is strictly necessary for safety and waiving fees like public space fees were waived this summer. The Mayor’s office should immediately begin developing a strategy so that no one is waiting for approval (or in jeopardy of being fined for noncompliance) to get heaters.

4. Mayor Bowser Should Designate A High-Level Official In Charge of Pandemic Recovery.

Dr. Nesbitt, Director of DC Health, focuses on the health aspect of the pandemic. But other than Mayor Bowser herself, there is an explicitly publicly designated one single person who is clearly responsible for facilitating all DC government can do to help small business. It may be best for one official to be designated with helping unemployed/struggling individuals (including facilitating fixes to the unemployment process), while another would be responsible for assisting small business struggles (including hospitality) in DC. Such a person (you could call them a “czar”) would have authority to wrangle all of the different departments as well as quickly gauge feedback from small businesses and bars.

Newly confirmed Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio appears to be filling this role, and has been pretty responsive to concerns, but the public and businesses don’t generally understand the Mayor’s Cabinet and their roles so it would best to create a new temporary title/role so this is clear to all.

5. Announce What Phase 3 Would Look Like.

I don’t think moving to Phase 3 is the panacea that many feel it is. Recall that May’s ReOpenDC plan said that Phase 3 should include  some unspecified additional indoor capacity for restaurants (above 50%) on a case by case basis “consistent with physical distancing requirements and allow bars and nightclubs to open at an extremely limited capacity (10 people per 1000 square feet). Given that bars ended up opening in Phase 1 (though having to operate as restaurants) anyways, and restaurant capacity is already limited under 50% due to physical distancing requirements, the loosened restrictions would be possibly limited to 1) allowing bar seating/standing (except there have even been more concerns about bars since May) 2) no or increased group size limitation and 3) no longer requiring purchase of prepared food per table (though all indications is that this is not adhered to).

Then again, I don’t expect more people to feel comfortable dining/drinking inside than already is the case just because it becomes Phase 3, as the Mayor has noted. 

But this is based on the ReOpenDC plan which is nearly 5 months old. DC should tell businesses what they believe a Phase 3 would look like after all this experience, to manage expectations. 

It may be that without additional Federal government help, widespread closures will be inevitable, but that does not mean DC government shouldn’t stop trying to think outside the box and proactively. The future vibrancy of DC’s great neighborhoods depends on it.

Granville Moore’s To Close

Granville Moore’s was one of the last spots Mrs. Barred and I went to before the pandemic. This is from March 4, 2020.

 

Granville Moore’s, the great Belgian food/beer H Street spot, will permanently close, co-owner Ryan Gordon confirmed to me today. He stated via Twitter:

We think we will have to shut down … for good by the end of this month…We will keep Granville Moore’s Pasta Place open for as long as we can afford it, but we imagine that will only be for the next few weeks.

The spot originally closed to dine-in with the pandemic-related closures in mid-March. Because its signature moules and frites do not travel well, it reopened in a new format for  take out May 26th as Granville Moore’s Pasta Place. Business was soft when Phases 1 and 2 in DC begun, and by mid-July it had closed again until reopening in early September.  But the sales from takeout/delivery (as well as the “ghost kitchen” Freshly Tossed DC also available on the apps) have not been sufficient to cover basic expenses and it’s costing more money just to be open as the pandemic has hit them very hard. The owners also own the nearby The Queen Vic, which recently opened a patio a few doors down on the Nomad Hookah patio, and will focus on keeping it viable during these impossible times for the hospitality industry in DC.

A source had alerted to me originally on Friday that a real estate agent had posted a listing noting the 1865-square foot, 79 max occupancy space was for rent (see listing below) for $6,217/month (Triple net). Gordon confirmed that they were only 2 years into their lease so they are looking for someone to take over the lease for the great space/location. The listing, appropriately for these times, notes that given its tight size, it would be an “Excellent location for a down-sizing restaurant refocusing on the delivery and app-based food businesses.”


Dr. Granville Moore’s Brickyard opened in August 2007 from the late Joe Englert and managing partner Chris Surrusco. It was one of the first sit-down restaurants of the so-called “Atlas District.” After the opening chef quit after two weeks, Teddy Folkman took over the kitchen, later becoming an owner and dueling victoriously over celebrity Chef Bobby Flay. The folks behind Queen Vic bought it in October 2017, connected with Folkman’s move to South Carolina, where as of this spring he was the “culinary helm of the Timbers Kiawah Ocean Club & Residences, serving as the exclusive food & beverage manager”

The full statement below leaves some sort of possible hope if sales pick up. The Pasta Place is open Tue-Sun 6-9p for pickup/delivery online or via most of the main apps.

Sadly, it’s true.  We think we will have to shut down Granville Moore’s for good by the end of this month.

This pandemic hit us really hard.  People loved Granvillle’s for the moules frites, so not being able to offer them as a take-out option has been catastrophic for us.

We had to change the concept a few months ago in the hopes that the sales from the temporary concept could tide us over to help pay rent, insurance and utilities until we could re-open as Granville Moore’s with the original Belgian menu.   

However, the sales from the new concepts have not been high enough to cover even basic expenses and every day we are losing more money and getting more into debt.

If we had more time and resources, I think we could have made it work, but between trying to keep The Vic open, as well as working side jobs to be able to pay our personal bills, we simply don’t have anything left to give to Granville’s.

We are only two years into our lease, so hopefully between the great location, the ABRA license and the equipment, someone else can take over the lease and make a success of it.

We will keep Granville Moore’s Pasta Place open for as long as we can afford it, but we imagine that will only be for the next few weeks.

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.

Last Updated: Sept 4, 2020

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)

$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.