Credit: Lou Ann Sandstrom

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Since 2012, Northern Virginia restaurant group Happy Endings Hospitality has opened a string of restaurants with seemingly sex-based puns for names. There’s Chasin’ Tails Cajun Seafood with locations in Arlington and Centreville, and Roll Play Vietnamese Grill, Teas’n You Fusion Tea House, and Lei’d Hawaiian Poke, all in Vienna.

Now the group plans to open the Vietnamese-focused Happy Endings Eatery food hall in Rosslyn’s Central Place at the end of this month. It will house the soup stall Pho Play and the Vietnamese coffee shop Xin—the Vietnamese word for “please” pronounced “sin.” Washington Business Journal originally reported the opening, and Eater filled in the details. 

Though the company tells City Paper in a statement the name Happy Endings is intended to be “positive in the same way that a children’s fairytale has a happy ending,” a common meaning of the phrase is the masturbatory sex act at the end of a massage. 

The food hall is opening in a time where human trafficking in illicit massage businesses is a very real consideration. Polaris, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that works to eradicate modern slavery on a global level, issued a report in 2018 that calculated that there are about 9,000 such places operating in the U.S. It notes that while some keep a low profile, others “blatantly advertise ‘Asian gals,’ or bear sexualized names like ‘Good Girl Spa.’”

The report touches on language: “The term ‘happy ending,’ with its faint whiff of fairy tale, is cruelly ironic. Most of them are immigrants, chasing a dream of financial stability in a faraway land, seeking not a prince but a steady job with decent wages.” 

Safe Bars DirectorLauren R. Taylor had a strong reaction to the name of the forthcoming food hall. Her D.C.-based organization works to make bars, restaurants, and clubs safe and welcoming spaces. 

“It diminishes massage body workers, it diminishes sex workers, diminishes women in general,” Taylor says. She believes the “jokey” innuendo contributes to “the dehumanization of all of those groups of people I mentioned before, especially women. It’s really not OK. Personally I wouldn’t even feel comfortable going there even though they probably have the greatest food in the world.”

Taylor continues, “You have a choice of all of the names in the world and given that so many more people are speaking up about their survivorship and what they’ve been through, wouldn’t you want to show a little respect and pick something else?” 

Happy Endings Hospitality is owned by brothers Di Dang and Hac Dang, Au Dang, and Tuyet-Nhi Le. The Vietnamese-American brothers originally gained notoriety as online poker stars, winning close to $17 million, which helped fund their restaurant ventures. 

In response to several requests for an interview, Le provided the following statement about the meaning behind the name of the hall:

We do not support the exploitation of people in any way. 

Our name is meant to be lighthearted, memorable, and positive in the same way that a children’s fairytale has a happy ending. We invest in the well-being of our employees and guests as if they were our own family, and stand behind that uncompromisingly. We believe everyone deserves to have a happy ending to their story.

We encourage you to visit our restaurants and meet our leadership team which is 50% women and entirely composed of first or second generation immigrants determined to leave our stamp on the region’s hospitality scene. We are proud of the culture we have built at our restaurants – a culture of respect, professionalism, and safety. 

Our guests notice the attention to detail that make each of our 4 restaurant concepts unique and joyful. We believe the foundation of this magic, that our community experiences begins with our team. We treat our family with respect. We give abundantly with our time, effort and resources to invest in the growth of everyone. 

We encourage you to visit our restaurants, meet our leadership team, and interact with our guests. Since opening in 2012, we have never been accused of something so heinous.