Cheers @ The Big Chair owner Dionne Reeder is heartbroken about closing her restaurant that opened in Anacostia in May 2015.
“I’m hurt,” she says. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t.” The restaurant’s last day is this Friday, March 22, when they’ll have food specials and music starting at noon. A final closing party will run from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Reeder, a former D.C. Council candidate, wants the community to know that the closure is not tethered to the recent opening of Busboys and Poets. In fact, she welcomed that news. “Now that Busboys and Poets is there, we’re seeing an increase in business,” she says. “Business draws business. We’ve been waiting for this. It’s a dream come true for me because it attracts people to Southeast.”
She says she’s closing because her lease was up and her landlord, Curtis Investment Group, Inc., isn’t willing to negotiate a new one. “I’ve been, for the last three months, trying to talk to someone, almost begging them to have a conversation,” Reeder says. She offered to rebrand the business if they gave her an extension. “Give me a chance to show that I can do better. I can show you something different. They wouldn’t respond to our request.”
Reeder also posted about the closure on social media saying, “Our issue is we didn’t own our building and the owners, Curtis Brothers, would not offer us a lease extension. Trust me we tried all we could do to negotiate a new lease.”
City Paper left a message with Curtis Investment Group, Inc. and will update this story if we hear back.
Though downtrodden and questioning whether the daily fight is worth it, Reeder isn’t giving up. She says she’s already searching for a new space to operate a restaurant and wants to continue to address the food inequality issues that exist in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. “We understand it now we know what to do,” she says. “We have a system in place.”
With Cheers @ The Big Chair’s closure, Ward 8 loses one of its few sit-down restaurants. The restaurant served everything from its signature crab fries and salmon sliders to chicken and red velvet waffles.
Cheers @ The Big Chair, 2122 Martin Luther King Jr Ave. SE; (202) 678-3738; cheersatthebigchair.com