Photo of a Poste cocktail by Laura Hayes
Photo of a Poste cocktail by Laura Hayes

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The replacement for Poste opening tomorrow inside Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco is called Dirty Habit, but it does more than make fun of vices. Instead, it boasts an “insane-asylum” theme, as per Becky Krystal’s Washington Post story titled, “Dirty Habit opens Saturday with global small plates—and an insane-asylum theme.” 

Here’s a tidbit from Krystal’s story about the restaurant that isn’t being received too well.

One example: a padded room that seats up to 10 (how’s that for your next holiday party?). Another: a statue built from spare equipment parts called “The Crouching Man,” in which the figure is kneeling in an almost fetal position. The whole idea is to make people “a little uncomfortable,” Smith said. (There’s even a Pleasantly Uncomfortable cocktail.)

Y&H reached out to Dr. Victor Schwartz, medical director at The Jed Foundation, to get his reaction about D.C.’s newest themed restaurant. The Jed Foundation has been a leader in emotional wellness for 15 years, focusing largely on preventing suicide among college and university students. In an email, he writes:

If the theme is truly conveyed to patrons of the restaurant in a clear way, I would wonder whether a hospital-themed restaurant with heart monitors and IVs hanging would feel OK, or maybe a prison theme with tables separated by bars or maybe an electric chair mock up for each table. It is one thing to do as a Halloween joke, but done as an attempt to be edgy—at the very least this feels like really poor taste. This feeds into the notion of people with mental illness being dangerous or frightening. We shouldn’t forget that 20 percent of our population will have a diagnosable mental illness in the course of a given year. So this is distorted and feeds negative and inaccurate stereotypes about mental illness and the mentally ill.

Schwartz isn’t the only one perturbed. Social media posts and comments left on Krystal’s story include the following: 

“Count me among those missing Poste and skipping this. Mental illness is not entertainment and this is beyond poor taste. They can do what they want, but they’ll do it without my money. And that goes for all of Kimpton until this horrible idea is gone.”

“Stereotypes about mental health treatment and people who seek it drive much of the sensational media coverage and make things worse. In today’s world, this is wildly inappropriate. I don’t understand why anyone would take a dark and cruel time from our history and celebrate it…”

“This ‘theme’ is really offensive. They’re making entertainment out of mental illness and/or abuse of patients. That’s really not OK. It stigmatizes mental illness and scares people away from life-saving inpatient care.”

“I completely agree with the above. Having had family suffer from mental illness, it indeed makes me ‘uncomfortable’ that an restaurant would deem this appropriate. Very unfortunate. I hope they rethink their idea.”

“Wow. This is in poor taste—a restaurant based on an insane asylum, complete with padded rooms and ‘hints’ like figures crouched in a fetal position? Wow, nothing like making fun of mentally ill people who were horribly ill-treated and died in places like this. What a great theme for your super spendy establishment. Yuck. I live in DC and would definitely not patronize this place.”

Poste’s theme was far less offensive: good food, good service, great drinks. 

Update: William Smith, general manager of Dirty Habit, sent the following statement to Y&H.

Kimpton has a historically deep-seated commitment to social responsibility, diversity and inclusion. We continue to advocate for positive change in the communities we live in and passionately uphold those values. It was not our intent to make a parody of mental health in any way. The concept for Dirty Habit was derived from a desire to create a vivid Washington, DC bar with a deliberate edge. The designers of the space pulled inspiration from many places, with references nodding to the surreal and the unknown for an overarching design story that inspires mystique and intrigue. The term ‘insane asylum’ was an unfortunate and inaccurate interpretation of select design elements that make up part of a broader, immersive experience.