Restaurateur Ian Hilton spent the last couple days trying to figure out which employees would be able to get to work this weekend. Then yesterday, Metro announced it would suspend service for the entire weekend, beginning tonight at 11 p.m.
“Been a while since I was this angry,” Hilton tweeted. He later explained to me, “People had volunteered and people were going to go out of their way to make sure that certain places could open. And then the last thing I was expecting was for Metro to pack it in.”
Of course, Hilton says, he wouldn’t want people to get trapped in tunnels or endanger themselves. “If that’s an actual possibility because it’s such a poorly put-together system… then I’m more frightened,” he says. “There’s no backup power situation?”
It’s not a question of missing out on revenue, Hilton says; Snow days aren’t really profitable. “It’s a question of missing out on having your customer base be able to rely on you,” he says. Plus, he adds, some employees don’t want to miss out on the paycheck.
Hilton plans to close El Rey, Satellite Room, Chez Billy Sud, and likely also Chez Billy in Petworth on Saturday. The restaurants that will stay open tomorrow—Brixton and American Ice Company—will do so because staff live within walking distance. Plus, partner Joe Reza plans to pick-up some employees in his Land Cruiser.
In other cases, restaurant owners are finding places for their staff to stay for the night. Beau Thai co-owner Ralph Brabham says Cambria Suites hotel in Shaw contacted him and some other neighborhood business owners about reserving rooms at a discounted rate.
Brabham plans to get rooms for six to eight people who want to work. Other employees live nearby. That way, he’ll be able to keep Beau Thai and BKK Cookshop in Shaw open for neighbors who want to get out and eat. The Mount Pleasant location of Beau Thai will be closed tomorrow, but some of those employees—including the manager, who lives in Maryland—have volunteered to work at the Shaw restaurants.
Still, Beau Thai is going to be short two hosts tonight. “So I’ll be hosting this evening and probably tomorrow night as well,” says Brabham, who lives a few blocks away.
Meanwhile, Left Door co-owner Tom Brown has secured an Airbnb for the staff of his newly opened cocktail bar.
“We’re brand new, and so we’re just getting to know our neighbors,” Brown says. “And if they reach out to us and we’re not there, I feel like that would be damaging to our reputation.”
Back in his days at The Passenger, Brown recalls how he and his brother Nick Brown marched two miles through the snow to open the bar—”I think it took us a fifth of vodka to make it”—and then slept there. This time around, Brown asked some of the nearby Airbnbs if there were any cancellations because of the snow. It turned out that a five-bedroom house, which sleeps about 14 people, was available right across the street from the bar.
“I checked with my staff before I rented it. I was like, ‘Would this be cool with y’all? They’re like, ‘Hell yeah, that would be awesome.'”
Brown has also invited some friends from Dino’s Grotto and Slipstream to join.
“We’re going to have a fun slumber party,” he says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery