There’s never been a silver lining to getting a parking ticket—until now. The aptly named Shaw restaurant Caribbean Citations will discount your meal if you show up with a parking ticket or moving violation.
Michael Sterling, formerly manager of Big Chair Coffee & Grill in Anacostia, opened the 16-seat restaurant replacing Azi’s Cafe in January. Caribbean Citations serves food from Sterling’s native country of Jamaica. “I wasn’t just going to have a regular restaurant. There has to be something that brings you back,” he says. “I don’t care how good of a driver you are. You’re still going to get tickets in D.C. It’s something everyone can relate to.”
There are two ways to cash in on your motor vehicle misfortune at Caribbean Citations, whose slogan is “turn a traffic ticket into a meal ticket.” The first is to bypass the regular prices on the menu listed in green for regular customers. The discounted dishes are outlined in red for those who arrive with a ticket in hand. Most dishes, such as the curry goat or jerk salmon sandwich, get discounted a dollar, while others are as much as three bucks off.
After using a ticket to get a break on breakfast, lunch, or dinner, guests can fill out a chit and enter a free monthly raffle. On the last day of the month, one winner selected by random draw gets to tap into the “Citation’s relief fund” to pay off a ticket up to $100. Employees contribute a portion of their tips to the fund to show their support for the restaurant’s mission.
Sterling has big ambitions including franchising Caribbean Citations and one day potentially establishing a nonprofit to help those saddled with many outstanding tickets. “You guys are making billions, help people get some money back,” he pleads to the city. As he points to the raffle chamber, Sterling adds, “my goal is to pay every ticket in there, but it’s not my job alone.”
Though Sterling seems to have the biggest bone to pick with D.C.’s parking enforcement, tickets issued in Virginia, Maryland, and beyond are eligible for both the menu discounts and raffle drawings.
Caribbean Citations; 1336 9th St. NW; (202) 750-8744; caribbeancitationsdc.com
Photos by Laura Hayes