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Eric Tollar of Mate Lounge sent out a series of tweets over the weekend announcing that the H Street NE space previously inhabited by TruOrleans was on its way to becoming a new American-Mediterranean restaurant.
@PoPville 400 h street NE property acquired. (Formally TruOrleans) Looking to open in early-mid June. Concept announcement soon!
— Eric Tollar (@EricTollar) April 19, 2014
And then Tollar told PoPville: “I can tell you it’s being beautifully renovated, American fare with Mediterranean influence, craft cocktails and local craft beer.”
That’s news to landlord Darryl Pounds, who owns 400 H St. NE. Reached by Y&H yesterday, he had no idea what Tollar was talking about, or even who he was. “I’m shocked because I haven’t approved anything,” he said. “There’s a possibility it could happen, but I need to be brought into the mix.”
Pounds spent many months trying to evict TruOrleans owner James “Tru” Redding for unpaid rent. Meanwhile, the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue shut down the restaurant in September for unpaid taxes. A litany of other troubles plagued the establishment, including a neighborhood protest to revoke the liquor license, a brawl in which police arrested employees, and Redding’s company filing for bankruptcy. But Pounds says Redding has now paid all the rent he owed and continues to be the tenant, although TruOrleans hasn’t reopened: “As long as they pay rent, I couldn’t evict them.”
Tollar, who told Y&H that he’d be managing the new restaurant, would not reveal exactly who “acquired” the corner building. He says the venture is unrelated to Mate Lounge, where he currently works. “A new group of partners has taken control of TBM Holdings, and we have been working on a substantial re-focusing of the company,” he later said in an emailed statement. TBM Holdings was the LLC for TruOrleans, and Tollar says Redding is still a partner in it. Calls to Redding yesterday and this morning went to his voicemail, which was full.
Tollar says the names of the other partners will be released when the full concept is ready to be announced. In the meantime, he says they have keys to the building—he was in there yesterday—and that the new partners are already preparing for renovations.
This was also news to Pounds, who says he’ll be talking to his lawyer to find out what the lease allows the new group to do. He says the group would definitely need his approval to make changes to the building, and he hasn’t heard anything about renovations.
Assuming the new restaurant does go forward, Tollar seems to want to reassure neighbors that the new restaurant will not be as divisive as TruOrleans. Here’s his full statement:
A new group of partners has taken control of TBM Holdings, and we have been working on a substantial re-focusing of the company. Our focus right now is hammering out a concept that we believe will be a contributing member of the H Street community. The new partners, born and raised in the DC area, who have combined over 50 years experience in the DC restaurant community and myself want to make sure that we make a venue that respects the wishes and demands of the community, learning from the mistakes of the past and creating the truly special restaurant that I know we can. Our first priority is making sure that we co-exist happily with our new neighbors.
And then in a separate email:
Our first priority right now is making sure that we are working with the residential community. Our new concept is coming into their neighborhood, and we want to insure that the surrounding neighbors are all on board before we make any sort of declarations. I’ve lived on H st for 4 years and the one thing I’ve learned is that it’s all about respect. We are making sure we do things the right way. We’re not going in and saying “We’re here, deal with it.” We’re hearing their concerns. We’re not talking; we’re listening. Until we feel that all of those steps are in place, we don’t want to release any more information.
Photo by Jessica Sidman