City Paper is not for tourists
A surprising number of restaurants and bars is staying open despite Metro closings and severe weather warnings. And while restaurateurs say they’re playing it by ear, many are die-hards about not closing—no matter what.
“I hate closing,” says Chef Geoff‘s Geoff Tracy. “Restaurant people are hardworking people, and they’re not looking to stay at home and watch television.”
Chef Geoff’s is open for lunch, and Tracy is still deciding on dinner. Right now, he doesn’t think the weather is bad enough to warrant closing. “There are 25 mph winds out there. I go skiing in weather like that,” he says.
Tracy has kept his restaurants open during the Snowpocalypse in 2010, 9/11, and Hurricane Isabel in 2003. In fact, when Chef Geoff’s lost power during Isabel, the staff set up a grill and bar on the front patio after the weather calmed down and served food for $10 a plate. Tracy says he hates seeing food go to waste.
Restaurateur Constantine Stavropoulos also plans to keep his restaurants The Diner, Tryst, Open City, and The Coupe open for normal hours.
“For us, it’s not an instinct to close,” he says. “We’re approaching this from a standpoint of closing is a last resort, and only if we decide it’s an issue of safety.”
Elisir owner Enzo Fargione also plans to keep his restaurant open for dinner. He says he had a big party booked tonight and several reservations that he didn’t want to abandon. “We like to think of ourselves as a neighborhood restaurant where people can actually rely on us if they decide to get out,” he says.
Not all their vendors feel the same way. Many are already reporting that they won’t be able to make food deliveries today or tomorrow. That means restaurants may be running out of some items. For example, the bakery that supplies Chef Geoff’s won’t be making deliveries for now, meaning they might run out of rolls. Elisir, which normally gets meat and produce deliveries every day, may have to rely some items delivered over the weekend.
As for staff, restaurants are doing what they can to have at least a skeleton crew on site. Stavropoulos says about 90 percent of his staff lives in D.C., and many are near the restaurants. He is paying for employees to take a cab or Uber to work. (He does the same thing if staff feels uncomfortable making it home after a late night of work.) During storms in the past, employees that live nearby have opened up their homes to other employees.
Tracy says about 75 percent of his staff is already in today. He and his brother Chris, the president of Chef Geoff’s, both have SUVs to help their team get around if need be. He’s also willing to let employees stay with him, if worst comes to worst. “My wife’s up in Manhattan. I’ve got plenty of room,” he says.
Fargione also has an SUV and already has plans to pick up two of his employees for work. He’s paying for cabs for the others. And in the worst case scenario that everyone gets stuck at the restaurant? “We have a lot of wine and a lot of liquor,” Fargione says.
UPDATE: Chef Geoff’s at 3201 New Mexico Ave. NW will be open for dinner and drinks until 7 p.m. The other locations will close around 2 p.m. Tracy plans to have all his restaurants open tomorrow for lunch.
Photo via Tryst