Y&H caught up with Ellen Kassoff Gray this afternoon as she was driving to pick up her son at school. She said that Equinox, the downtown restaurant she co-owns with her husband and chef Todd Gray, just received its building permit today after weeks of waiting.
“That building has been sitting idle since Dec. 17,” says Kassoff Gray, noting the final day of service at Equinox before the devastating kitchen fire the following morning. “We have been sitting in purgatory.”
So what was the reason for the delay in getting the building permit?
“It’s called the D.C. government,” says Kassoff Gray, who’s also the GM at Equinox.
The best news for the owners is that the insurance company, after initially battling over every penny, has finally started to pay up. The carrier is even covering the wages of 25 Equinox employees, both front and back of the house, until the restaurant reopens for business.
“We wouldn’t be the same restaurant without them,” Kassoff Gray says about the long-time employees. “If I had to rehire and retrain a whole new staff, Equinox wouldn’t be Equinox.”
The insurance money, however, isn’t enough to cover the full range of renovations that the Grays have planned to make Equinox more “fresh and modern,” Kassoff Gray says. (A more detailed description of the renovations can be found on the Equinox Web site.) To pay for the renovations, the couple has had to borrow money and look for a line of credit.
But construction crews should start tomorrow, Kassoff Gray says. She hopes they can finish the work in three to four weeks, with final D.C. inspections to follow.
So what’s the best and worst-case scenarios for an Equinox grand reopening?
“Best case is May 12,” Kassoff Gray says. “Worst case is Memorial Day.”