If every restaurant in town lost business due to Saturday’s historic snow storm, then Equinox suffered a double whammy over the weekend: Todd and Ellen Gray‘s regional American gem on Connecticut Avenue took it on the chin from two elements, fire and water.
A fire hit the place early Friday morning, followed shortly thereafter by that mountain of snow.
“How do you like that?” says Ellen Kassoff Gray, co-owner and GM at Equinox. “Two acts of God in the same day. We woke at 3 o’clock responding to a fire and went to bed at 3 o’clock that night with an inch of snow falling an hour. It’s crazy.”
“The forces of the universe are making me re-evaluate my perspective, for sure,” she adds.
The Grays’ re-evaluation also extends to their plan to temporarily shift operations to the Aria Trattoria banquet room in the Ronald Reagan Building.
“That was just a temporary solution for Friday,” Ellen Gray says. “They were kind enough to have us on Friday, but I think we’re just sort of taking it shift by shift.”
Hold on. Did the media, including me, report that incorrectly? Weren’t you planning to shift all Equinox operations to Aria until you reopened? Or was it always a one-day thing?
“We didn’t know it was a one-day thing until we got through it, because we were making decisions hourly. It’s hard to say definitively, ‘This is what it’s going to be’ when you’re in a situation like that, because who knows,” Ellen Gray says. “They lent us their space to work out of, and they still will. We could still do our prep and stuff over there, if we decide to go forward. We might not even do any service. It all just depends on what we decide. Like I said, everything is on a day-to-day [basis].”
In the meantime, the couple has been doing an inventory at the restaurant, going through the dishes and kitchen equipment and inspecting the carpets to see what’s salvageable. The early assessment is not pretty. Everything’s “gone,” Ellen Gray says.
All of it, even the carpets?
“Well, the carpet had two inches of water from the firemen. Once that’s in the carpet and it’s saturated like that, it’s ruined,” the GM says. “And it smells, so we got to get that out of there. I want to make sure that the smoke smell gets out. It doesn’t really mix well with Todd’s risotto.”
The couple’s own damage assessment is also far higher than the one by the D.C. Fire Department, which put the figure at $30,000 to $40,000. (See pictures of the damage here.)
“I don’t know what D.C. Fire Department was talking about, $30,000 or $40,000,” Ellen Gray says. “That was kind of funny. We read that and we were like, ‘Huh? I don’t think so.’ It’s more like $300,000.”
So will insurance cover everything, including any loss of business?
“I believe so,” Gray says. “Of course, my agent couldn’t get into work today, so I couldn’t talk to her. It’s like, ‘All right, this is enough. I’ve had it.’ I can’t reach anybody at my insurance company’s office, so I don’t know exactly what our coverage [is].”
Still, the Grays hope to reopen in six weeks.