David Winer is fighting to keep his long-tenured restaurant group, EatWell DC, going. His D.C. neighborhood restaurants—The Pig, Grillfish, Logan Tavern, and Commissary—are welcoming places you can count on. “We’re trying to hold on like a lot of people,” Winer says. “We knew when Paycheck Protection Program funds ran out, things were going to get hard.”
Dec. 13 will be the last night of service for two of Winer’s four D.C. spots, at least for the winter. The Pig in Logan Circle and Grillfish in West End will temporarily close following Sunday’s dinner service. Winer hopes to be in a position to reopen them in the spring. He sounds defeated and calls the move a “last resort.”
“With vaccines in sight, there’s hope,” he says. “But it’s scary because I know people are going to be more cavalier. It worries me that the closer we get to the savior, the worse it gets for us in the business because the infection rates continue.”
Winer also can’t see the numbers working with the city’s new 25 percent indoor seating capacity rule that takes effect on Monday, Dec. 14. Previously in Phase 2 of reopening, restaurants could seat their dining rooms at 50 percent capacity. “There’s no way forward with five tables,” he says.
He predicts the city will eventually make indoor dining off limits all together. Philadelphia has done so and New York is considering it this week. “You’re either slowly bleeding to death or being put out of your misery, but at least this way I can employ staff,” Winer says.
While Winer waits for warmer weather and a vaccine, he’s come up with a strategy that preserves jobs and allows diners to still order their favorite dishes from Grillfish and The Pig, even though they’ll be closed to diners. Chefs from Grillfish will cook out of Commissary. “We’re taking over the core, traditional items from the menu,” Winer says. “Shrimp scampi, ginger calamari—as much as 50 percent of the menu.” Customers will be able to order food from Grillfish for takeout and delivery.
Similarly, chefs from The Pig will pop-up in Logan Tavern. They’ll dart back and forth to The Pig, where their smoker is located. The Grillfish menu out of Commissary will likely be available for to-go orders only, but Winer is considering offering The Pig menu to dine-in customers at Logan Tavern. Both Logan Tavern and Commissary have outdoor seating in a streatery across from the P Street NW Whole Foods. The satellite menus should be available as soon as Monday.
“The preservation of both is continuity of staff and restaurant, so when we get to March or April, we’ll still have our core audience,” Winer says. Many EatWell DC employees have been with the company for more than a decade. “If we have to blow out our payroll to keep long-term people on board, we’ll do it.”
In a letter to EatWell DC’s loyal customers, Winer makes a plea. “Please do not give up on us or our team, we need you patronizing our restaurants and ordering take-out and delivery,” he writes. “That will not only mean the world to us and our team but will help us to survive.”