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D.C.’s home for Spam fried rice and tropical drinks is packing up its proverbial suitcase. Facing challenges due to the pandemic, Chef Adam Greenberg initially shuttered Coconut Club for the fall and winter on Oct. 18. Now he’s making the closure permanent.
“When we closed in October, the intention was always to reopen come spring this year,” Greenberg tells City Paper in an email. “Unfortunately, after much deliberation and effort, it just wasn’t a financially viable option.”
Greenberg had island-inspired aspirations for the project after spending time in Hawaii. “On vacation I feel carefree with no limits, no plans—just living life and experiencing culture,” he told City Paper in August 2017. “How do you create that in a bubble in a restaurant is what I want to do, so that when you leave work on a shitty day you can feel a sense of escapism.”
The restaurant, located near Union Market at 540 Penn St. NE, experienced delays and finally opened in January 2019, which isn’t exactly poke and frozen drink season. Nevertheless Greenberg and his team made it to warmer weather. The Post rewarded them with positive reviews. That spring, restaurant critic Tom Sietsema included Coconut Club in his spring dining guide and then in December, nightlife reporter Fritz Hahn called it one of the best bars to open in D.C. in 2019.
Just over a year later, the pandemic hit. Greenberg was one of the most restless restaurateurs. He never stopped retooling his business model to try and outlast economic challenges with limited staff and resources. “This is like The Hunger Games, restaurant edition,” he told City Paper in August 2020. “Everyone gets two people to operate.”
In the beginning, takeout and delivery were the restaurant’s only way to earn revenue. But when the pandemic stretched well past the 10 weeks Greenberg initially projected, he experimented further.
Coconut Club built a market where customers could pick up cooking staples missing from grocery stores, teamed up with former Yang Market owner Pete Sitcov to launch sandwich pop-up Crush Subbies, and even tried collaborating with a cannabis delivery service before pulling back when city agencies caught wind of the partnership before the launch.
“We rallied and did as many different things as we could do to service and provide great hospitality for the people of D.C., it was always about YOU, the people,” Greenberg continues. “This isn’t goodbye forever, and hopefully we’ll all see Coconut Club make a comeback, in a different time, and a different location.”
“I’d like to sincerely thank each and every person who was a part of making Coconut Club such a great place,” he tells his supporters. “From the architects and local artists, and of course, each and every person who ever worked at Coconut Club. Together, we threw a fun party every day, providing memorable experiences—and a getaway from reality.”
Greenberg and his wife are temporarily living in their hometown in Connecticut. “I am focusing on next steps and there is no doubt you will see me soon,” he says.