Mellow Mushroom, the Adams Morgan haunt beloved for its pretzel bites slicked with beer cheese and reliably trippy pizza, closed on Sunday after a decade in business. It opened in October 2011 at 2436 18th St. NW with one of the best roof decks in the neighborhood. Owner Amit Mehta was a franchisee of the national chain that’s been around since 1974. He’s having trouble picking just one fond memory from running the laid back spot with a squishy yellow mascot.
“I can remember doing a Phish webcast,” he says. “Then there were the reggae bands that played in front of the kitchen or the drag shows on the second floor. The late night after hour parties that went until 6 a.m. It’s hard to say what’s my favorite.” That said, Mehta says he had the most fun hosting trivia on Tuesdays. “I made a lot of good friends and have some nice memories from that.”
Mellow Mushroom’s 10-year lease was up and Mehta opted not to renew it after negotiations with his landlord didn’t result in a rent price that was agreeable under current conditions. It “came down to economics,” he says.
“When I did the math, the sales I was seeing and the return coming out of COVID-19, if you can even say coming out, wasn’t rebounding back to what I needed it to effectively,” he says. “The first thing that has been slow to come back is the bar. I think a lot of restaurants rely on a healthy bar scene because it has the best margins. When that doesn’t come back the way you like it to, you can’t rely on takeout anymore. Even when we wanted to ramp up to get more sales, it’s hard to find staffing.”
The good news is the building isn’t likely to sit dormant. “There’s a group interested,” Mehta says. “I’m happy. I’m working with them and it sounds like you’re going to get someone in there fairly quickly.”
As for Mehta, he’s going to take a step back from the hospitality industry. “When you open a restaurant, it’s such an investment of time and money and such a large commitment that you don’t get to enjoy the other things, other opportunities.”