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For Those in the DC Restaurant Business, There’s No Place Like A Close Home

by Rebecca Cooper

For Those in the DC Restaurant Business, There’s No Place Like A Close Home: Figure 1
Gina Chersevani on Capitol Hill.

It’s a restaurant or bar owner’s lot in life. The phone rings, and it’s someone saying the restaurant’s out of wood for the pizza oven, or that the freezer went out again, or that there’s been a break-in.

Those phone calls and subsequent trips make location more than a business plan for restaurant owners -- especially those with small businesses and a limited number of employees.

“What if the burglar alarm goes off in the middle of the night?” says Adam Lubar, who along with his partners opened William Jeffery’s Tavern on Columbia Pike in Arlington in December. Lumbar lives less than five minutes from the restaurant.

“This is our baby,” says Lubar. “This is the restaurant we need to give the most attention to right now, so it’s nice I’m [not too far] away.”

Lubar co-owns three other restaurants with Chris Lefbom and Wilson Whitney: Rhodeside Grill and Ragtime in Courthouse and Dogwood Tavern in Falls Church. When Lubar bought a four-bedroom Cape Cod off Columbia Pike seven years ago, they didn’t have a restaurant within its vicinity.

“It was going from places where I could walk to work [to where I had to drive],” he says. “It felt far.”

For Those in the DC Restaurant Business, There’s No Place Like A Close Home: Figure 2
Adam Lubar in front of William Jeffrey's.

Gina Chersevani, DC’s illustrious “mixtress,” has been enjoying her walk-to-work life since making a move earlier this year. The former PS 7's bar manager is now running the beverage program at Hank’s Oyster Bar on Capitol Hill (map), and also just opened Buffalo and Bergen, a soda shop in the new Union Market in Northeast.

Her rented row house is about a 10-minute walk from both of her jobs.

“There’s that comfort. You can go home for dinner and come back if you have to,” she says. “You can walk the dog or water your plants.”

Chersevani has been looking for a restaurant opportunity on Capitol Hill almost as long as she's lived in the neighborhood. She moved into her house six years ago, and she loves that it is a short walk to Eastern Market and that she has "the Capitol as my night light." That love for the neighborhood is what made her want to bring her brand of mixology to the Hill.

“I want you to live your life within these four walls,” she says as she sits at Hank’s immaculately organized Eddy Bar. “And I want to live my life within a few feet of it.”

For Those in the DC Restaurant Business, There’s No Place Like A Close Home: Figure 3
The Eddy bar at Hank's on the Hill.

Her story is a familiar one: restaurateur moves into a neighborhood, loves said neighborhood and wants to open a business there. Lubar became a big Columbia Pike advocate once he moved in, urging his partners to consider opening William Jeffrey’s. And Tony Tomelden, owner of The Pug at 1234 H Street NE but a proud Brookland resident, is now looking to bring his talents to his home turf.

“Really, it was my wife Steph telling me, ‘look, you did enough work building up H Street, you can do something in our neighborhood now,” Tomelden told UrbanTurf.

He and a partner, John Solomon of Solly’s on U Street, are currently in negotiations to open a restaurant and bar on 12th Street NE in the current Optimism restaurant space. There’s no name yet, but Tomelden envisions a family-friendly place with a bar that will be a neighborhood spot. He bought his semi-detached row home in the neighborhood a decade ago.

“It’s an effort to be closer to home, but it’s also recognizing that this neighborhood deserves more stuff,” he says of the new venture. As for the potential two-minute walk commute? It’ll be nice, although that can have its down side, he adds.

“There are benefits of being close by if there’s a problem,” he says. “But by the same token, it could be a curse. This is one of those jobs you can work every second of every day.”

Lubar understands. He’s been spending a good deal of time at William Jeffrey’s while they work to get their patio built and open. But he’s also about to cut the cord; he and his wife have been house hunting and recently put an offer on a house in McLean — a 25 minute drive to William Jeffrey’s in light traffic.

“I’m definitely apprehensive about adding to the commute,” he says. “In this business, you’re kind of always on call.”

Rebecca Cooper is a freelance journalist and avid eater that has contributed to TBD, DCist, and Washingtonian. If you have any tips about restaurant or bars openings or closings, email Rebecca at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/for_restaurant_owners_theres_no_place_like_a_close_home/6021

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