Brine Oyster & Seafood House bows out of DC dining scene due to crime and costs

Two business owners have announced their decision to close their restaurants at two D.C. locations, citing both costs and concerns over crime.

Brine Oyster & Seafood House’s H Street location opened about three years ago, while its Dupont Circle spot opened less than a year ago. 

A decision to close both locations after its final dinner service on Saturday was announced on social media on Thursday morning. 

For the past three to four months, co-owner Aaron McGovern said sales haven’t been "trending right." Regarding the Dupont location, McGovern said the decision to close was based on finances. For the H Street location, he said crime played a role.

"Not just burglary crime. We’ve both been burglarized numerous times, both of my restaurants. Numerous times. So has everyone on the block, numerous times. We started to see violence. Not just ‘Oh, there’s a gunshot a mile away. We could hear the bullets,’" he said. "It’s…the restaurant I’m looking at right now had four shootings there four weeks ago." 

Brine Oyster & Seafood House's co-owner Aaron McGovern 

The business McGovern was referring to was Cru, where a shooting killed one person and injured three people in late September. Crime has had a trickling effect on business, McGovern said.

"I think our leadership in government, local government should really take a look at the businesses. The safety of the citizens. The well-being of its taxpaying base and see that it’s important because people will leave. They stop going out. They’ll move out of the city, and you need to protect your citizens," he said. 

Shawn Townsend, CEO of the Restaurant Association Washington, said inflation, rent, and crime have been challenges for restaurant operators across the country. The association serves as an advocate for the restaurant industry, with about 1,400 members in the D.C. region. 

Brine Oyster & Seafood House is closing on Saturday. 

In a recent fall survey, 75% of their members reported restaurants being less profitable than before the pandemic.

"Restaurant operators … I hear this often. Why don’t you just raise prices? We have been doing that since the pandemic. We have not seen the foot traffic that was once there prior to the pandemic happening. The numbers are down," Townsend said. "Historically, we tend to see 10-12% of businesses close annually. What we’re seeing after the pandemic is a wide range of reasonings as to why some restaurants have decided to close their doors. It’s not contributed to one specific thing."


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Regarding crime, he said the association has been communicating with D.C. officials.

"We have been communicating with the government, with our newly confirmed chief of police. We just had a virtual town hall this past Monday with her and about 50 of our operators to talk about things they are doing to mitigate the crime concerns operators have," he said. "Keeping that line of communication open to find out things they are doing and how we can offer assistance and help resolve the crime has been what our role has been and will continue to be. We do understand that’s top of mind for our operators. Unfortunately, it’s not a District problem. It’s a national problem."

Since January, Townsend said 46 restaurants have closed, which is an average of one restaurant a week shutting down in the District. Brine’s closure will be 47 and 48.