New study says DC metro restaurants least likely to recover from pandemic

As restaurants across the United States look to bounce back after a tough year for business, a recent study found restaurants in the Washington D.C. metro area are least likely to recover this year from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The study from LendingTree took into account consumer spending at restaurants and time spent away from home at restaurants and found the nation’s capital is ranked toward the bottom of both categories.

"The report doesn’t surprise me that much with the real estate prices," said James Waterhouse, General Manager of the Garden District on 14th st NW. "Commercial real estate is wildly expensive in DC and even places that got government money. Some of them are still struggling to be able to make it work and finding people to work right now is pretty crazy."

Waterhouse said during the early stages of the pandemic they had to cut down on staff and they aren’t sure when they’ll be able to hire more people.

He says as the pandemic continues, he worries what it will mean for restaurants in Washington D.C.

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"The number of places we’ve seen close in the last year some permanently some we’re hoping are going to come back it’s sad."

Med Lahlou, owner of the Lahlou Restaurant group, owns six restaurants in Washington D.C., he said for the most part business has been steady but they did have a few moments during the pandemic where business slowed down.

Lahlou said they’ve been fortunate because they haven’t had to let go of any employees who wanted to stay. He said they received help from the city and federal government in addition to having money set aside in savings.

Lahlou said currently his restaurants are operating at about 75 % capacity, but they still try to make accommodations for customers with concerns about the Covid-19 and the new variants.

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"A lot of people are asking for outside a lot of people," Lahlou said. "Its still not 100 percent of people that want to sit at the bars inside, we do a lot of outside and a lot of carryout, uber eats, we do a lot of door dash."

Waterhouse said through all the hard times over the past year and a half, what keeps him going is the customers and their support they give.