"The previous owner couldn't handle it, so I'm taking over," says Siya Sadeghi, introducing himself as the new face of embattled booze-less boîte Shaw's Tavern during a meeting of the local ANC2c on Wednesday night. Describing himself more as a construction guy than a restaurateur, Sadeghi rattled off a number of prior eateries that he's worked on in D.C., primarily as a builder, including Tabaq on U Street and Haydee's in Mount Pleasant. But only one he's ever owned: the former Axis on U. Nonetheless, the new guy vowed to be a very hands-on type of tavern operator. "I live six blocks away," Sadeghi says. "I'm going to be hanging out all the time."
He inherits a stylishly designed but badly mismanaged shell of a restaurant with a dry and dubious history. City liquors declared the previous owner "unfit for licensure" following allegations that his management team had altered city documents in order to obtain booze without the proper permits. The tavern, which tried to survive on food sales alone for several weeks (read more: "Tavern On The Ween"), closed in late August and has remained dark ever since. ANC2C Chair Alexander Padro described the location as "a source of concern" for the community, what with all the question marks about what will become of the languishing storefront.
Sadeghi's appearance finally provided some answers. The new owner also brought along a new chef, Joel Hatton, currently the chef de cuisine at Leopold's Kafe in Georgetown, who summed up his vision for the menu quite simply as "my take on American food." Things like truffle-laden deviled eggs, pizza with house-made ricotta and smoked cheddar grits whipped up with house-made whey. "Food that makes sense," says Hatton, but not terribly expensive. "Nothing over $23," adds Sadeghi.
Sadeghi hopes to open just as soon as he gets the green light from the city's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board—a feat his predecessor never accomplished. But, so far, so good for Sadeghi. In a quick vote, ANC 2B endorsed his application for a stipulated license.
"If people support it, it's going to be great," he predicts.
Photos by Chris Shott
Shaw’s Tavern, Take 2: New Owner Emerges At Embattled Boîte was originally published by Washington City Paper on Dec 15, 2011