What’s Restaurant Week like during a pandemic? The National Landing BID is making it easier

Virginia

ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — Every restaurant in National Landing has had the opportunity to participate in Restaurant Week for free this month, thanks to the National Landing Business Improvement District, JBG Smith and Events DC. Restaurant Week started on August 17 and will run through August 30.

Joon Yang is the managing partner for EPIC Smokehouse, a participating restaurant. “All in all, Restaurant Week is probably one of the biggest benefits for a restaurant,” Yang said. “For restaurants that have participated, I’m pretty sure everyone is going to say they’ve seen a jump in business. I’ve seen it here. I’ve seen it at my other restaurant, American Prime in Tysons, where we are doing about 75 percent more business.”

The high-end barbecue restaurant, famous for its Burnt Ends brisket (smoked for a total of 20 hours) opened in September 2012. Yang says the pandemic hasn’t deterred much business. EPIC Smokehouse stayed open for carryout and offers expanded outdoor seating. 

“In all honesty, it would’ve been easier just to close but I feel like if I do that I’m failing the people that trust me and believe in me and are working with me and are following my leadership,” Yang said. He estimates they’ve seen about a 15 percent decrease in business, thanks to restaurant regulars who kept frequenting his business during the shutdown. “Although I’m doing this and it is a business and everything like that I still consider it my family so when I see people’s support of me it makes me feel really good.”

German Mejia, owner of Los Tios Grill, closed all four of his locations for seven weeks. His fourth and newest location, which opened in February of 2019, is participating in Restaurant Week. “Everything was doing good til the pandemic,” Mejia said. “We were scared to get infected from employees, especially employees. You don’t know where they are. And then we opened and that’s what we’re doing. Trying. It’s not easy, but we’re still trying.”

Like Yoon, Mejia says he treats his employees like his family, which influenced his decision to close. He’s been a restaurant owner for 17 years. All 20 of the Crystal City location’s employees are back to work. Tables are spaced out and sanitized regularly, hand sanitizer stations are scattered throughout the restaurant, and there’s patio seating out front. 

“I remember I came one day when the restaurant was closed,” said bar manager Wilber Amaya. “Everything looked so sad. So I walked in and I felt like crying, because it used to be very busy but when you see it like that it feels bad. But now that we’re back in I feel so happy to be here.”

For the first time, customers don’t have to dine in to participate in restaurant week, they can also choose from take-out offerings, fast casual restaurant packages, and cocktails to-go.

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