WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown will celebrate 88 years in 2021. It’s the oldest family-owned restaurant in the District of Columbia and they are getting extra help to make it through the pandemic.
William Martin, Jr., is the current owner of Martin’s Tavern. He is the fourth generation to operate the restaurant, with his daughter to become the fifth-generation owner. He said, “In this day and age with women really jumping to power, it’s nice to have her in this position.”
The restaurant has been in operation since 1933 and has become a D.C. staple, as a favorite for locals and a destination for tourists. The rich history inside the walls adds to the unique experience. Martin, Jr., explained, “Throughout the years, we’ve had every president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush to dine with us.” Additionally, you can find prominent places marked within the restaurant such as the booth where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier.
“What really makes Martin’s special and sets it apart from many other restaurants is the fact that it does have so much history, but the continuity of staff that have worked here have worked for 10, 20, 30 years, and they’ve come to know everybody. Everybody feels welcome to come here,” Martin, Jr. said. Even when high profile politicians make a stop at the eatery, Martin, Jr., said they are treated like anyone else. “We want everyone to feel like it’s an extension of their living room, so because of that, we don’t make a big fuss about people who come in here.”
While the restaurant is a beloved stop for many, it has not been left out when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic impact. Martin, Jr., explained, “It’s been really tough, really really tough to get our arms wrapped around it and what to do. With that being said, what it’s created is a whole new way of looking at business.”
He added, “We’ve been here 88 years. Our model works well, but we’ve had to take our model and figure out how to adjust to the new normal, and that’s been a challenge.” Not only did the business have to tackle less money coming in due to changes in dining patterns and dining restrictions, but the owners had to purchase tents and heaters for outdoor dining. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a well-established business here that it’s a destination for people to come, and the locals have supported us immensely through this,” Martin, Jr., said.
Martin, Jr., said one loyal customer even went as far as to start a GoFundMe for the restaurant that has helped tremendously with the operating expenses and remaining open. Things like this especially helped when the restaurant had to close for 14 days around Christmas after there was a potential COVID-19 exposure in the restaurant. Martin, Jr., said, “We ended up having to close down for a couple of weeks and that is where it really hurts because you don’t make back those dollars, and you have families who count on you but where do you get the money from?”
A loan from the local government helped, but Martin, Jr., said the money went fast. Luckily for the restaurant, Barstool selected them as a recipient of the Barstool Sports Fund, which helps local restaurants to stay open during this unprecedented time. “Being selected for that has been over the moon for us. We are able to breathe a sigh of relief now knowing that we have Barstool backing us as we move through this winter, which as we move through January and February, it could be very tough.”
As the year continues, Martin, Jr., said his biggest worry is that bad winter weather will hit, leaving his restaurant with no business. He said, “At some point, the weather is not going to hold us, and customers aren’t going to come, and we’re going to need something to help get us through the cold, dark winter.”
Barstool said they will be checking in with the restaurant every month to see how they’re doing, helping out when needed. Martin, Jr., said, “It’s very special to have been selected by Barstool, and we’re not the only ones who have been selected, but it’s extremely important to us. The backbone of this country are independent restaurants, small businesses, that really make us so unique. If we don’t have that, we’re going to lose a piece of this country and that’s sad.”
As the restaurant fights to make it through, Martin, Jr., thanked the people who have been so generous and have helped his family business stay afloat. He said, “We are hanging on by a thread, and we are going to try and go down every avenue that we can to help us stay afloat. So, to have a wonderful customer support us by starting a gofundme for us, thank you very much. To have Barstool take us on, thank you very much. We need that. That’s the way we’re going to make it through.”