The slow and difficult end of Bad Saint

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The recent closure of Bad Saint stunned followers of the pioneering Filipino restaurant, a favorite of DC and national chowounds after Bon Appétit named it the second-best new restaurant in America six years ago.

Why is it important: Although there is hope that COVID-19 will become rampant, pandemic pressures continue to bother small businesses in particular

  • From March 2020 to March 2022, 164 restaurants in DC closed, the Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Association told Axios.

What happened: Bad Saint co-owner Genevieve Villamora told Axios that her Columbia Heights restaurant hasn’t made a profit in more than two years.

Two series of PPP loans and restaurant revitalization funds were not enough to offset months of staff shortages, food and supply shortages and other pandemic-induced challenges.

  • Additionally, the owners never felt comfortable reopening their intimate 24-seat dining room and instead hosted guests on a new terrace, but struggled to win back their patrons.

Unpredictable dining habits became unmanageable, with random Tuesdays attracting more customers than weekends, and the weather playing a bigger role.

The decision point: There was no specific trigger to stop it. It was “a slow, gradual calculation and recognition of all the factors,” says Villamora.

Enlarge: Bad Saint chose not to announce the closure in advance, in order not to prolong the process. Ironically, the last night on duty was the busiest they had seen in weeks.

  • Still, the turnout didn’t cause Villamora to question the shutdown. Instead, “it felt like the universe was trying to comfort us by giving us a solid dinner service last night. It felt like a totally unexpected cosmic alignment.

Details: Closing a restaurant is a meticulous business, from filing paperwork to selling appliances.

Heads of Bad Saint spent the days after closing using leftover ingredients to make signature sauces. The restaurant then sold them along with plates and patio furniture in a few well-attended tag sales.

  • Before the last, three pounds of ginger and nothing else were in Bad Saint’s refrigerator.

And after: Villamora says she loves DC and has no plans to leave. She says it’s too early to think about future plans – for now, she’s just excited to be spending more time with her family.

A closing word: “Restaurants aren’t really about food; I think it’s actually about people,” Villamora says of her clients and staff. “The energy we had together…one night when we had a full dining room – and as the music was playing and people were enjoying the food – I will never forget that feeling and will always miss it. Still.”

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