Joe Englert Offers a REAL Tribute to the Dean of D.C. Liquor Lawyers
Mr. H Street himself, Joe Englert, called Y&H last week to bitch about what he felt was a fawning tribute to Dimitri Mallios, the "dean" of D.C. liquor lawyers. Englert thought the item didn't capture Mallios' humor, his ballsy honesty, and his ability to get shit done despite a daunting D.C. bureaucracy.
Englert wanted to write his own tribute, which Y&H encouraged. You'll find it, in all its obscene and hilarious glory, after the jump.
[Note: Englert's tribute has been edited for typos, punctuation, and clarity...but not for length or taste.]
Lawyers are bullshit.
No guaranteed results. Just guaranteed fees.
D.C. liquor license titan Dimitri Mallios died September 15. He was no bullshit. He predicted success for his client and was never wrong. When you were his client, and your plan was to open up a gin joint or watering hole or speakeasy he came through for you. He got you what you asked for. That is, if you weren't a jackass. Then the bill came and the cost was never close to what his efforts were worth. He gave the restaurant world a volume discount.
Dmitri was 77. And you might say that's not tragic. That is a fine long life. But he was among the last of a dying breed, a Runyonesque character who ran with people named "Blackie" and "Jimmie" and Petie." (Of course, when you are the Greek Godfather every other person calling your office is named George.) It is very sad that he won't be around any longer.
He called his favorite clients profane names. But he always did it to their face. You knew he loved you when he called you "asshole." He called me often and never bothered to announce himself. "You dumbshit, what do you think you're doing?"
"My wife is begging me to be nicer," he would smile. "And I'm trying."
His legal documents were two pages long. Handshakes. Your Honor. Your word. Those were more important.
"If you don't trust a person, don't fucking get into business with them," he'd tell me. "Englert, you are a smart boy. Don't you know how to smell a rat?"
When the Capitol Lounge, a tavern I owned burned down in August 2005, he was one of the first to call.
"Englert, they used to call it Jewish Lightning. But now it's called Korean Lightning. All the Jews are doctors and lawyers now."
"He's a scumbag," he said once of a downtown developer. "I just told him that this morning when we met. I tell everyone he is a dirt bag that you shouldn't do business with."
Dimitri could drive around town in one of his big cars and point out who owned every building in downtown D.C. He knew who owned every skyscraper in downtown Bethesda, Tysons Corner, and Alexandria, too. Thousands of buildings but remarkably only a few dozen owners, almost always a Greek or Jewish guy he grew up with. But he also knew the guy who owned Giorgio's Pizza on 19th Street back in '80's and '90's, strip club owners, and the Ethiopian guy with an injera delivery business as well. He knew every lady by name at ABC and would giggle with, and even warm the heart of, someone like Marilyn Groves, the wicked witch of the Dupont Circle Civic Association in the '90's.
"The world is full of crazy people," he would cackle.
He loved Vietnamese and Indian and Nigerian immigrants who owned the corner stores, delis, and liquor stores throughout the city. He was a D.C. immigrant himself, an owner (with his brother named "George," of course) of Trio, Trio Pizza, and the legendary Trio's Fox and Hounds. I think he would have rather bullshitted with a guy in an apron than a fellow attorney in an Armani.
"My brother, George, is the ballsiest guy I know," he would shake his head. "And the Fox and Hounds is a great bar. You can't get a stiffer drink anywhere in town."
Until Dimitri's mother died in her late 90s, George and he had lunch with her at Trio every Wednesday. "Give her a coffee saucer that's not clean enough, and she's going to send it back. Nothing gets by her."
He made rain for the biggest of rainmakers.
In the late '80's, I had a joint called the 15 Minutes Club. It had a short lease. I was looking for another bar. Fast.
"Be at 20th and K in 15 minutes. Bring your checkbook," he told me.
My partner at the time, Steve Zarpas (his old man was another cool Greek character who would eat off your plate at lunch) and I quickly ran to the location. Minutes later, we were shaking hands with Ted Pedas, the mogul and original sugar daddy of the Coen Brothers.
One of Pedas' tenants was eight months behind on the rent. He made the guy hand over the keys to me right there and then.
"It's your place until I want to develop it. When I say, 'Get out,' get out!" Ted said with a shake of my hand. Dimitri nodded at both of us. Later that week, a lease arrived at my office. The monthly rent was half the going rate. Ted never raised the rent that much, either. It was the Crowbar and went on to have a long life after that. It sadly became the Eagle Bank building.
We talked often about people who weren't as big of assholes as they seemed. And he gave me advice on keeping your kids close when you were in the business.
"Never miss a chance to take them to work every weekend morning before things get busy. They'll stop coming before you know it. They'll get teenaged, and all of a sudden, you aren't as interesting as dating and hanging out with friends."
Dimitri always held his nose and gave to local hacks. He wrote a check for a couple of hundred bucks to hundreds of politicians, past and present. "You see these guys' caricatures at the Palm five years after they leave office, and you can't even remember their names."
D.C. government had been so bad, so bloated, and so unpredictable for so long that it was like you had been to war with Dimitri. Only he could share the pain, the frustration, and the terror of the nonsensical raids, stings, or law changes that DCRA and the ABC board were so famous for in the late '90's and early 2000's. "They're all fucking crazy!" he would rail. Then later he would get his clients off with no suspension or fine. No matter how intractable the bureaucrat was, Dimitri appealed to their better nature. He always got them to laugh and go easy on the bad boy Jack Ruby types of D.C. When he walked through DCRA, the Paper Shufflers and the just-say-no Red Tapers gave curt bows and respectful head bows. "Hello, Mr. Mallios."
Just a few years ago, a landlord repeatedly turned down my offers to buy his building. Nothing came of my dozens of letters and faxes. Once my lease was up, the landlord told me that his daughter was going to take over the joint and run a Greek restaurant.
I was in his office when Dimitri picked up the phone and yelled to my landlord, "Your daughter, Nina, the one with the six-inch nails and the foot of hair poofed up, the one that goes to the spa everyday? She's going to run a fucking restaurant? Stop the bullshit or I am going to tell Father George at church!"
A day later, a contract for the building was faxed to my office.