Young and Hungry

The Aftermath of Equinox’s Friday Morning Fire


The ceiling to the private dining and wine room was destroyed.

Ellen Kassoff Gray believes three things prevented the early morning fire at Equinox from destroying the well-regarded restaurant: an in-house fire alarm system, the weekly degreasing of the kitchen's hood, and an alert security guard who smelled smoke around 3 a.m.

Just the weekly hood cleaning alone probably "saved us from total loss," says the co-owner and general manager. "If they didn't do that, [the restaurant] would have ignited" from the grease.

Regardless, the D.C. Fire Department estimates the damage to Equinox at between $30,000 and $40,000.

This afternoon, as chef and co-owner Todd Gray was prepping for dinner at Aria Trattoria in the Ronald Reagan Building, where Equinox will be temporarily housed during repairs, Kassoff Gray remained at the downtown restaurant to field calls, direct work crews, and deal with fire and insurance representatives.

While the damage is relatively minor compared to what might have been, Kassoff Gray was still painfully aware of the loss she and her husband did suffer. She figures they lost about $15,000 worth of wine from the private dining room (pictured above). They have lost the use of their kitchen for who knows how long, and they've lost power, which worries Kass0ff Gray as the winter storm rolls in tonight.

And who knows yet what's still salvageable from the kitchen: dishes? pots? pans? Smoke may have ruined much of the dishware and equipment permanently. Then there's the dining rooms, which the Grays just renovated about 18 months ago. The relatively new carpets were soaked with water from the firefighting crews. Blowers, connected to power outlets outside the restaurant, were trying to dry the carpets out.

But there's one thing that Todd and Ellen Gray didn't lose today, and that's business. Five cars pulled up to Equinox around 7 a.m. today, just an hour after the last fire department unit had left, and started transporting ingredients to Aria, where Todd Gray had moved a major Christmas party planned for 11:30 this morning. The party was for 65 people.

"He didn't let the fire deter him," Kassoff Gray says. "I know it sounds corny heroic...but he didn't want to let them down."

The Grays will continue to work out of Aria until the city allows the couple to reopen Equinox. All employees will continue to work at the downstairs dining room at Aria during the transition; the temporary room holds about 65-70 people, whereas Equinox holds about 85.

More pictures after the jump.


Crews were trying to repair one of the two generators damaged during the fire.


Ellen Kassoff Gray handled damage control at Equinox while Todd Gray cooked for customers at Aria in the Ronald Reagan Building.


The ceiling in the kitchen is ruined. The stove and hood, where the fire apparently started, are behind this dish shelf and prep table.


The ceiling as seen looking out from the kitchen.


Kassoff Gray isn't sure how much of the kitchen equipment, including the dishware, is salvageable. The good news is that the couple's insurance should cover all their loses.


Industrial blowers were brought in to help dry out the soaked carpets.


Dining room tables (in the back of this picture) were being used to hold wine bottles and other items saved from the fire scene.


Crews dined on take-out pizza while trying to restore power at Equinox. "It was the first time pizza has ever been delivered to Equinox," Kassoff Gray says.


The extension chord provided the only power available at Equinox this afternoon.

  • http://google Lisa Kay

    Todd Grays incredible "can do attitude" comes accross through the ashes of that horrible fire on Friday, He is an amazing man and an excellent chef. His talents will sustain him through this ordeal.

    Ellen is a fantastic partner who is straightforward and a delight to be with. She took control of the situation like a General should.
    We are long time customers and look forward to rejoining the proud Equinox team of servers, waiters and managers.
    Happy Holidays to all.

  • John Smith

    An excellent restaurant to hang out!!

    Ok...I know I am a foodie and have travelled quite a bit and been to lot many places but the one city which is always an extension of mine is undoubtedly New York. I am proud to wear my Nike NY cap and cheer my Basketball team without fail. I have been to almost all the food joints, restaurants, pubs and bars located in Manhattan and I must say they all are pretty good considering this age of twittering and Face book wherein if you fail once your name pops up on all the social networking websites with negative comments. This is a welcome change becoz ultimately we the customers become the king as shoddy service or bad quality food can easily land the owners into trouble.

    But the one place which has succeeded in amazing me is the newly refurbished Restaurant named Point Break. Formerly named as Nation Restaurant & Bar, Point Break is a new Surf Bar located in the heart of mid-town Manhattan. Now I remember sometime back I had been to this place when it had the old look and feel and I thought ok..seems to be an average place..what's the big deal? But even during my last visit when it was still in its old shape it served me excellent food and the service was razor sharp. So last Saturday when one of my friend threw a party and told me the venue to be a swanky new outlet which he was speaking so highly about I thought ok..let's try this one too. When he told me about the address I wasn't sure it was the same place but when I reached there the whole look and feel from Outside was changed and once I entered in, the earlier known Nation was truly looking like a break from the past and hats off this guy, I don't remember the name of the owner, but he has rightly renamed it as Point Break!! It appeals to the newer generation guys like me. We had a great time there. The menu featured old classics and new additions. I loved the wheel o' shots which made me crazy!! I had the fish tacos which was delicious..yummeee and it has got plenty of room for parties, the DJ that they had was great, excellent sound system as well and the drinks were strong and I had a look at the menu and thought the prices were pretty good.

    Guys on top of it the next day when I searched this place on the internet, this restaurant has a Face book page too wherein they post photos and updates of recent happenings/parties and upcoming events/parties/offers too. They tweet also which is really nice thinking by the owner.

    Anyways not wanting to sound like a paid blogger I would say as a foodie this restaurant is a nice one and I would not hesitate to give my recommendation for it to my guests coming in from out of town. Go and try once and do not hesitate to leave a comment once you are there. I know I am only going to get thumbs up from you all!!!


    John Smith, NYC

  • Former Staffer

    Can we permanently replace Aria. The pizzas are terrible. And from the reviews online I'm afraid to try much else.

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  • troy

    FYI the john smith entry is spam... google it and you'll see it.

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