Young and Hungry

Dino Closing its Doors, Citing Competition and Federal Turmoil

duckdeangoldAfter eight and a half years and a pile of accolades, Cleveland Park standby Dino is closing its doors. Reached by phone, owner Dean Gold confirms that the restaurant will shutter at an undetermined date in the coming weeks, citing a wild financial ride this summer and fall.

"Business just took a turn south in June," Gold says. Dino was in "fantastic shape" in early June, he says, with profit up 8 percent from the same period last year. But within weeks, business was down 15 percent from the year before.

"It coincided with the opening of all the 14th Street places, the shutdown, the sequester," he says. "The two weeks leading up to the shutdown were the absolute worst."

Gold believes the demographics of Cleveland Park made Dino particularly vulnerable during a time of federal turmoil. "There's a ton of people in this neighborhood whose livelihood depends on politics," he says.

And Cleveland Park is no longer a great place to operate a restaurant, in Gold's opinion, partly because of increased competition from the 14th Street NW corridor and the lack of nightlife surrounding Dino. "No one wants to rent space here," he says. "All the neighborhoods that used to feed us—we used to get tons of people from Chevy Chase Circle; we used to get tons of people from Mount Pleasant; we used to get tons of people from the 14th Street area."

Gold says he has a new eatery in the works, though he's mum on the location. "My lawyers are talking to their lawyers," he says. "If we finalize everything and put a lease together, then we'll hopefully be open...no later than January or February."

Gold says he'll model the menu off the way people eat at Dino's bar. "They eat a lot of appetizers," he says. "They eat a lot of pasta. They eat our burger. They order very modularly. They order stuff to share. That's what we want to deliver. Not necessarily a small-plate experience, because I don't know what a small plate of pasta is."

As for Dino's 25 or so staffers, Gold says he hopes they'll be joining him in his new venture.

The email Gold sent to customers is below:

Ciao Amici

A sad e-mail for a change. After 8-1/2 years, we are going to close the doors at Dino. The closing date isn't set yet, but it will be sooner rather than later. A matter of weeks and not several months. We have had a great run, and we go out being Washingtonian's Best Restaurant and City Paper's Best Italian in their Readers Poll. We simply are not doing the kind of business necessary to justify keeping our doors open. If you do want a last chance, or several, don't wait. Come in now. Or come in several times while you can.

What's Next?

We have fabulous location we are looking at, and we are working hard to make it a reality. But all the details are not yet signed sealed and delivered. To misquote a famous opera saying, "It's not over 'til the circumferencely gifted lady sings {and her lawyers sends you their final bill!}" If you have an interest in being part of Dino's future in a $ub$tantive fashion, drop us a line. By doing so, you will be keeping Dean busy, short of any free time to cause trouble, and off the streets of Washington DC {which is a good thing!}

During this end period, we will be offering all out specials as usual {holidays excepted!} And if you want to enjoy something really special from our wine cellar, any wine $150+ is 50% off {holidays excepted}.

In any case, Kay and I thank you for the fun times and we will let you know what's in our future. We certainly hope you are included in that future.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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