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Landlord Sues Mike Isabella’s DC Graffiato for Unpaid Rent

Douglas Development has also listed the Chinatown property for lease

Mike Isabella celebrates the five year anniversary of his first restaurant, Graffiato. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Two Mike Isabella restaurants have closed in recent months, and now it looks like a third could be in danger. The landlord of Graffiato, Isabella’s first eatery, is suing for more than $28,000 in alleged unpaid rent and other fees. Douglas Development has also listed the Chinatown property for lease, and sent out an email blast promoting the listing this morning.

“Don’t know what your talking about,” Isabella said via e-mail about the eviction lawsuit, which was filed in DC court on June 29. Isabella has not yet responded to a request for comment since Washingtonian sent him a copy of the complaint.

Two of Isabella’s other restaurants—Requin Brasserie in the Mosaic District and Graffiato in Richmond—recently closed. The landlord of Requin Brasserie, which shuttered in April, is suing Mike Isabella Concepts for more than $700,000 in alleged unpaid rent and other fees, the Washington Business Journal reported. The Richmond outpost of Graffiato closed in June. MIC’s Director of Operations told employees in an email that repair costs for a broken heating and cooling system became “insurmountable.”

At the time, Isabella told Washingtonian that he got an offer to keep the Richmond restaurant open but ultimately didn’t take it. “I want to be a part of my restaurants and be there, and I can’t,” he said. “Every other of my restaurants is like 20 minutes away. It’s a restaurant I can keep it open, but I chose not to. Isabella said he was turning his attention to working in the kitchen of his DC Graffiato.

The shadow hanging over it all is a now-settled lawsuit from former employee Chloe Caras that accused Isabella and his business partners of creating a toxic work environment that allegedly included unwanted touching, vulgar comments, and using non-disclosure agreements to prevent employees from speaking out about bad behavior. Isabella denied wrongdoing and any nefarious intent of the NDAs. The financial terms of the settlement agreement were not disclosed.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.