Yes, it’s true, says longtime owner Hossein Shirvani, that he and the landlord are deep in lease talks over the future of The Guards. They’re both, he says, looking for someone to take over the space.
In other words, The Guards, the historic Georgetown restaurant that once was the playground of celebrities and politicians alike, is officially closed.
“It’s just my decision not to sign a new lease,” says Shirvani, claiming business is still good in Georgetown and the rent affordable. “We need to pass on the torch. You know what I mean? We need to get new blood in there.”
Shirvani says he’s 60 years old now and needs to take a break from the restaurant business. He’s owned The Guards since 1982 and has worked there since 1971 when he was a part-time line cook at the restaurant. “Basically, I’m a little burned out,” he says. “I need to take some time off.”
The owner also has a young wife, Valerie Shirvani, 25, who is applying to the University of Florida, with the idea of eventually becoming a pediatric doctor. The couple plans to move south soon.
Shirvani hopes that whoever assumes the space will retain The Guards name and its ambiance, including its dining room, which was designed to resemble a ship. The new owner would certainly have plenty of history to fall back on. The Guards opened in 1966 and has, thanks to its proximity to the Four Seasons Hotel, played host to the likes of Frank Sinatra and King Hussein of Jordan.
“From Sylvester Stallone to John Travolta, I served all,” Shirvani says. “They would come in after hours. . .We had a great time.”
One of Shirvani’s best memories is the night that Elton John came to the downstairs Griffin Room and caught a glimpse of the massive fireplace mantel hard-carved to look like a griffin. “He fell in love with that piece,” Shirvani remembers. “He said, ‘I’ll give you $100,000 for that piece.’” The owner declined the offer.
“It was one of the most incredibly fun places of all time,” Cullen says. “You used to run into all sorts of celebrities. . .You’d get all the bands that were staying at the Four Seasons.”
Both Shirvani and Cullen say the clientele had changed over the years, with a younger and sometimes rougher crowd taking over on the weekends. The Guards had some run ins with the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration over fights and security. “The last two years, we’ve been having a little bit of a problem,” Shirvani says about the crowds. “They were a little bit more hostile than before.”
“It used to be one of the coolest places in D.C.,” Cullen says. “It’s a shame that it died an ignominious death.”