Nathans Keeps an Eye on Closing Time

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Another piece of Georgetown is headed for the history books. For 37 years, Nathans restaurant has occupied a prime piece of real estate at Wisconsin and M -- but its days are numbered. Owner Carol Joynt has been telling customers her lease runs out in April 2009 and the space will probably go to a big chain retailer.

No beef with her landlords (who she says have been "really good" to her) for looking at other options. "Every landlord in Georgetown understandably has stars in their eyes with the retail invasion," she said yesterday. But Joynt decries the "full-scale dumbing-down of our village" fueled by high rents that drive out small businesses and turn historic streets into a mall. "One day Georgetowners will wake up and go, 'What happened?' and it will be too late," she opined on her blog, Diary of a Mad Saloon Owner.

Nathans was opened in 1969 by Joynt's late husband, Howard . The well-connected former newswoman inherited the place in 1997, along with a huge IRS problem, and struggled to keep to the doors open with rent of $240,000 a year, plus taxes and insurance. Now the Heon family, which has owned the building for decades, is looking to upgrade -- and has already received unsolicited offers, says lawyer Andrew Oehmann. "As a practical matter, the building needs to be brought back to one major tenant" -- someone who can use all four stories, he says.

Location, location, location. Nathan's corner is "seen by retailers as the epicenter of Georgetown," says Richard Levy , who owns dozens of commercial properties in the neighborhood. He admires Joynt for surviving all these years, but says the reality is that Georgetown is changing to an upscale urban market that makes it too expensive for most restaurants to operate profitably.

Joynt has plenty of plans for her long goodbye: Her weekly newsmaker lunches will continue and she's having a 10th- anniversary party in February. Perhaps Nathans will find a new home. "We can have a lot of fun," she says.


ยท Michael York, the British actor who epitomized 1970s suave (now best known as spoofy spymaster Basil Exposition in the "Austin Powers" flicks), touring the International Spy Museum Saturday with former Lockheed Martin chairman Norm Augustine and members of the super-elite Bohemian Club, in town for some super-secret dinner. York wore a tan suit with a double-vented back and a powder blue tie.


Buyers: Olaf and Christin Kolzig

Price: $3.42 million

Details: The veteran Capitals goalie and his wife celebrated his two-year contract extension by buying a 6,600-square-foot, two-fireplace home off River Road in Potomac recently. It's a trade-up from the Crownsville place they sold for $1 million just before the '04-05 lockout, when the now 36-year-old star went off to coach a junior team in Washington state and play in Germany. With a recent raise to $5.45 million a year, the highest-paid Cap shouldn't have trouble meeting that mortgage.


"Please dress as if you are going to the White House or an important interview. Flip-flops, however popular they may be, are not appropriate for diplomatic functions. . . . Please remember to take small portions until everyone has had a taste of everything. It is unfair to those at the end of the line if they can't taste each item."

-- Etiquette warning in the Junior League of Washington's recent newsletter regarding an upcoming luncheon at the Saudi ambassador's residence. Kids these days!

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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