The Golden Table Restaurant -- once Martha Mitchell's favorite watering hole and now the culinary haunt of senators, ambassadors and State Department officials from across the street -- has been sold to a group of Iranians, who are represented by an Iranian who was convicted this year in connection with a scheme to smuggle $32 million worth of heroin into the Washington area.
Ronald Rich, former part-owner of the estaurant with his father. Seymour, said yesterday that the new operator of the restaurant is Mohammed (Mike) Roshan.
Roshan, 34, is an Iraninan national who was arrested with two other men last February and charged with conspiring to import and distribute heroin. At the time, U.S. officials said the seized Iranian heroin had the highest level of purity and was the largest quantity of the drug ever confiscated in the United States.
Roshan was convicted of distributing one-half pound of heroin and sentenced to two years in prison last May. He is free on bond pending an appeal of his conviction.
"I never bothered to get involved with his [roshan's] politics," Ronald Rich said. "He is planning to keep the same name of the restaurant and the same menu. It's been a relatively smooth changeover."
"I'm a little shocked," said retired State Department personnel administrator Mary Ashley, who was lunching at the restaurant yesterday. "I don't think many people are aware of it."
Former Senate Republican leader Hugh Scott, whose autographed picture hangs on the restaurant wall next to former President Gerald R. Ford, Vice President-elect George Bush, Pearl Bailey and Sen. Robert Dole (R-kan.), said, "It would bother me if they were pro-Khomeini [the Ayatollah Khomeini, ruler of Iran], but I would not make a judgement until I know."
One restaurant employe, who asked not to be identified, said, "It's really funny. Some of the State Department people are coming in with their 'Free the Hostages' buttons. I guess they don't know.
Other patrons, the employe said, are aware of the new ownership and some have started boycotting the restaurant, located in the Columbia Plaza Apartment complex at 528 23rd Street NW., one block from the State Department.
Roshan, a dapper man with a dark mustache and a diamond pinky ring, said yesterday that he is "not into politics."
Sources in the real estate brokerage business said Ronald and Seymour Rich sold the Golden Table to Roshan last Thursday for approximately $300,000. However, Roshan's name is not listed on any official papers.
The restaurant's liquor license was issued to Fate Inc. The names listed under the corporation are Manoocher Fateh, Sorosh Fateh and Patricia Spisso, former resident manager of the Columbia Plaza Apartments.
A spokesman for the Alcoholic Beverge Control Board said yesterday the application has not yet been aproved. "We are investigating whether some of the information may not be correct on the application," the spokesman said.
Roshan's criminal conviction would bar him from receiving such a license, the spokesman added.
Seymour Rich said yesterday he met Roshan last month, and that the young Iranian was "helping him out" while his other manager was out of town. However, Rich could not explain why the restaurant's business cards, piled on a table near the entrance, listed only one name: Mike Roshan.
Rich said he was unaware of Roshan's criminal record.
After his conviction, Roshan was freed on $200,000 bond. One law enforcement source said yesterday that Roshan posted that bond in cash. When his appeal was announced, the judge lowered the bond to a minimal amount.
"I knew he was buying a restaurant, but I didn't know the name," Roshan's New York attorney, Al Levine, said Yesterday.
Roshan was arrested last February as a result of a six-month undercover investigation by Drug Enforcement Administration agents who posed as wealthy drug buyers from New York with ties to organized crime. The other men arrested were Sharokh Michael Bakhtiar, son and cousin of two of the highest ranking officials under the deposed shah of Iran, and Reza Mianegaz, an Iranian citizen. At the time, Roshn was the owner of the West End Restaurant at 915 21st St, which he subsequently sold.
According to affidavits filed in support of search warrants at the time of the arrests, Roshan was described as a "low-level, high quality heroin smuggler and distributor . . . during the latter years of the shah's regime" in Iran.
Described in 1970 as an "administration hideaway," the Golden Table has been owned by the Riches for the last 12 years.It was a favorite of Martha Mitchell's because of its proximity to the Watergate, where she and her husband, then-Attorney General John N. Mitchell, lived.
It was also a favorite of John Warner, now the Republican U.S. Senator from Virginia, when he headed the Bicentennial Commission.
On one wall is a photograph of Warner with the inscription. "To the Golden Table Staff: Within these 'hallowed halls' were made some of the decisions which enabled America to successfully plan its Bicentennial. We thank you."