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Mike Isabella’s Empire Is Done

The D.C. chef filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy today, ending a year of headlines following #MeToo allegations

Mike Isabella
The Washington Post/Getty Images
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

With a D.C. restaurant empire in shambles following #MeToo allegations and a sexual harassment lawsuit that has been settled, Mike Isabella pulled the plug on his businesses today, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, reports the Washingtonian. The empire should close by December 27 as its assets will be liquified to pay outstanding debts; the full shutdown follows previous announcements and shutters earlier this year that saw the closures of Kapnos Taverna, the chef’s food stalls at Nationals Park, and the multi-concept Isabella Eatery. Isabella filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, telling the Washington Post at the time that “the bankruptcy is a tool for me to basically restructure my finances and have an opportunity for a fresh start.”

The latest Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing blamed bad press for the business’s failure: “Under the present circumstances,” Isabella wrote, “I am facing the sad realization that I no longer believe that any restaurant associated with my name can recover from the negative press that has enveloped me for nearly the entirety of 2018.”

As the Washingtonian points out, Isabella is the first chef to see his businesses totally gutted following a #MeToo scandal. It’s worth noting, however, that Isabella also refused to “step away” (i.e., staying out of the public eye and out of the restaurants completely, but still earning a paycheck) as chefs like John Besh and Mario Batali did after facing claims of sexual misconduct. It’s hard to say what the future of his well-liked restaurant brands like Kapnos and Graffiato would have been had he stepped away or even divested entirely.

Meanwhile, Isabella’s business partners Nick and George Pagonis apparently still plan on working in D.C. hospitality. Named in the now-settled sexual harassment lawsuit, the men now seem to be distancing themselves from Isabella. “Despite the legal developments, Nick and George Pagonis continue to work hard to provide their clientele a first rate dining experience,” said their lawyer in a statement. “I am working very hard to insure this will continue in the DC Metropolitan Area for years to come.”

Correction: Eater omitted to note that two restaurants were not included in the filing: Kapnos Kouzina in Bethesda and Requin at the Wharf in D.C., the futures of which are unclear.

Mike Isabella’s Restaurant Group Is Going Out of Business [The Washingtonian]