D.C. chef and Top Chef alum Mike Isabella filed for bankruptcy today, the Washington Post reports. It’s the latest consequence to hit the chef’s restaurant group since a former employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in March 2018. In April, Isabella closed Requin Brasserie in the Mosaic District. In June, he shuttered pizza restaurant Graffiato in Richmond, Virginia, and the next month, he closed his first Graffiato restaurant in D.C. Finally, in August, Isabella’s Virginia food emporium Isabella Eatery closed, just nine months after it opened.
Isabella hopes that filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy will bring some stability back to his beleaguered restaurant group. “The bankruptcy is a tool for me to basically restructure my finances and have an opportunity for a fresh start,” he told the Washington Post.
At its peak, Mike Isabella Concepts included more than a dozen restaurants and a deal with the Washington Nationals. But the group has shrunk considerably in just the past year, and the sexual harassment suit, which was settled in May for an undisclosed sum, isn’t the only legal trouble to befall it. Isabella’s landlords at Requin Brasserie, Graffiato, and Kapnos Taverna all sued for unpaid rent.
Isabella references the “bad press” — including Eater, which removed Isabella restaurants from maps — as to blame for the financial strain. “In Washington, D.C., March, April and May are your three busiest months of the year. Unfortunately, I had some negative press toward me. I lost a lot of that business that carries me through the summer, in all my restaurants,” he said in the Post.
Isabella and his executives will remain in control of the remaining restaurants through the bankruptcy proceedings. And the chef, who agreed to institute sexual harassment training at his restaurants following that initial lawsuit, acknowledges that he has more than the restaurants’ finances to fix. “I want to repair the relationships with my purveyors, my landlords, my staff,” he told the Post. “I want to focus on what we do, and that’s offering great experiences. That’s part of the restructuring. Obviously, there’s a little bleeding going on. We want to stop the bleeding.”