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Xavier Cervera Considering Sale of Nine Restaurants

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Restaurateur Xavier Cervera, who owns nine dining outposts on Capitol Hill, including the neighborhood institution Hawk and Dove, said he is considering an offer from a Boston-based private equity group to buy all of his restaurant properties.

"I've received a serious offer, and it's a tough decision," Cervera said. "With certain ventures you get to a point where you don't need the money, but it's hard to turn certain offers down. There are a lot of considerations that I have to think about."

Cervera would not comment on any specific details of the deal or the value of the offer. But, he did say that the potential buyer has years of experience in the restaurant and service industry and would be interested in making its first foray into the Washington, DC market.

"This is a professional offer coming from people with great reputations, and they have assets to build the company more," he said. "They love the Capitol Hill market, and I have been forthcoming with them, letting them take a look at me," he said.

In the last six months, Cervera has received approximately a half-dozen offers from interested buyers, but, he said, the Boston group made the most interesting offer. A decision could come in the next two to four weeks, Cervera said.

There are approximately 340 people working at the nine restaurant properties. This includes restaurant and construction staff at some of his latest projects. Currently, six Capitol Hill restaurants are open: Boxcar Tavern, The Chesapeake Room, Lola's Barracks Bar & Grill, Molly Malone's, Pacifico and Senart's Oyster & Chop House. In three weeks, Cervera will open his seventh restaurant, Park Tavern and next month, he plans to reopen the Hawk and Dove after more than a year of extended renovations. Meanwhile, construction continues on his ninth restaurant, Willie's Brew and Que, slated to open in the historic Boilermaker Building on the Southeast Waterfront. Cervera estimates that his business will bring in approximately $24-25 million in revenue after the ninth restaurant opens.

If he were to accept the deal, Cervera said, all staff would remain and plans would continue on the three new restaurants. Cervera would also remain a part of the company too, working as a consultant and founder.

Buyers have been interested particularly because of his restaurants' long-term lease agreements, he said. Each restaurant has a 25-year lease signed and that's rare for a business with multiple holdings, he said. He says he remains committed to the area regardless of what happens.

"It doesn't stop me from developing more venues. I'm from here, this is where I grew-up and I've intermittently come back my whole life," he said. "This business and the staff is like my family, many of them have been with me for years, and it's a very difficult decision."

—Tim Ebner

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