It's been about a week and a half since water damage at the Latham Hotel forced Michel Richard's Citronelle to close for the foreseeable future. There wasn't all that much information available immediately — such as what caused the water damage, whether it was related to the derecho storm and when the four-star jewel might reopen. Now that things have calmed down, here are eight things to know about Citronelle's temporary shutter — as well as what happened to La Madeleine, which was also a casualty in this whole mess.
What caused the shutter: Though it was initially speculated that recent storms might have had something to do with the water damage cited by the hotel as it closed, Citronelle rep Mel Davis says the damage wasn't recent. But engineers apparently have yet to determine the cause.
The tick-tock that led to the shutter: Chris Daly, a rep for Interstate Hotels and Resorts, explains: "We had noticed some water damage so last Wednesday we had an engineering team in. They provided a report which recognized the water damage and it was determined at that point that the water damage was extensive enough that we were going to take the proactive move to close down the hotel to both deal with the water damage and to make some capital improvements moving forward. With that in mind we closed the hotel and the restaurant, I believe it was Thursday. So the last guests left Thursday afternoon."
DC city inspectors were involved: Though La Madeleine's regional director of operations Kenny Scales says he believes the DC government forced the building to close, Daly says the Latham called in the DC inspectors as a courtesy as they were getting ready to close, adding, "This was a self decision, not an outside decision by any stretch of the imagination."
What happened at Citronelle: The Citronelle team found out about the shutter on the day of, according to Davis. They called all their reservations and made calls to other restaurants to help guests relocate dinner plans.
What will happen to Citronelle employees: Per Davis: "We've got a lot of great relationships with other restaurants in the city and the restaurant community has been great about helping, saying, 'If we've got positions open and we can take your staff temporarily, that would be great.' Really reaching out and being great about it." No word on who has been relocated where, though.
Michel Richard's plans: The French chef has long been looking to write a cookbook based on his other DC restaurant Central, so he plans to take advantage of this situation to get that project rolling, though he doesn't have a book deal yet.
What's happening to La Madeleine: Scales tells Eater that La Madeleine is working on moving all of their employees to other regional locations in an effort to NOT contribute to unemployment numbers. As for reopening: "I wish I could tell you we're going to open next week, but I'd be lying to you if I told you that. If I told you it'd be next month, I'd be telling you another story. I just don't have the answer right now. It's all based on what happened with the hotel and its structural issue."
The next step for the Latham: The hotel is bringing in additional engineers to figure out what caused the water damage and assess the extent of it all. Per Daly: "As a result, we're hoping that we're going to be closed about six months. Could be longer. But again, as of this point, we are hopeful for the first quarter of next year, 2013."
[Photo: R. Lopez]