The long-shuttered Buddha Bar finally auctioned off all of its contents last week, including the 12 foot iconic Buddha statue that served as a symbol of sorts for the restaurant. The auction came about two years after the restaurant and nightclub abruptly closed in the Mt. Vernon Triangle neighbohrhood.
So who buys a giant Buddha statue, anyway? The answer is David Chung, a restaurant owner and attorney who attended last Thursday's tour of the former restaurant space. Chung, who was traveling in Korea this week, answered some questions via email about his purchase (looks like the final price was $1,526, after 19 bids, according to the auction site).
How'd you find out about the auction?
My business partner first alerted me about the auction. When The Washington Post article came out regarding the move out challenges the Buddha was going to pose, I noticed a lot of chatter on Facebook regarding the statue. For example, a friend of mine started a campaign of collecting money for the Buddha. That's when I realized, okay this thing is in demand.
Are you connected to the restaurant industry at all?
Yes, I'm an owner of the following venues: Capitale, George, Mason Inn and Park View Patio; however my background is in law, as I've been a licensed member of the other "bar" for many years.
Did you go to see the Buddha statue in person before purchasing it?
Yes, before leaving for Miami on the same day, I stopped by to take a look at it. Once I realized how mammoth it was, I knew then where its new home would eventually be - Terra Veritatis, the Miami estate of local businessman Bill Dean.
Why'd you decide to buy it?
I decided to buy it for many reasons. First, I was fortunate enough to observe first hand the affect it had on people in other parts of the world, when I saw an exact replica last summer at the Buddha Bar in Monaco. Almost every person [and] patron stopped to take a photo with it. Second, for one of my closest friends, I've always wanted to buy Bill a house-warming gift, but it's hard to buy something for a man that can buy anything; well, the Buddha solved that problem. Finally, and I believe this is the real reason why the Buddha is such an attraction — no matter our backgrounds or religion we all want the same thing — kindness, clarity and insight (Dalai Lama). Bill is a large benefactor of the Dalai Lama and my ancestors were Buddhists, so with the completion of his Miami estate, it all just came together. For decades ahead this Buddha will bless Terra Veritatis, be symbolic of Bill's generosity to the world and in turn bless the thousands of guests that it will come into contact with.
How big was the investment, and did you get the sense there was a lot of interest?
Let's just say the Buddha was a steal because the real money is carefully taking it apart and transporting it to its eventual home. [As for interest], The Washington Post stirred the pot and then Facebook, as usual, took it from there.
Had you been to Buddha Bar when it was open? What did you think of the place?
Yes, I went when it first opened, ironically with Bill. I was never a big fan. Having locations in Paris, Monaco and all throughout Europe, this outside conglomerate came into Washington with the attitude that they were going to take over and put the smaller guys out of business. They never reached out to the local owners as a courtesy and acted as though their stuff didn't stink. No one likes arrogance. Grabbing their Buddha and giving it a proper home is what they get when you mess with Washington.
How are you getting the Buddha out of the building and to its destination?
I have commissioned a local company, Swatchroom, because there's only one person I would trust to do this project - Maggie O'Neill. It was through her vision and brilliance that Capitale was born. K Street lounge was an iconic nightclub in Washington, DC for many years. Once all by itself on K Street, it is single-handedly responsible for creating today's booming K Street nightlife corridor. I challenged Maggie to completely redo it and bring forth a brand new concept that would make people forget about K Street Lounge and she did it with flying colors.
· Buddha Bar Auction [Rasmus]
· All Previous Buddha Bar Coverage [-EDC-]