Edgy bathrooms are kind of a trend in D.C., found in places ranging from Estadio to B Too. Le Diplomate, with its wallpaper of borderline pornographic vintage photographs, is no exception. And for some reason, customers can't keep their hands off the photos. To the point that they they peel them off and try to take them home.
"Every thirty days, [the damage] gets noticeable," said general manager William Washington. The practice becomes practically an epidemic during brunch service, he says — every hour, a staff member has to go in and check to see if customers have been removing or damaging the photos. Sometimes thieves are successful in removing them; other times they just damage the wallpaper. Some even escape to the bathroom multiple times during a dinner service and try to gradually peel away their desired photo, treating it almost like a project. And the women's bathroom is even more prone to damage than the men's.
The restaurant has to order new photos to fix the bathrooms every three or four months, Washington says. They keep the vintage magazines in the restaurant's safe and cut out photos as needed. He declined to specify how much the restaurant spends on the replacement photos but calls it "the cost of doing business." It's all part of his job at Le Diplomate. "Fixing tables, changing lightbulbs, replacing porn," he said with a laugh.
Washington has seen his share of stolen restaurant items during his time in the industry, whether it be sterling silver salt and pepper shakers during his time in New York, or the green charger plates at The Inn at Little Washington (which retail from $150-$400 in the hotel's gift shop). Women would try to sneak them into their purses when he worked there, he says. He has tried to greet each incident, whether at The Inn or Le Diplomate, with humor — he'll thank a bathroom guest caught in the act for trying to "fix" the wallpaper, or he would ask a guest at the Inn if they would like him to "wrap that up for you" if he saw them trying to make off with a plate.
Though the photos are the most frequently stolen item at Le Diplomate, there have been a few other thievery attempts over the restaurant's brief history. Washington said one man walked in, lifted a baguette from the restaurant and promptly left. Then he tried it again the very next day. Teens have raced by the patio on skateboards and lifted shrimp from guest's plates. The restaurant's statue of Maurice-François Garin, the winner of the First Tour de France, at the hostess stand also had its goggles lifted once — and returned a week later. A customer told the restaurant, "I found them in my car."
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