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Stalled Wharf Restaurant Florentijn Is Being Shopped Around to Other Prospects

Aspiring restaurateur Jan Van Haute must move fast if he wants to “finish what he started”

Belgian restaurant Florentijn remains boarded up, same as it was in October 2017.
Warren Rojas/Eater DC

The deal makers behind the evolving Wharf complex remain open to having chef Jan Van Haute do whatever it takes to open long overdue Belgian restaurant Florentijn. But they’re also moving forward with plan B: making the corner lot on entertainment-centric Pearl Street available to other hospitality professionals who could see through to completion alternate ventures.

Van Haute was issued a legal summons last month that used terms including “eviction” and “sued for possession of the premises you occupy.” A court date is currently set for Monday, April 30. Eater has repeatedly reached out to Van Haute for comment about the lawsuit and his plans for Florentijn but has never heard back.

“Jan has been given the opportunity to finish what he started,” John Asadoorian, the real estate broker who recruited many of the chefs who’ve planted new restaurants along the southwest waterfront, says of the latitude the owners of the Wharf have shown Van Haute to date.

“Bottom line is: he had funding to commit and start construction. And then he got to a point where the money stopped,” Asadoorian says.

Florentijn was originally scheduled to open in October 2017. That target date was later moved to January 2018. As it stands now, the Wharf will reclaim possession of the property following the court appearance at the end of the month. Asadoorian says the landlord has begun marketing the space to potential takers — although finding a suitable replacement could delay things even further.

“Getting another tenant takes time,” he says — particularly if a new client decides it would need to demolish everything Van Haute has been piecing together since last fall.

Per Asadoorian, Van Haute has actually moved fairly far along in terms of the buildout. He says the best possible scenario is that Van Haute scrapes together enough money to cross the finish line, and Florentijn joins the restaurant-packed Wharf as planned. But that now needs to happen on the landlord’s timetable, not Van Haute’s.

“Management tried to bridge the gap. But it can’t wait forever,” Asadoorian says.