Chef and restaurateur Mike Isabella declared earlier this month that his sprawling Isabella Eatery at Tysons Galleria wasn’t closing. But as of 3 p.m. on Friday, August 24, the chef’s nine-month-old mall food hall has served its last sangria and pizza.
Two anonymous restaurant employees who signed NDAs told the Washington Post that Isabella Eatery was going to shut down on Sunday. The restaurateur told the Post that he has a meeting with the landlord today but says that his Tysons outpost is still open. “I’m still negotiating with the landlord,” Isabella told the Post. “Everything is day-to-day. We’re still open, and we’re still fighting. That’s the mentality.”
Isabella, who was embroiled this year in a high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit, told Washingtonian in the beginning of August: “Everything was great. Until some accusations came out, and sales dropped a lot.”
An anonymous WaPo source concurred: “After the whole sexual harassment [lawsuit] thing, things started slowly going down,” the source told the Post, saying, “Since then, no one wanted to be associated with Mike Isabella, whether [the accusations] were true or not.” The sprawling Isabella Eatery’s been slowly paring down its menus and offerings over the course of the summer.
Eater reached out to Isabella’s PR and will update this post as necessary.
Update: Mike Isabella confirmed with the Washingtonian that he is indeed closing the restaurant, and it’s happening today. He sent a lengthy statement that reads in part:
“Perhaps Isabella Eatery missed the mark because I became too impressed with myself and thought I make anything work. Perhaps it was because of the way I presented our offerings at Tysons Galleria. Perhaps the space was too grand or perhaps the dining public was just not as excited as we were about a ‘restaurant emporium’ like the one we tried to provide. Whatever the reasons, we gave it our best shot.”
Read Isabella’s entire statement here.
Eater has learned Isabella Eatery staff paychecks were bouncing on Friday, August 24, according to an MIC employee who recently parted ways with the company. Barricades were already going up at the cavernous food hall on Friday, and extra security was also being called in to quell the chaotic situation.
It turns out the bulk of Isabella Eatery’s employees were kept in the dark about its potential closure and only found out about its precarious state via this month’s explosive Washingtonian article that exposed its troubles.
“When Mike talked to [Washingtonian reporters] Anna [Spiegel] and Jessica [Sidman] that was just horrible for morale,” according to Eater’s source.
Since the article appeared, resignation notices “started flowing in,” he says, while other employees started not showing up to work at all.
“It’s been a downward spiral,” he says.
The mall’s landlord is currently talking to other potential tenants to take over the 41,000-square-foot space, such as existing food court entities. The food hall, stocked with months-old kitchen equipment, is pretty much turnkey ready for another concessions operation to slide in.
“I don’t know who the hell wants all that. I think they’re going to break it up into sections,” he says.
Along with the fallout from Isabella’s scandal this year, the food court suffered from a layout that customers considered “too confusing and big,” he says, adding that slower summer months contributed to a strain on business.
At its height, Isabella Eatery employed around 700 people. Some displaced employees have since moved over to other Isabella locations, but “a lot of people have lost their jobs,” he says, adding he feels most for “the line cook who can’t pay their rent.”
- Mike Isabella Is Closing His Mega Tysons Corner Food Hall Today [Washingtonian]
- Employees say Mike Isabella’s high-profile food hall is closing Sunday. Isabella says he’s trying to save it. [EDC]
- Mike Isabella on His Food Hall: ‘We’re Not Closing, It’s Been a Slow Summer’ [EDC]
- Gargantuan Isabella Eatery Is Confusing Customers [EDC]
- Isabella Eatery Manager Sues Mike Isabella for Sexual Harassment [EDC]