Mono Diner, located on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Georgetown, unofficially opened March 4 following multiple cases of property mishandling, lawsuits and corporate conflicts over the past few decades involving its owner Mohammad Esfahani.
The diner, which aims to recreate the atmosphere of the golden age of Hollywood, remains open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Mono also operates between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. for the remainder of the week and between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. A date has not yet been set for the restaurant’s official opening, even though the diner began serving patrons March 4, according to Harmon.
The diner’s hours are designed to accommodate late-night drinkers and Georgetown University students, according to Mono Diner supervisor Neil Harmon.
“We’re trying to take advantage of Georgetown’s great nightlife,” Harmon said in an interview with The Hoya.
Since opening, the restaurant has also been popular at early morning hours during the week, according to Harmon. Mono Diner distinguishes itself from other Georgetown dining establishments because of its attention to clients and all-day breakfast menu, Harmon said.
Eric Spruill-Jenkins, the former general manager and leading chef of Mono Diner, recently left his positions with reasons for his departure unknown, according to Harmon.
Spruill-Jenkins, formerly a corporate trainer at a since-closed pizza restaurant in Maryland, met Esfahani through a work contact. Despite severing ties with Mono Diner, Spruill-Jenkins still plans to work with Esfahani to create branches of the fast-food branch All About Burger in Chinatown, the Ballston Quarter and Virginia, according to D.C. Eater.
Esfahani previously owned stores on M Street NW, including Mon Cheri Cafe, where Sprinkles now stands, and Tahoga, where Le Pain Quotidien is now located, according to a local news network.
Esfahani leased another property located on Wisconsin Avenue in 2002 as part of his earliest venture into opening a diner in Georgetown. However, the mid-19th century building collapsed shortly after he assumed ownership of the building after he placed a tar machine on the roof. Esfahani was fined $1,000 for the damages, and the diner he had planned to establish at the location was never built, local media reported.
Esfahani publicly denied any responsibility in the building’s collapse, even refuting that he had ownership of building at the time, though city permits indicated these claims were false, according to the Patch.
In 2011, Esfahani leased another address on Wisconsin Avenue NW where he planned to open a franchise of a local burger chain, Z-Burger, according to The Washington Post. The entire back of this building collapsed in November 2011.
Although Esfahani claimed that this damage was caused by a water leak in the property next door, a Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs inspector determined that the collapse was most likely caused by removing too much dirt from underneath the footings of the building’s north and south walls, according to local media.
Following the collapse, Esfahani hired workers to pour a new concrete slab. A Washington, D.C. DCRA inspector, who visited while the work was being performed, found that the contractors were operating without a permit. Esfahani denied that his contractors were performing work illegally and claimed that he had a permit to perform the work, according to local media.
The Esfahani brothers ultimately split with Z-Burger co-founder Peter Tabibian after Tabibian claimed they shut him out of the day-to-day operations of their Z-Burger branch. The dispute ended in a lawsuit, which determined that the Esfahani brothers had to rebrand their restaurants, according to The Washington Post.
While Esfahani attempted to reconstruct 1424 Wisconsin Avenue without a permit in 2011 and again in 2013, no outstanding claims or issues exist that would prevent Mono Diner from operating legally, according to Tim Wilson, spokesperson for the DCRA.
“There’s nothing that should keep them from running a 30-seat restaurant that can fit 37 people,” Wilson said. “They’re all good, unless something changes.”