Nathans Restaraunt, a Georgetown fixture on the corner of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, faces the risk of closure if it cannot reach a mutually agreeable lease with its landlords.

After meeting with a pro bono negotiator, Carol Joynt, the owner of Nathans, said she is confident about the restaurant’s future even though Nathans’ current lease expires on March 31.

“I’m feeling momentarily optimistic that we will be able to work out a new lease,” Joynt said.

Joynt, who has been trying to renegotiate the lease for the past seven years with little success, said that the landlords approached her just before Christmas with the new lease. The landlords’ proposed agreement would increase the rent for Nathans and change other factors that Joynt said are under consideration. Under the terms of the current lease, the restaurant pays for upkeep, maintenance and utilities for the whole building.

“There are many components to the lease. For Nathans, it’s not just the rent, but all of the other expenses involved in operating it,” Joynt said.

The issue over the lease comes at an already difficult time for the restaurant. Though they have not yet found a buyer, the owners of the building are looking to sell the building, according to Joynt. The economic recession has also affected Nathans’ operation.

“The recession makes it hard for every small store in Georgetown,” said Joynt. “Nathans is probably doing a little better than most, but that’s not saying a lot.”

Patronage has declined and the inauguration did not result in the huge crowds Joynt had hoped for.

“There is absolutely a decrease in patronage and this is true for everybody,” Joynt said. “Inauguration was good, but it wasn’t the great windfall that everyone was predicting. Lots of people came, but they weren’t being spendthrifts or drinking heavily.”

Even while busy with running the restaurant, Joynt has pursued her passion for journalism. At Nathans, she hosts The Q&A Cafe, a weekly interview program in which she interviews notables, including journalists, politicians and even Mayor Adrian Fenty. In the past eight years, she has hosted more than 250 noteworthy figures, and audience members typically have lunch while listening to the 45-minute interview. While the Q&A Cafe had been temporarily suspended until the lease was resolved, Joynt said that she has reinstituted the program because she missed it too much. Joynt will interview PBS commentator Gwen Ifill on February 12 and Kimberly Dozier, CBS News correspondent and survivor of a car bombing in Baghdad, on February 25. Joynt is also a writer for the New York Social Diary.

While the staff at Nathans has committed to stay on as long as the restaurant is operational, fears of job loss loom large. Joynt said that, should Nathans have to close, she would probably declare bankruptcy and then seek work in the television or communications industries.

Joynt said that her favorite part about work at Nathans, though, is being around Georgetown and its community members.

“The community is fabulous,” said Joynt. “I get two or three e-mails every day from people I don’t even know who want to help in any way they can. It’s heartwarming and it inspires me enormously to do whatever I have to do to try to keep it going. All I can say is: Just patronize the place.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.