Financing a Favorite Local Restaurant Chain
Oct 11, 2013
In 1970, the owners of a neighborhood saloon in Washington, D.C., attended a tax auction in peak summer heat hoping to buy some beer steins. Stuart Davidson and John Laytham walked away the proud owners of a run-down restaurant in a rough neighborhood. They paid $14,000 for the Old Ebbitt Grill, which is a block from the White House and the fifth busiest restaurant in the United States. It’s the centerpiece of Clyde’s Restaurant Group, which owns 14 properties in the Washington, D.C., area and ranks among the most successful privately owned restaurant groups in the nation.
The group celebrated 50 years in 2013. It all started in 1963, when Davidson opened Clyde’s in Georgetown. The success of the saloon, a mainstay of the posh shopping district, prompted the owner and his partner to test concepts in the suburbs. The Clyde’s Restaurant Group opened “American bars and restaurants” in Columbia, Md., and Tyson’s Corner, Va., before returning to Georgetown in 1985 to open a fine dining restaurant, a watering hole for Georgetown University students and a jazz club – 1789 Restaurant, The Tombs and F. Scott’s, respectively.
Each property serves up the food, atmosphere and value that have become signatures of the Clyde’s brand. “Our restaurants are places where everyone feels comfortable – a guest in a t-shirt next to a guest in a tuxedo and everyone feels right,” said Jeff Owens, CFO. That formula has propelled the success of every Clyde’s property; none have closed.
The group opened five more locations in Maryland and Virginia during the 1990s, including an Italian restaurant and a lodge adjacent to a nature reserve. In 2005, the Clyde’s Restaurant Group was approached by developers working to gentrify the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. They wanted Clyde’s to be the anchor establishment that would attract other business to the area. Today, Clyde’s Gallery Place sits in the middle of the 7th Street corridor, which is home to restaurants and bars, retail stores, and a major sports and music venue. Clyde’s opened another, suburban property in 2006.
The restaurant group continues to test new concepts, fueled by their track record of success. The most radical to date, The Hamilton, is a two-level restaurant and music venue downtown, which created 400 new jobs. Its opening in 2011 was financed by Bank of America, along with the three properties that preceded it.
The connection between these two Washington, D.C., institutions dates back to 1976. Decades later, the bank is as committed as ever to backing business like Clyde’s that represent past, present and future success in the District.