May 31, 2006
Like an Old Photo, Icon Fades

Madonna, Jack Nicholson, not even Donald Trump could save Icon Restaurant & Lounge, which is to close any day now, report partners Randy Paragary and Chris Nestor.

Since it was made over from the short-lived Sammy Chu's and reopened as Icon a year and a half ago, the restaurant's most eye-catching design element has been large portraits of such icons as Madonna, Nicholson and Trump.

But the rest of the formula just hasn't clicked along the reviving R Street corridor. While the building that houses Icon is big, cleverly designed, relatively comfortable and easily accessible off busy 15th Street, Nestor blames the location for the restaurant's inability to generate sustained business and buzz. "Location, location, location. It didn't pan out as we would have liked," said Nestor in reflecting on the pending closure.

"We had a lot of regulars, but that location is kind of tough," he added. "It's time for someone else to try something different. I wish them luck. It's a weird location."

Whether that someone will be his landlord, Paragary, remains to be seen. Several potential operators have expressed interest in the site, but no deal yet has been struck. "I have some ideas of my own, and may end up doing it," said Paragary. If he runs it, the restaurant will be targeted more toward people who work and live in the immediate neighborhood, said Paragary. He isn't likely to create another destination restaurant like Sammy Chu's. If that sounds like the next incarnation could be a sports bar, Paragary only is saying that he's open to all sorts of options.

Nestor, meanwhile, will continue to operate his more successful restaurant, Ink Eats and Drinks, at 28th and N. He also isn't ruling out another new restaurant or two. "I'm definitely not out of the game. This is just a small minor setback," said Nestor. "I’m still young in this business, and I plan to stay in it a long time."

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