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Mendocino Grille Could Re-Open by Mid-June

After abruptly closing in February, Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar is under new-ish ownership and could re-open as soon as June.

, once a Georgetown neighborhood favorite for California wine and cuisine, could re-open as soon as June. The restaurant when the Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) revoked the sales tax certificate for the second time on Feb. 4. for failure to pay some $80,000 in sales taxes.

Mendocino began as a collaboration between restaurateurs Eli Hengst and Jared Rager, who owned the restaurant from 2003-2008. The partners will once again take over the M Street restaurant and hope to open in mid-June.

In 2009, Troy Bock, Mendocino's long-time manager, took over as owner through his company West Coast Concepts. Rager and Hengst remained involved only as guarantors of the lease, which Bock and his company assumed.

During Bock's ownership, the restaurant failed to pay thousands of dollars in sales tax, according to the OTR.

"The liability (mostly sales tax) as it relates to the owner is still outstanding," said Natalie Wilson from OTR in an email.

Hengst explained that their lawyers worked with the city "to resolve the situation left by Troy Bock and his company."

Bock will no longer be involved in the restaurant as Hengst and Rager once again assume ownership.

The entity will still be called Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar, but it will have a different menu with a lower price point and a variety of wine and beer offerings.

Rager and Hengst are well-known throughout DC for other area projects including Sonoma, a wine bar on Capitol Hill, Blue Ridge in Glover Park, and Redwood in Bethesda.

The changes to Mendocino reflect the style of their other projects and will continue their "long-standing commitment to using seasonal mid-Atlantic ingredients," said Hengst.

So far the business partners have begun preliminary staff interviews and are working on the menu.

"We expect appetizers to range from  $7-12 and entrees from $16-26," explained Hengst. 

A slight shift from the previous iteration, the "new" Mendocino will feature both American and Italian wines by the glass and will have an estimated 16-20 options, ranging in price from $8-19 a glass. 

"We're also adding a selection of about 16 craft beers highlighting breweries from California and the Pacific Northwest." There will also be happy hour specials on both wine and beer.

While the re-opening of Mendocino will be welcomed by Georgetowners, the move means a step back for neighbors in Glover Park. Plans to reinvent Blue Ridge in the neighborhood just north of Georgetown have slowed.

"We have had to divert substantial time and financial resources to Mendocino," explained Hengst.

So, should you plan to make reservations for Mendocino Grille some time soon?

"The mid-June date is far from certain due to a handful of remaining issues left by the previous ownership, but we're moving everything forward as quickly as possible," said Hengst.

*Editors Note: Shaun Courtney was employed at Mendocino Grille from 2006-2008.

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