Clyde's Restaurant Group
Clyde's Restaurant Group is a private company that, as of 2012, owns and operates 14 restaurants in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Founded in 1963 to take advantage of a change in the district's liquor laws, it pioneered a number of changes in the way restaurants in the district operated. In 1970, it purchased the oldest restaurant in the district, Old Ebbitt Grill. The company has since expanded its namesake "Clyde's" restaurant into a small chain, as well as opened and purchased other restaurants.
On August 12, 1963, investment banker Stuart Davidson opened Clyde's of Georgetown. For many decades, hard liquor could be served in the District of Columbia only to patrons seated at tables. President John F. Kennedy signed legislation in May 1962 allowing liquor to be sold to patrons standing up. When no other restaurant/bar opened in the district, Davidson decided to enter the restaurant business. Clyde's opened in a former biker bar known as the B&J Restaurant. When B&J lost its lease after one too many brawls occurred there, Davidson rented the two front rooms of the building and established Clyde's there. The oak bar was retained, and the decor changed to an assortment of oddities. It was the first restaurant in Georgetown, the first bar/restaurant in Georgetown to open on a Sunday, the first restaurant in Georgetown to serve brunch, and the first restaurant in Georgetown to hire women as waiters. Georgetown University student John Laytham, began working at Clyde's as a busboy six months after it opened. Although he never graduated from the university, in 1968 Laytham became the restaurant's general manager. In 1970, Davidson asked Laytham to join him as a partner in Clyde's (giving him 20 percent of the ownership).
The 1976 hit song "Afternoon Delight" by Starland Vocal Band was inspired by the spicy happy hour menu at Clyde's of Georgetown. Writer Bill Danoff ate at Clyde's one afternoon, then came home and told his wife that "afternoon delight" should really refer to sexual intercourse. (The song only vaguely hints at sex.)
In 1970, Davidson and Laytham purchased the Old Ebbitt Grill, which originally opened in 1856. In December 1985, Clyde's Restaurant Group purchased from founder Richard J. McCooey three notable D.C. drinking and dining establishments: The Tombs, 1789 Restaurant, and F. Scott's. Clyde's Restaurant Group subsequently opened three more locations under the "Clyde's" name in Columbia, Maryland (1975); Tysons Corner, Virginia (1980); Reston, Virginia (1991); Chevy Chase, Maryland (1995); Alexandria, Virginia (1998); and Gallery Place in Washington, D.C. These restaurants cater to a more affluent clientele. F. Scott's, however, is closed and open only for private events. Clyde's Restaurant Group chief executive officer John Laytham said in January 2012 that there were no plans to reopen F. Scott's, although it is considered from time to time. Laytham estimated a reopening would cost $1 million.
Clyde's Restaurant Group also opened several restaurants which are not branded under the "Clyde's" name. These include Tomato Palace in Columbia, Maryland (1993); Tower Oaks Lodge in Rockville, Maryland (2002); Clyde's Willow Creek Farm in Broadlands, Virginia (2006); and The Hamilton in Washington, D.C. (2011). According to Laytham, Boston Properties, the developer of the Tower Oaks office park, allowed Clyde's restaurant use of the land rent-free, and built the infrastructure of the restaurant at no cost as well. The Van Metre Companies, developer of the Broadlands mixed-use planned community, provided the same package of rent-free land and no-cost infrastructure to allow the construction of Clyde's Willow Creek Farm. Clyde's Restaurant Group also received a major financial incentive to open 37,500-square-foot (3,480 m2) The Hamilton. The company secured a 40-year lease from the landlord (Germany-based Deka Immobilien Investment) at $20.00 per square foot, which rises to just $29 per square foot after 40 years. Although the multi-level restaurant and music venue cost $24 million to construct, the District of Columbia gave Clyde's $5 million in tax increment financing. Within a year of its opening, Laytham said it employed 355 people. According to Clyde's Restaurant Group chief executive officer John Laytham, the company opens a new location "Every few years".
In December 2012, Clyde's Restaurant Group controller Nancy Preston was sentenced to two years in prison after embezzling $647,000 from the company over 10 years. Preston, who over three decades rose from bartender to controller at Clyde's, used corporate credit cards and company checks to pay for personal expenses and luxuries. Preston's crimes were uncovered by a co-worker, but otherwise had gone unnoticed. Preston reliquished $258,000 in private corporate stock, and paid $150,000 in restitution. A federal court ordered her to pay $239,000 more in restitution over the next several years.
- Martin, Douglas. "Stuart C. Davidson, 78, Owner of Legendary Washington Bar." New York Times. August 8, 2001. Accessed 2012-12-29.
- Kelly, John. "At Clyde's, Treat Yourself to a Good Lunch and Cause." Washington Post. June 3, 2009. Accessed 2012-12-29.
- Kretikos, Eleni. "Laytham Keeps His Ego on the Side as Clyde's Restaurant Group Prospers." Washington Business Journal. October 21, 2002. Accessed 2012-12-29.
- Bronson, Fred. The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits: The Inside Story Behind Every Number One Single on Billboard's Hot 100 From 1955 to the Present. New York: Billboard Books, 2003, p. 438.
- Joseph Rocco Mitchell, David L. Stebenne. New City Upon a Hill. p. 115.
- Joynt, Carol Ross. "A Q&A With John Laytham, CEO of Clyde's Restaurant Group." Washingtonian. January 5, 2012.
- "New York Life Insurance Co. Buys Westory Building." Washington Post. August 5, 2012.
- Marimow, Ann E. "Ex-Official at Clyde's Sentenced to 2 Years." Washington Post. December 13, 2012.