May 24, 2023 - Food and Drink

Moon Rabbit's abrupt closure amid union effort spurs protests

Chef Kevin Tien at Moon Rabbit. Photo: Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Protests are planned at the Wharf today following Monday's abrupt closure of Moon Rabbit restaurant at the InterContinental hotel.

Why it matters: The fine dining Vietnamese restaurant from local star Kevin Tien was one of the buzziest and award-laden spots at the waterfront development before it went dark amid a unionization effort by staff.

Catch up quick: Foodservice workers at the luxury hotel — including those at Moon Rabbit and in banquet services — began unionizing efforts in April, according to DCist, and filed a petition on May 1 for a union election.

What they’re saying: Unite Here Local 25, a regional hospitality union that had been organizing the workers, issued a statement from executive-secretary treasurer Paul Schwalb, saying, “Closing Moon Rabbit on the eve of a union election shows a gross disregard for the people who helped turn Moon Rabbit into a national sensation. Nobody should do business with a hotel that treats workers as disposable.”

The other side: A representative for IHG Hotels & Resorts tells Axios that parting ways with Tien “was in no way impacted by the union’s ongoing efforts to unionize the hotel.”

What’s happening: Unite Here is organizing protests outside the InterContinental today from 2-4pm and Thursday from 7-9am. Spokesperson Benjy Cannon tells Axios that a union protest outside the Sofitel Lafayette Square last week drew hundreds of attendees.

  • Unite Here is calling for a public boycott of the Wharf hotel and other non-union IHG properties nearby, including The Willard by the White House and the Kimpton George on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, a representative for IHG tells Axios they’re exploring options for a new restaurant at the hotel — previously home to another high-profile spot whose chef departed, Kwame Onwuachi’s Kith/Kin. A concept “will be announced in due course.”

What's next: Tien hinted in a joint statement with IHG that he might reopen Moon Rabbit elsewhere. “I ultimately wanted to offer Moon Rabbit as a standalone concept and look forward to continuing to share Moon Rabbit with diners.”


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