Tastee Diner owner Gene Wilkes said Friday he met with the president of the Bernstein Cos., which has partnered with Marriott International Inc. to build the hotel chain’s future headquarters in downtown Bethesda, to discuss whether Bernstein would buy the restaurant property.
Wilkes said President and CEO Adam Bernstein proposed several offers that the company would be willing to make for the corner property, though neither party came to any firm commitment. Adam Bernstein could not be reached for comment and requests for comment from other company officials were not returned.
The diner, a Bethesda fixture that sits at 7731 Woodmont Ave., is on the same block as the site of the proposed $600 million Marriott campus, which will feature the company’s headquarters and a flagship hotel at 7750 Wisconsin Ave. Marriott plans to relocate from its Fernwood Road headquarters by the time its lease expires in 2022. Wilkes said Bernstein did not mention Marriott specifically in their meeting.
“They never said, ‘Marriott wants this corner,’” Wilkes said. “But they said, ‘We want to make you a fair offer on this corner.’ ”
Wilkes denied a published report that Marriott itself was interested in buying the property and said he has not spoken to anyone from Marriott.
Wilkes said he previously had spoken to representatives of Bernstein Cos., but that Friday was the first time they discussed purchasing the diner property. Two other parties, which Wilkes would not name, have also approached him about buying the property, he said. Wilkes said he didn’t know if he would sell.
“They’re not the only party that’s interested. Everyone’s jumping on this thing with Marriott coming to town,” he said. “I’ve listened. I don’t know what my final decision might be. I’ve just been listening.”
Wilkes said he would consider every option and make his decision after he sees the “real numbers” being offered. He “could be open” to selling the diner, but said he would have to receive a “very attractive offer.” He indicated discussions were still in the early stages and said he thought he would have “a couple years or less” to make the decision.
He also does not yet know if he would close the restaurant if he sold the property or move it to another location. In June 2000, the Silver Spring Tastee Diner was lifted out of its foundation on Georgia Avenue and moved several blocks to a new location on Cameron Street to make room for the Discovery Communications headquarters.
Interviewed by Bethesda Beat in January after the Marriott announcement, Wilkes said no one had approached him to take his property as part of the project and he hadn’t had “serious conversations with the Bernsteins” at that time.
Wilkes expressed mixed feelings about the possibility of parting with the Tastee Diner, which has been operating on Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda since 1958 and which he has owned since 1971.
“It becomes your life after you do it forever,” he said, “but there comes a time for everything.”
Tastee Diner also has locations in Silver Spring and Laurel, which Wilkes said would not be affected by a potential sale of the Bethesda property.