2015 | Dine

Steamers Seafood Owner Plans to Sell Restaurant

Owner: "We're done, we have no more money, we're finished"

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Steamers is located at 4820 Auburn Avenue and its storefront faces Norfolk Avenue.

Andrew Metcalf

Steamers Seafood House owner William LeStrange III said today he’s putting his Bethesda restaurant up for sale.

The Woodmont Triangle restaurant has operated on Auburn Avenue for the past 19 years, but has a troubled history that includes several reported incidents of serving alcohol after hours since 2004.

“We’ve been wanting to sell since the winter,” said LeStrange, who does not own the building housing his restaurant. “It’s just been so slow and I don’t have any money to put into the place. We don’t want to be here anymore and I want to go.”

The owner’s disclosure about selling comes after the latest incident last month at the restaurant. County police cited Steamers on April 22 for serving drinks at 4 a.m., well after the time permitted by county law.

County law allows restaurants to serve alcohol until 2 a.m. during the week and 3 a.m. on the weekend. After the serving deadline, customers have a half-hour to finish their drinks before the drinks must be cleared off tables and the bar.

County police went to the Woodmont Triangle restaurant on the morning of April 22 after someone filed a noise complaint. Two officers arrived at 4 a.m. and could hear loud music as well as multiple people inside, according to a police report.

The officers reported they saw LeStrange remove beer bottles from the bar and place them in an ice cooler as they stood outside. The officers said they waited “several minutes” before a bartender opened the door.

Once inside, the officers found LeStrange and four others attempting to hide in a back room, according to the report. Police also found the beer bottles and noted they were still cold and half empty.

LeStrange said the police account of the incident isn’t true. He said the bar often keeps beers in a well below the bar to keep them cold. He said no one had beers in their hands at the time that police arrived.

The Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control has scheduled a hearing in front of the county’s Board of License Commissioners at 2 p.m. May 21 to determine if the restaurant’s liquor license should be revoked or suspended and whether the restaurant should be fined.

This is not Steamers’ first brush with the liquor board.

The restaurant has been cited six other times by the board for serving alcohol after hours since 2004. Prior to the April incident, Steamers was cited for two incidents that happened in September and December 2013. In both incidents, police caught employees at the restaurant serving alcohol after the time permitted by law, according to DLC records. In response to those violations, the liquor board hit the restaurant with a $6,000 fine and suspended its liquor license from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, 2014.

In total, Steamers has paid $12,500 for the after-hours violations it has received, according to the department’s records.

This time, though, LeStrange says he hopes the liquor board will consider that fact that he’s trying to sell the restaurant before imposing any penalties.

“They’re going to get no money from me,” LeStrange said, “because I’m going to file [for] bankruptcy.”

LeStrange said he isn’t selling the restaurant because of his problems with the county liquor board. Instead, the reasons include getting hit hard financially by the recession and poor play by the Washington Redskins, which has meant less football-related business, and the scarcity of affordable crabs harvested from the Chesapeake Bay to serve customers.

“There are no Bay crabs,” LeStrange said, “and people are just paying ridiculous prices to get them out of the South.”

However, he said there was a time before 2009 when things were going well at the restaurant.

“I was sad back in February when we decided to sell,” LeStrange said. “But I’ve had it. It was so amazing through probably 2008, then it just got worse.”

Steamers currently leases the building at the corner of Norfolk and Auburn avenues.