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Graffiato RVA ‘not yet’ closed permanently

Inside Graffiato at West Broad and Jefferson streets. (PHOTO: Michael Thompson)

RICHMOND, Va. — Graffiato, a downtown restaurant owned by celebrity chef Mike Isabella, will likely close in the long run.

The restaurant recently updated a Facebook post five days after it was supposed to reopen from renovations, and said they would be closed the entire month of June.

CBS 6 attempted to reach Mike Isabella and a company spokesperson, the building owner, and the restaurant directly for comment, multiple times, but no one responded. Isabella responded to The Washingtonian and said he hopes reopen the restaurant after the broken HVAC system is fixed and then sell the lease to a “Richmond restaurant group.”

Isabella told The Washingtonian he doesn’t have a lot of time to get to Richmond. “We want to tighten things up, and focus on things closer to home,” he said in the interview with reporter Anna Spiegel.

Multiple people posted on Graffiato’s Facebook page that they showed up for a reservation, only to find the restaurant still closed.

Leah Boothe said her manager planned to take 12 members of the sales team to Graffiato on June 4, but the reservation was canceled. She was told the restaurant had to close for HVAC repair but would reopen Wednesday.

Boothe and her husband planned to celebrate their 15th anniversary at Graffiato, but their June 7 reservation was canceled around noon that day. Boothe said they rescheduled the reservation for Friday and got a babysitter.

“They were not canceled and we showed up to a empty restaurant,” Booth wrote to CBS 6.

She said further attempts to correspond with Graffiato online were ignored.

People associated with the restaurant said they could not comment on the situation but did acknowledge they are trying to help Graffiato employees get new work.

The 6,700-square-foot space was previously home to Popkin Tavern and Graffiato opened in September 2014 with a 10-year lease, according to RichmondBizSense.com.

Isabella was an alumnus of the season six of Bravo’s “Top Chef” and the runner-up on “Top Chef All-Stars.”

He turned his chef stardom into an 11-restaurant empire that includes four restaurants in Washington, D.C., including the original Graffiato, and two in Northern Virginia. He has other restaurants in New Jersey and Maryland.

In May, the Washington Post reported that Isabella settled a $4 million lawsuit filed by Chloe Caras, a former top manager, for alleged, repeated sexual harassment in the workplace. The financial details were not published.

The paper also reported that many Mike Isabella Concepts employees were required to sign NDAs that kept them from sharing information with anyone about “details of the personal and business lives of Mike Isabella, his family members, friends, business associates and dealings, including any television programs concerning Mike Isabella and his restaurants.”

Information about the NDAs came out as part of Caras’s lawsuit. She asked the court to declare the NDAs unenforceable.

The Post reported that each breach of an NDA carried a $500,000 penalty.

Isabella’s two recent award nominations were rescinded after the allegations of sexual harassment, WTOP reported in March.

Developing story.