Add V Street to the list of restaurants not reopening during the coronavirus pandemic. The vegan restaurant in Rittenhouse, which started life as a cocktail bar and later folded in lunch spot Wiz Kid, is permanently closed, according to owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby.
The couple is best known for Vedge, their acclaimed vegan restaurant in Washington Square West.
Landau and Jacoby opened V Street in October 2014 on 19th Street just off Rittenhouse Square. The stylish restaurant, with a front bar serving inventive cocktails and a narrow dining room with a menu of spicy dishes that pull from cuisines around the world, stood out among other vegan venues in Philly, which are primarily casual daytime spots. (The upscale Vedge, fit for a special occasion dinner, is another exception.)
In 2017, the pair opened Wiz Kid next door. The sandwich shop had gained a following for its vegan cheesesteaks via a stand at the Art Museum Whole Foods. Last year, Jacoby and Landau merged the two restaurants under the V Street name, serving Wiz Kid sandwiches during the day and V Street’s dan dan noodles and Korean fried tempeh tacos at night.
When COVID-19 hit the Philly area in March, V Street initially offered takeout and delivery before going dark.
Eater first learned of the permanent closure via an Instagram account that claims to be run by former employees of V Street. Along with news of the closure, the posts mention an alleged lack of transparency and communication from Landau and Jacoby around plans for reopening, and ask questions about a Paycheck Protection Program federal loan the restaurant received.
Billy Penn spoke with a group of employees from V Street and Vedge, who discussed a letter they sent to the owners which read, in part, “Your response to the pandemic left many of us confused, unsupported and shut-out,” and inquired about paid sick leave they claim they are owed (V Street is not the only restaurant group to create confusion regarding the city’s expanded paid sick leave law). According to the Billy Penn report, two managers at the restaurants also alleged “racially inequitable hiring.” The workers sent a list of demands, which include an hourly wage of at least $20, plus tips; no retaliation against workers who don’t feel comfortable returning during the pandemic; and an active effort by the owners to “dismantle white supremacy within the restaurant group.”
In a statement to Eater, Jacoby and Landau said:
Due to the pandemic, we have made the difficult decision that we will not be able to re-open V Street. Despite getting PPP in early July to invite some former staff members back to work, many we contacted expressed concerns about the virus, and we completely understand their hesitation. Unfortunately, under continuing pandemic conditions, it became clear that we are not able to make the business model work at that location, and we are now in the process of returning the loan. The restaurant industry has been long overdue for meaningful change on many levels, and despite our needing to close this location, we look forward to being a part of that change as we all navigate these unprecedented times.
A list of other restaurants that have permanently closed during the pandemic is here.
Update: July 21, 10 a.m.: This article was updated to include information from the Billy Penn report.