Free meals for struggling restaurant workers expands to Arlington

Between last March and June, Hook Hall Helps provided more than 10,000 meals and raised more than $600,000 in donations for the program. (Courtesy Hook Hall)

D.C. beer hall and events space Hook Hall, which established its Hook Hall Helps program with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, is bringing its free meals to struggling restaurant workers in Northern Virginia.

Local restaurateur Nick Freshman is donating space at The Freshman, his new Crystal City restaurant that he had hoped to open last spring but still has not because of the ongoing pandemic and restaurant restrictions.

Between last March and June, Hook Hall Helps provided more than 10,000 meals and raised more than $600,000 in donations for the program.

Hook Hall and RAMW revived the program last month, when new restaurant restrictions in the D.C. area took effect.

The Freshman is at 2021 Crystal Drive, part of Amazon’s HQ2 National Landing neighborhood.

Nick Freshman said partnering with his friend, Hook Hall owner Anna Valero, was a no-brainer.

“I offered The Freshman because I thought our location, given its accessibility, would be perfect. And, further, here I am with a built-out restaurant that I can’t use. It felt like a great way to serve people in some fashion,” Freshman told WTOP.

Freshman said winter will be long and with the region not near the end of the pandemic, he expects the Arlington expansion of the free meal program to last for at least a few months.

Free meal distributions at The Freshman will begin Thursday, and are planned for every Thursday between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Meals are distributed at Hook Hall’s 3400 Georgia Ave. Northwest D.C. location on Mondays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition to providing free meals and supply bags to hospitality industry workers, the program benefits D.C.-area restaurants. Through donations, Hook Hall pays local restaurants to prepare the meals. Restaurants can sign up for the program online.

“It is a way for all of us to stay connected and give back during these difficult times. It is through the generosity of Nike Freshman that we are able to extend these services to our industry colleagues in Northern Virginia,” Valero said.

Depending on many still unknown factors, Nick Freshman hopes to open The Freshman restaurant this spring.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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