DC’s Russia House restaurant vandalized; police investigating as possible hate crime

Days before reopening since being closed for almost two years due to the pandemic, a D.C. restaurant will remain closed after vandals targeted its building twice with anti-Russian messages.

Aaron McGovern, the co-owner of Russia House Restaurant and Lounge on Connecticut Avenue, said someone smashed the windows of the restaurant and tried to pry open the door last Thursday night. And it didn’t stop there.

Sometime during the following night, vandals struck again he said, leaving anti-Russian signs on the building with messages that included “Putin House” and “Murderers.”

“It’s just sad is what it is, that there’s people with this mindset out there that because of the name of the restaurant that we are politically affiliated or government affiliated,” McGovern said.

McGovern said the vandalism “breaks his heart,” especially since one of the owners is from Lithuania with family in Ukraine, and the other was born in the United States and has served in the military. He said the staff is a “melting pot” of people, which includes Eastern Europeans who came to the U.S. looking for a better life.

“Our job is to make people happy and give them an experience, not promote anything or any country’s political views. It’s not who we are; we’re in the hospitality business,” McGovern said.

Since the restaurant is very small, McGovern has kept the business closed since the start of the pandemic. After what happened last week, he decided it is too unsafe to go through with plans to reopen.

“I can’t wholeheartedly open up a restaurant if I think a brick might get thrown through the window,” McGovern said.

D.C. police are investigating what happened as possible hate crimes, according to the police report.

After the impact of COVID-19 and the recent vandalism, McGovern said he’s worried about the future of the business.

“It’s been a very big struggle for the last two years, you know. I’m not a quitter, but this certainly tests the waters about thinking about it,” McGovern said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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