Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Sushi Keiko at 2309 Wisconsin Avenue, NW in Glover Park was sold by Wei Zhang to Ferry Huang in June of 2018 This is old news but it slipped through the cracks due to the transfer under a corporate veil until they ran afoul of the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) rules as well as the DC Regulatory Authority (DCRA) rules regarding corporate transfers.
A little background first: Sushi Keiko's predecessor, Sushi-ko was celebrated as DC's first sushi restaurant back in the 1970's. Chef Daisuke Utagawa purchased Sushi-ko in 1988 and ran the restaurant until 2012 when he found himself facing IRS and DC liens upwards of $840,000 for unpaid business taxes. Sushi-ko closed in 2013, presumably due to the financial troubles, yet chef Daisuke had opened a new Sushiko in Chevy Chase, Maryland in 2008 and has been running that restaurant ever since. Chef Wei Zhang and his wife Min took over the space in 2014, applied for a liquor license and opened Sushi Keiko, as rave reviews from customers followed. Mr. Zhang was president of the company named "Washington DC Asian Food Corporation" which owned Sushi Keiko. Early in 2018 Mr. Zhang encountered family problems and said he needed to return to his home country, so he sold the business to Ferry Huang who apparently took over as president of the corporation.
All seemed well until ABRA investigator Gilliam walked into the restaurant on September 9th, 2018. Mr Huang was present and identified himself as the owner and ABC manager. This name did not match ABRA records. ABRA has paperwork to keep track of these things and no Transfer Consent Form or Ownership Application was completed as far as he could tell. ABRA also requires their approval of the transfer before the actual transfer of the license can take place. Investigator Gilliam then called a representative at DCRA to find out if the corporate transfer of corporate officers was processed. DCRA had no record of the transfer either.
The ABRA board was lenient at the December 2018 hearing. They required Mr. Zhang and Mr. Huang to provide settlement documents as evidence of the sale of the business, an application for corporate transfer of officers, evidence of a business license and an application for ABC manager in the name of the new owner, all within 10 days, or longer if they could show they were trying. They did not issue a fine or suspension. They also offered counseling on the step-by-step process. On February 27th 2019 the ABRA board reconvened for a "show cause' hearing for failure to comply with filing requirements and they involved the DC Assistant Attorney General Louise Phillips, who agreed to a written warning and nothing more. In March Mr. Huang then applied for the renewal of the liquor license.
Despite all the turmoil, the restaurant and the sushi chefs continue to get great reviews! Don't let their paperwork stop you from coming by. Even great chefs still need great lawyers and accountants if they want to do business in DC....
Who is Ferry Huang did you ask?