When Marvin first opened up at 14th and U streets NW in 2007, the staff would often hear noises and feel a strange presence.
"I would be the only person in the building late at night, and there would be footsteps coming up the stairs," says Sheldon Scott, the general manager at the time. "I was like, 'Hello?' And obviously there's nobody there. And this happened on more than one occasion." At the same time, he would always feel this "weird cosmic energy" in the same spot halfway up the stairs. "But I never felt threatened," Scott says. "It didn't seem to be a bad spirit."
One day, a construction worker who'd lived in the neighborhood for a long time offered an explanation: the ghost of a prostitute who'd once lived there. "She was the only professional woman without 'professional representation,'" Scott recounts. "So one day the pimps got together and supposedly burned her out of here, and she died. She died in this building. And her name was Peaches."
Whether this is true or not, who knows. Probably not. But it was a good enough story that Scott had a friend bring in a shaman to clear the energy a couple months after the restaurant opened.
"Things have been pretty settled since then," Scott says. "I haven't heard any footsteps up the stairs."
But now, the restaurant group behind Marvin may have another haunted space on its hands: Chez Billy. The Petworth restaurant's building has a storied past as a meeting place for African-American intellectuals, entertainers, and politicians during the civil rights movement. But as far as anyone is aware, no one died there.
"I was in there by myself," Scott says, "and I did not feel alone."
Co-owner Ian Hilton concurs Chez Billy is "haunted as a mofo."
"Some of the cooks won't even go in the basement," he says.
But there are no plans to bring in a shaman—yet.