In today’s Washington Business Journal, Jonathan O’Connell reports that Ray’s Hell Burger, the Oval Office’s first choice for ground beef patties, will open a branch in Adams Morgan this fall. This news was enough to ruin Y&H’s morning since I had spoken with owner Michael Landrum several weeks earlier about this very issue, and he denied any such plans.

So I got Landrum on the horn today to do some ‘splainin’. Bottom line: He has no deal in place to open a Hell Burger in the former Ghana Cafe space at 2465 18th St. NW.

Rumors about a Hell Burger in Adams Morgan have surfaced, Landrum says, because of his relationship with Wilma Roumel, who owns the property that houses both Ray’s HB in Arlington and the old Ghana Cafe. Landrum says his contractor has been helping Roumel bring the Adams Morgan space up to modern standards.

Landrum has indeed talked to Roumel about opening a Hell Burger in Adams Morgan, he admits, mostly to help relieve some of the pressure on the Arlington location, which has been overrun with fans since the presidential visit in May. But he knows from experience that such diverting strategies don’t always work: Landrum’s Ray’s the Classics in Silver Spring was supposed to divert traffic away from Ray’s the Steaks in Arlington, but that hasn’t really proven to be the case.

Besides, Landrum notes, “My feeling is that Adams Morgan still presents tremendous challenges for getting open there…I would want to see a lot more police presence and municipal support [in Adams Morgan] before I could commit to a business there.”

Landrum’s not ruling out the possibility of an Adams Morgan outlet at some point, particularly if the city steps up to better manage the neighborhood and its historic problems with crime and parking. But as for a fall opening in the ‘hood?

“I can’t even fully well commit to opening my eyes in the near future,” he says.

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