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This weekend’s Washington Post magazine ran a long profile of everyone’s favorite anti-war restauranteur, Andy Shallal. It’s a worthwhile romp through the Busboys and Poets proprietor’s varied career (1980s job: managing a restaurant in the very corporate Omni Shoreham hotel) and current struggles (getting blasted by black poets for commercializing their culture).
I’ll just use it as an excuse to pass on some other bits of Shallal-ness, garnered during last week’s forum on small businesses in Ward 4. Shallal’s shtick, after all, is magic for new developments—-which he sees as evidence that government process gets in the way of people just starting out. “I don’t think the D.C. government does a good job in bringing business logic to improve their capacity,” he said. “Often the obstacles are so large that people end up walking away from something that’s a good idea…That’s why you have a lot of people like myself opening more. Because I’ve figured it out.”
But there’s one thing Shallal still can’t conquer: Neighbors who don’t want to deal with noise. “I’m serious, go to West Virginia,” he said, addressing the imaginary NIMBYs in the room. “Everywhere I’ve been in the city, there’s been one person, and that person has made my life hell.”
In particular, he said, the one lady above his restaurant Eatonville at 14th and V streets NW who objected to live music in the evenings.
“I finally gave up, I said forget the jazz,” Shallal said. “Why are you living in a commercial building? God forbid there would be a little vibration in the floor at 9 or 10 o clock, and it’s over, it’s over for me.”
Still, he says, neighborhood associations can be a gift if you engage them early and well. He even went so far as to speculate that the celebrated Ray’s the Steaks East River off Benning Road, which was rumored dead but is apparently on track to re-open in January, didn’t do its due diligence first. “It felt like that business parachuted in,” he said. “I just didn’t get the sense that business did the groundwork to be what it needed to be.”
And some even more spicy things about the Chamber of Commerce and Walmart, but you probably already knew how he felt about those.