Housing Complex

Andy Shallal: MoCo Chooses Bombs Over Busboys

Boycotting MoCo. (Busboys and Poets Facebook Page)

Now that's putting money where your mouth is: Busboys and Poets baron Andy Shallal says he won't take his bohemian eatery to Montgomery County after the County Council chickened out of asking Congress to fund infrastructure and education needs instead of funneling billions of dollars to defense contractors every year.

Having already planted flags in Arlington and Prince George's counties, Montgomery was a clear next step for Shallal. And indeed, he tells me he's been looking at the now-closed Borders Books & Music space in Silver Spring, and has been approached by developers to open in Bethesda. But Shallal, whose outlets have lately been sporting banners encouraging passersby to "IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT WAR," says MoCo has lost its chance. "County residents pay about $2.5 billion in defense spending," he emails. "Money that is desperately needed for other services."

The other side of the argument: Defense is huge in Montgomery County, and turning off the federal spigot would take a lot of money out of the region's economy. MoCo may pay $2.5 billion in taxes to support the military, but Lockheed Martin employs 5,200 people in the county, and they all pay income taxes.

Of course, you can still argue that's a misallocation of resources. And clearly, the County Council isn't factoring in the economic impact of Busboys and Poets.

  • Andrea

    Oh, no, Now I will have to move out of Moco because Andy Shallal won't open a restaurant here.

  • eefefefe

    That's nice. When is he going to let his employees unionize?

  • Smooth Henry

    "Now that's putting money where your mouth is" No it's not. If he wanted to protest funneling billions to defense he wouldn't have a location in Arlington.

  • Hillman

    Not sure I understand. He's boycotting one county because they didn't try to tell Congress how to spend federal tax money raised in that county?

    Um, did DC try to tell Congress how to spend federal tax funds in relation to 'warmongering'? Yet he has locations in DC.

    Yes, war is terrible. But not everyone involved in the defense industry is some baby-killing monster. Some, believe it or not, are trying to prevent war.

    This move reeks of self-absorption and cheap publicity.

  • PBJ

    Doesn't ring true. Did Arlington and PG do this for him? And wouldn't he have been able to make more of a statement by planting his vibe and slogans in this active location?

  • Ben

    I'm curious as to what legitimate impact the Council's vote would have had? My understanding is that the vote would have been entirely symbolic--not unlike Takoma Park voting themselves a nuclear-free zone.

    Aside from being somewhat of an embarassment for the County (with their 5000 or so Lockheed Martin jobs) it's difficult to see what this vote would have achieved. And, yes, Shallal having apparently no problems opening locations in DC and Arlington--hope of the Pentagon, for goodness sake--but backing out on MoCo because of this seems a bit absurd. I don't disagree with his sentiments, but don't understand the reasons behind this decision.

  • drr

    Every time I figure I'll give the City Paper another chance, I read an article like this that makes me remember why I stopped reading it several years ago. No....Montgomery County did not "chose" bombs over Busboys; they chose not to be bullied into a decision on how to run their county based on a hypocritical douche like Shallal. As all the other comments before me noted, he certainly has no problem with the locations of his other stores, so why should he care about this one? And then DePillis thinks that opening a Busboys there would somehow make up for the loss of revenue of for all the folks who work for the military in MoCo?! Or they should let the threats of one restaurant (that doesn't even opperate there) dictate major economic decisions? And of course, there's no mention the proposal Sallal was basing his threat on has absolutely no power since Congress controls military spending (NOT MoCo). Does the City Paper even have an editor who checks articles like this before approving them for publication? Sigh....so disappointing.

  • Lydia DePillis


    I didn't say that of Montgomery County, Shallal did. That's why the headline starts with "Andy Shallal COLON".

    And I guess it was too much to assume all readers would understand punch lines written tongue-in-cheek.

  • drr

    @ Lydia
    Based on your other article linked at the bottom of this one, that "punch line" regarding the economic impact of Busboys certainly read as anything but a joke where you said "Why is Busboys such an effective economic catalyst? Because it's a signal to the kinds of creative, upwardly-mobile types who are willing to take a risk on small towns outside the urban core: This is your kind of place." Unless that's a joke also....

  • Typical DC BS

    Montgomery County: Now infected with the same Takoma Park pestilence.

    Always love to see how Montgomery County can shoot themselves in the foot, then insert it into their mouths.

  • John R. Landis

    As an owner with my family of a very long standing seafood restaurant in Montgomery County, I am saddened by BB&P's decision. Their reasoning is their own but by not coming to Montgomery County they give up the opportunity to be an agent for change. I would note that BB&P would not have the economic impact that the loss of Lockheed Martin would have. I agree that war is wrong but holding the Montgomery County Council hostage in this way is conceited and meddling. I would also caution my friend and Council President, Valerie Ervin, against further ideological actions on the part of the council without getting the pulse of the constituency.

  • Sue Jacobson

    Arlington has defense contractors and I don't think Arlington has asked the government to cut military spending! He could help more by having a Busboys and Poets in Bethesda which is the home of Lockheed Martin. Get people there to push the county council on this issue!

  • RC

    I guess I should take this to mean that Shallal doesn't want me spending my tainted paycheck from the Department of Defense at his establishment. Too bad, considering my husband and I eat & shop there fairly often (and would do so even more if he set up shop in the old Borders in downtown Silver Spring, 2 blocks from my home).

    Not everyone associated with DoD is a war-mongering twat opposed to funding social and other programs desperately needed in our community. I agree with Shallal's argument that defense spending should be cut and funding for other services should be increased. However, if he has a problem with the way our government is allocating resources, he should speak to his representatives in Congress rather than deny us Silver Springers a BB&P of our own.

    It's really his loss, because a BB&P in the old Borders would be hugely successful.

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  • http://ianbrettcooper.blogspot.com Ian Cooper

    I'd go out of my way to find a truly progressive eatery in the DC area, but Busboys and Poets seems to be just another 'poseur' establishment that gives lip service to its progressive 'theme'. If Mr. Shallal is truly a progressive and not just anti-Iraq-war, then I'd like to see him put his money where his mouth is - a living wage and health insurance for all his employees and encouragement for them to join a union would be a good start.

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