Housing Complex

Even Andy Shallal Has to Deal With NIMBYs

One person who lives in this building stopped the music.

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.

  • DC Guy

    The city ought to develop a bonding process for issues like this and development that has been discussed, example Friendship Heights.

    Other cities have rules that discourage frivolous appeals and other NIMBY style delay tactics. There are times when real concerns exist, but they shouldn't be lumped in with the regular "we don't want trash/noise/traffic/parking whatever" in our neighborhood.

  • Skipper

    He's full of shit on Eatonville's noise issues. You can hear the bass well outside the building on weekends. I sympathize with the neighbors. They should sue his ass for being a nuisance.

  • Adam L


    He should counter-sue for gross stupidity. You live along U Street corridor; get used to it or move to Cleveland Park.

    There's a general hypocrisy of people who want to live in the neighborhood because of the bars, restaurants, and nightlife but then only want it to exist when they're out enjoying it.

  • Skipper

    @AdamL: So then someone who lives in a mixed-use building should have no recourse against a self-indulgent guy who pumps up the volume in the evening and doesn't give a crap if it bothers the neighbors?

    It's not the jazz that likely bothers neighbors. It's the club-thumping noise that emanates from Eatonville long into the evenings.

  • Jane

    He's liberal credit is not liberal. Look at the corporate events he has hosted at his restaurants. Look at the people at the events there. He's in the business of making money and only hosts events geared towards the issue du jour favored by Liberals with money! Whatever cause or issues that doesn't attract credit card toting persons , he will not host!

  • GraceJones

    The ANCs in gentrifying neighborhoods are morphing into urban night-riders. If your business doesn't cater to their personal desires, i.e. yoga shops and pet stores, they'll make your life a living hell.

  • Progentrification

    Right, Jane. How dare a businessman make money running a business! Make money by providing a service people want, help revitalize a neighborhood while contributing to the tax base, and do it well? How dare he. That's not liberal!

    This is why liberals always lose.

  • Steven

    We are having the same issue along NOMA. DC's laws have not kept up with the development of mixed-use buildings. Developers and commerical units should be required to build in extra sound proofing between them and the residential units above. Many cities have dealt with this issue and considering the amount of mixed-use buildings coming up in DC, I think it is about time we dealt with it as well.

  • Typical DC BS

    @Steven: Nice suggestion, especially when considering new construction. Too many architects don't take into account the practical issues of noise when designing residential around commercial.

    I have no sympathy for Andy Shallal when he discounts someone who doesn't want to listen to an hour(s) of bass thumping into their lives every night. His comment on the minimal time allowed for "a little vibration" is ridiculous. It's a restaurant, not a nightclub.

  • anon

    The other option is for businesses to NOT expect a pass when they cheap out on proper noise insulation. If your business plan included live amplified music, consider that the cost of doing business. Professional noise insulation would render this issue moot. The noise described by Mr. Shallal would almost certainly be in violation of DCMR 2700 and 2800. I sympathize with people exposed to unwarranted noise inside their home. Sorry, but Mr. Shallal can feel free to move to West Virginia too.

  • Steven

    @ anon -- your comment piqued my curiosity so when I went out to dinner on U St., I stopped by Eatonville. The place is huge. The first thing I noticed was the exposed ceiling -- no sound-proofing materials. Then I noticed about 8 large speakers that were drilled directly into the concrete columns - sound vibrations travel a long way without any buffer. No wonder the people complained about noise.

  • anon

    Given the well documented expense and travails of opending Eatonville and the largely negative publicity it garnered for Mr. Shallal, it's odd that he (or the developer) neglected to address noise remediation in a building which is a MIXED USE development (not strictly commercial as he falsely states). He couldn't possibly have been surprised to find people living directly above his business. Given his stated experience with that 'one person' in every development -- here's tip -- it's usually that person sharing a floor or a wall with your business.