Business roundup: B. Smith restaurant closing; United Airlines biting the bullet

September 13, 2013
RESTAURANT INDUSTRY
B. Smith closing Union Station fixture

Barbara “B.” Smith announced Friday that she would close her restaurant in Union Station after nearly 20 years in business.

Located in the ornate East Hall, the restaurant is one of three owned by her company, B. Smith Enterprises. The others are on West 46th Street in New York and in Sag Harbor on Long Island.

A former model, Smith built an empire on her Southern-themed cuisine, becoming an author, actress and host of radio and television shows. Her 1995 book, “B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends,’’ was one of the first on entertaining by a black author. Smith sells a collection of home goods through Bed Bath & Beyond, acts in off-Broadway shows and, with her husband, co-hosts a weekly Sirius XM Radio program called “The B. Smith and ‘Thank You Dan’ Show.”

Smith plans to keep the two New York restaurants open, according to her company’s statement. No reason was offered for the D.C. closure, and a spokeswoman said she did not know the reason or when the restaurant would close.

In its statement, the company seemed to acknowledge that the D.C. outpost had not kept up with the District’s rapidly evolving restaurant scene. The company said it plans to find new locations in the Washington area and elsewhere that will feel “more contemporary” than the longtime Union Station fixture.

Union Station is undergoing myriad changes, including the revamping of Columbus Plaza, repairs necessitated by the 2011 earthquake, creation of a new bus terminal and introduction of new quick-food options along the entrance to Amtrak terminals. Further, the D.C. government is working to build a streetcar line that would enter the station from H Street NE, and Amtrak has proposed a $7 billion overhaul and expansion of the station.

— Jonathan O’Connell

AIRLINES
United to pay for ticket-price slip-up

United Airlines said on Friday that it will honor the tickets it accidentally gave away for free.

The decision is good news for people who snapped up the tickets Thursday after United listed airfares at $0. Many customers got tickets for $5 or $10, paying only the cost of the Sept. 11 security fee.

The mistake was an especially good deal for any passengers who bought tickets for travel within the next week. For instance, a flight from Houston to Dulles next weekend would have cost $877, United’s Web site said Friday.

United Continental Holdings said Friday that it was honoring the tickets “based on these specific circumstances.” United had said Thursday that there was an error in filing the fares to its computer system.

The airline would not say how many tickets it accidentally gave away or how much the mistake cost. The wrong fares were available on its Web site for a few hours. United eventually shut down bookings on the Web site until it could fix the problem.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

Wholesale prices in the United States rose more than forecast in August, reflecting higher costs for food and some fuels. The 0.3 percent increase in the producer price index followed no change in July, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The core measure, which excludes volatile food and fuel costs, was unchanged from July. Economists had expected a slight rise in core prices.

Retail sales in the United States rose less than forecast in August as the biggest part of the economy struggled to gain momentum. The 0.2 percent increase was the smallest in four months and followed a revised 0.4 percent July gain that was bigger than previously estimated, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Excluding motor vehicles, sales rose 0.1 percent.

U.S. businesses restocked their shelves and warehouses in July at the fastest pace since January as their sales rose, a hopeful sign for economic growth. Business stockpiles increased 0.4 percent in July from June, the Commerce Department said Friday, after ticking up just 0.1 percent the previous month. Total business sales rose 0.6 percent in July, up from just 0.2 percent in June.

Steven Roth, chairman and chief executive of Vornado Realty Trust, has resigned from J.C. Penney’s board, days after the real estate company told investors it planned to sell all of its stake in the struggling department store chain, according to regulatory documents filed Friday. Vornado holds 13.4 million shares, or 6.1 percent, of Penney’s stock.

Microsoft e-mailed and listed on its Web site a promotion that includes giving credit worth a minimum of $200 to customers who turn in “gently used” Apple iPads to its stores. The gift card is for Microsoft stores, and the company suggests switching to the company’s Surface tablet. Microsoft spokesman Rich Adolph said the intent of the initiative wasn’t necessarily a competitive one but “part of a current recycle-for-rewards program.”

U.S. sales of video-game products rose 1 percent last month, to $521 million, the first four-week gain in almost two years. The increase was driven by new titles, including Disney’s “Infinity.” Sales of video-game software increased 23 percent from a year earlier, to $293.4 million, NPD Group said. The advance, the first since November 2011, was enough to counter a 40 percent drop in hardware sales, to $90.8 million. Gamers are apparently holding out for ­new-
generation consoles later this year.

— From news services

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