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The Adventures of Frank

A continuing story

Sunday, November 21, 2004; Page W10

Our story so far: After Pepco pulled the plug on the Red Bean's electricity, Frank Connell paid the bill to get the lights turned back on. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures. If you think you would be a good candidate for this series, e-mail us at adventures@washpost.com.

EPISODE 20

Frank Connell and his cousin-business partner, Mike Clements, arrived at the Red Bean on a recent Tuesday afternoon and discovered that something was wrong with the refrigerator. The cousins didn't bother tapping it, kicking it or cussing at it because the faint odor of warm crayfish meat already confirmed the worst: The refrigerator was dead, and it had been for at least several hours.


Frank Connell.

Mike immediately tossed out the crayfish meat and some shrimp, while Frank transferred tubs of salad dressing into a smaller refrigerator. When he ran out of space, Frank went to Tonic, the restaurant next door, and asked if he could please store some of his food in the refrigerator there.

Mike called a repairman, who said he would stop by the Red Bean the next day. Then Frank and Mike got more bad news. "Umm, what's going on with the stove?" cook Fernando Palacios asked after arriving at 3 p.m. The cousins rushed back to the kitchen. The stove wasn't working, either.

"Luckily, Mike and I have a sense of humor," Frank said later. "We were just sitting there laughing." Soon a sign hung in the restaurant's window: "Sorry, more technical difficulties. We are closed tonight."

These are the kinds of setbacks that seem to be becoming a tradition at the Red Bean and have caused at least one employee to consider looking for a new job. Another worker wonders, "What are the prospects of this place?"

Mike acknowledges that "we're barely keeping afloat" but tries to stay optimistic. Frank, on the other hand, speaks in apocalyptic terms, referring to the restaurant's "financial hell" and "calamity."

Yet both novice restaurateurs realize that their future rests almost entirely on getting a liquor license. Mike hoped the license would be approved by the coming weekend. He and Frank even hunched over a booze menu, discussing which tequilas the Red Bean would serve. But it was not to be. Mike blames the delay on bureaucracy. "Everything takes time in this city," he says.

Joe Wood, a partner in JGJ Properties, the Red Bean's landlord, says that his company won't press Mike and Frank for rent -- now more than a month in arrears -- until they have a liquor license. "We're going to give them a chance," Wood says. "But we're not going to wait forever."

Toward the end of the week, with the refrigerator and stove working once more, Mike announces an unexpected boon. The Red Bean has been asked to cater a private party. How much money will that bring in? Mike won't reveal a figure but says that he and Frank will be cooking for about 200 people. He rubs his hands together, and his pupils seem to register dollar signs.

-- Tyler Currie


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