D.C. Finally Lures New York Restaurateur

Monday, December 8, 2008

Atlantic City has tried, Las Vegas has tried. Yet New York restaurateur Shelly Fireman has stubbornly resisted efforts to expand to other markets for more than 50 years.

But Fireman said last week he has penned a deal, worth an estimated $15 million, with developer Milt Peterson to occupy the marquee waterfront dining space at the National Harbor, a 350-acre mini-metropolis with a mile of frontage on the Potomac River. He also will open a second restaurant, costing about $5.2 million, at the intersection of American Way and Waterfront Street, the two main thoroughfares of the development. Fireman and Peterson will be equal partners in both restaurant projects, developing the concepts for the larger Redeye Grill and Bond 45, while Fireman's firm will operate them.

Fireman, who owns six restaurants in New York, said he has looked at other locations in the Washington area and turned down proposals to move into Nevada and New Jersey, because the locations just didn't do it for him. But he appears unperturbed that National Harbor is still a work in progress.

"I'm a firm believer in location," said Fireman, who met with Peterson after a deal to bring a Gallagher's Steakhouse and Sequoia seafood restaurant, both Ark Restaurants concepts, to National Harbor fell through. "That's why my restaurants are where they are in New York -- opposite Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, in the heart of the theater district. I know that people will be around in the hotels, in the office buildings there, so I'm guaranteed a certain amount of business."

About 2,000 hotel rooms have opened at the nearby Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, though condos in National Harbor are just beginning to be delivered and many of the sleek storefronts are locked, with signs in the windows that promise "coming soon." But the hotel has been providing a steady stream of customers for the Rosa Mexicano and McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants, along with Potbelly Sandwich Works, which opened earlier this year. Grace's, a local Asian restaurant, will open later this year.

The menus and themes for Redeye and Bond 45 will provide a local flavor. At Fireman's New York restaurants, he commissioned local artists to paint murals on the walls and craft human-sized brass shrimp, which spin from the ceiling in his Redeye restaurant. National Harbor consultant Jason Spillerman, who helped broker the deal, said the Maryland restaurants will be "almost like an American bistro."

"You have to offer something for everyone," Peterson said.

-- Anita Huslin

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