Although located in a block zoned for residential development near the corner of Connecticut Avenue and R Street NW, the former grand home at 1701 20th St. has been an eating establishment for decades.
There was a tea room with outdoor seating back in the Depression era, when the building was an elite boarding house. More recently, there have been private clubs or restaurants that have come and gone - the Golden Parrot and Larry Brown's Supper Club among them.
During the coming week, another restaurant will open up for business there and the three young owners hope to stay in the neighborhood north of Dupont Circle for many years.
At first, however, there will be no outdoor eating despite community support for the concept. District government zoning officials have turned a deaf ear on pleas for a zoning change that would permit an outdoor cafe at the corner, even though one exists directly across the street. At a hearing last week, the zoning commission wouldn't even listen to a request for reconsideration.
The Golden Booeymonger will be the restaurant's name, and the location is the third in the District for an unusual sandwich-oriented business venture launched four and a half years ago.
"Cold cuts always have been my favorite food," said Leslie Samuel, 31, a co-founder and partner in the Booeymongers, whose unique breed of sandwiches already has spawned some copying at other eating establishments.
From a small neighborhood deli in Georgetown, at 3265 Prospect St. NW, Booeymonger expanded last year with a new, ultramodern restaurant at Wisconsin avenue and Jenifer Street NW, across the street from a soon-to-be-opened Neiman Marcuss store.
Specialty sandwiches always have been the main attractions at Booeymonger and most of them were dreamed up by Samuel, co-founder Timothy O'Neil, friends or relatives. Early experiments that remain popular at both current locations are the Gurubin (turkey, avocado and bean sprouts on a roll) and the Pegasus (roast beef, sour cream, mushrooms on french bread).
More recent attractions are the Patty Hearst (turkey, bacon and provolone cheese on a toasted English muffin), Sloppy Jaws (ham and Swiss cheese, tomato, cole slaw on hard roll) and pita pan (garden vegetables, meunster cheese, dressing and avocado in pita bread)
All of these concoctions, and more, will be offered at the new Golden Booeymonger, which also features full dinners from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. The newest restaurant has a liquor license and will have a separate capuccino bar in the basement. A big lunch business is expected, and the restaurant will open at 11 a.m. and close at 2 a.m. (except Friday and Saturday nights, when the closing will be 3 a.m.), Samuel said.
For a business that began less than five years ago with a down payment of $50 and two bank loans of $5,000 each (one to samuel, the other to O'Neil), the Booeymonger operation has to be classified as a small business success story. Samuel and O'Neil recalled last week that revenues were about $50 for their first day in business at the Georgetown location, since expanded but still off the main tourist strips of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue.
During the coming year, revenues for the three Booeymonger restaurants could reach $1 million, said O'Neil, 32. The young owners have dreams of franchising their concept here or across the country.
But getting the Golden Booeymonger established as a permanent operation and continuing to oversee the Georgetown and Jenifer Street units is likely to occupy the owners for the next two years, Samuel emphasized. A third partner is Ronald Vogel 27, with a background in professional food service. He joined Samuel and O'Neil two years ago and helped to organize the second restaurant's 24-hour-a-day operation, making it one of the few eating establishments here open all night.
There is no question that the Connecticut Avenue and R. Street location is the biggest step in the company's short history. The Jenifer Street Booeymonger required an initial investment of $100,000, but the restaurant scheduled to open in a few days north of Dupont Circle required twice that amount.
The three partners are sole owners of the firm; the initial loans have been repaid and additional money has been borrowed locally with guarantees from the Small Business Administration.
According to documents filed with the National Park Service's register of historic places, the Golden Booeymonger building was designed by Washington architects Joseph C. Hornblower and James Rush Marshall and buit in 1890 as a residence for George C. Fraser a merchant who came here from New York in 1888.
The home was designated as historic because it is an "important visual element of the Connecticut Avenue facade" and an architectural transitional building, rooted in Romanesque but inspired also by the Italian Renaissance and English-American colonial styles.
Facades are of deep red brick above an English basement of pink granite. The building has a tiled roof, stone entrance portico and an interior planned around an open stairwell and large central hall. Original details included tooled leather ceilings, stained glass and a silver chandelier - all intact.
Owners of the Golden Booeymonger plan to use three first-floor rooms for dining and an additional room as a bar. A completely new kitchen has been installed in the basement.
In addition to the now-standard fare of sandwiches, Golden Booeymoner entrees will include The Earthy (fried chicken), Realistic (New York strip steak), Spiritual (eggplant vegetarian spaceship), ethereal (duck cointreau), and Mysterious (Booey catch of the day).
To the greatest extent possible, Samuel and O'Neil said they want to feature natural foods and products without additives. Roast beef sandwiches always have been the most popular, they added.
Every day, one or more of the three partners stops in to check developments at the various restaurants; although a central office will be located at the Golden Booeymonger. All three said last week that the partnership form of ownership and management has worked for them. The problems which develop and normal management details are handled by all three men, usually without any formal assignment of responsibilities. When there's something to be done, one of the three does it.
Employment at the Golden Booeymonger will be about 110 in addition to 120 current employees, many of them students who work various shifts (more than 2,000 customers are handled on busy days at the Jenifer Street location, including a regular crowd of nighthawks, many of them workers at downtown restaurants who have nowhere else to go for their own meals after getting off work after 2 a.m.)
Building the small Booeymonger empire hasn't been easy. For one thing, O'Neil said, it is more difficult to get bank financing for a small business today than several years ago. "My heart goes out" to young people trying to start a business today, said O'Neil, a Vietnam war veteran.
Samuel also pointed to government regulations and city controls as time consuming problems for small entrepreneurs.