Long the darling of connoisseurs of creative sandwiches, the Booeymonger restaurants earlier this month filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
"I finally came to the conclusion that I could go on with the old game I was playing with my purveyors, or I could file," said Timothy O'Neil, owner of the two restaurants. "I realized there was no way I could make everyone happy."
Under Chapter 11, a business continues to operate under court protection while it works out a plan to pay off debts. Although O'Neil has stopped paying unsecured debts owed to his suppliers, his attorney Phillip McNutt said yesterday that the two remaining Booeymongers are pulling in enough cash to pay service on the more than $500,000 in secured debt. The two restaurants' total assets are valued in court documents at less than $40,000. O'Neil said a repayment plan will be based on the two sites' performance over the next three months.
The source of unhappiness for debtor and creditor alike, O'Neil said yesterday, was the ill-fated Golden Booeymonger restaurant. "It was a disaster for everybody," O'Neil said. Not only did the failure of the location produce discord that eventually caused O'Neil to buy out his two partners, but persistent losses at the Golden Booeymonger drained the two profitable locations in Georgetown and on Wisconsin near the Maryland border. A year-long attempt to sell the restaurant bore no fruit.
O'Neil bought out partners Ron Vogel and and Les Samuel in January, and the cash he still owes them makes up more than $300,000 of the $500,000 in secured debt. The Golden Booeymonger, three years old and a failure, was bought at the same time by Vogel. He now operates it as Fraser House at 1701 20th St..
It was more than seven years ago that Tim O'Neil and Les Samuel put up $5,000 each to start the original Booeymonger as a hole-in-the-wall delicatessen in Georgetown. Operating the seven-seat deli by themselves, they saw their sandwiches ride the crest of a boom in novelty health food, and in 1976 they took on Vogel as a junior partner and started a new 123-seat restaurant at Jenifer and Wisconsin.
The second location offered morsels with such tempting names as "Patty Hearst" -- a toasted English muffin with turkey and provolone -- and "The Exorcist" -- hot roast beef "possessed" by blue cheese dressing with bean sprouts wedged in a clementine roll.
O'Neil says his system, pared down once more to two restaurants, will remain successful. "I plan to hang in there and make it," he said. "But everyone may not be paid off for a year and a half. It may be slow, but I don't want to screw my purveyors."