Our story so far: Frank Connell and his cousin Mike Clements are just about out of cash. The grand opening of their restaurant, the Red Bean, depends on the approval of a $20,000 bank loan. It's been several weeks since they submitted the application, and still no word. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
The bank said no. A loan officer called to announce the decision to Frank. Without a job or a source of income, Frank did not qualify for the money, the loan officer explained. Frank says it's been hard for him to fathom why the bank didn't share his vision: "They wouldn't even send somebody out to look, see what we have done, that we are actually going to open a . . . restaurant."
He swallowed his pride and applied for a line of credit with the same bank. Again the answer was no. He then turned to the most expensive form of borrowing, asking for a credit card. Again, no. The bank said there was a splotch on his credit report: something about unpaid parking tickets.
Frank has no intention of giving up. "I've sunk everything I have into the restaurant," he explains. "It can't not open."
He and his cousin Mike Clements have spent the past five months transforming a historic storefront on Mount Pleasant Street NW into the Red Bean, a casual, 40-seat eatery that will serve a fusion of Tex-Mex and Cajun cuisine. The owner of the building, an old friend of Frank's, agreed not to charge rent during the renovation. But now that most of the work is finished, the owner has suggested that he wants to start collecting $3,500 a month. "We're sort of running out of time," Frank says.
There are other unavoidable and unmet costs, such as paying the city for permits and licenses. The Red Bean also needs to buy a deep fryer, a mixer and a meat slicer. Fortunately, Frank knows a guy who deals in used kitchen equipment. He thinks he can strike a few bargains.
Despite the obstacles, Frank insists that the restaurant will open by late summer. There are a few signs that he's not deluding himself. Recently, Frank and Mike landed a $10,000 loan from a company called Rewards Network. With that money, they paid a stack of outstanding bills. "That first day we sat down and wrote $6,000 worth of checks," Frank says.
And another bit of good news just arrived in the mail. A credit card company has made a loan offer, not to Frank, but to his mother, Joan Connell, a retired federal employee who works part time at a retirement home. She called the credit card company, which said it will take three weeks to get the money, more than $20,000. She says she's willing to go into debt on behalf of her son.
"I just want them to get open because I know it's going to be a success," she says. "Frank's a great cook. The menu is good, the price is right. How can it fail?"
-- Tyler Currie