Our story so far: Frank Connell writes checks -- and incurs overdraft fees -- as his restaurant, the Red Bean, struggles to stay afloat amid a sea of unpaid bills. 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 email@example.com.
Pepco finally pulled the plug on the Red Bean's electricity, making it impossible for the restaurant to open on a recent Monday night. Frank Connell and his cousin-business partner, Mike Clements, owed almost $750 to the utility.
"Fortunately, we had money in the bank" when the restaurant went dark, Frank says. The next day, he withdrew $800 and went to Pepco's downtown office. He says only one cashier was working even though many people were waiting to pay their bills. "It's bad enough you're taking all my money," he remembers thinking to himself. "Now you're taking all my time."
He decided to speed things along: "I threw a temper tantrum." A second cashier quickly appeared. "It's amazing what happens when you scream and yell," he observes.
Frank left Pepco with about $50 in his pocket, enough money to stop by the Old Ebbitt Grill downtown and feast on half-price lobster. "I'm sick of being poor," he says, adding that the meal "did good for my soul."
With the electricity back on, Frank and Mike drove to Restaurant Depot, where they buy supplies for the Red Bean. The cousins had only $216 to spend, Frank says, so they could afford only the "bare minimum" for the next few days: chicken, beef, cheese, vegetables and some tortillas. The bill came to about $217 -- one buck more than they had. "Oh come on," said a disbelieving worker at the wholesaler, who then took pity on the poor restaurateurs and handed them a dollar.
There's little to do the next day when Frank arrives at the Red Bean. Typically his first task is sweeping and mopping the floor. Unfortunately, the floor isn't dirty because there were hardly any customers the night before. Mike stands behind the counter, reviewing receipts. "Last night, literally, was our worst night ever," Mike says. The restaurant took in less than $100.
"Very, very, depressing," Frank says. "You watch everyone go next door" to Tonic, a restaurant and bar on Mount Pleasant Street. The Red Bean doesn't have a liquor license yet, and that has made it more difficult to attract customers. "Even parents with kids want to have a drink," Frank says.
He's tired of customers asking him if the Red Bean serves alcohol, so recently he posted a sign on the door: "Sorry for the time being the Red Bean is an alcohol free establishment."
But Frank is optimistic that he'll be able to take down the sign soon. Earlier in the week he and Mike met with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission and persuaded it not to oppose the Red Bean's liquor license application. Opposition would have been a major setback. Now, Frank reports, the restaurant's lawyer says the Red Bean might have its liquor license "as soon as tomorrow." But tomorrow comes and goes. Still no license.
-- Tyler Currie