The college dining hall, where John Belushi's Bluto Blutarsky stacked his tray with jello, Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and other cafeteria staples in the 1978 movie "Animal House," had been a culinary monopoly for years until Taco Bell Express, Quiznos, and other fast food chains made their way into student unions and campus meal plans.

George Mason University has taken academy cuisine one step further: Last week, a regionally known full-service restaurant opened in a student union building. Damon's, a Columbus, Ohio-based restaurant, features sports-bar decor and a variety of ribs, barbeque chicken and alcoholic beverages on its menu. Damon's Backporch Tea, for example, contains Jim Beam bourbon, rum, vodka, gin, Finest Call sweet and sour, and Coke. It's available in a 14-ounce size or a 22-ounce "Major League" mug.

Gaithersburg-based Sodexho, which holds the university's food service contract, acknowledged that locating a "branded" or recognizable chain restaurant in a university building is "breaking new ground." But, it added, the college campus has changed, as students have evolved into bigger, as well as older, consumers of goods and services. Sodexho regional marketing manager Deming Yaun said the idea to put a restaurant on campus came out of student focus groups and surveys the company conducted more than two years ago, when it was re-bidding for George Mason's food contract.

The traditional meal plan did not accommodate the university's large population of non-traditional students who commute and take courses at the school part time, at night or on weekends. "George Mason has a huge graduate student population. The hours of this operation -- evenings and weekends -- lend itself to grad students who might not have had a chance to eat after leaving work and fighting traffic," said Yaun.

The decidedly sports-bar emphasis, with wide-screen TVs, video poker, and extensive beer and liquor choices, might be a bit surprising for those who remember campus life as a refuge from the real world and less like a mall food court. And as far as having martinis and Long Island Iced Teas served in a campus building, Sodexho representatives said they will be strict about the law.

So far, however, the patrons at Damon's have all had teetotaler meals: The restaurant has not applied for its liquor license yet. Yaun said that certain details need to be worked out with the university before the application can move forward.

Sodexho representatives said that they don't foresee any problems. "Our bartenders will be trained on carding and fake IDs. It will not be tolerated if anyone is hooking up a buddy," said Kim Reed, the Damon's manager at George Mason.

Engineering Healthier Bodies

The Reston Chamber of Commerce held its annual shindig at the Hyatt Regency Reston on Sept. 29, and as its Entrepreneur of the Year the business group honored former software engineer James Smith.

Smith was recognized for his achievements in a different type of systems integration: Smith co-owns Body by Geoff, a health and fitness studio in the Lake Anne area, along with his son Geoff. "We do personal training -- and as part of that we address people's diet and nutrition," said Geoff Smith.

Other honorees included Incubator Company of the Year, network-provider Simena LLC; Small Business of the Year, marketing firm Hinge; National Business of the Year, defense-contractor Northrop Grumman; and Business Citizen of the Year, Reston Long and Foster office managing broker Michael Guthrie.

Have news about business in Fairfax County? Send an e-mail to or call 703-383-5103.