“It is essential I am a serious candidate,” Andy Shallal said last week. (Matt McClain/For The Washington Post)

Restaurateur Andy Shallal says he is closer to launching a mayoral run and will establish an exploratory committee to begin raising funds for the effort.

Shallal — Iraqi-born owner of the Busboys and Poets mini-empire, known for serving up progressive politics, art and literature alongside the pizzas and paninis — said he has gone so far as to interview potential treasurers and campaign managers, but his ultimate decision on whether to run comes down to dollars and cents.

“It will be how much money I can raise,” he said. “It is essential I am a serious candidate. I want to be a serious candidate.”

Shallal, 58, began openly considering a run in mid-August, when he gathered friends and potential campaign advisers at his flagship Busboys location on 14th Street NW. He had hoped at the time to have his mind made up by Labor Day.

The decision, he said, has stretched out as he has tried to figure out how to finance a viable campaign — something he called “ironic,” considering he was a strong backer of a 1992 city ballot initiative seeking to restrict all campaign donations to $100. (The initiative passed by nearly a 2-to-1 margin but was later overturned by the D.C. Council.)

Besides the financial considerations, Shallal said there was one additional factor in his decision: Whether or not incumbent Vincent C. Gray enters the Democratic primary race.

“If the mayor does decide to run, I probably won’t,” he said. “I’m supportive of the mayor and I hope he runs. If he doesn’t, we’ll know there’s some issues, and there’s an opportunity for me.”

Shallal isn’t the only familiar name now pondering a mayoral run.

Eric W. Price, a former deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said last week that he’s considering whether to throw his hat into the ring after being approached by some encouraging parties.

Price, who served as deputy mayor under Anthony A. Williams from 1999 to 2004, is now an executive at the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust and would not divulge who has been courting him to run. But he did dismiss rumors that Williams was among them.

“I would just say over the last few years a number of people have broached the subject with me,” he said.  I’m in that discussion phase with people and trying to get more information. I have some ideas, and I’m trying to get some other people’s ideas.”

Price, 52, has remained active in civic affairs as president of the Casey Trees board of directors and a board member for the D.C. Prep charter schools. He also recently served on the search team appointed by Gray to find the city’s next chief financial officer.

A Democrat, Price said among his prime considerations was the early timing of next year’s party primaries, which are set for April 1. “I want to make sure it’s something that’s the right time for me to do,” he said.

Neither Price nor Shallal has a lot of time to figure out whether this time is the right time: Ballot petitions will be made available Nov. 8, and Democratic candidates will have until Jan. 2 to collect 2,000 valid signatures from registered Democratic voters.