Marty O’Brien and Hal Koster, owners of Fran O’Brien’s Stadium Steakhouse (just a stone’s throw from the White House), have a serious problem. The problem is that they are being evicted from their basement location in the Capitol Hilton, due in no small part to the generosity they have shown to our nations wounded veterans. Fran O’Brien’s hosts a weekly free dinner every Friday for injured veterans from Walter Reid Military Hospital, and it appears that the hotels management is concerned about legal liabilities and ADA compliance. Without explanation their lease has not been renewed and now the restaurant is set to be evicted on May 1, 2006.
It’s only appropriate to allow Hilton to respond to these reports, and I’ve contacted the corporate press relations officials to get the Hilton side of the story. I expect that there will be official word from Hilton on the matter on Thursday.
Update: I made contact with a Hilton spokesperson this morning and it appears that the story the story of the eviction is true. Hilton denies that the decision has anything to do with the Friday dinners or the veterans who attend. Fran O’Brien’s was on a 6 month holdover from a lease that expired last year. The hotel claims that the decision to close Fran O’Brien’s is a business decision – nothing more. Specifically they deny that liability concerns were an issue. They note that they’ve held events attended by disabled veterans recently at the hotel, and that the hotel GM was a frequent attendee at the Friday night dinners. The hotel is in discussions with one of the sponsors of the Friday dinners about continuing the event at one of the other restaurants in the facility (Twiggs) or in one of their conference rooms.
Given that the meal is the brainchild of Koster (a Vietnam vet), I’m not sure how successful the hotel will be in attempting to continue the tradition in his absence. It looks like very much like a two and a half year tradition will get tossed aside by the Hilton’s decision.
Representatives for Fran O’Brien’s were not available for comment this evening, though they indicated that they would be available Friday morning.
Save Fran O’Brien’s – [Andi’s World]
Heaven for Wounded Vets in Danger of Closing Doors [The Real Ugly American]
The Battle for Fran O’Brien’s – [Mudville Gazette]
Heaven for Wounded Vets – [Capitol Hill Blue]
Steak and ale soothe ailing soldiers – [Kathleen Parker]
Pictures of the weekly dinner at Fran O’Brien’s Stadium Steak House – [Lance Frizzell]
Note: When this story was first published I had added this at the end:
- Assuming the story is true and Hilton plans on continuing its planned eviction of Fran O’Brien’s the logical response is to take to the street and show our support for O’Brien and Koster, and the logical day is Friday. If you’re in DC, and you’ve got some free time Friday afternoon you might want to meet me in front of Fran O’Brien’s at 4:00pm. I’m sure that rush hour traffic, hotel patrons, and the local media will be interested in hearing this story.
The claims that Hilton is evicting Fran O’Brien’s for some sort of anti-veteran bias just don’t add up. It’s most certain that Hilton intends to evict the restaurant, but there’s no evidence that it’s more than just a business dispute. That said, if the owners of Fran O’Brien’s want to stay in the facility (which is not clear at this point) there’s no reason not to protest the Capitol Hilton’s business decision. I’d prefer to get a clear answer on whether O’Brien and Koster actually want to remain in their Capitol Hilton location before starting a campaign to change the hotel’s mind. When I get a clear answer on that, then we can talk about the “Save Fran O’Brien’s” campaign. Hal Koster was not available this evening when contacted for a comment.
Just to be clear, there will be no protest on Friday…