Early this morning I met with Joe Vamboi, the erstwhile owner of Joe's Steak & Egg Restaurant on 9th Street N.W.
Joe is an economic refugee, a symptom of an overbearing and compassionless District of Columbia government. Everywhere Joe looks-- the Mayor's office, Councilman Jim Graham, Ward One advisory neighborhood commissioners, and assorted community leaders --they all pat themselves on the back for having forced Joe to "voluntarily" close his restaurant.
Councilman Graham in particular exerted extreme pressure upon Joe’s Steak & Egg Restaurant due to a June 28 fatal shooting on the premises. You can read an in-depth articles here and here. Graham called for the DCRA to revoke Joe's business license and asked the D.C. attorney general to investigate the business.
Councilman Graham and others in the community seem to believe that businesses exist at the pleasure of government and that no evidence of wrongdoing is needed to close a restaurant on account of violent crimes committed against its customers. Rather than meeting with the business owner and trying to find solutions, Graham decided to slander the business as a "crime magnet" and demand that every regulatory tool of government be used to wipe this small business off the face of the earth.
Joe hired security to cover his store over the weekends, but he couldn't afford full time security. When I asked Councilman Graham what he expected Joe to have done, he wrote that the owner should have hired fulltime security, but at the same time Graham acknowledged that it was unaffordable. Sounds like a version of "If you can't afford to take the heat, get out of the kitchen."
The North Capitol Street corridor between New York Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue welcomes business owners with an entrepreneurial spirit. While starting a new business in Eckington-Bloomingdale is not an easy task, residents will welcome responsible business owners with open arms—and will open a dialogue if concerns arise. North Capitol Main Street, Inc. provides businesses with assistance on a wide range of matters ranging from developing capital to improving the business interior and facade.
I want business owners everywhere to know that neighbors here are committed to working with businesses to make them better, rather than grinding them under a regulatory heel. Simple respect and decency require nothing less.