Prev | List | Random | Next
As a result of our listing the email addresses of the Hilton officials below these email addresses have been turned off (these addresses previously worked). Please send any message you care to send with "attention to" the officials listed below to the following email address: email@example.comNice.
It's worth taking a moment to email, if only to let the good folks at Hilton know they've got a growing problem. The decidedly left-of-center TPM Cafe takes up the cause:
There are a lot of people who say "I support the troops," put a yellow ribbon on their car, or hang a star in their window. The owners and staff of Fran O'Brien's Steak House have gone WAY beyond the call when it comes to showing their support.Meanwhile, the editorially right-of-center Washington Times offers a great re-cap of the situation - with some news in the final paragraphs:
Since October of 2003 Marty O'Brien and Hal Koster have been providing a free "Friday Night out on the Town" at Fran O'Briens Stadium Steak House for thousands of severely injured soldiers and marines who are recuperating at nearby Walter Reed Army Hospital and Bethesda Naval Medical Center. Hal, a Vietnam vet, and his partner Marty, have made it a policy that they will continue to do this ... UNTIL THE LAST SOLDIER WOUNDED IN THIS CONFLICT HAS GONE HOME FROM WALTER REED AND BETHESDA.
That is stunning. What is even more stunning is how their landlord, Hilton Hotel Corp., responded to this. Hilton served Fran O'Brien's with an eviction notice. Why? Hilton doesn't want to spend the money to provide equal access for disabled people.
When I first read about this, I wrote a letter to Thomas Keltner, Vice President of Branding Performance for Hilton Hotel Corp. and Jeff Diskin, Senior Vice President for Brand Management & Marketing. I received a polite, but unresponsive form letter in return. That is when I called Hal Koster to get the facts of the situation. What he told me is outrageous.
After September 11, many American businesses were asking what they could do to help. Among the best to act was Fran O'Brien's Stadium Steakhouse at 16th and L Streets Northwest, which for more than two years has served free steak dinners and beverages on Fridays to wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from Walter Reed Medical Center in upper Northwest and elsewhere. The restaurant, a cozy nest of sports memorabilia tucked in the basement of the Capital Hilton Hotel, just lost its lease and is in danger of closing for good, for what appear to be very shabby reasons.Thanks to Fuzzy for the pointer!
According to co-proprietor Hal Koster, the trouble began earlier this year when lease negotiations with Hilton broke down over the installment of a lift for wheelchair-bound veterans to enter the premises, which are at basement level. "We compromised on just about everything else, but we said, 'You have to do the lift,' " Mr. Koster recounted in a phone interview with The Washington Times. But Hilton balked because the costs would be higher than anticipated.
About a month ago Mr. Koster and business partner Marty O'Brien, son of the late Redskins tackle and restaurant namesake, received an eviction notice. "They haven't said anything to us" beyond the official notice, Mr. Koster reports. But to his mind, it was clear enough that Hilton evicted him because it didn't want to pay for the lift.
This story shouldn't -- we'd go so far as to say couldn't -- end badly. More than once has Fran O'Brien's been the first place a wounded vet begins to feel normal again, and that shouldn't end over a lift.
Hilton couldn't possibly want to strangle the spirit and community that's arisen around these dinners. Perhaps it will reconsider. It has already offered to continue the dinners in a ballroom or at Twigs, its ground-level restaurant, a self-described "Tuscan journey" bordering on the exotic with things like truffles and bean puree. (We suspect the vets would prefer something a little homier. Can't a guy get a good steak dinner when he needs one?)
In the immediate future, a rival has stepped in to be the goodwill enterprise that Hilton apparently isn't. Mr. Koster reports that rival Crown Plaza Hotel has agreed to host the dinners temporarily.
The longer term, though, is cloudier: Mr. Koster hasn't found a suitable location downtown yet. He may have to relocate to Bethesda or Ballston, if he does at all.
It won't be easy or cheap to find another location for these dinners. According to Ramona Joyce, an American Legion spokeswoman currently helping them spread the word, the dinners cost $3,500-$4,000 each to serve anywhere from 30-60 people. At least the cost is covered partly by a charity, the Aleethia Foundation. But clearly Fran O'Brien's started this tradition at considerable cost to itself.
In a tough business like this, it takes a lot of gumption to do what Fran O'Brien's did. But then, the same and more can be said of the people it helped out. There must be a good solution to this somewhere in Washington, a restaurant or commercial landlord willing to give the country's wounded veterans a few seats at the table.
An absolutely non-partisan issue here (although I've been labelled both a right wingnut and a socialist for helping spread the word). We now have veteran's groups, an army of MilBloggers, (and you can bet the vetnet is just getting started) TPM Cafe, National Review, Michelle Malkin, Glenn Reynolds, Freepers, local news (don't miss the video report!), CBS, the AP, the Washington Times, and the Washington Post telling the story.
Many people sport yellow ribbons on their cars, and plenty of others "support the troops - not the war". We may soon discover if they all really mean it.
Update: While you may not be able to do as much as the American Legion:
“It’s truly a shame these Friday night outings for our wounded heroes will come to an end at Fran O’Brien’s,” said American Legion National Commander Thomas L. Bock who supports the dinners.You can make a difference via the Aleethia Foundation - helping Fran's help the troops.
“It’s not May 1st yet,” Bock said. “We’ll lend our support any way we can, even if it means having to help raise money for an elevator.”
The owners of Fran O'Brien's Stadium Steakhouse in Northwest Washington have created a charity to help fund the Friday night steak dinners they hold for wounded soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center.Their web site is here.
I think we need to broaden the pressure, here. Killeen has two Hampton Inns and a Hilton Garden Inn nearby, and there is a *lot* of activity with associated travelling going on the next few months at Fort Hood. How about I publicize the Hilton Corporation's "support" for wounded veterans?
Go to http://hiltonworldwide.hilton.com/ and click on Find a Hotel to locate Hilton family hotels near *your* military community. This could be fun.Posted by Peyton at April 22, 2006 01:36 PM
"There are a lot of people who say "I support the troops," put a yellow ribbon on their car, or hang a star in their window"
If someone has a blue star in a window, they've got a family member in a war zone. If they've got a Gold Star in the window, they've given a the life of a family member.Posted by Soldier's Dad at April 22, 2006 03:00 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(2) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)