16 April, 2006

Fran O'Brien's: the Italian Connection

A few notes about the Fran O'Brien's issue [link corrected], updated throughout the day:

As pointed out by Greyhawk, CBS has picked up the story about Fran's closing that appeared on a local TV news website. So far, it's been covered by the Washington Post, local TV News, CBS, World Net Daily, and many of the blogging "heavies." There is a rumor that it was on CNN yesterday, but I haven't been able to confirm that.

In searching for news about the Fran's story, I found something that explained the Italian embassy's quick offer to host the dinners on a temporary basis (as described in the WaPo article). Apparently Italian business and government have a strong association with Friday Nights at Fran's. An Italian company recently contributed $75,000 towards the costs of the weekly dinners:

At a ceremony hosted by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Finmeccanica SpA, presented a check for $75,000 to the Fran O'Brien's Stadium Steakhouse in support of a program for wounded American soldiers.

Participating in the check presentation were the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Ed Giambastiani, Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank, Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta, Italy's ambassador to the United States, Mr. Tom Neumann, Executive Director and Mrs. Shoshana Bryen, Special Projects Director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Mr. Martin O'Brien and Mr. Hal Koster, owners of the Fran O'Brien's steakhouse.

The Finmeccanica contribution to the program is part of a two year long effort by Finmeccanica in support of the Fran O'Brien's rehabilitation project.
Very cool.

Postscript: the article also points out something I've heard elsewhere, but hadn't focused on before. The Friday nights at Fran's have been regularly attended by government officials of various stature. While this has given the officials a chance to thank the wounded away from the media spotlight, their presence is also of great benefit to the soldiers. As the article points out, sitting down and talking in this setting has allowed all-to-common bureaucratic tangles associated with military healthcare and benefits to be easily resolved. "Many problems that otherwise seem to be hard to fix, can be solved quickly when government and military leaders meet face to face at Fran O'Brien's," the article says.

And don't forget to submit your interview questions for Capital Hilton's GM to Andi. Today is the last day to do so.

Update: Interesting... The Capital Hilton has had their official response to the Fran O'Brien's matter (same as the email they've been sending out) on the front page of their website since yesterday, under the section "Features and Highlights." I'm guessing that speaks to the high volume of flak they've been receiving on this issue. Good work, people!

Update II: Soldiers' Dad has a heartfelt plea to look at things other than the bottom line.

Update III: Here's a more detailed report of Finmeccanica SpA's gift.

[Background on the Fran O'Brien's story here.]