Early Briefing: Struggling Eateries And XM News
Today's Monday, the day the Business section goes all local.
*Food costs are high and diners are staying home or ordering less, shaking up menus and causing chefs to consider, among other things, the merits of foie gras.
Carmine Marzano, the owner of District restaurant Luigino, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The owners of Equinox are offering cheaper, "for-the-table" dishes. Jeff Black, the owner of four restaurants including Bethesda's Black's, is paying vendors within seven days of accepting an order -- a rarity in an industry that often pays up to 180 days later.
* Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin said Sunday that he will support a merger between the nation's sole satellite radio operators, XM and Sirius, a decision that could remove the last regulatory hurdle in the lengthy and heavily criticized move to make the companies one.
Martin came to the decision after the companies agreed last week to several commitments intended to prevent the monopoly from raising programming prices and from stifling competition among radio makers, aides to the chairman said in an interview yesterday. Critics have argued that a merger of District-based XM and Sirius of New York would hurt consumers, who would have fewer choices of programming and radio transmitters and who would be charged higher prices because of a lack of rivals.
*International travel into the United States - increasingly with a high-end flavor - appears to be on the rise. Foreign tourists typically spend two or three times what Americans do on U.S. vacations, and the weak dollar creates an incentive to splurge even more.
So they're coming with empty suitcases, to be filled at the mall or Trader Joe's. And international travel agents are increasingly on the prowl for VIP accommodations and special experiences to sell to clients. Some hoteliers are responding with private rooftop dinners overlooking the White House, back-of-the-house visits to Smithsonian museums and limousine tours of Virginia's wine country.
*Pew Charitable Trusts recently acquired the 10-story office building at 901 E St. NW, just across the street from the J. Edgar Hoover Building. The 265,00-square-foot space will serve as the group's new Washington headquarters, with a twist: Pew plans to lease 90 percent of the building to other nonprofit groups, at 10 to 15 percent below market rates.
*Ground is expected to be broken this summer on new digs for the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity: a 120,000-square-foot facility at the University of Maryland's M Square research park, just off campus.
Maryland congressional and university officials see the agency as a boon to the university and local contracting community. IARPA is temporarily located in the university's Center for Advanced Study of Language, which is supported by the National Security Agency and, among other things, teaches Arabic to Iraq-bound Marines and researches cross-cultural interrogation techniques.
*Earlier this month the Department of Defense recommended that soldiers carry a blood-clotting product, licensed to TraumaCure of Bethesda, to treat battlefield wounds. The department's endorsement means all military branches will be able to purchase WoundStat, a granular mixture of minerals that stops heavy bleeding.
*The Prince George's County state's attorney's office is making a to-do today of returning the 2 millionth dollar to local businesses that have received bad checks from customers. State's Attorney Glen F. Ivey will display an oversized cardboard check in the parking lot of a Beltsville Costco.
June 16, 2008; 5:00 AM ET
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