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January 27, 2011

They Canít Get No Satisfaction

Amanda Haddaway

Frederick-area business owners just can’t be satisfied, or so it seems from the information published in The Gazette about local restaurateurs Bryan Voltaggio and Hilda Staples.


First, we hear the constant complaints from current and prospective business owners that Frederick is unfriendly to business. Then, we learn that Mr. Voltaggio and Ms. Staples are being criticized by their fellow restaurant comrades for potentially receiving a “sweetheart deal.”


Unfortunately, Frederick business owners can’t have it both ways.


Our local elected officials and the Departments of Economic Development for both the city and the county have been hammered for years about making the City of Frederick more inviting for potential businesses. During every recent election we have heard a recurring message on how more jobs are needed in this area to eliminate the need to commute to Montgomery County and beyond for decent wages.


Now we have an opportunity for our very own home-grown Top Chef and his savvy business partner to open up a second restaurant and we’re going to complain about it?


Let’s take a minute and explore why the city should work with Mr. Voltaggio and Ms. Staples to secure this deal.


First, Frederick would be fortunate to add another destination restaurant to its list of tourist attractions. Critics of the proposed restaurant should remember that tourist dollars are the best dollars – they come, they spend money and they leave without being a burden on our infrastructure. There is reason to believe that many people who dine in Frederick also spend money at other merchants during their visits.


Second, critics are calling the proposed deal “unfair” and claiming that the details of the proposed lease agreement are “extraordinary.” Isn’t this the kind of capitalism that makes our country so great? Mr. Voltaggio and Ms. Staples are totally justified in seeking the best deal they can obtain from the city. They would be foolhardy to accept less. What is unfair is that the dynamic restaurant duo is being criticized for doing exactly the same thing that any businessperson in their shoes would do.


Third, the current restaurant (Volt) co-owned by Mr. Voltaggio and Ms. Staples has been a huge success. Why wouldn’t we want more of the same with a second venture? Again, going back to the value of tourism, it seems likely that Frederick would continue to receive positive press on this proposed restaurant which would help to increase tourism dollars. The proposed location – in the parking deck at East All Saints and Carroll Streets – is near the East Street extension and the new Frederick County visitors center. This seems like an ideal spot to welcome guests into our fair city.


Due to complaints the proposed site will be open for additional bids. It will be curious to see if any of the complainers decide to submit a proposal for their usage of the space. My guess is that they won’t bother. Instead, they would rather just grumble and create yet another roadblock for their fellow business owners. Let’s hope that they haven’t made the process so cumbersome that Mr. Voltaggio and Ms. Staples decide to locate their new restaurant elsewhere.


The discussion on this deal has been removed from the Mayor and Board of Aldermen’s meeting agenda for now, but we need to pay attention to this effort and let Mr. Voltaggio and Ms. Staples know that we support them and their efforts for increased economic development in Frederick. A few critics with loud voices don’t speak for the majority of Frederick’s citizens.


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