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Standing Room Only

. . . but McDonald's is right down the street.

This story appears in the July 1996 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It's a situation you won't hear about in business school-and one most restaurateurs will never face-but in January, it happened at Music City Roadhouse, Michael Sternberg and Larry Work's 300-seat Washington, DC, eatery. The phone rang. It was the White House, calling to find out if President Clinton and Vice President Gore could bring a party of 20 in to dine that night. With a packed house in his line of vision and reservations booked solid all night, General Manager Stephen Mayer had no choice but to turn the president down.

Refuse to feed the president of the United States? To hear Sternberg tell it, it's not as newsworthy as it sounds. "It's kind of like movie stars in Hollywood restaurants-nobody cares," says Sternberg. "In Washington, it's not that big a deal-it's just another politician out eating dinner." The restaurateurs weren't too worried about being blackballed because only two weeks earlier, President Clinton had dined at their nearby fine-dining restaurant, Sam & Harry's.

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