- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Ernest and Kathy Simo, owners of the embattled Cada Vez Restaurant and Conference Center located on the changing "New U" Street corridor, have said, "We came here looking to build a business; we didn't come looking for a fight."
But oh, brother, did they ever find themselves in the midst of the virtual food fight of their lives.
With all the greenbacks and good will the Simos have expended in the revitalizing community as they battled back their few but frenetic detractors who blocked the opening of their upscale cyber-cafe and conference center this past year, I'd have packed up my digital delicacies by now and set up shop in the suburbs.
For the Simos, food fight has become synonymous with the "community's" fight to reclaim and retain its historical character.
Inside and outside of the Cada Vez walls lies the typical gentrification controversy between black and white, rich and poor that's been played out all over the District.
Often at issue are the necessary city licenses and permits that new businesses must obtain or old establishments must renew that frequently come under intense community opposition. Often that "community" is in flux and is at odds with itself.
The Cada Vez restaurant liquor license was challenged by a handful of protesters who forced the delay through a 45-day mini-referendum they compelled the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to conduct. That appointed body is under political pressure to be more selective in issuing liquor licenses.
Nonetheless, that valuable piece of sanctioned paper can make or break a business like Cada Vez, which seeks to serve a unique dual purpose a high-tech restaurant by night and a high-tech conference center by day.
Still, the highly charged controversy over Cada Vez shows promise for interracial relationships in this changing town.
The Simos may have unwittingly developed a model for helping communities develop around their mutual interest that transcends race and income.
The Simos naively downplay the racial undertones — on both sides — that they've experienced. But they eventually acknowledge that they were blindsided, and not just by their lack of knowledge about government process and politics.
"We've been married for 24 years and we have encountered more racism [in the District] in the last six months than anywhere else we've lived in the world," said Mrs. Simo, a serene Scottish mate to her gentle Cameroonian husband.
Mr. Simo chokes up when he describes his grandiose dreams and the deeply painful disillusionment he's endured from discovering that there are no "limits of human decency that I thought people would not cross." And, what they wanted was to "economically dry up the project."
Yet all is not lost. A lot has been gained, including new friends, new family and a renewed sense of community, not only for the Simos but also for the seniors and students of the nearby Campbell Heights and Portner Place apartment complexes who are now taking computer classes at Cada Vez.
Out of their ordeal, the Simos say they have grown stronger and found a "true community" on U Street that has welcomed them and their futuristic project to the once-blighted area.
"The good news is that the opposition used the term 'community' as a shield, but the true community came up and rallied to support us and reclaimed its rightful place," Mr. Simo said.
This came about only after the Simos engaged in a massive public relations blitz that included hosting several open house gatherings at Cada Vez to correct "the scandalous distortions" about their business.
"We thought we'd be marketing, but not like this," Mrs. Simo said.
To date, the Simos sunk $4 million in Cada Vez, located at 1438 U St. NW, the site of the old Mecca Temple No. 10. They lose $30,000 on their bank loan each month the liquor license is at issue. Their other business enterprises sustain the project through this protracted process.
Cada Vez is Portuguese for "each time," and Mr. Simo had hoped that each time patrons entered his establishment they would be met by a different experience in food, in entertainment, in learning, in meeting new people. He likens the place to "an airport where ideas can take off and land."
Education, family and making a difference in the community are most important to the couple. In fact, they have helped build and stock a library in Mr. Simo's West African village.
Mr. Simo received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and electronics from the University of Birmingham, where he assisted the British Ministry of Defense.
He was a pioneer in several technologies that are key components of the Internet, satellite and wireless communications. He is helping to develop the newest generation of wireless technologies, which include incorporating video into cell phone transmissions.
A former Internet technology professor at George Washington University, Mr. Simo continues to lecture and train telecommunications executives and engineers worldwide with clients such as the U.S. Department of Defense, AT&T;, Motorola, Airtouch, and Hughes Network Systems, where he specialized in satellite systems design.
Kathy Simo is a native of Annan, Scotland, who grew up on a farm. She served in the British Navy Women's Royal Navy Service, where she received training in the culinary and hospitality arts and eventually catered to the elite officers corps.
After managing restaurants, bars and a nursing home in England and Canada, she became the business manager for the couple's technology consulting firm.
After touring several cities including Atlanta and San Francisco, the Simos, both 47, decided to move back to the Washington area from Dallas because they were attracted to the U Street corridor's diversity and prime location.
They live in Annandale with their four children, James, 14, and 9-year-old triplets John, Michael and Christiane. When they first settled in the U.S. in 1983, they lived in Rockville.
The Simos' business ventures capitalized on his expertise in the technology and wireless communication fields with their Space 2000 consulting firm, incorporated in 1987. Their second business venture capitalized on her expertise in the culinary and hospitality arts with the renovation of Kirk Connel Hall Hotel in Scotland in 1995.
Cada Vez was supposed to be the venture in which they meshed their respective fields of expertise.
The ABC Board meets tomorrow, and the Simos hope their license will finally be issued now that the petitioners failed to gather enough signatures in opposition to the business that they claimed was a nightclub in sheep's clothing.
This couple who merely came to town to start a business ought to be able to fix their food without enduring another day's fight.


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