AV Draws Diners To Beltway Restaurant
Systems fun for all occasions is on the menu at Jackie's
- by Gregory A. DeTogne
Challenge: To entice patrons into one of the D.C. area's hottest eateries with an AV bill of fare that adds more fun to dining and rocks out after-hours, all within a less-than-hospitable acoustical environment.
Solution: Implement a design blending the best of commercial and professional audio components that brings versatility and controlled performance to the space, as well as a unique projection system and two-sided screen.
As it's been popularly said, if you remember the '70s, you probably weren't there. On the other hand, if you go back in time before the Watts riots and Charles Manson, it gets easier to recall the '60s, and that's when the more innocent moments of the decade gave us Dippity-Do hairstyles, girls dancing in go-go cages, and the colorful, free-form world of psychedelia.
Located just outside the Washington D.C. beltway in Silver Spring, MD, Jackie's is a hot new restaurant paying homage to just that era with a hip, funked-up atmosphere that shamelessly and successfully celebrates the intrinsic goodness of shag carpet, heart-shaped throw pillows, pink leatherette, mod-print upholstery, and bouncy, colorful lighting.
A one-time warehouse and garage built in the 1920s, Jackie's is the latest creative expression of real estate developer Jackie Greenbaum and ex-husband/restaurateur Patrick Higgins. Retaining its bare brick walls, high ceiling, and exposed ductwork, the restaurant houses a bar, lounge, and its main dining area below street level. In the dining room, an "exhibition" kitchen spans the rear wall, its open space offering diners full view of food preparations overseen by celebrated D.C. chef Ann Cashion. Young and old eat here regularly, feasting on "nostalgia plate" specials and a decidedly good-time vibe.
A big part of the fun at Jackie's is music. AV plays a large role too, adding color and artistic imagery to a double-sided screen separating the bar from the dining area.
"Jackie is very much into music and art," relates Roly Jan of Total Audio Visual Systems, a systems integration firm also based in Silver Spring that implemented a versatile AV blueprint crisscrossing every inch of Jackie's floor space. "Quality music and AV is a vital part of her draw. Music cranks up the fun during dinner hours, then, after 10 P.M. , takes a turn toward nightclub levels, letting people get up and dance if they want. AV really is part of the decor. It's used to further Jackie's aura of '60s coolness, and create other textures. This is a happening location, definitely not the kind of place where you'd find 20-30 video monitors tuned to sports stations."
In accordance with a comprehensive AV plan, Jackie's is divided into six dedicated zones of audio: the bar, dining room, a gallery, restroom/hallway areas, a private dining room, and Jackie's office. Served by source program material including computer-generated tunes as well as CDs, the zones were constructed with expansion in mind to accommodate a DJ and even live music in the future. Gear within the audio system is collectively drawn from a list of components dominated by Chester, PA-based Inter-M Americas (IMA). Working with input from Roly Jan and Jackie herself, Richard Shaeer, IMA's independent sales rep for the region, penned the audio design, which combines the pure presence of high-end sonic quality with simple control functions and day-in, day-out commercial reliability.
Taking a distributed approach to the task at hand, Shaeer's blueprint deployed a total of 36 coaxial, eight-inch SA 802/SA 872 ceiling speakers from AMK Innovations operating at eight ohms within all six zones, each of which receive power from seven L-800 two-channel amplifiers from Inter-M. Matrix control within each zone is managed by an Inter-M PX-0288 8x8 matrix mixer. Permitting local audio sources to be routed in any combination to up to eight zones using local or remote control, the PX-0288 is capable of receiving up to eight local music sources at a time, while local and remote paging capabilities are provided with priority override.
Wall-mounted PS-88 remote program selectors also from Inter-M in each zone interface with the PX-0288 matrix control, offering quick, easy, fingertip access to any available source as well as priorities via an LED display.
"Ease-of-use is as important within this application as reliability," Roly Jan says. "Waiters and waitresses--as well as the patrons themselves in the private dining room--need to have quick and easy control over the system. The PS-88 remotes from Inter-M provide just that in an intuitive package that anyone can operate without much thought. From our perspective, they're a plus because they're quick to install, look good in each room, and aren't budget-breakers when it comes to cost."
To combat the acoustical ill effects presented by the harsh, reflective brick surfaces and high ceilings in the main dining area and gallery, equalization was introduced using Inter-M DSP-based, two-channel GEQ-2231 units serving up 31 bands of graphic EQ dedicated to each space individually, while additionally offering limiting, a 24-bit A/D converter, and 64 Hz sampling frequency.
"These are raw reverberant spaces," Jan says of the dining room and gallery. "With the GEQ-2231s, however, we were able to tame each via DSP performance managed with analog-style controls, a feature which went a long way to promote our goal of keeping things simple to use."
Because the house audio rig uses a high-density distributed design run at low impedance instead of 70 volts, designer Richard Shaeer felt it was imperative to provide equalization to optimize its fidelity.
"I included the GEQ units to both improve the general quality of sound and give us consistent coverage through the restaurant," he explains, providing insight into the philosophy guiding his choices. "Since there are several speakers in each zone, I needed something that would allow us to correct some of the natural lobing that occurs in the low/mid frequencies. The GEQs provided that tool, and also let us to optimally fine-tune the whole environment, then lock out our settings. Now, wherever you go, the sound is the same. There are no hotspots or places where you can't hear."
With its own sound reinforcement coming from the house audio system, AV presentation at Jackie's relies upon a Sony VPLCX70 XGA projector. Dishing up 2000 ANSI lumens of brightness, the ultra-compact unit was hidden within the rafters of the bar area and aimed at a 10-foot wide gauze-like material separating the bar and dining room. With source material coming from a laptop providing DVD playback as well as still images of art and photos, the projector displays images which, thanks to the transparency of the loose, open, gauzy screen, can be seen in the bar and dining room, as well as by passers-by outside though the main front window.
"That's Jackie all right," Jan says, commenting on the conceptual ideas behind the AV design. "Creatively simple, yet brilliant. The AV display can be a moving kaleidoscope of form and color, but it didn't cost a lot. The double-sided nature of the 'screen' makes it accessible to far more people than a traditional design would. It definitely catches the eye, and lures people in from the sidewalk to see what's going on. Jackie is an expert at exploiting fun, she knows it's contagious. Like everything else in the restaurant, AV is a part of it all."
Commissioned late last year, the AV systems at Jackie's have been running flawlessly for 16 to 18 hours each day since. Not wanting to miss out on the fun himself, Jan takes clients there regularly to show off his handiwork and nosh on Jackie's legendary "Elvis Burgers"--tiny hamburgers topped with pimento cheese.
"The menu is great," Jan adds. "And the ambience jumps with energy and excitement. In the broader scheme of things, Jackie's represents the best of all worlds. There's good food, great music, innovative AV, and an almost limitless room to expand on a a systems level. For those with a hearty appetite for these things and more, dinner at Jackie's is anything but light and less filling."
SAVING THE MONEY: HOW THEY DID IT
Launching a restaurant like Jackie's takes time, and money...lots of money. Like most start-up entrepreneurs, owner Jackie Greenbaum hemorrhaged cash getting her culinary dream off the ground. As a result, when it came time to develop her restaurant's AV build, funds were starting to run short, but she refused to compromise on quality.
"Music, sonic integrity, and AV presentation are an important part of Jackie's formula for success," says Richard Shaeer, designer of the restaurant's audio blueprint. "But just like virtually any project, the budget played a major role in what could or couldn't be accomplished in terms of meeting desired goals. We knew that Jackie had high expectations when it came to quality. It may have taken some head-scratching, but ultimately we got it for her at a price she could afford."
Casting about to bring maximal bang-for-the-buck to Jackie's, Shaeer and AV contractor Roly Jan researched the market and found that the best way to beat their budgetary demon was to take a systems approach fulfilled by as few suppliers as possible.
With Shaeer's help, Jan, who had been searching to devise an affordable and versatile systems package plan that would work in wide-ranging applications anyway, ultimately found what he was looking for within the Inter-M catalog.
"Much of our work comes from the government and Fortune 500-1000 companies," Jan says, describing his client list. "Customers from both of these markets come to us seeking turnkey designs. Therefore, rather than having to go out and piecemeal a system together using components from a variety of manufacturers, we've found it saves time and money if we provide the bulk--if not all--of the components comprising a system from one source."
Inter-M, a company gaining favor throughout the Americas for its broad product lines supporting everything from hardcore commercial endeavors to applications requiring sophisticated DSP processing, stepped up to the plate at Jackie's with virtually everything but the loudspeakers and projection system, which came from AMK Innovations and Sony respectively.
Following on the heels of demonstrations of competitive offerings taking a decidedly mutliple-vendor approach, the Inter-M-based system currently in use was selected for its performance and sound quality, not to mention its price tag.
"For the money, the performance couldn't be beat," Jan says. "By essentially relying on one supplier for almost everything, we obtained the high-end technology needed, and provided a lot of gear for less money. There was no other way we could have practically met Jackie's expectations. After she heard the demo, she knew she was getting a deal she couldn't refuse--the whole job came in at right around $19,000. She was pleased and excited at a time she could have easily been trying to rationalize the letdown of getting less than she wanted. We gained from the experience too, as the design has indeed gone on to serve as a profitable and practical paradigm for other distributed applications where quality counts, and dollars need to be saved."
As seen in "ProAV" Magazine