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National Restaurant Association - Restaurant champion bids adieu to RAMW

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Restaurant champion bids adieu to RAMW

Lynne Breaux.jpg

The first time Lynne Breaux testified before the Washington, D.C., City Council, she was trying to persuade lawmakers that vendors at the city's historic Eastern Market were good for local businesses. Customers who browsed the flea market and artists' stalls also patronized her nearby Capitol Hill restaurant and other shops.

Since then, the market has grown, thrived and recovered from a devastating fire. And shoppers pack the increasing number of nearby restaurants.

In that time, Breaux, who retires Friday as executive director of Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, has testified scores of times before local legislative bodies.

During her 11 years at RAMW, Breaux as fought for the right to eat, drink and be merry -- hospitably, responsibly and profitably. After she leaves RAMW, she'll continue advocating for and promoting the restaurant industry.

"I'll still continue the pursuit of my lifelong passion for restaurants but on a broader scale," she says.

Breaux came to DC from New Orleans, where she was catering director at the Royal Orleans Hotel. After serving as catering director of former Ritz-Carlton in Washington, she opened a New Orleans-themed restaurant. In early October 2001, she took the helm of RAMW.

At the time, few people were going out to restaurants after the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York. With corporate and government funding, RAMW launched its first Restaurant Week, with three-course dinners for $30.01 and lunches for $20.01. The event helped draw guests back to restaurants and re-fuel the economy.

As the economy recovered, more restaurants expanded and opened in the Washington area. But as the market picked up, competition, rent and food costs increased, as did RAMW members' need to attract and retain qualified service staff, Breaux says.

RAMW works to help its members deal with staffing and economic challenges, as well as regulatory and legislative issues. Among its notable victories: Convincing Washington, D.C., officials to extend operating hours for the 2009 and 2013 presidential inaugurations.

Breaux also says she is proud to have helped raise the status of the industry through RAMW's annual RAMMYs awards gala and promote restaurants as career opportunities through scholarships.

"More and more legislators are seeing ... how restaurants are so vital to the community," she says.

Photo: Washington Mayor Vincent Gray declares Monday, Dec. 3, as "Lynne Breaux Day."

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