Main Street Grill Calls It Quits; Two Health Magazines Move to Richmond; Lawyers' Ad Features Ties to Minimalism; MCV Will Be Part of Huge AIDS Study 

Street Talk

Main Street Grill Calls It Quits

While most people and businesses toast the birth of a new year on Dec. 31, Jeffrey Ruggles and his Main Street Grill will celebrate the end of 17 years as a Shockoe Bottom institution.

Main Street Grill will serve its last bean paco this Sunday, Dec. 23, and reopen for a party on New Year's Eve before closing for good.

The grill is a quiet place to dine these days. You're likely to find a smattering of customers sprinkled at the bar and booths, waiting on the famously slow service, calmly munching on the place's staid vegetarian menu (at night only) and listening to nonconfrontational music. The restaurant is the antithesis of most other Shockoe Bottom establishments; compared to them, it's about as wild as a box of Shredded Wheat.

Ruggles is equally prosaic when asked about the end of his restaurant and its history. It was the only place open at night in Shockoe Bottom when he first opened the doors nearly two decades ago, he says. Also, he adds: We had the flood in 85, and the flood in 87. ... That was exciting. He mentions the old-time-music jam held there every Thursday for many years. Then there was a regular slide night: OPeople would bring slides and everyone would show slides, Ruggles affirms.

Ruggles is keeping as quiet as possible when it comes to sale of the restaurant. He says his buyers will probably open a peaceful coffee shop/bookstore-type place.

So itOs goodbye to Main Street Grill, that gathering place for countercultural types of all stripes. It's goodbye to an institution that for years in the evenings featured local musicians crowded onto its tiny speck of floor space by the bathrooms.

And what of Jeffrey Ruggles? Let's just say I'm going to pursue other opportunities, he says. Wayne Melton

Two Health Magazines Move to Richmond

Look out, carnivores. The staff of the magazine Vegetarian Times is moving to Richmond, a city that counts among its biggest celebrations High on the Hog, which involves half a ton of barbecued pork.

But don't expect any People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals-style protests to begin. Vegetarian Times, which claims a monthly readership of 1 million, is more about healthy living and meat-free recipes than radicalism.

And along with the move to Richmond, the magazine will be revamped to become more inviting to not-so-strict vegetarians, says James Causey, CEO of parent company Sabot Publishing.

The target readership, Causey says, is a growing group that aims to add veggie fare to diets without eliminating meat. That's a far broader audience, he says.

Along with Vegetarian Times will come Better Nutrition, a magazine for health-conscious cooks and consumers that's also owned by Sabot Publishing. Fifteen jobs will be created by the move, Causey says.

The Vegetarian Times editorial and design staff will arrive here in February, after Better Nutrition comes in January. While the advertising offices of both magazines will remain in Chicago and Atlanta, respectively, Causey says he wants the editors, writers and designers to be close to Sabot Publishing headquarters on Concourse Road here. That'll make it easier to oversee the planned changes, he says.

No plans for a Tanked on the Tofu celebration are yet in the works. ¥ Melissa Scott Sinclair

Lawyers Ad Features Ties to Minimalism

Hey, kids! Let's play the Richmond Yellow Pages game: Take your old dog-eared copy of the Verizon phone book and place it beside the crisp one that arrived last week. See any difference?

Sharp-eyed observers will find a truly revolutionary change on the back cover, in the omnipresent advertisement for local law firm Chaplin Papa & Gonet.


Bright scarlet ties, carefully computer-outlined, now adorn the familiar illustration of three lawyers ¥ lawyers who last year had been stark black silhouettes.

Why add neckwear to an advertisement that otherwise looks almost exactly the same? Just to see if anyone would spot the change, apparently. I was thrilled that somebody noticed, says Thomas W. Papa, one of the founding members of the firm.

When designing this year's ad, Papa recounts, he told his partners, Let's go a little Russian minimalist. Hence the red ties. It's easy to see why he might have gotten a little bored with the original design after all, it hasnOt changed much in more than a decade.

Chaplin Papa & Gonet has put a full-page ad on the phone book's back cover for the past 14 years or so every year the phone company has made it available. We just instinctively knew it was a good thing from the start, Papa says. He says he doesn't know what percentage of the firm's business comes from the ad, but the firm believes it's enough to justify the expense. It's like buying a Taurus every month, Papa says. Not the stripped-down version, either.

The ad itself is a simple combination of bold red and blue lettering and a banner that shouts, INJURED? The basic design hasn't changed much its featured photo comes from a 1988 shot of the three lawyers descending the stairs of the Capitol. Papa recalls that when it was first taken the photographers said, Look mean. Everybody wants a mean lawyer.

But now, he says, I don't look anything like that. I have white hair, a white beard. If you saw me today, you'd say, That's not the person in the middle. Two years ago, Papa says, he and his colleagues took another look at their stern faces in the picture and declared: We look so stupid. We can't do this anymore.

The identifiable photo had to go. For last year's book, the men's images were electronically filled in, and they became all-black silhouettes. This year, of course, the red ties appeared. What can phone-book connoisseurs expect next year? Tough to predict. We're just having fun with it, that's all, Papa says. M.S.S.

MCV Will Be Part of Huge AIDS Study

Dr. Evelyn Fisher remembers meeting her first AIDS patient 20 years ago in Detroit. It was such a rare event CNN filmed scenes of Fisher treating her patient (with just his back visible) and used it as stock footage. For years afterward, friends would call Fisher and tell her they had just seen her on television.

AIDS, of course, is no longer new. But Fisher, now the principal investigator for the Richmond AIDS Consortium at the Medical College of Virginia, is beginning work on something that may become big news. She's seeking an answer to one of the biggest questions in AIDS therapy when patients should start taking virus-suppressing drugs.

Sounds like the answer would be simple: as soon as possible after infection. But the prospects of accumulating toxic side effects from the potent mix of drugs, as well as developing drug resistance, complicate the matter. Should a patient take the drugs sparingly or flood their system?

Current medical guidelines say patients should begin therapy when their CD4+ T-cell counts drop below 350. But, Fisher explains, Othese guidelines are based on theoretical considerations. No clinical studies have ever been done to answer the question.

Until now. In January, research trials will begin in Richmond and 14 other U.S. sites, plus one in Australia, in a vast project paid for by the National Institutes of Health. The Strategies for Management of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (SMART) project will involve a total of 6,000 patients over about seven years. Fisher's hoping to enroll 50 patients locally in the first year.

The NIH gave a $1 million grant this year to the Richmond AIDS Consortium, one of only 15 research sites nationwide to receive federal AIDS funding. The consortium currently has 430 people enrolled in its other long-term studies.

Still, patients for the new project are often reluctant to sign up, Fisher says, primarily because they can't choose which research group they'll be in the drug-conservation regimen or the one aimed at maximum viral suppression.

But neither research group will have any known advantage over the other, Fisher adds: OThe reason we do trials is we don't know. The only real goal, she says, is to find out Ohow people would be better off, ultimately. M.S.S

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