Politics

‘You’ve obtained to permit me to develop’: Downtown restaurant homeowners plead for prolonged reside leisure hours after being served with violation notices – The Suffolk Information-Herald


It comes right down to what the town desires its downtown to seem like.

Will or not it’s a vibrant space stuffed with eating places and bars that provide leisure, or will or not it’s stifled by restrictive hours?

That’s at the least the notion of Rennee’s Restaurant and Lounge homeowners Jeffrey and Rennee Townsend, who need to have prolonged hours till 2 a.m. throughout the week, and 24 hours per day on Saturdays and Sundays to supply reside leisure to their patrons. Their restaurant is at 156 W. Washington St. close to North Saratoga Street. 

“So if you want downtown to grow, you’ve got to allow me to grow,” mentioned Rennee’s Restaurant and Lounge co-owner Jeffrey Townsend throughout a May 17 public listening to earlier than the Planning Commission. “You’ve got to allow me to grow, so don’t give me no restriction.”

Long-term answer wanted

Commissioner Johnnie Edwards mentioned there must be a long-term answer to the leisure subject at downtown eating places and the hours wherein they’re allowed. 

“To try to solve this problem individually, I think, is not the approach,” Edwards mentioned. “We need to have a serious conversation as a city to decide if we want a downtown, or we do not want a downtown, and where that downtown is.”

Currently, reside leisure has to finish downtown at 11 p.m. Sunday via Thursday and at midnight on weekends, in accordance with the town’s planning division, because of the proximity of people that reside close by within the middle of the town. 

The Townsends, who like different restaurant homeowners within the central enterprise district had been not too long ago given a discover of violation for providing reside leisure previous the weekday cutoff of 11 p.m. and the Friday and Saturday cutoff of midnight, imagine the town is inhibiting their enterprise from succeeding whereas it loses cash consequently. He additionally cited the potential for nighttime occasions on the metropolis’s Festival Event Park, which is aiming for a 2023 opening and is adjoining to Rennee’s Restaurant and Lounge. 

“I’m really torn,” Edwards mentioned. “You have a festival park coming. You’re moving TGIF from Constant’s Wharf (Park) to here. This business is adjacent to where the park is going to be. … I’m hoping for foot traffic going from Saratoga Street all the way down to, hopefully across the tracks to the fairground area where there’ll be life in downtown.”

He mentioned they weren’t speaking about blasting music in a rural, agricultural district, however in what he hopes could be a vibrant and extra festive downtown. 

“My argument is this, and I understand there are people who live in apartments, (but) we’re not talking about a suburban subdivision where there should be a reasonable thought that noise should be down at a certain time here in downtown,” Edwards mentioned. “And in downtown, there should be more life, there should be more gusto at a certain time of the day, and I’m sorry you’re being inconvenienced if something goes until 1 or 2 (a.m.), that’s one of the benefits of living downtown. … And if you can’t blast music and have foot traffic and life in a city, then where?”

Downtown eating places cited for violating ordinance

Rennee’s Restaurant at present has an ABC allow from the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, together with crucial permits from the town’s well being division to serve meals and alcohol from 9 a.m. till 2 a.m. seven days per week. 

The Townsends are looking for to make use of the bottom ground to determine a bar and nightclub to permit for leisure corresponding to comedy, disc jockeys, reside music and hookah together with internet hosting wedding ceremony receptions. 

Because the town’s unified improvement ordinance requires companies to hunt a conditional use allow to determine a bar and nightclub throughout the central enterprise district. The metropolis defines a bar and nightclub as a bar, restaurant or related institution in which there’s a dance ground or reside leisure. 

Rennee’s Restaurant obtained a discover of violation March 4 for internet hosting reside leisure, which the Townsends say was a DJ taking part in music, not one thing they thought of to be reside leisure. They then submitted a conditional use allow request, which introduced them to the May 17 Planning Commission assembly for a public listening to. 

“If you’re restricting my hours, you’re restricting my business,” Jeffrey Townsend mentioned. 

He requested for clarification on whether or not a DJ is taken into account reside leisure and whether or not he must play music from an iPad throughout the instances reside leisure wouldn’t be allowed. 

“Now that I’m here, I want to go and have live entertainment,” he mentioned. “I want to have somebody come in and sing. I want to have somebody come in and enjoy themselves at Rennee’s Restaurant and Lounge. It’s not a bar. It’s Rennee’s Restaurant and Lounge.”

He mentioned the aim of getting a DJ is to generate enterprise. 

“When COVID hit, it hurt a lot of businesses,” Jeffrey Townsend mentioned. “With you all’s restrictions that you all are trying to put on businesses here in downtown Suffolk, it’s not going to grow. We’re not going to grow downtown. They’re going to go to other places to enjoy themselves.”

Rennee Townsend mentioned what their restaurant has performed is not any totally different than some other one downtown, and so when their restaurant obtained a discover of violation, she reported the opposite eating places downtown. 

“Just because one place is doing it and they didn’t get reported doesn’t make it right,” Edwards mentioned. “It’s just that they didn’t get reported and it’s going on.”

High Tide Restaurant & Raw Bar, at 130 N. Commerce St., additionally obtained a discover of violation, on March 5, and Commissioner Anita Hicks famous that the fee anticipated to produce other downtown eating places coming earlier than the fee on conditional use allow requests within the coming months as a consequence of violations. 

High Tide, which is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day, got here to the fee to request a conditional use allow to permit for reside leisure indoors from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday via Thursday and 11 a.m. till midnight on Friday and Saturday. It had requested out of doors leisure hours from 11 a.m. till 6 p.m. to permit for acoustic music on its patio. The allow consists of 13 situations total. 

One of the property homeowners, Karen Tew, mentioned she and Katherine Mochurad, the enterprise proprietor and the opposite property proprietor, weren’t conscious of the necessity for a conditional use allow to have reside leisure indoors. Tew and Mochurad admitted that the restaurant has hosted reside bands, acoustic performances and karaoke, largely with out subject, they mentioned, and usually it ended between 1 and 1:30 a.m.

However, after they obtained the discover of violation, they halted reside leisure to undergo the allowing course of, although the restaurant additionally obtained a short lived allow via the town’s Parks and Recreation division “to facilitate entertainment.” Rennee’s additionally obtained such a allow after its discover of violation.

“It really affected us when we had to stop, just for that one month,” Mochurad mentioned. “We lost a lot of money. I had to figure out what to do with our staff. The entertainment’s bringing us a lot of money, and you can tell that that’s what the people of Suffolk want. It’s what the business owners of downtown want. I’m supportive of everybody, and I think it should be Monday through Friday through 2 (a.m.). I think maybe a good idea would be, the time that you’re licensed with your ABC, you should be allowed to do the entertainment in those hours.”

Mixed emotions on hours

A movement for High Tide to permit reside leisure every day on its patio from 9 a.m. to six p.m. and inside from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday via Thursday and midnight Friday and Saturday failed on a 4-3 vote. The fee then permitted an amended return that left the indoor reside leisure request alone and allowed for patio leisure Friday via Sunday from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. in a 6-1 vote, with Hicks voting no.

“I think all businesses in downtown should be able to operate until 2 o’clock (in the morning),” Mochurad mentioned. “And I think that maybe it is a good idea to look at the ordinances. I know that a lot of the other restaurant owners in town are really bothered by this, and I think that that’s what they want, too.”

Hicks mentioned different eating places have had DJs as reside leisure previous midnight, and recounted her personal expertise in considered one of them, however planners mentioned they had been by no means cited as a result of they’d not obtained a criticism about them. 

Interim Director of Planning and Community Development Kevin Wyne mentioned a DJ is assessed as reside leisure, and due to that, it should cease by 11 on weeknights and midnight on weekends. The restaurant, abiding by the town’s noise ordinance, can nonetheless keep open till 2 a.m. 

“The reason that we have a conditional use permit requirement for live entertainment is, obviously, there are certain conditions associated with that type of use that City Council at some point felt the need to find ways to mitigate through the conditional use permit process,” Wyne mentioned. “One of those considerations is when the music ceases.”

Wyne mentioned that with almost each conditional use allow for reside leisure by eating places within the central enterprise district, planners have consulted with police and different metropolis departments, which he mentioned are in settlement that the hours for reside leisure be what they’re now. 

Commissioner Mills Staylor requested that each one companies be handled equally and pretty. 

Edwards mentioned that the problem is greater than Rennee’s conditional use allow request, and that the fee must be on the identical web page with it. By a 3-3 vote, the fee voted down a advice to permit reside leisure there on Friday and Saturday nights from 9 a.m. till 2 a.m. and the remainder of the week enable it from 9 a.m. via 11 p.m., together with 12 different situations. Commissioners Edwards, Hicks and Oliver Creekmore voted in favor, and Commissioners Staylor, Gerald Goodman and Chairman Arthur Singleton voted no. 

The fee voted 4-2, with Creekmore, Goodman, Staylor and Singleton voting in favor, and Edwards and Hicks voting no, to advocate the conditional use allow below the 13 authentic situations beneficial by metropolis planners. That retains the instances allowed for reside leisure at 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday via Thursday and 9 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. 

City Council is predicted to take up the problems with each eating places at its June 15 assembly. 

The Townsends mentioned the time restriction is a dealbreaker for them as a result of they’d not be capable to present leisure within the ultimate two hours it’s open on weekends from midnight till 2 a.m. Jeffrey Townsend addressed the protection subject, saying he can’t management how individuals behave, and mentioned it’s not simply a difficulty at locations like his, however in different places additionally. 

Police Chief Al Chandler mentioned that he didn’t need to weigh in on what the board ought to do when it comes to the hours for reside leisure besides to say it will have an effect, and that following the ordinances is essential, no matter they’re. 

The fee did comply with ship the problem of hours for reside leisure, and total operation of eating places, to its Ordinance Committee to evaluate and are available again with a advice to the commissioners. It would then go to City Council for a vote there. 

Edwards mentioned downtown wants “foot traffic, life and energy.”

“It needs to be something uniform that we decide as a city to say, uniformly in these areas of this district, we’re going to kind of bend the rules and say we want this (downtown) to be alive,” Edwards mentioned. “And I think that’s where we are.”



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