Norfolk City Council is looking to change some zoning regulations for nightclubs and restaurants

At Tuesday’s meeting, the planning commission is asking city council to change some zoning regulations for nightclubs and restaurants.

NORFOLK, Va. — Next week, Norfolk City Council will attempt to make the area safer by possibly making changes to businesses.

It comes after shootings and other problems downtown. So far this year, at least 15 people have been shot dead in the city center alone.

“Safety is the primary consideration for all of this,” said Preston Carraway, Vice President of the Downtown Norfolk Civic League.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the planning commission is asking council to change some zoning regulations for nightclubs and restaurants. These changes would include requiring a conditional use license for any restaurant in the city to sell alcohol to people to drink in their business.

It would also establish a standard two-year time limit for conditional use permits for nightclubs or live entertainment, unless a longer period is approved by the city council.

Finally, the changes would modify the definition of “entertainment” to specifically include what does and does not count as entertainment.

Carraway said he was happy with this part in particular.

“I’ve been told that there are people who circumvent… who aren’t supposed to have live entertainment, but they kind of circumvented that by doing something just on the edge, but not really meeting the spirit of the application,” Carraway said.

Down the street in the Neon District, Charles Rasputin disagrees.

“I’m concerned that this broadening of that definition will be detrimental, not just to small businesses like mine, but to anyone with a creative business idea,” he said.

Rasputin owns The Slow Dive Art Gallery and he doesn’t think these changes are going in the right direction.

“It’s about safety, it’s about overserving, it’s about building a culture of community in a nightlife space instead of building a culture of showing up and going crazy,” a- he declared.

He said he wants the city to communicate more with the businesses these changes will affect.

“What we need is something beyond reactionary,” Rasputin said. “They’re very reactionary. There’s a community here that’s ready to engage, that’s ready to be part of the conversation and it has to be over three minutes on a Tuesday night.”

Carraway and Rasputin said they planned to speak at the meeting Tuesday evening from 7 a.m. at Norfolk Town Hall.

“Right now I’m concerned that attempts to try to make things safer by targeting nightlife, targeting DJs, targeting youth culture when they get together and dance. It’s just going to create spaces dangerous where violence can happen much more easily,” Rasputin said.

During this same meeting, the city council could also decide on the future of a restaurant.

There will be a public hearing on whether or not to revoke the Legacy Lounge and Restaurant’s conditional use license.

The city says they failed to comply with the conditions of their permit.

The move reportedly comes after four people were shot dead outside the business a month ago, including the sheriff’s deputy.

RELATED: Sheriff’s Deputy, Three Others Shot Down in Downtown Norfolk

In a letter to the city, Legacy’s attorney asked if the date for the public hearing could be moved. She said her clients are scrambling to get “relevant” video footage from the night of the shoot.

About James K. Bonnette

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