NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - It's a bar battle that's lasted two years and it's going on "after hours."
The trial to possibly reopen Waterside's Bar Norfolk and Have a Nice Day Cafe will resume in a couple of weeks with closing arguments.
After three days of testimony, attorneys on both sides decided not to make closing arguments. The judge is allowing those attorneys to submit post trial briefs with their opinions on what the judge called a morass of legal issues surrounding whether or not these two Norfolk Waterside bars should remain closed.
Two years ago, Norfolk City Council revoked a special use permit at Have a Nice Day Cafe and Bar Norfolk, meaning the two nighttime establishments had to go dry.
"There's obviously cost involved in keeping the premises around, not to mention the not having the ability of operating and making income," said the bars' attorney Sam Meekins.
The City of Norfolk said Have a Nice Day Cafe and Bar Norfolk had several fire code violations and safety hazards, including being over capacity.
Norfolk's City Attorney Bernard Pishko declined an on-camera interview.
"I'm sure the city had some reasons for why they would want to revoke those ordinances, we just think the reasons put forth weren't the valid reasons," said Meekins.
With no real legal precedent on the particular zoning issue, the judge could end up writing law.
"I think the judge asking for briefs is a good thing for us," said Meekins.
Those briefs will guide the judge's decision. Off camera, Norfolk's City Attorney told 10 On Your Side the bars will not reopen.
Meekins believes his client has a fighting chance. He's more concerned about the expense the bar owners will incur to reopen and what this case means for residents across Hampton Roads.
"The power of the city to unilaterally decide these things is a significant issue for the rights of all citizens," said Meekins.
The attorneys will have a couple of weeks to put those briefs together. They'll be back in court on July 18, though the judge won't necessarily make his ruling that day. The judge said he will likely write an opinion at the end of the trial.
If the judge rules in favor of the bars, Meekins said they may seek compensation for the time they've been closed.
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