NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Culture Lounge & Restaurant on Granby Street in Norfolk has closed after the city says it repeatedly violated its restaurant zoning certificate.
City Manager Chip Filer in a statement on Wednesday said Culture’s violations included “failure to satisfy Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority requirements for restaurant alcohol sales; failure to remit required food and beverage taxes; and providing entertainment within a designated restaurant facility.”
An investigation was launched recently “following reports of continued violations,” Filer says, and the city’s zoning administrator delivered a notice of intent to revoke the certificate on August 22. The official notice of revocation was delivered September 2.
Culture, a Black-owned business that opened in 2018 in Norfolk’s NEON District, now has 30 days to appeal the revocation. In the meantime it must remain closed pending a decision by Norfolk’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
Since January, Culture had been under the restaurant zoning certificate as part of a compromise to stay open reached with City Council, after people living near the then nightclub complained of violence.
The restaurant zoning certificate requires restaurants in the downtown Norfolk area to close before midnight and prohibits dancing and live entertainment.
Culture’s attorney said earlier this year there was “no evidence” Culture’s owners did anything wrong and they were being victimized for violence plaguing the community.
Since the time Culture changed over from a nightclub, downtown Norfolk has had multiple high-profile shootings, including one in March outside Chicho’s Backstage that left three dead and two hurt and another in early August that left four shot.
Filer and the city have ramped up enforcement against businesses, with Filer saying after the August shooting that “every establishment in the entertainment district downtown should begin preparing to come to this council and explain why they should continue to operate downtown.”
In an Instagram post Wednesday, Culture’s owners said they were being used as a scapegoat for recent violence and would be back soon. They encouraged people to “call/write city council and tell them to stop harassing black restaurants on Granby… we are sick of the constant harassment.”