NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — There have been no high-profile violent incidents at California Burrito along Norfolk’s Granby Street, but still the City of Norfolk is recommending its permit that allows it to operate like a nightclub be revoked.
In a letter laying out their reasons, city staff revealed the restaurant has received multiple violations for overcrowding over the last three years, most recently on the last day of July.
In the business’ special exception to operate, the city put a cap at 49 people inside at all times. At times, more than 100 people have been found inside at once, according to the city.
It is the second business along Granby Street to receive a similar letter within the last week. If Norfolk City Council does vote to revoke California Burrito’s permit, it will be the fourth restaurant and bar closed by the city within the last year.
Following a quadruple shooting outside a nightclub in August, City Manager Chip Filer promised to once again ramp up enforcement on restaurants that offer alcohol and entertainment.
He said business owners can’t claim immunity for what happens outside their establishment when the city can trace the genesis of what happened to inside the business.
Last week, City Council voted to shut down Legacy Lounge on E. Plume Street. It was the third establishment to close after the city attorney’s staff argued the business’ operations lead to violence.
However, in revocation letters regarding both California Burrito and Scotty Quixx, incidents of violence were never mentioned.
Instead, Filer said its about making sure all businesses are following the rules.
“What (City) Council has expressed to the administration is can we make sure that over the last five years where establishments have gotten conditional use permits, that those establishments are doing what they are saying they are doing,” Filer said.
In the case of California Burrito, the restaurant was first given the right to operate until 2 a.m., with a DJ and dance floor, in 2017. There would just be no more than 49 people inside the building, including employees.
In October 2020, the bar was given a warning when the Norfolk Fire Marshal found 131 people inside. In July 2021, a summons was issued after 108 people were found inside. Another was issued in February 2022.
Owner Miguel Roldan met with the city in an attempt to increase his occupancy. However earlier this year City Council denied the request. After that time, Roldan wrapped up another violation.
Roldan did not immediately return requests for comment. The revocation hearing is scheduled for October 11.
Are businesses being targeted?
Until Scotty Quixx received its revocation notice last week, all three previous revocation hearings City Council held regarded black owned businesses. Owners of Culture Lounge, a business that lost its right to operate as a restaurant, encouraged people to write City Council to tell them to “stop harassing black restaurants on Granby.”
Filer said nobody, in particular, is being singled out.
“I wouldn’t say this is targeting. This is simply making sure that establishments that are doing activities that could be potentially somewhat … establishments that deserve higher scrutiny because they are open late and doing other things. We are going to look at them more harshly than others,” Filer said.
Specifically, Filer said they are looking to make sure businesses aren’t just trying to sell as many drinks as they can, ignoring the state’s rules that 45% of sales must come from food.
He said every business with a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) is being examined. Some businesses have received violations and have been allowed to correct them.
In the last month Glass Light Hotel and Gallery, Brick Anchor Brew-House, and Girshwins have all been brought before City Council as their ABC Manager listing was found out of date.
He pushed back on claims the city never contacted the businesses before threatening to take away their permit.
“Absolutely there is a warning. I can show violations in all of these clubs where they have been issued violations previously before it gets to this point,” Filer said.
Filer is hopeful Safe Night, a program meant to help manage city nightlife, makes it so businesses begin policing themselves.
“What Safe (Nights) will engage each of the establishments will say ‘okay what is your business model, what is it you are looking to do and how can we make it so you do it in the safest manner possible,” Filer said.