CORRECTION: A previous copy of this story alluded that Chicho’s Backstage in Norfolk was under investigation for violation of its conditional permit. A spokesperson from Chicho’s Backstage confirmed the restaurant’s permit has been reviewed and is not in violation. WAVY regrets the error.
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — In the wake of escalating violence downtown, Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer promised to crack down on businesses. Just this week, one nightclub was forced to shut down, and another could be shuttered by the end of the month.
“I’m sad right now because I thought the city would be more supportive of small businesses. It looks like they pick and choose which businesses they’re going to support,” Al Ragas said.
Ragas has owned Scotty Quixx at 436 Granby Street for 10 years. He loves the atmosphere of Downtown Norfolk and has always felt safe operating his business there.
“Now, I feel that’s all taken away from us,” he said.
On Monday, Ragas got a letter from Norfolk City Attorney Bernard Pishko informing him that his club could be shut down because the city believes his business violated its Special Exception Permit – now known as a Conditional Use Permit (CUP).
The violation has nothing to do with violence at the club. Instead, the city alleges that Scotty Quixx is in violation of its permit as their sales reports to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) do not match up with its meal tax payments to the Commissioner of the Revenue.
“What they’re saying is that we did something nefarious on our meal taxes, but we didn’t,” Ragas said. “If we owed taxes or there was a fine, we would pay it.”
However in an interview, Filer said the city doesn’t know which report may be wrong.
Under Virginia law, a business that holds an ABC mixed-beverage license must comply with a 45% to 55% radio. That means food and non-alcoholic beverages must make up 45% of a businesses total sales.
In the city attorney’s letter, it’s said Scotty Quixx meets the requirement for ABC but meals tax reports show much less food was sold.
“We don’t know if they are under-reporting their food and beverage to us or they are over-reporting their food and beverage to the ABC,” Filer said. “The discrepancies are significant.”
Ragas is worried the alleged permit violation is actually a veiled attempt from the city to group Scotty Quixx with other downtown establishments that have been the scenes of recent violence.
That includes Legacy Lounge, a club that City Council voted to shut down on Monday after roughly two months of operation. The city attorney’s staff said Legacy Lounge violated its CUP in August when it didn’t have marked security the night of a quadruple shooting outside of the club.
In the aftermath of the Legacy Lounge shooting, Filer put downtown-area businesses on notice, saying that establishments shouldn’t claim immunity for actions that happen outside their establishment and that they should expect to be called to speak with City Council about why their businesses should stay in the area.
“Make no mistake, operating downtown in Norfolk is a privilege,” Filer said during an Aug. 5 press conference.
Ragas said the atmosphere at Scotty Quixx isn’t violent. He pays about $150,000 in security alone, with guards checking every patron by patting them down and using security wand metal detectors.
“I would never want an environment that was violent or catered to violence,” Ragas said.
The sidewalk outside of Scotty Quixx was the scene of a shooting that injured one person in January 2019. Ragas said the shooter was a man who’d been asked to leave the club after he acted aggressively towards staff. Ragas said the man did not have a weapon inside the club, but got it from his car after security escorted him out.
“We’ve never had a shooting inside our restaurant at all,” Ragas said.
After that shooting, Ragas met with Norfolk police for guidance on maintaining a safe environment. He said he implemented their safety suggestions, including installing more security cameras, stopping early alcohol service, and letting the crowded club out earlier so as not to fill city streets late at night.
Ragas said he’s also trying to become part of Norfolk’s Safe Night program, which aims to work with the city’s businesses to prevent violence.
“We try to be proactive when it comes to things like that because we want people to come down and enjoy the nightlife in Downtown Norfolk,” Ragas said.
Norfolk City Council will vote on the permit on Sept. 27.