Norfolk City Council votes to shut down nightclub near Military Circle, delays vote on one downtown

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A nightclub near Military Circle will have to keep its doors locked after Norfolk City Council voted Tuesday night to revoke the business’ conditional use permit.

In a 6-1 vote, council members shut down Origami Asian Bistro after several years of complaints from neighbors and hundreds of visits from police to the surrounding property.

A city attorney classified the business as one that tends to “attract bad actors.” An attorney representing the owner called the council’s actions “disappoint(ing)” and “knee-jerk.”

The permit revoked was just re-issued to the business in July.

Origami has been operating with its current four-person ownership group since 2016, according to city records and was still operating even though a 2017 permit had expired.

City Council members were skeptical to reissue the special exemption to operate a nightclub then, citing the shootings, weapons and crowd concerns. However, Del. Don Scott, (D-Portsmouth), acting as the business’s attorney, was successful in convincing a majority of the council to give the business another chance.

He promised to work with the business owners to try to prevent further issues from happening. At the time, Mayor Kenny Alexander called what Scott was doing an “example” for other businesses to follow.

However, Alexander said very little Tuesday night as he voted to revoke Origami’s conditional use permit.

Assistant City Attorney Katherine Taylor argued that if the business wasn’t there, the city believes that bad actors would not be there causing trouble.

She pointed to an incident days after the permit was reissued in July in which shots were fired at a security guard. She said when police arrived on scene, they were “stonewalled.”

In Scott’s rebuttal, he said there was practically no time to implement changes between the July City Council meeting and the shooting in the parking lot. He argued that issues at businesses happen and that it’s unfair to blame the business owners.

“Many times people will come to the parking lot after it’s closed. It’s not their fault,” Scott said.

Scott said having off-duty Norfolk police officers come to the property to help clear the lot after the nightclub closes could solve many of the problems. He said Origami has offered to pay but the city hasn’t accepted their offer.

The vote comes in a year where Norfolk has seen an uptick in violent crime. Origami is far from the only business to see gunfire occur outside their doors.

Scott wanted to know why his clients and owners of Culture Lounge and Restaurant in the Neon district were the only ones up for revocation hearings Tuesday. Both are owned by minorities.

“I sent over to the city attorney documents from Scotty Quixx,” Scott said. “They had a shooting in the parking lot. They’re not a Black-owned business, they are not here, they’re not on the agenda and I have a problem with that. I think a lot of people here are wondering why why is there different treatment for different organizations.”

To that, Taylor shot back saying the city has moved to shut down businesses operated by a diverse background of people. Taylor revealed the city held itself accountable when it suspended hosting First-Fridays on account of safety.

Scott left the room quickly following the vote and did not respond as to what Origami owners plan to do next.

The lone vote against revoking Origami’s right to operate was cast by Councilman Paul Riddick, who represents the Military Circle area. Vice Mayor Martin Thomas abstained as his law firm used to represent Origami’s owners.

Councilwoman Danica Royster also represents the area of Military Circle as part of her super ward. She gave 10 On Your Side a brief statement following the vote.

“Based on the information I was presented with, that is what is encouraged my vote this evening regarding the revocation of this CUP,” Royster said.

City Council voted to defer deciding on the future of Culture for one week in order to give the business’s attorney Kevin Martingayle more time to review the facts.

However, he admits he doesn’t think his opinion of the situation will change.

“This is not some dirty roadhouse bar. This is a very nice place that is a victim. A victim of the city of Norfolk’s inability to get control of what’s going on in the streets,” Martingayle said.

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