George Bilidas, owner of Lake Anne Inn, thinks the view from his restaurant's outdoor dining area is one of the best in Reston.
Straight ahead is Lake Anne, its dark green waters brightened here and there by a red or yellow sail. In front of the alfresco tables, there is a continuously changing tableau of people coming and going, rendezvousing or loafing, maybe even singing an operatic aria.
But now Bilidas must shutter all this from his outdoor diners. The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has told Bilidas that the 3 and a half foot-high planters in an effort to create the ABC-decreed "barrier of reasonable shoulder height to screen the consumption of alcoholic beverages visible to passerby."
The barrier also screen the view that diners, up until now, have enjoyed.
Bilidas is hoping the latticework - an open crosshatching of wood strips - will still permit something of a view. However, it is not clear that the latticework will meet ABC regulations.
According to ABC inspector Lloyd F. Watson, the barrier must "obscure" the dining area from the public. The ABC will decide the issue at a hearing Tuesday.
At the same hearing. Bilidas will have to answer a citation issued by the board for failing to have a shoulder-high barrier when Watson made an inspection May 17.
According to Frank J. McNally, ABC public information officer in Richmond, the board could suspend or revoke Bilidas' outdoor permit or even his liquor license if it is determined he willfully violated conditions of the outdoor permit - the first that was granted to a restaurant in Virginia.
Robert Abrash, a Reston architect who designed the restaurant's original outdoor area, called the conditions "Neanderthal thinking." The new barrier, he said, was an "architectural intrusion."
William Steiner, resident architect for Gulf Reston Inc., the new town's developer, said the conditions were "unreasonable and counterproductive . . . People may as well as eat inside now."
Watson disagreed with the criticism. The conditions are reasonable, he said, because under Virginia law drinking is not permitted in public. Unless they are adequately screened, he said, outdoor diners would be drinking in public.
McNally noted that the 1971 permit for Bilidas to sell alcoholic beverages in his outdoor dining area stipulated a "shoulder-height" barrier, "but apparently the trouble has been that every cently the trouble has been that everyup."
Until this spring, Bilidas had his planters filled with shrubs that, he said, were growing to the five-foot level set by the ABC. After the harsh winter killed all the plants, Bilidas planted petunias, marigolds and other flowers. But although they blossomed healthily, they reached only 3 and a half feet - 11/2 feet short of the ABC's requirement.
In recent years, some of the many ABC restrictions governing sale of alcholic beverages have been relaxed by the General Assembly. In 1968, sale of mixed drinks in restaurants was approved. Last year, with passage of the "stand and sip bill," patrons could drink while standing up. Still restricted are taverns that don't serve food. They can exist only in "cities of the first class" (10,000 or more people), and can serve only beer.