The piece de resistance of the Palm Terrace in the new Clyde's restaurant at Tysons Corner is not anything on the menu, but nine murals featuring nude men and women engaged in various outdoor sports not sanctioned by the American Athletic Union.
When a senior Richmond official of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, the agency that enforces rules governing food, drink and decor in Virginia's restaurants, saw photographs of the murals, he was less than pleased.
"While some persons may consider these murals and pictures pieces of art," Richard G. White Sr. wrote in a memo to the ABC's Northern Virginia office while Clyde's liquor license was pending, "it is my opinion they cannot be considered as art. It appears to me (they are) suggestive and show parts of the body prohibited by (ABC) regulations.
But White's superiors felt otherwise. The 78-foot-long murals, executed by Washington artist William Woodward at a cost of $45,000, received the state's imprimatur and Clyde's got its license.
"It pleased us very much they were adjudged to be art," said Clyde's manager Mark Walsh, adding: We have received very favorable comment. A lot of people look at them as a lot of fun."
Times apparently have changed. Two years ago, the owners of the former T.T. Reynolds restaurant in Fairfax City said the ABC ordered them to take down an over-the-bar portrait of a female nude who was primly reclining on a chaise.
"I wonder how Clyde's got away with their murals," said the former manager of Reynolds, Andy Fenton. "I was surprised."
ABC officials said yesterday they could not recall the incident involving Reynolds.
The murals include frontal views of women and one man. No one is wearing fig leaves. In one scene which seems to be inspired by both Fragonard and Playboy, a mixed party including several cloven-hoofed satyrs, frolic in a clearing in the woods. Lingerie hangs carelessly from some of the greenery.
"What we wanted, and what was accomplished," said restaurant manager Walsh, "was a mural depicting fun, frivolity and outdoor playmaking. There is also a good deal of fantasy." f
But when an ABC field inspector brought photographs of the murals to White, the assistant director of inspection ruled they violated a state law that says no restaurant "shall allow any immoral, lewd, obscene, indecent or profane conduct, language, literature, pictures or materials on the licensed premises . . . "
If White had prevailed, Clyde's might have been forced to take down the murals or have artist Woodward clothe his revelers, perhaps in hiking outfits. But an ABC spokesman said a group of high officials "all agreed it was art and in no way offensive."
A. Allen Zachary Jr., director of the division of licensing said in a memo: "I suggest that those who do not like the decorations can dine at other restaurants just like they might do if the food is not to their liking."
As for White, who said "I would still stand by my recommendation," an ABC spokesman said, "Dick White is a very conservative individual. I say that respectfully."