Before the majority of the Fairfax City Council leaves office July 1, council members once again will wrestle with an ordinance to regulate drinking in future city bars and restaurants.
The council has ordered the city staff to take another look at a proposed ordinance requiring new establishments to get special-use permits from the council to serve alcoholic beverages, in addition to the state-required liquor license. The staff also will study another provision in the proposed ordinance that would require restaurants and bars that now have temporary permits for ancillary uses such as dance floors or amusement arcades to get council approval to serve liquor.
"If too many bars come in here, we will end up with another Georgetown and it will damage the residential character of the city," said Mayor Frederick W. Silverthorne. "We definitely want an ordinance. Now it is a matter of referring this back to the staff to clean it up, so it is more readable to the people served."
After a number of restaurant owners and the Fairfax City Chamber of Commerce opposed the planned ordinance in a public hearing last week, the council moved to have the staff draft a revision by the end of this month.
"The city has a night life, especially since George Mason University has grown and more and more students have come here. You have people out drinking at night, singing and talking and running their motors; . . . people object to that, and I can understand," said Heinrich Hofman, owner of the Library disco and the Alibi restaurant in Fairfax City. "But you can't say, 'Close down the restaurants' to solve the problem."
"This ordinance would make it extremely difficult to sell a restaurant business," he said. "Many of us have worked a lifetime to build up our businesses, and we wouldn't be able to retire because of this legislation."
Silverthorne said he believes established restaurants such as the Alibi should be covered by a "grandfather clause" in the event they were sold, and he is urging the staff to consider amending the ordinance to include one.