Pan Soon Lim keeps two Bibles at the desk where she changes dollars into quarters for her clients at Rag Time Video Arcade. Rag Time has two dozen video games, four pool tables, machines for soda and candy, and a cigarette machine, permanently empty.
Lim said she and her family are Christians and neither drink nor smoke. There is a bumper sticker on the wall behind her that reads: "Have you talked to God today?" If a child starts to "speak hard" to her, she points to the sticker and asks, "Have you?"
And if a youth occasionally starts to speak roughly, that is much the same problem one might have with one's own child, said Lim, who came to Virginia from Korea in 1967. "I like them; I love them," she said. "My customers are very nice. Look, everybody's very young."
But a number of sheriff's deputies, business owners and others told the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors a much different story at a recent public hearing. They said the arcade at the Sterling Park Shopping Mall attracts youthful crowds that gather in front of the arcade and harass shoppers going to other businesses, openly deal drugs, and get into fights, using knives and other weapons.
Several persons owning businesses at the mall said they were losing customers because of the atmosphere created by the youths who congregate at Rag Time. Two students from the karate school next door to Rag Time said youths from the arcade have vandalized five school mail boxes and bicycles belonging to karate students, and have disrupted classes by walking into the classroom and making rude comments or taking items off the wall.
Lim said she does not believe her customers cause any trouble.
On Monday, the Board of Supervisors is expected to decide whether to grant Lim a special exception approval, without which she cannot continue running the arcade at its present site.
She is, in fact, now in violation of the law, county staff members said last week. Since Lim bought the business (formerly called Graffiti's) last April and moved it one store down from where it was, she has operated without a special exception. Lim, with help in translating from her 18-year-old daughter Jin Hee, told the supervisors that she and her family, upon receiving a letter from the county last year that said her business license was valid, thought she had everything she needed.
The supervisors were scheduled to vote on the matter last week. But after listening to Lim's comments, as translated by her daughter, a member of the audience, Pat Richardson, a member of the Loudoun County Planning Commission, told the board: "It's quite obvious these people have no idea why they are here. . . . I think it's the obligation of this county to get them an interpreter and not a 13-year-old child [during the meeting Lim's daughter was mistakenly thought to be 13] to explain to them their legal rights."
At the suggestion of Sterling Supervisor Andrew R. Bird III, the board voted to defer the matter until Monday's meeting.
"If it should come to a vote now, I would have to vote against it . . . but the applicant should have time to respond and understand," said Bird.
Lim was scheduled to meet with Leesburg Supervisor Frank Raflo, Loudoun County Sheriff John Isom and others to talk over problems and possible solutions.
"The laws were made for the minority, too," Raflo said. "These people didn't seem to know what was going on. I feel we have an obligation to make sure there's no language barrier." Raflo said a search had begun for an interpreter.
In considering approval for a special exception, the board must judge whether the business serves "the health, safety and welfare of the people," Raflo said.
County planner Chris Kropat said special exception cases "have the potential for not being completely compatible," and the board, which makes in these cases a discretional judgment, can approve an application and at the same time place certain conditions on the business.