From the dozen or so protesters holding handmade signs to "Save Tim's" to the 37-foot-long powerboat "Monsoon" parked in front of the county building, it was clear it wasn't going to be a typical Board of County Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
Employees and customers of Tim's Rivershore Restaurant and Crabhouse in Dumfries came out to protest the county's closing off part of the deck areas at the popular restaurant and watering hole on the Potomac River off Cherry Hill Road. They say county government is unfairly throwing the rule book at a good corporate citizen. They presented what they said were 1,800 signatures calling on the county to allow Tim's to fully reopen.
County officials said they took the action June 9 because the restaurant's owner, Tim Bauckman, rebuilt and expanded the outdoor seating area without proper permission after Hurricane Isabel heavily damaged it. They say Bauckman then refused to cooperate with county officials and went ahead and rebuilt his restaurant his way.
"We have a 1960s-era waterman's hangout that has now turned into a 300-seat open-air restaurant," said board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R). "I can tell you very sincerely that the county wants to see Tim's operate and get it legal as soon as possible. The owners just have to start working . . . to make sure the building, site plan, sewer and water and safety issues are addressed."
County Attorney Sharon E. Pandak told supervisors that the restaurant has allowed problems to linger for months.
"The county cannot allow unsafe conditions to continue," Pandak said. "Some of the violations may be corrected without a total shutdown of the restaurant. Others are so serious that, until correction occurs, closure may be imperative to protect public welfare."
County officials said their concerns include a lack of safe parking, customers walking over railroad tracks, sewage disposal issues, fire safety issues, unpermitted plumbing and electrical work and a lack of an approved site plan.
Connaughton said that Bauckman filed a site plan Friday and that county officials will begin processing it as quickly as possible.
Pandak said Bauckman has only himself to blame for events dragging into his busy summer season, where dozens of boats park near his restaurant for seafood and libations.
Bauckman's supporters said politicians never seemed to have a problem with the restaurant when they held their fundraisers there or visited with friends and family.
Andi Boyles, a manager at the restaurant, said that Bauckman has tried to work with county and other officials since the hurricane but that every time he turns around there is another government agency demanding something new. She said that inspectors and other officials gave Bauckman oral approval to rebuild part of the deck and that is what they did. Boyles denied that any new plumbing or electricity was installed or that the restaurant used the hurricane rebuilding effort as a reason to expand.
She said there are also no new fire or other safety issues.