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Adding Entertainment Runs Into Red Tape

Ada Yu and Steve Yam thought central Springfield needed a little night life and perking up, so they broke out the karaoke machine, printed up some fliers, made a few washboard signs for out front and voila! They were all set for opening night at Club DSB, aka the Dragon Sea Buffet.

After the kitchen shut down on Friday and Saturday nights, some of the tables could be pushed aside, and the vast expanse of a restaurant would be the site where a new singer would be discovered.

"We have a big space for people to have fun here," Yam said.

Yu got the idea from her travels to New York and suggestions from a customer.

"It's very popular in New York. I think Springfield is still old time. After 10, not many people go out," she said.

The signs and fliers could have been premature, though. Permits and zoning need to be checked for something like that. Fairfax County zoning investigator Chip Moncure heard about Club DSB on Sept. 18 and is looking into it.

"Our agency will conduct an investigation to determine what, if anything, has been done. I don't know the facts," Moncure said. "It's different for every location and what they're going to do."

Mike Congleton, deputy zoning administrator for zoning enforcement, noted the peculiarities.

"We have to check the zoning of that particular property. The staff will make the determination," he said.

The term "karaoke" was a question. Bands and disco night were advertised, but karaoke was not mentioned on the flier.

"I can't really define what 'karaoke' actually is," Congleton said.

As far as "live entertainment," which is stated on the flier, some restaurants do have exceptions for that already in their zoning description. Congleton hesitated to give any sweeping statements.

"In certain circumstances," he said.

HEIDI HIDLE is a resident of the nearby Crestwood community.

"It's a decent spot. That's mostly a business section right there anyway. Kate's [Irish restaurant] is around there, I don't think that makes a problem in that area," Hidle said.

Stephanie Daniel grew up in Springfield and tried karaoke before.

"I think it would probably do very well. There's not really anywhere around here that does that. Karaoke is family-oriented, so it wouldn't bring too bad a crowd," she said.

Although their flier also states "great music from oldies - swing - ‘50s - ‘60s - ‘70s - ‘80s - country - latino - salsa - up to today's dance-house, rap and techno," Yu said, "We wanted to do karaoke, that's all."

Yu and Yam did talk to Moncure, though, who mentioned the need for a permit.

'We didn't know that," Yu said.

They are still pursuing it, though all flier distribution would stop for now and the storefront signs were taken down. They hope to have their karaoke going by mid-October. Congleton said that is possible because looking into the current zoning should take a week or so. If they do it without the permit, there could be penalties.

"If they are doing it without a permit, we issue a cease and desist. If they continue, they could be fined," he said.

SPRINGFIELD RESIDENTS Jamie Iglesias and Kim Phan usually go to the Dragon Sea Buffet for their crab legs. When it comes to karaoke, they head up to Annandale at the Cafe Muse, where Iglesias hammers out some Brittany Spears tunes while Phan goes for the slower Mariah Carey songs.

"It's [the Dragon Sea] known for the Chinese food. People will go there for what it's known for, but it's worth a shot," Iglesias said.

"You never know until you try," added Phan.

Sometimes Iglesias gets into the Brittany mode, and for a minute, she thinks she's a star.

"Sometimes we try," she said.