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Dance Hall Days

Portales Restaurant requests extension of operating hours; neighbors complain about litter and parking.

Robin Phillips likes a clean neighborhood. The Springfield resident said she has walked along her street, off Franconia Road across from the government center, and picked up litter.

For years, that had meant bags from convenience stores and fast food wrappers.

"Annoying but innocent," she said. "I was not uncomfortable."

But things have changed in recent years and the litter now contains beer cans and used condoms. Phillips attributes some of this change to Portales Restaurant at 6148 Franconia Road. '"It's a de facto dance hall," Phillips said. at the Dec. 7 Planning Commission meeting. "They go there to party."

Tom Thomas, attorney for the owner was also surprised to hear the problems. "I wasn't prepared to hear some of that," he said.

Thomas said that the business has ample parking, and does not sell beer in bottles to take outside of the establishment. However, he did think there are ways they might be able to address Phillips' concerns.

The restaurant has applied for a change to its permit to allow it to stay open until 1:30 a.m. daily. Currently the restaurant is open until 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

However, Phillips said that she has noticed other problems, such as patrons parking on her street and issues with noise as they leave. These are problems, she said which she doesn't want to see extended by even a half hour.

Phillips' concerns took both the restaurant owner and Planning Commissioner Rodney Lusk (Lee) by surprise. "Obviously what you've articulated are two new issues," Lusk said.

Lusk particularly keyed in on the trash and parking. He suggested that the business might add a condition that they clean up the area daily.

He also asked Department of Planning and Zoning staff if they could research possible ways to address the parking problem.

Some of the problems, Lusk said, could be addressed through the creation of a liason between the business and the community.

Planning Commissioner John Byers (Mount Vernon) is known for saying that if something isn't written down, it doesn't have to be done. That philosophy informed his suggestion during the discussion. "I want to see specific words that say the lot will be policed every day," Byers said.

Lusk said the plan needs to go before the Lee District Land Use committee before he would call for a vote on it. The Planning Commission deferred its decision until Jan. 11, 2006.