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Business Matters

Uncrunching Credit

As members of the Alexandria City Council enjoy their summer recess, elected officials turn to their day jobs. For Councilman Frank Fannon, that means trying to close some mortgage loans for SunTrust Bank — if he can.

Fannon says the global financial crisis that emerged in 2008 created a backlash against lending that has created excessive regulation. He acknowledges that some of the new regulations were needed because the market was flooded with loans to people who could never repay them. But he also says some of them are choking business, limiting banks from making legitimate loans.

“We have lots of retired people here in Old Town who have an $800,000 house and a $300,000 mortgage and $2 million of investments,” said Fannon. “But if they don’t show an income stream, then they can’t qualify for a loan.”

The new rule, which is part of the Dodd-Frank Act, sets up an income-to-debt ratio that Fannon says is unrealistic. Many people who have a high net worth but little or no income are unable to get loans under the new rules, which are administered by Fannie Mae. As a result, Fannon says, changes need to be made to loosen up lending practices so that people who have an ability to repay loans can get the credit necessary to invest in the economy.

“This happens with self-employed people all the time because they write off a lot of their business expenses,” said Fannon. “They end up getting the loan denied.”

Underage and Undercover

This week, undercover agents will be dispatched into about two dozen stores in Alexandria. The volunteer agents, who are between the ages of 18 and 21, ,will be looking to buy alcohol. It’s part of a quarterly sting operation to find businesses making illegal sales of alcohol to underage consumers.

“The point of this is to maintain awareness,” said Capt. Chris Wemple, commander of special services. “We want to remind people that it’s their duty to have staff trained and complaint with the law.”

The operation starts with a letter, informing business owners of the upcoming compliance check. Then police issue a press release informing the public. Wemple won’t say when and where the compliance checks will happen, but he says the department will eventually release the list of businesses that were found out of compliance with the law. Penalties can range from $2,000 to a year in jail.

“We don’t want a place to have a reputation as an easy mark,” he said.

‘Love on Tap’

For those who are old enough to enjoy a taste of alcohol, this month marks the first-ever Craft Beer Month in Virginia.

“Critically acclaimed craft breweries are thriving all over the commonwealth, from Arlington to Abingdon,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell in a written statement. “A growing craft beer community in Virginia generates tourism, manufacturing, agricultural production and much needed jobs.”

The theme of the first-ever Craft Beer Month is “Love on Tap,” a nod to the commonwealth’s well-known marketing slogan proclaiming “Virginia is for Lovers.” The Virginia tourism office has created a new interactive map to help locate craft breweries open for tastings and tours, including two Alexandria locations — Port City Brewing Company in the West End and Hops Grill Brewery in Potomac Yard.

“The Virginia craft beer scene, combined with our 220 wineries, makes Virginia a top destination for culinary travelers looking for true local flavor,” said Rita McClenny, president of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “Our craft breweries are found throughout the state and are ideal places for people who love local beers, outdoor adventure and exploring small towns and cool cities.”