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Business Matters

Killer Instinct

The metaphor usually used for governing is making sausage. Although you might appreciate the final product, you don’t want to see it being made.

Last weekend, former Vice Mayor Bill Cleveland added another to the lexicon. When City Council members considered a proposal from the school system to allow high-school classes to meet at the failing Landmark Mall, Cleveland appeared before council members to testify in support. In his own inimitable way, Cleveland implored council members to take swift and decisive action.

“I want you to look at the proposal like a seagull peering at a shrimp in shallow water,” Cleveland said.

School officials want to use part of the largely abandoned shopping mall as classroom space for a program known as the “Flexible and Extended Learning Opportunities Program.” Students in the program have difficulty in a traditional classroom setting, so the idea is to take them out of the traditional classroom and find a non-traditional setting. Council members seemed to agree with Cleveland’s assessment.

“For the record,” quipped Vice Mayor Kerry Donley “I’m viewing this item as a seagull viewing shrimp in shallow water, and I ask my colleagues to do the same.

“I will only vote for this if I see some cocktail sauce showing up,” added Councilman Rob Krupicka.

Condiments aside, the measure was approved.

Double Stuffed Restaurant

Del Ray Pizzeria hasn’t been open very long, but it’s already doubled the number of seats. One problem — nobody bothered to tell City Hall.

During a recent inspection, city officials discovered that the Mount Vernon Avenue pizza joint was packing in about twice as many patrons as their special-use permit allowed. Although the restaurant has approval for 36 seats, the business currently seats 72. City officials said they decided to work with the restaurant rather than taking punitive measures.

“These are all new business owners,” said Councilman Rob Krupicka.

“Ignorance is not a defense,” responded Councilman Paul Smedberg.

City officials say they took steps to make sure some other issues were resolved, including how the trash was disposed and parking problems near the restaurant. But they used their discretion to let the restaurant keep the seats. Forcing them to slash half their customers, zoning officials say, could have killed the business.

“If staff had taken a hard line in December, this business would have shut down,” Krupicka responded. “We could do that as a city, but we would be shutting down restaurants all over the city every time there’s a violation.”

Next month, members of the Planning Commission will consider an amendment to the special-use permit for Del Ray Pizzeria to add more seats.

Expedited Problems

One Alexandria business is learning a difficult lesson — be careful about listening to people who claim to be experts.

The owner of the Dunkin Donuts location on Upper King Street appeared before City Council members last weekend to apologize for breaking city rules. In August 2011, city officials discovered that restaurant supplies were being loaded into the shop from tractor-trailer trucks parked on King Street rather than in the back alley as their permit specified. Subsequent conversations with city officials revealed that the business changed ownership without first receiving permission from City Hall, yet another violation.

“When we acquired the business, we used an expediter,” said Chris Mellgrin, vice president of operations for Quality Brand Capital, which now owns the doughnut shop. “Apparently, not so much.”