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A-Town Faces Grilling on Permit Renewal

A-Town Bar and Grill logoUpdate at 12:00 a.m. — Following a half hour of public comments both for and against A-Town, and some tongue lashings from Board members, the Arlington County Board voted Tuesday night to renew A-Town’s live entertainment permit for three months, as recommended by county staff..

Earlier: A-Town Bar and Grill is facing scrutiny over noise and crime as it seeks to renew its live entertainment permit tonight (Tuesday).

The restaurant, located at 4100 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston, has been drawing the ire of neighbors who complain about loud, drunken patrons. It’s also the subject of an investigation by Arlington County police and the Virginia Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), over a violent episode at an employee-only party on Feb. 12.

“The Arlington Police Department considers A-Town to be the most troublesome establishment in Ballston,” according to a report by county staff.

The Arlington County Board will decide tonight whether to  renew A-Town’s live entertainment and dancing permit. County staff is recommending that it be renewed for three months, with additional restrictions on the establishment’s outdoor cafe area.

A-Town Bar and GrillNoise, especially from the outdoor patio but also from those leaving the establishment, is a primary concern of residents of nearby condominiums.

“Late night disturbances make it an unpleasant community experience and thus directly impact the value of all our homes,” said Roger Lindberg, president of the condominium association for the nearby Berkeley building, in December. “Late night outdoor partying even on weekends, is not a reasonable expectation of any homeowner.”

To help combat that, A-Town has voluntarily agreed to close the patio at 9:00 p.m. on Sundays, 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Previously, the restaurant had only agreed to close the outdoor bar early — at 10:00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Those provisions will be overwritten by the new patio closing times.

County staff noted that noise complaints to the police department declined from 25 between August and November, 2013, to nine between January and April, 2014. However, staff opined that “the long unusually cold winter (when the outdoor patio was not used and patrons refrained from lingering outside the establishment) may be at least partially responsible for a decline in noise-related calls.”

Non-noise police calls to A-Town declined by one — from 25 to 24 — during the same period. The 24 non-noise calls from January to April included four calls for fights, one for an assault, and one for a stabbing (the Feb. 12 incident). Separately, there were eight arrests for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) from January to April where the suspect reported coming from A-Town, according to county staff.

County staff says that A-Town should remain on thin ice even should the live entertainment permit be renewed.

“Staff recommends a three month County Board review in order to monitor progress with these issues, and if there is no substantial reduction in the number of police calls or reduction in the evidence of over serving patrons, staff is not likely to recommend renewal of the use permit for live entertainment and dancing,” the staff report says.

A-Town is facing possible disciplinary action from Virginia ABC pending the outcome of the Feb. 12 malicious wounding case. After the incident an ABC agent “issued an administrative charge to A-Town stating that ‘[t]he Licensee has failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the licensed premises… from becoming a place where patrons of the establishment commit criminal violations… and such violations lead to arrests that are so frequent and serious as to be reasonably deemed… a continuing threat to public safety.'”

The disciplinary action could range from a fine to suspension or revocation of its beer, wine and liquor license.

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