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Chester’s Gets Three-Month Entertainment Permit Extension

Chester’s Billiards, Bar & Grill will have three months to remedy various violations after the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to grant a brief extension to its live entertainment permit.

The billiards hall and neighborhood bar at 2620 Shirlington Road had the annual review of its permit at the Board’s recessed meeting Tuesday (July 18), and county staff recommended an extension be denied after a slew of problems.

But the Board agreed to give Chester’s three months before having another review to correct various violations, which included 16 calls for service to the Arlington County Police Department as well as notices from the Fire Marshal, Code and Zoning Enforcement and Virginia ABC.

“I hope we’ve impressed on you all that this is not to be seen as an endorsement of the current state of affairs,” Board vice chair Katie Cristol said. “This is an opportunity to try to get it right.”

Rebecca Lewis, the agent for the building, promised that Chester’s will use the Arlington County Police Department’s after-hours service to employ off-duty officers as security on nights when it has live entertainment, and will ensure bartenders are trained in when to cut people off.

The live entertainment permit allows Chester’s to host “a variety of live entertainment types, including music, comedy and magicians.”

Lewis and Chester’s manager David Breedlove said the introduction of a fence around the property, which is as high as eight feet in some places, should help with security. Lewis added that after some management turmoil since the bar opened in 2015, they have been on a more even footing the past couple of months.

“We can’t change the neighborhood, but what’s happening inside Chester’s has changed,” Lewis said. “We’ve learned the lessons, and we have followed the rules that were laid out in the original use permit.”

Board member Christian Dorsey cautioned against rhetoric that may appear to blame the neighborhood for any problems. He also tried to determine the status of the building’s elevator, which is the subject of criminal proceedings.

“My overarching conversation,” Dorsey said, “is if the elevator makes it inappropriate for us to renew the use permit, should we have a business operating there at all?”

Chester’s representatives said the elevator has not operated since opening, and that they are applying to have it decommissioned. Adam Watson, a planner in the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, said the violation must be remedied, and that staff would work to determine how necessary a working elevator is for the business.

Lewis and Breedlove said many violations have come from being a relatively new business, including from Virginia ABC as their food sales are not as high as required for their liquor license. Both promised to do better.

“This is always really tough,” Dorsey said. “I hate to be in the business of hurting someone’s opportunity to earn a living and fulfill their creative and entrepreneurial dreams, but it also seems by your own admission…this has been a growing experience for you in terms of operating a business, finding out the right things to offer, the right things to work with.”

Chester’s will be back before the Board for its review in October.

Photo via Google Maps.

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