"[T]he troubles began as soon as the dancing started"


For Maria Aguilar, a Honduran immigrant who opened Fast Eddie's Billiard Cafe in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, things were going great, reports the Washington Post.

Then the county zoning board came calling. While there had been some complaints from neighbors about patron misbehavior, the issues the zoning board seems to have with Fast Eddie's appear to stem largely from the propensity of customers to get their groove on.

Aguilar blamed the crackdown on a cultural bias against Latino businesses that pair salsa on the table with salsa on the dance floor.

"The county has the power to say whatever they want, and they harass businesses, especially Spanish places," Aguilar said. "They don't understand our culture. When we go out, we want to dance."

Yes, but that simple urge is meaningless in the face of arcane regulatory standards for "incidental dancing" in fractional spaces.

Earlier this month, Eileen M. McLane, the county's zoning administrator, told the Board of Zoning Appeals that her agency has been reining in huge establishments that pass themselves off as restaurants with incidental dancing but operate as virtual nightclubs and disturb residential neighborhoods.

Although the current zoning ordinance states that a restaurant's dance floor may use one-eighth of the dining area, McLane said zoning administrators have been analyzing the overall design and purpose of establishments that morph into nightclubs.

McLane said the ordinance on restaurant dance floors was written in 1975 when most restaurants were small. In recent years, however, some the establishments calling themselves restaurants have become huge, opening the door to much bigger dance floors.

After Fast Eddie's lost the dance hall permit, for example, zoning officials also frowned on its request to reclassify itself as a restaurant with a dance floor that spans one-eighth of the dining area, or about 625 square feet, as allowed by existing ordinance.

County officials said a dance floor that size — along with Fast Eddie's request for six pool tables and dartboards — would, in effect, create a nightclub better suited for billiards and boogying than a restaurant with some after-dinner dancing.

Who knows better than a regulator what may be a property's best and highest use? Apparently not Aguilar, who the Post reports has seen her Fast Eddie's staff shrink from 30 to 5 as a result of the zoning board's decision not to renew her dance hall permit.

Baylen Linnekin is the director of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and increasing "culinary freedom," the right of all Americans to grow, sell, prepare and eat foods of their own choosing. To join or learn more about the group's activities, go hereTo follow Keep Food Legal on Twitter, go here; to follow Linnekin, go here.

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  1. But after growing complaints about noise, drunken brawls and other misbehavior, Fairfax County’s Board of Zoning Appeals decided last spring not to renew Fast Eddie’s special dance hall permit.

    It seems there were more than a few complaints. I wish the Washington Post would actually do some reporting and explain what those complaints related to. If the place can’t control its customers and really is a nuisance to those around it, then fuck them. But that is an entirely different reason to shut them down than their dance floor is too big.

    1. Alright, so I don’t understand how a restaraunt should be treated differently than a nightclub. There are three things that disturb neighborhoods: Noise, vandalism and parking. Any place with lots of people and music can be noisy regardless of their proclivity to dance. The more people you have and the more alcohol, the more chance for vandalism and finally, the more people and the less on site parking you have, the more problems with parking.

      So capacity, alcohol permits and parking considerations should be what zoning boards are looking towards. Calling it a restaurant or nightclub is immaterial.

        1. I am really a bad libertarian when it comes to local zoning. I think there is give and take when it comes to living in a city and just as I can’t raise a horse in an inner city condo, commercial establishments need some curbs on how they disturb my sleep. If people live on top of each other, not everyone’s wildest desire can be met, so compromise is the only way we’re going to get along.

        2. Let me brake it down for y’all. The Zoning Board is where ineffectual pissants who got picked on in high school go to feel superior to the people they went to school with. The reason “nightclub” is such an important distinction is cause neighborhood busy bodies don’t mind restaurants, but nightclubs bring to mind seedy back alley illicit behavior. And we can’t have that. Especially if it is brown people engaging in said made up behavior.

          1. Just because the busy bodies are assholes, doesn’t mean every establishment is all wine and roses. If this place is full of belligerent drunks that are making the neighborhood impossible to live in, then I have no sympathy for them. Maybe the proper remedy is it being sued out of existence or into doing something about its clientele. Rather than zoning. But I think the property owners around them have rights too.

            1. Oh I totally agree. And Zoning Ordinances do have their place. I was just making note of the fact that most people that sit on zoning boards have some kind of axe to grind or are as corrupt as any third world dictator.

              The fact remains that they use the word “nightclub” to sway public opinion because of the negative connotations associated with it, whether or not the establishment is actually causing any real problems to fellow property owners.

      1. Houston does just fine without zoning (some exceptions like titty bars). In fact it is quite nice that you can walk through a neiborhood and suddenly come across a small business.

        1. It does. But there are lots of covenants in Houston. And you can still sue for nuisance.

          1. And the city cites businesses for a myriad of other types of violations and can effectively condemn businesses that don’t pay up. You have to be rich or have excellent relations with your surrounding neighborhoods if you want to stay in the grey zone of legally unzoned in Houston.

            1. … or have excellent relations with your surrounding neighborhoods …

              That is the solution to all commercial/residential conflicts. Ms. Aguilar and her neighbors should try to solve this problem without gov’t intervention. My guess is the neighbors find brown people dancing “distasteful” and decided to invoke the police power of the State. The zoning change has hurt this business to the point where it looks like it will probably close shop. I’m sure the neighbors will be pleased.

              1. My guess is the neighbors find brown people dancing “distasteful” and decided to invoke the police power of the State.

                One could assume that if she could prove this in court, she could win damages from the city.

                Given the facts we know to date though, this is not a given.

        2. I live in Houston. The titty bars are a feature, not a bug. Make it rain at Onyx, anyone?

          1. Atlanta titty bars are superior…

          2. I don’t think anyone was claiming otherwise, although its weird when you run into girls you went to high school with up on stage, though that part of my life is probably passed at this point. He was just saying that the one official zoning law in Houston is that you can’t build a NEW adult business within 1000 feet of a school.

        3. Once again, Houston has many many land use regulations in place for any new business. Old businesses that existed before certain ordinances were passed are grandfathered, but the days of pure wild west business locating in Houston are pretty much over.

          1. It’s still better than most places, but far from perfect (and getting more land-use regulation all the time, like most places.)

            1. you should see our shiny new High Density Ordinance

    2. I wish the Washington Post would actually do some reporting and explain what those complaints related to.

      And who filed them. Smells to me like it could be disgruntled competitors.

    3. Whether the place is noisy is completely irrelevant to the point of this post, that zoning laws are arbitrary and stupid. You don’t need zoning laws to sue someone for excessive noise. Zoning laws are coercive regardless of the behavior of businesses.

  2. “But after growing complaints about noise, drunken brawls and other misbehavior, Fairfax County’s Board of Zoning Appeals decided last spring not to renew Fast Eddie’s special dance hall permit.”

    damn that local control !111!!1

    1. But after growing complaints about noise, drunken brawls and other misbehavior,

      If there weren’t police reports, it didn’t happen.

  3. Dibs on Incidental Dancing in Fractional Spaces as an album name.

  4. “You know what else is dangerous Lana? Your obssession with me. Seriously, call Kenny Loggins because you’re in the danger zone…from Top Gun.”

    And I can’t comment on this unless I knew exactly what the local complaints agianst the place were. If it’s a shithole overrun with drunks, then yeah, I would support the residents in wanting that removed or at least sanctioned until management did a better job controlling its patrons.

  5. Sounds like what ought to be at issue is a noise ordinance, if anything.

  6. I am in favor of banning Footloose.

  7. BTW: Doesn’t Kenny Loggins look like Eddie (“I love a rainy night”) Rabbit?
    Eddie is dead of a brain tumor, whatever happened to Kenny L?
    Was he killed in a highway danger zone?!?!…ha, ha, ha, ha, ha ha

  8. Fast Eddies is within walking distance of my house and I’ve been there many times. It’s an enormous pool hall with pool hall food and a tiny dance floor with juke box music and the occasional DJ.

    But more importantly it’s in a shitass rundown neighborhood which has lost 3 large businesses in the last year (St Clair appliances, Eckard/Rite Aid and Shoppers Food Warehouse) and has a constantly rotating selection of businesses in the space next door to Fast Eddies (Office Depot, then a carpet store, now a Latin mercado). I hardly think the best way to promote business and growth in this neighborhood, which is decades behind the rest of Fairfax County, is to get nitpicky about some dancing.

    The patrons of the place would be rowdy and drunk regardless of dancing – it’s a fucking pool hall. Even in the whitest, wealthiest neighborhood on earth, it would be rowdy at certain hours.

    I’d like to know who these “neighbors” are who are complaining about the place.

  9. Oops – forgot my modified moniker!

  10. What if I wanted to open a recycling center in the middle of a neighborhood? It would probably increase noise and traffic and attract homeless people selling aluminum cans. This business would probably not meet the standards of the community.
    But what if I wanted to open a grocery store? Who could object to that? So it gets approved and then when the inspectors come by, they find that I’ve got one shelf of tuna fish and the rest of the 10,000 square feet is for recycling cans and plastic bags. That’s permitted because it’s a “grocery store”
    This is an example of the bait-and-switch type of operation that this pool hall engaged in.
    Why all the assumed racism on the part of the Zoning Board and neighbors?

    From the Washington Post article:
    “Supervisor Jeffrey C. McKay (D-Lee) said Fast Eddie’s had been singled out only because the establishment was a well-known nuisance.
    Stephen D. Pattison, 49, who lives next to Fast Eddie’s, said people complained when Fast Eddie’s opened as a pool hall in the 1990s, but there were few problems. In April 2009, however, Fast Eddie’s received a special two-year permit to operate with no more than 26 pool tables and a 960-square-foot dance floor that could operate only on weekend nights. Pattison said the troubles began as soon as the dancing started.
    “My house would rock from it almost [sic]. You’d hear the thumping, the deep bass, coming through,” Pattison said. Then came drunken revelers who urinated in his yard, littered the street with liquor bottles and clashed with police in his driveway. “

    1. …and then the breeding resulted in a new species of children, hence forward named the Occupiers but they like to shit on sidewalks too

  11. There’s a much loved diner in my hometown that has been in business since 1923. The kitchen caught fire and damaged some of the restaurant. That was in April. Everything was repaired in May, but the place still hasn’t opened because the local government has repeatedly denied permits for obscure reasons.

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