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Op-ed from Fredericksburg businessman Tommy Mitchell.
AS A DOWNTOWN
F.W. Sullivan's, the incredibly successful and award-winning Richmond restaurant that expanded to Fredericksburg late last year, was instantly popular with large crowds. Reasonable people should expect an adjustment period with the opening of any popular new nightspot.
At Sullivan's, this included reinforcing the expectation of responsible behavior in a building with one of downtown's largest crowd capacities. Contrary to the negative narrative perpetuated by some on City Council, Sullivan's has strictly enforced all Virginia ABC rules.
Not long after opening, Sullivan's refused service to an out-of-state patron for being intoxicated, just as Virginia law requires. This unruly customer then started a fight outside the restaurant, resulting in a window being shattered.
As the owner of this building, I was obviously upset with the damage this altercation caused, but I was certainly not going to blame the restaurant's management or staff for doing their jobs and following the law.
To help handle the overwhelming public response, Sullivan's own staff made a number of calls to city police. The last thing I expected was for these proactive efforts to be used against them, but that is exactly what happened.
City representatives then concluded it was somehow appropriate to compare the number of police calls to this, one of Fredericksburg's largest and most frequented establishments, with some that were much smaller. They then prematurely concluded that a problem existed.
In a knee-jerk response to the fight that happened outside Sullivan's and the number of police calls, two members of City Council rashly decided to target Sullivan's for police surveillance and violations of city nuisance ordinances--as if there had been months of drunken mayhem taking place, which was never the case.
This gross overreaction persisted even though Sullivan's offered to work with the city to help ensure that problems were temporary. Instead, the city took a confrontational position and went out of its way to hurt this new business and harass the owners with threats from the city attorney. Consider the following: