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F.W. Sullivan's--a 'restaurant' or a nightclub?
Rebecca Thomas' op-ed column on the problems at F.W. Sullivan's in downtown Fredericksburg

 Neighboring businesses have been negatively affected by some patrons of F.W. Sullivan's.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 11/2/2012

AFTER READING Tom my Mitchell's column ["Who brought the fight to Sullivan's? Council," Oct. 24] I feel compelled to write a countering point of view and give a firsthand account of the problems we have witnessed both with Sullivan's and its predecessors at the same location.

First, let's talk about the City Council and Mitchell's perception that F.W. Sullivan's is being unfairly targeted. As a business owner who has operated directly across the street from F.W. Sullivan's since its inception, I have witnessed numerous problems. I have seen disorderly groups; intoxicated patrons damaging property as they walk down the street; customers driving erratically after leaving the restaurant and getting into their vehicles--thankfully the police were sitting outside and pulled them over--and heard many loud conversations that disrupt our patrons' experience and no doubt the sleep of nearby residents.

In addition, the crowds it brings in on the weekends think nothing of using neighboring businesses for their bathrooms while they stand in line, and I have had to personally ban several intoxicated young men who were disruptive and harassing our patrons. Mitchell states that Sullivan's has never had an ABC violation; however, that doesn't discredit what we see and experience firsthand.

To Mitchell, I would say the size of the space and its location may be contributing to the problem of keeping a tenant, more than hostile city government. The space is overly large for its downtown location and, by default, becomes a nightclub in order to manage the rent on such a large space. Breaking it into smaller footprints that would allow for more manageable rents would be a step in the right direction, both for Mitchell, who rightfully needs to produce an income from his property, and the William Street corridor, which is turning into a vibrant restaurant scene.

I have seen three businesses enter that location: All started predominantly as restaurants and then degenerated into nightclubs that brought difficulty and nuisance to the neighborhood. Enough.

What is true for all businesses is true for Sullivan's. Be a good neighbor, listen to problems, and do your best to proactively address them, and the damage can be minimized early on. This did not happen in this case and so it has resulted in an escalation that involved the city and police.

City Council and the police did not seek out this business to target, they responded to police nuisance calls and neighboring business's complaints. As they should. We earn our living from our businesses and our voices deserve to be heard.

I have worked directly with the city many times over the years and found it to be supportive and willing to work with businesses to achieve a greater good. Rather than blame others for the problems created at F.W. Sullivan's, or point out that the owners are good businessmen (elsewhere), it seems to me the best course of action is to honestly evaluate the ongoing problems and figure out if in fact a restaurant/nightclub is viable at this large location.

Rebecca Thomas

Fredericksburg

Rebecca Thomas is the owner of kybecca.