In preparation for a final showdown over the Fanhouse bar, some Fan neighbors are bringing on a hired gun: lawyer and state Delegate Manoli Loupassi.
"I've been retained by some residents there to help them out with the process," Loupassi says, "advising them and whatnot." He won't say who his clients are, only that they're "concerned citizens."
At issue is a first-floor bar in Fanhouse, at Floyd Avenue and Robinson Street. Owner Sunny Zhao built the bar without a required permit just before he opened his doors in February 2010.
The matter quickly escalated from a code violation to a debate over nightlife in the Fan. The influential Fan District Association has sided with neighbors who characterize Fanhouse as a raucous nightspot that brings noise and trash to Floyd Avenue. Other neighbors have stepped up to defend Fanhouse, saying it's an upscale restaurant that's more responsibly run than other Fan institutions.
The Planning Commission voted to let Zhao keep the first-floor bar on Feb. 7. Now it's up to City Council to make the final call at its June 13 meeting.
Will Shewmake, Zhao's attorney, says he and the Fanhouse owner have spent the last few months meeting with neighbors and looking at additional proffers Zhao could make. "I think it's going to come to a head one way or another" June 13, Shewmake says.
Loupassi says the Fan residents hired him because he "know[s] a little bit about the process." That's an understatement: Loupassi, whose father founded the Robin Inn just up the street from Fanhouse, was a longtime city councilman representing the West End.