Punch Drunk 

This Week: Red-Tape Brigade

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Fan District bigwig, Democratic politico and crusader for all that is right, Charlie Diradour, is at it again. This time he's leading the charge against Robinson Street eatery and bar the Fanhouse. Citing a lack of permits needed for a first-floor bar — which has been in place and serving booze since the Fanhouse opened almost a year ago — and a proposed patio bar, Diradour and the panzer division that is the Fan District Association have supported the city's stop-work order on the new patio bar and will take up their cause with the Planning Commission on Feb. 7, and then City Council on Feb. 14.

Choosing to ignore the drunken throngs spilling out onto the street and the deep bass thumps emanating late at night from Star-Lite, 3 Monkeys, Metro Grill and Buddy's, it would seem that Diradour and his cronies are taking on the Fanhouse because of its less established presence and comparative youth in the traditionally bar-heavy neighborhood. They're leveraging their skills with time-consuming bureaucratic red tape to impose their will, and to an extent, kill Fanhouse owner Sunny Zhao's business.

Diradour claims in Style Weekly, “The problem is, it seems the personality of the place changes about 10:30 at night,” implying that the Fanhouse becomes some raucous Bourbon Street nightclub at a specified hour.

The problem is, he's wrong, and it makes me wonder if the Fan District Association even takes the time to visit these bars after 10:30 at night. If anything, Fanhouse is the kind of establishment that it should want in the neighborhood: It's a high-end, food- and wine-focused, artistic gem, set amongst a cluster of loud and rowdy beer-and-shot pubs — which it should be said, are places that you're more likely to find me. (Ask Brandon and J.D. over at 3 Monkeys.)

Here's the scene as it plays out in my imagination: Diradour with another Fan-based buzz kill, City Councilman Charles Samuels, and members of the Fan District Association, are skulking down Robinson Street with flashlights at 9 p.m. on a Friday, peeking in windows and taking covert pictures of people dancing and drinking, then posting them on Facebook to show the city what sort of monsters prowl the mean streets at night. I assume Diradour bypasses the bars that are tenants in the buildings he owns: deLux and Buddy's included.

Ladies and gentlemen, the infamous party patrol is back!

All this neighborhood nitpickery comes on the heels of the busybody crusading by Diradour and the association over the ongoing Signgate fiasco at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Diradour and his association minions recently grilled Museum Director Alex Nyerges about the museum's proposed electronic sign on the Boulevard in a town-hall-style meeting, to which Nyerges said the new sign “will not be a Lee's chicken,” referring to that restaurant's garish sign on Broad Street.

The spectacle of some rich old white guy with an art fetish making fun of the sign for a fried-chicken joint at a 100-strong town-hall meeting in an effort to secure support for his taxpayer-funded building, only helps to show how silly life can become when these Fan crazies start to forget the vibrancy and liveliness that probably attracted them to the Fan in the first place. In short: No one looks good here. Certainly not Mr. Diradour, who held a news conference about the proposed sign. A news conference. About a sign. For a museum. That joke writes itself. No wonder Eric Cantor wiped the floor with this guy. Not even our House majority leader is that big of a meddlesome blowhard.

I just feel bad for Lee's chicken. What did Lee's do to deserve getting caught in this crossfire of idiots? Be too juicy and delicious? Be a private business that enjoys the support of ordinary people who can't afford the food at Amuse?

The funny thing is that Lee's probably gets more traffic than the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts these days — that is, until they put up a sign that lets people know where exactly the museum is.

Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback contributes to Mixology magazine in Germany, composes surly Twitter missives at @jackgoesforth and blogs at jackgoesforth.blogspot.com. E-mail: bartender@styleweekly.com. S


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