Sa'ad El-Amin's fashionably late entrances … 

Street Talk

Councilman Speaks Out On Delays, Including HisNone Such Place ClosesAnti-Drugs Group Gone, But Successor EmergesPunchline Looking for Right FitPiccolo Richmond?Soccer Fans Steamed Over Media One Goofs

Councilman Speaks Out On Delays, Including His

Richmond City Council's semi-feuding fire-and-ice duo Sa'ad El-Amin and Tim Kaine may simmer down now that the mayor's seat has been settled for another year, but El-Amin says he's not giving up on pushing the council to vote on issues Kaine would prefer to delay.

"I think we're getting a reputation ducking the difficult issues and trying to buy time … to make the situation easier [or] go away," El-Amin says.

Since late last year the council has delayed votes on the Daily Planet's consolidation of homeless services on Main Street; the grocery-or-no fate of the Superior Building in Shockoe Bottom; the construction of an apartment building in Carver; the sale of an old armory in Jackson Ward; and the Bank of Richmond's move to Patterson Avenue.

"We have been able through delay," Kaine says, "to get some really good land-use resolutions. … But I'm kind of biased. This is my style. It drives Sa'ad nuts and he tells me all the time it drives him nuts."

Speaking of delays: Kaine says he is not driven nuts by El-Amin's penchant for entering council meetings after the invocation and pledge of allegiance. "I'm embarrassed to say that I've never noticed that one way or another. I do recall that he is not there exactly when the meeting gets started."

El-Amin refuses to say if his seemingly well-timed tardiness - and avoidance of the religio-patriotic ritual - is an act of conscience or coincidence. "I'm not opposed to the pledge of allegiance being given. I support both of those ceremonies being done at council session."

Asked his personal views: "It's not a matter that I am prepared to discuss or want to discuss. …As in any political act, people are free to participate or not participate. …One, it's an unimportant matter and, two, it's personal."

Rob Morano

None Such Place Closes

Conflicting reports about the fate of an upscale Shockoe Bottom eatery emerged last week after the restaurant's ownership abruptly shuttered operations mid-week and posted a sign stating it would be "closed for summer."

"We're not just closing for the summer. We're closing for good," says an employee of None Such Place owner Scroba & Associates. The employee, who asked not to be named, cited management and financial woes at the restaurant and said it would be for sale. However, the employee later said None Such Place may reopen in the fall.

Past managers say None Such Place has been unofficially for sale for more than a year.

The restaurant, at 18th and Franklin streets, closed June 21. The employee said group events reserved for this summer at the restaurant, such as wedding rehearsal dinners, would be not be canceled but may require new caterers.

Owner Joe Scroba did not return calls for comment. None Such Place staff say their paychecks are late and that Scroba, primarily an investment adviser, is frustrated with the volatile restaurant business.

The restaurant occupies the oldest commercial building in Richmond, a reputedly haunted 1817 structure that has been a lumber house, brewery, soap and candle factory, gunsmith's shop and produce market.

A Richmond Times-Dispatch review gave None Such Place an "A-" last year; Style reviews also have been highly favorable.

- R.M.

Anti-Drugs Group Gone, But Successor Emerges

The Metro Richmond Coalition Against Drugs, a nonprofit group that helped companies fight drug abuse in the workplace for most of the 1990s, has ceased to be. But a new group may be taking up some of the slack.

Former coalition executive director Tim Bowring says the coalition died a quiet death at the beginning of the year due to funding shortfalls. Bowring, who in December was named executive director of Big Brothers & Big Sisters Services Inc. here, says the loss of some locally based banks to mergers hurt fund-raising efforts.

Lundi Martin, executive director of the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, says a year-old local chapter of the statewide volunteer group Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance is taking up the fight, "so there's a lot of activity still in that area." SAARA-Central Virginia Chapter organizer Laura Nguyen, who also works at the behavioral health authority, says the group pushes for increased public funding for drug abuse treatment and prevention programs.

- R.M.

Punchline Looking for Right Fit

Like Goldilocks searching for that perfect fit, so too does Punchline, Richmond's other weekly freebie, struggle to find a size that fits.

Last year the paper shrank to tabloid size. Just this past week, it went back to its old newspaper size.

"We're kind of just doing a test," laughs Liz Skrobiszewski, the alternative weekly's assistant publisher.

"It was actually easier graphically the other way," she says. It was a change that also cost less. "But we got so many complaints from readers. Literally hundreds," says Skrobiszewski.

"We just had to go back."

Brandon Walters

Piccolo Richmond?

Could it be that Richmond could one day launch careers the likes of Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, or Paula Robison?

Spoleto Festival USA did.

And while Charleston's 24-year-old premier arts festival has become the goal of every young artist from aspiring opera singers to writers to symphonic musicians, economists note the $42 million it pumps into the waterside city each year and the 2,400 jobs it creates.

While he's a bit tentative to admit he's all for creating a similar festival here, James Ukrop does acknowledge it's got to start sometime. Why not now?

Just weeks ago, Ukrop, Kathy Emerson, Chris Risatti and others in the arts event community met with Mark Sloan, a University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University graduate who now serves as the visual arts coordinator for Picolo Spoleto. Picolo is the independent festival that takes place concurrently with Spoleto USA and concentrates more on showcasing amateurs, local talent and keeping ticket prices low during the 17-day celebration.

"We thought it would be integral to the process of initial discussions to pick Mark's brain for ideas," says Kathy Emerson with the Farmer's Market. "We'd like to create something indigenous to the city and something quirky. There's a lot of energy and talent here," says Emerson.

"Nothing is official," warns Ukrop. "We were just a very informal group of people getting together," he says of the recent brainstorming meeting. "No big thing has emerged," he cautions amusedly.

"We're interested in the Picolo part in that it really includes local artists and musicians on every level and is very inclusive," says Ukrop.

The next step, he says, is to invite Sloan back after he's had time to absorb everything and suggest ways that something like Picolo could work here. There could be something in the works in a year or two. "Let's just hope it moves forward," says Ukrop.


Soccer Fans Steamed Over Media One Goofs

Richmond-area soccer fans are pulling the red card on Media One. Fans say the cable service cut off the end of two televised Euro 2000 soccer matches last week, leaving customers to guess as to the outcome of the $19.95-each pay-per-view events.

Apparent cause: the tied June 28 and 29 matches went into overtime penalty kick shoot-outs - and beyond the three hours Media One allotted for each of the games. "So we missed all the penalty shots, all the drama of the games," says Spencer Allen, a visiting Brit who caught some of the early tournament live in Europe and had hoped to see the rest on the telly here. "Imagine if someone cut off the last five minutes of the Stanley Cup or something. And the same thing happened [yesterday]. Bloody amazing."

A Media One spokesman did not return calls for comment. Fans say that by deluging the company with complaints after the June 29 cut-off, they were able to get Media One to put match coverage back on - just in time to hear the announcers saying so long, however.



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