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Norfolk revokes restaurant license from Culture Lounge & Restaurant

A spokesman said Culture got the certificate pulled for a failure to follow alcohol rules, a failure to turn in taxes, and for having entertainment without a permit.

NORFOLK, Va. — A Downtown Norfolk business that has been embroiled in controversy since December just got its restaurant permit revoked by the city.

Wednesday morning, Culture Lounge & Restaurant posted on Instagram that it would be closing its doors.

"We will be back soon," they said. "Call/write city council and tell them to stop harassing black restaurants on Granby."

Norfolk City Manager Dr. Chip Filer said the restaurant was told on Friday that its Restaurant Zoning Certificate was getting revoked.

He said Culture got the certificate pulled for a failure to satisfy Virginia ABC Authority alcohol sale rules, a failure to turn in food and drink taxes. Those are claims that business operators refuted in another social media post.

Filer also told 13News Now that Culture violated its restaurant certificate by way of "providing entertainment within a designated restaurant facility."

Culture Lounge & Restaurant initially had a "conditional use permit," which allowed it to act as a nightclub, staying open until 2 a.m.

People living near the club started publicly complaining about it in December 2021, saying they had to put city council and the area's police department on speed-dial.

"Since they moved in, there’s always people parked down Wilson, and fights and carrying on yelling and screaming at all hours of the night, but especially at 1:30 in the morning to 2 o’clock and then the gunfire," a woman told reporters late last year. "I don't do gunfire. I don't think that is acceptable."

"We're being looked at as if we're outside shooting, [that] we're outside doing something wrong," said co-owner Michael Copeland to city council members in December 2021.

Ultimately, Culture Lounge & Restaurant surrendered its conditional use permit on December 14, 2021. 

Filer said the business started using a Restaurant Zoning Certificate on January 4, 2022. That meant it could stay open but would have to close by midnight, and it couldn't host entertainment.

Filer also said the city warned the restaurant about the certificate violations on August 22: "The notice of intent gave Culture 10 days notice, calling for revocation of its Restaurant Zoning Certificate on Sept. 1. The notice of revocation was delivered the following day."

The lounge was given 30 days to contest the permit revocation, but during that time, it can't be open for business.

"As part of Norfolk’s new Business Compliance Unit, City Zoning staff will continue to review restaurants within the city for compliance with applicable regulations," Filer went on to say.

13News Now stopped by Culture on Wednesday night, but an owner declined an interview with us.

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