NORFOLK, Va. — Tuesday, Norfolk City Council members voted unanimously to allow restaurants that close before 5 p.m. to serve alcoholic beverages without a conditional use permit (CUP).
The decision comes just about a year after city council members voted in September 2022 to require any new restaurant owners citywide to undergo a CUP process if they want to sell alcohol for customers to drink at their business, no matter what time they closed.
Between 2018 and 2022, restaurants in Norfolk that did not offer entertainment could sell alcohol without a CUP if they closed by a certain time, which included midnight for downtown businesses and 11 p.m. elsewhere, according to a spokesman with the City of Norfolk.
Now, in an effort to restore the rights of business owners that mainly serve brunch and lunch, but not dinner, city council members approved the proposal to allow them to serve alcohol before they close at 5 p.m. Restaurants that provide live entertainment will not be considered under this rule.
The September 2022 vote came after a string of violence in Downtown Norfolk, including multiple shootings outside a couple bars. At that city council meeting last year, city leaders said they implemented this new rule partially to improve safety and gain more oversight through the CUP process.
Some business owners told 13News Now this decision would help them save time and money in the hassle to get a CUP.
At Naci's Corner Cafe at 1900 Granby Street, one of the workers, Misha Leonard, said the owner was considering getting a liquor license in the past. He said the owner, who was traveling out of town, may actually like the idea of not needing a CUP in order to serve alcoholic beverages.
However, Leonard said he felt confused by the fact that some restaurants that close early can serve alcohol with a CUP verses others that close later in the evening. He said no matter the time of day, serving alcohol comes with some risks.
"To me, I don't see the necessity of us serving alcohol, per say, since we close a little earlier and we're not open late," Leonard said. "It seems a little selective in their logic to say, 'Oh, it'll be safe earlier, but it's going to be dangerous later.' Without that kind of supervision, I can't help but think or just look at the fallout what repercussions that may be."
When 13News Now asked about the city cracking down on CUPs and then making this vote, the city spokesman said, "The CUPs that were revoked or denied last year each had their own circumstances, but the issues raised with those items had zero correlation to alcohol sales occurring over breakfast or lunch."
Getting a conditional use permit is not particularly easy. A city councilwoman said during a meeting last year that it could take up to three months, if not longer, to obtain one. According to the city's information on CUPs, the permit also comes at a cost of $1,080.