Del Ray Pizzeria will have to reduce its seating for two months to prove it can come into compliance with its permit before the Alexandria Planning Commission will rule on the restaurant’s request for additional seating.
On Tuesday night at City Hall, the commissioners voted to defer their decision on the permit for two months because the restaurant repeatedly failed to come into compliance with its existing special use permit.
“This is a business people want, but there has to be compliance,” Commissioner J. Lawrence Robinson said. “I think we should defer until we see compliance on what that is already granted.”
The commissioners voted to cut back the total number of seats—both indoor and outdoor—to 56, with some discretion from city staff. It currently has more than 80 indoor seats.
An inspection of the restaurant by city staff in December revealed a series of permit violations, including that it was operating with approximately twice the amount of indoor seats that were allowed.
In its permit, Del Ray Pizzeria is allowed to have 32 indoor seats and 12 outdoor seats in accordance with the number of parking spaces available on the restaurant’s property. The city’s inspection revealed that the restaurant had more than 80 indoor seats.
Ownership immediately applied for a special use permit requesting a reduction in the required amount of parking spaces to allow the extra seating. The permit application also proposes the creation of an upstairs dining room for special event use.
After the inspection, the pizzeria was allowed to keep the extra seats while it awaited its new permit because it showed a good faith effort by remedying other violations, including some involving trash and deliveries.
Sean Snyder, general manager of Del Ray Pizzeria, told Patch in March that the extra seats were the product of a "communication error" that happened when a partial ownership change occurred just two weeks after the business opened. New ownership overseeing the day-to-day work at the pizzeria added the seats believing that there was no violation as long as the total number stayed within the fire code.
Restaurant co-owner Erik Dorn apologized for the mistake in a statement posted on Del Ray Patch. He said the restaurant was trying to “accommodate demand” and the restaurant “got ahead of itself.”
The city's Department of Planning and Zoning recommended that the commission approve the permit on Tuesday. However, Barbara Ross, the department's deputy director, said the permit was "not an easy case for any of us."
Just one day before Tuesday’s hearing, city staff discovered the restaurant had violated its permit again by operating with more outdoor seats than allowed.
Attorney Duncan Blair, who represents the owners of Del Ray Pizzeria, said Thursday morning that restaurant management will eliminate about eight positions because of the reduced service, including four members of the wait staff.
“These are people who this is their livelihood,” Blair said.
Pizzeria management will log the restaurant’s compliance to permit regulations everyday for the next two months.