Smokecraft in Clarendon feeling heat from county threat to revoke live entertainment permit

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Smokecraft BBQ Awards (photo courtesy)

A BBQ joint in Clarendon might have the occasional the party The smoke cleared.

Arlington County calls Smokecraft Modern Barbecue at 1051 N. Highland Street may lose Its live entertainment license because it does not comply with a local initiative requiring restaurants and bars to meet certain alcohol safety standards.

Issue: From November, Clarendon venues with live entertainment licenses need to comply Arlington Restaurant Initiative (Ali). One requirement is that businesses have written policies and procedures, and the award-winning, top-ranked Smokecraft, which opened in 2020, does not.

The restaurant and its lawyers said they believed the written policy could have left the restaurant vulnerable to lawsuits, meaning an increase in insurance costs of more than $10,000 a year.

“We are a safe institution. We have always been a safe institution. We continue to plan to do so. The adoption of these specific written policies does not change our commitment,” Andrew Darneille, owner and venue manager, told the board last night (Tuesday) .

Additionally, he said live entertainment licenses are not being actively used, all staff serving alcohol are trained in how to serve them safely, the restaurant has a “perfect record for alcohol safety,” and alcohol only accounts for 15 percent of sales.

If the rules are not followed, the Arlington County Commission said it will eventually revoke the live entertainment license. In May, the county gave Smokecraft a month to keep the license and revisit the issue while the parties work on a resolution.

Last night, the board was set to revoke the license, but voted to bet on the issue for another month now that negotiations were moving in the right direction.

Still, the patience of board members appears to be wearing thin. Some people seem annoyed that the problem has gotten to this point, while other restaurants have found ways to make it work.

“I think you can get there without being aware of the end of the world that your representatives see,” said board chairman Christian Dorsey. “For my purposes, every month that we continue this dance is another month, and you can continue to enjoy your license without complying with ARI standards — a luxury that other agencies don’t have.”

Smokecraft has the flexibility to create policies that meet “minimum compliance standards” and serve businesses, Dorsey said.

“One of the strengths is that these policies are not prohibitive — they are prescriptive,” Dorsey said. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to require you to upend your operations.”

Responding to the argument that Smokecraft should be able to emulate other businesses, Darneille said it’s an unfair argument.

“I know there are 50 other restaurants that signed up to this agreement, but I can’t say why they decided to do what they did,” he continued. “We’ve raised a concern here that’s valid for us. We’re working on it.”

He blamed the county government for not immediately engaging with the restaurant when the issues were first raised. Then, after a meeting last month, he said it would take two weeks to hear back from the county.

County council members did not mention this. ARLnow has previously reported on restaurateurs and other business owners being unable to reach employees in a timely manner.

The Arlington Restaurant Program started out as a voluntary program to make the county a safer place for a night out. The Arlington County Police Department is offering free alcohol safety training to restaurant workers, and if someone gets out of control, they could be banned from all participating restaurants.

In Clarendon, a city notoriously sloppy at night, county staff, the county board, law enforcement and some participants credited the ARI with classifying the community’s nightlife.

“Clarendon is a very different place than it was before ARI,” said board member Takis Karantonis, adding that today there are “a huge number of restaurateurs and entrepreneurs doing for Clarendon. Such a great contribution is partly due to ARI.”

This success prompted the county to make these optional standards a requirement for nightlife venues in Clarendon.The Arlington Chamber of Commerce responded to the issue in a letter to the county commissioner. support Keep this program optional.

Chamber chief executive Kate Bates wrote: “While ARI had good intentions, we found that its transformation into a mandate, with no consultation or adjustment of standards to reflect this, did not reflect best government practice.”

Outside of Clarendon, the Purple Lounge on the now-closed Columbia Pike had its live entertainment license revoked for non-compliance with the ARI. The lounge gained local notoriety for a string of drunkenness and security violations, police calls and outdoor shootings.

Another allegedly rowdy place, Bowlero in Crystal City, is on track by complying with ARI.



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