Near the shore of the city, between what was once Olssons Books and Records and what is now a Starbucks is a nondescript alley providing a shortcut from South Union Street to The Strand. Its been there as long as Old Town.
Its called Wales Alley, and its aptly named for the British gastropub a pub that serves food and drinks with a deliberate nod at its atmosphere will operate outdoor seating there now that the City Council has approved the 7,900 square-foot soon-to-be restaurants request to encroach on the alley so that patrons can enjoy a craft brew in the sun rays or under the moon.
The decision symbolizes a business-friendly approach that City Hall is moving toward deliberately in hopes that it will enforce the local economys backbone and rid the city of the undesirable label of business un-friendly.
But the Wales Alley is also deemed a historic site by the city itself. And its a pedestrian right of way and a small space of undeveloped area in an increasingly dense area of the city. At least one lawsuit has been filed in light of the citys decision to essentially lease the property to the restaurateurs, 106 Union Dublin LLC, for $52,000 over five years.
The Old Dominion Boat Club filed suit against the company a day before Councils decision.
As someone once said, everything is great in the end. If today is not great, its not the end, said Harry Hart, attorney for the Old Dominion Boat Club, which holds valuable waterfront property at the foot of King Street near Wales Alley.
Hart maintained that the Boat Club was working as a good neighbor should by filing the suit. Complaints from residents that the area is getting too crowded and chaotic have also been vented at public meetings.
But to the city, crowded means success with tourism and tax dollars. And the permit required to make the outdoor dining a reality was exhaustively vetted by the Planning Commission and city staff before being recommended to Council.
I think when we make decisions we should to understand the reasons behind a potential lawsuit, but we should not let them stand in the way, said Councilman Rob Krupicka. I dont think the mere filing of paperwork with the courts should in anyway hinder us from moving forward with a well-vetted project.
Councilman Frank Fannon questioned whether the city should move forward with the approval of the permit, citing the lawsuits potential to undermine the project, but City Attorney Jim Banks did not flinch at the litigation.
I dont think anything should be interrupted in its current form and the litigations should go forward on a separate track and well see how it plays out, Banks said. Lets just say Im not too worried about whats been filed.
Meanwhile, Duncan Blair, 106 Union Dublins attorney, thanked officials and city staff for working with the company rather than against them, in what seemed to be the embodiment of the citys efforts to streamline bureaucracy for businesses.
Negotiating this agreement has been a great partnership between the city and Union Dublin LLC, Blair said. He referred to the outdoor dining project as a matter of beautification that will improve the streetscape.
Image/City of Alexandria
A rendering of the outdoor seating section of the restaurant that will occupy 106 South Union Street, where Olssons Books and Music once stood.