MacDowell Brew Kitchen in Leesburg has again missed a deadline to comply with a court order that means its beach area will remain closed.
Last week, the brew kitchen unexpectedly announced the entire restaurant would be closed until Jan. 12, and owner Gordon MacDowell confirmed that the restaurant’s staff had been let go. MacDowell pointed to the burden placed on the business by the town to make improvements to its beach area to comply with a court order, and the impact of closures to the beach area last summer.
It all began three years earlier, when town staff discovered that more than 6 feet of MacDowell’s patio area was actually on land owned by the town. Legally, alcohol cannot be served on town property without exception. MacDowell agreed to lease the land from the town and change the insurance policy so the restaurant could continue to operate as is, and the Town Council voted to allow the restaurant to serve alcohol on that sliver of town property.
Plus, the beach portion of the property had to be rezoned from residential to commercial. As part of the rezoning agreement, MacDowell agreed to make improvements that would better buffer the residential neighborhoods from commercial activities, as well as protect the town’s stormwater system from sand runoff.
For MacDowell Brew Kitchen to hold up its end of the deal, however, it had to finish on-site improvements—including a system to contain the sand—by June 1. When the June 1 deadline came and went, the town agreed to give MacDowell an extension to July 11. The town brought the situation to the Loudoun County Circuit Court, requesting an injunction to enforce the proffers. On June 5, Judge Douglas L. Fleming Jr. ordered MacDowell to pay $500 a day beyond the July 11 deadline and close the beach until the work had been completed “to the Town’s satisfaction.” That deadline was also not met, and resulted in the closure of the beach area for several weeks. Town Council members ultimately prevailed upon town staff to allow the beach to be open on weekends while improvements were ongoing.
MacDowell’s agreement with the town to finish on- and off-site improvements has been extended twice since the summer, with the most recent deadline to complete the work, and pay more than $15,000 in fines, this past Sunday, Jan. 8.
Tuesday, Notar reported that the deadline to comply with the consent order had again been missed, with the improvements still not completed and the fines unpaid. An email from Zoning Administrator Chris Murphy to MacDowell was shared with Loudoun Now following a FOIA request. The email, dated Jan. 5, details a 10-point punch list of items yet to be completed as of last week. These range from the installation of parking meters to removal and replacement of the handicapped ramp at the intersection of South and Harrison streets to completing pavement installation and repairs in the rear parking lot.
In the email, Murphy notes that he would consider waiving the fines for September and October 2016 if all improvements were completed by Jan. 8. Reached Tuesday, Murphy said the required final inspection had still not been conducted by the staff to determine whether all improvements had been made. As it would appear the deadline was missed again, Murphy said he was no longer considering waiving any fines.
But this week MacDowell was still hopeful that there could be some room for negotiation between him and the town in waiving some of the fees.
“Once the last couple of items [on the punch list] are done, it will be the perfect time to have that conversation,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll be understanding.”
As to one of the outstanding items on the punch list – the handicapped ramp – MacDowell said that was an error made by the contractor that the contractor is responsible for fixing. He expects to have the remaining items completed shortly, and still plans to reopen the interior portion of the restaurant Thursday. The outdoor beach portion will remain closed per court order until all improvements have been made.
Once the town staff concurs that improvements have been satisfactorily completed, the Town Council must then release the $320,000 bond MacDowell posted for the improvements. That action, MacDowell says, “will free up money that is very much needed to sustain our business.”