The Beach is Back in Leesburg

Just in time for spring, MacDowell Brew Kitchen’s popular outdoor beach area has received the all clear from the Town of Leesburg to reopen.

It marks the end to a years-long saga between restaurant owner Gordon MacDowell and the town. In 2013, the 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 an 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, 2016. When that deadline came and went, the town agreed to give MacDowell an extension until July 11, 2016. The town brought the situation to the Loudoun County Circuit Court, requesting an injunction to enforce the agreement. On June 5, Judge Douglas L. Fleming Jr. ordered MacDowell to pay fines of $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 last summer, with the most recent deadline to complete the work, and pay more than $15,000 in fines, Jan. 8. That deadline was also missed.

But that all changed this week, when the town staff gave the Town Council the go-ahead to release the performance bonds, certifying that the improvements were complete.

MacDowell also paid the fines owed to the town—totaling $15,500—on Wednesday, Assistant Zoning Administrator Michael Watkins confirmed. Although the signed consent order from November still showed MacDowell on the hook for $100/day fines after the last missed deadline of Jan. 8, Zoning Administrator Chris Murphy said the town agreed to waive any additional fines after the $15,500.

With the fines paid, the zoning permit to reopen the beach area of the restaurant has been issued, Watkins said.

A call to MacDowell was not immediately returned.

Danielle Nadler contributed to this report.

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