Council approves banquet hall

Published 9:25 pm Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Suffolk City Council has approved a conditional use permit for a banquet facility with live entertainment to open on East Washington Street.

By a 7-1 vote on Feb. 5, council approved the facility at 127 E. Washington St. The facility is currently vacant, though it has office spaces, bathrooms and miscellaneous rooms, according to the staff report for the project.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended the permit in December.

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“It will have many iterations and inspections before it is established for that particular use,” said David Hainley, city director of planning and community development.

He said during the commission meeting that the city’s police, fire and rescue and city staff would ensure that conditions are met for the use of the banquet facility.

The first floor of the two-story building for the banquet facility, to be known as Occasion, has 6,835 square feet and is currently vacant, though it has office space on the second floor. The two stories have 11,700 square feet of space.

The banquet facility would include a warming kitchen, bar area, dance floor, dining area with 11 tables and additional lobby space, and would be rented out for private events.

“I feel like it would be a wonderful addition to Suffolk, along with the other options that we have already, currently in place,” said Valencia Ballard of Circle of Friends LLC, who owns the property.

Councilman Donald Goldberg, who voted against the permit, said he knew the building well and noted its former use as a hardware store and office.

“I continue to think it’s an excellent space for office use,” Goldberg said. “I am concerned about the use of the building for what the request is, for what we’re trying to do downtown. .… I’m concerned with any type of negativity it might cause, some type of effect upon the restaurants and the activities that are going on on East Washington Street and the development of it.”

Councilman Curtis Milteer asked about the available parking spaces for the property. Ballard said the facility would have adequate parking with an adjacent city lot and parking across the street.

Milteer, who ultimately made the motion to approve the permit, also said that the facility should be approved on an annual basis to ensure that it has not violated the conditions of the permit. City Attorney Helivi Holland said there is no possibility of an annual review, but any time there is an allegation of failing to comply with a specific condition, the permit could be revoked for non-compliance.

According to the conditions set forth with the permit, either Ballard or a representative would have to be present during all private events, with the applicant, Pamela Dentsen, responsible for all activities at the facility, including alcohol consumption under the authority of a license issued under the laws and regulations of the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

A bar, nightclub or other kind of restaurant or public dance hall is not allowed to operate at the facility, according to the staff report, and guests renting the facility would have to supply their own food and beverages. Dentsen would provide renters a list of approved vendors and DJs. Any event in which alcohol is served would require security by Department of Criminal Justice Services-registered and -approved security officers.

As part of the conditions for operating the facility, the facility must have Suffolk Police Department-approved digital video surveillance at the front and rear exits, as well as the interior of the building and the outside parking lot.

The proposed hours of operation for events would be from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. through midnight Fridays and Saturdays.