Alexandria, VA

Starting a new business can be tricky, and the Alexandria City Council is working to make it easier for a number of establishments to open faster.

This spring, the Planning Commission and City Council will vote on a package of regulatory changes that will speed up the approval processes for a number of new businesses.

“Any new small business owner is taking an enormous risk,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson wrote in his January newsletter. “They are betting their resources on the future success of an idea. It’s a risk that our system relies on. It results in businesses that provide products and services that enrich our lives. As taxpayers, it supports tax revenue that eases the burden on residential taxpayers. For individuals, it provides careers.”

The regulatory changes would impact the following businesses:

  • Restaurants
  • Outdoor dining areas
  • Daycare centers
  • Outdoor food and crafts markets
  • Health and athletic clubs
  • Food and beverage production
  • Amusement enterprises
  • Convenience stores
  • Social Service uses
  • Home occupations

Bill Blackburn is a partner in the Homegrown Restaurant Group, which includes Holy Cow Del Ray, Pork Barrel BBQ, The Sushi Bar, Sweet Fire Donna’s, Whiskey & Oyster and Tequila & Taco. He said that the city’s special use permit process could use some work.

“Our group is certainly for anything that can be done in a common sense solution to streamline opening a business,” Blackburn said. “Certainly the [Special Use Permit] process is burdensome for small businesses, and making it faster and more efficient is going to help the mom and pop businesses that Alexandria prides itself on.”

Bill Reagan, executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, said that the changes could shave off several months for new businesses looking to open their doors.

“Going through the approval process, going to the Board of Architectural Review, hiring an land use attorney and getting approvals through the Planning Commission and the City Council is a huge cost that businesses bear when they are getting ready to open,” Reagan said. “It takes away from their inventory, their ability to hire people and making investments in the build-out of properties. What the city selected are uses with very little controversy, and we should give these a try.”

Wilson said that the city has an obligation to provide a regulatory process that is not burdensome on businesses looking to establish themselves in Alexandria.

“Sometimes our existing practices fall short of that mark,” Wilson said.

“Every day of delay is money for a new business,” he added. “These new changes will help our small businesses be successful in Alexandria.”

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