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Zoning permit discussion reveals Alexandria restaurant’s struggle with nude neighbor

The lobster roll at 1799 Prime Steak & Seafood at 110 S. Pitt Street in Old Town (courtesy photo)

1799 Prime Steak and Seafood  might be famous for its eponymous steaks, but it was a wayward sausage that stole the discussion at the City Council meeting this weekend.

The restaurant at 110 S. Pitt Street was seeking a permit to significantly expand its outdoor dining in a courtyard behind the building, from 40 patrons to 104.

The move prompted some outcry from neighbors who cited concerns about those patrons behind the building being able to safely exit the courtyard in the event of an emergency and worries that the expansion could encroach on the neighboring alleyway.

The Council ultimately approved the permit for 1799 Prime Steak and Seafood at a meeting on Saturday with slight modifications and relatively little by way of debate.

One of the issues that garnered the most discussion from the City Council was, in fact, one of founder and CEO Jahmond Quander’s issues with one of his neighbors. Quander said he will try to be respectful of his neighbors in terms of sound, but in return hopes one of them can keep a sight away from diners.

“I want to be respectful of my neighbors that are right there,” Quander said. “I’ve already been dealing with issues. I have one neighbor who leaves his shade up and he likes to walk around nude.”

Someone from the dais shouted “TMI.”

“I have several responses to that, probably all of them would be inappropriate,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “You might want to advertise that.”

Addressing the more serious issues raised by neighbors about egress from the site, the City Council mostly pushed that discussion to the Alexandria Fire Department for the restaurant’s occupancy permit.

“I think seats are kind of a dumb thing to use to measure these things, particularly for outdoor space,” Wilson said. “If you have an outdoor gathering, people are standing and walking around. The occupancy is what matters, and that’s why the fire code looks at that.”

The Council added a provision reinforcing that the outdoor seating cannot encroach on neighboring property. City Council member Sarah Bagley said the Alexandria Fire Department was better situated to address questions about safe occupancy for the outdoor seating.

“We’re leaving it to our fire department to determine correct occupancy,” Bagley said. “I was uncomfortable with our role here dictating numbers and seats. My understanding is we’re leaving this to code professionals with this choice.”

Bagley also took a moment to celebrate the success of 1799 Prime Steak & Seafood, which opened last year in the former Restaurant Eve space.

“I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the success and express my appreciation for the purchase and renovation,” Bagley said. “I only learned of the success because I finally asked one of my colleagues: what is going on at South Pitt Street? Because I see fabulously dressed people coming and going.”

“And apparently someone who wasn’t fabulously dressed,” Wilson added.

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