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City Council approves ‘after-the-fact’ operation of outdoor BBQ spot in Del Ray

Meal at Hi/Fi Tex-Mex BBQ (image via Hi/Fi Tex-Mex BBQ/Facebook)

After more than a dozen complaints of outdoor grills sending smoke into neighboring Del Ray homes, City Council on Saturday unanimously approved a modified plan to allow Hi/Fi Tex-Mex BBQ to operate behind Evening Star Cafe.

The approval expands the concept’s hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (previously 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.), more outdoor seating (from 50 seats to 124 seats), live outdoor music Wednesday to Saturday, as well as permission to cook food from two outdoor smoker grills and selling the food from a temporary food trailer.

Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) owns Evening Star Cafe (2000 Mount Vernon Avenue) and during the pandemic converted its rear parking lot into an outdoor dining area. They were allowed to do so when the city suspended enforcement of multiple special use permit conditions. Earlier this year, however, the restaurant started selling Hi/Fi Tex-Mex BBQ barbecue in the outdoor dining area without city approval. Two smokers were also located 20 feet from neighboring residences, prompting 19 complaints submitted to the city, as well as 13 city citations requiring removal of the smokers and the issuance of a fire code violation by a fire marshal.

City Council Member Kirk McPike said that he supported the restaurant’s plan, but not the after-the-fact way that it went to the city for approval.

“Do we have to disapprove one to get the message out that these after-the-fact approvals are not what we want to see?” McPike said. “We want people to actually be applying for these special use permits before they undertake these actions.

NRG agreed to reduce the impact of the smoker grills by relocating them away from the western property line and closer to the building, as well as an exhaust pipe.

Michael Babin, the founder and principal of NRG, apologized to the City Council for operating without city approval.

“At some point we needed to go back and either retroactively or for the first time say we need to get approval to do this,” Babin acknowledged.

NRG also owns Planet Wine, Vermilion, two Rustico restaurants, Buzz Bakeshop, Josephine and Shop Made in VA.

Image via Hi/Fi Tex-Mex BBQ/Facebook

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