Fight Over Restaurant/Lounge Causes A Stir | News

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Fight Over Restaurant/Lounge Causes A Stir

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The difference between dinner and drinks, and just a drink is causing quite a stir in the Old Arlington neighborhood.

"We have become cynics, I guess, and we will believe it when we see it," said Ann Burt.

For the past eight years, Burt has led the charge in her  neighborhood against the VIP Lounge.

"We can't understand what grounds it has to be open tonight, tomorrow night, or any night at all," she said.

Aaron Hill purchased the property where the lounge is now in 2004.

But in order to be zoned to sell liquor, Hill had to agree to very specific conditions.

"The code says you need to meet these conditions within one year, but they have never met the conditions at all," Burt said.

The three major requirements imposed by the City Zoning Committee were to install opaque fencing, landscape the median and keep the signage on the ground.

Looking at the property, it's clear none of those requirements have been met.

But it also had to remain a restaurant, not a nightclub, which is what Burt said it has become.

"Bottom line is they have no right to be there, but the city has not shut them down," said Burt.

Over the last eight years the City Council Zoning Committee has repeatedly threatened to revoke its right to operate, four different businesses have occupied the building since 2004.

All of them operated as a restaurant and lounge.

Hill still owns the property, and his tenants said they had felt confident he would take care of the zoning problems.

"He was going to get it done but it looks like now he didn't get it done and it's on our end now," said John Henderson.  

The current tenant, Henderson, said he's going to move Aleviar's Lounge to a different location rather than deal with the zoning at this property.

"We're just going to keep on moving. Keep our heads up," he said.

Aaron Hill will still own the property on the expressway, and it looks like he might need a new tenant.

Hill did not want to appear on camera, but told First Coast News over the phone that he would be willing to make the necessary changes by this coming Tuesday.  He claimed the city was making it difficult for him to comply.

"Comply? That's over with. How many deadlines do you give people? Comply? The way you fix it is you shut them down," said Burt.


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