Richmond’s Planning Commission has endorsed a proposed ordinance that would define and regulate nightclubs. The new ordinance would use zoning districts and permits to regulate the clubs. To be classified as a nightclub alcohol must be served, floor space for dancing or standing “in conjunction with an entertainment activity” must be available, and music or other amplified sound must be present between midnight and 6 a.m. The definition exempts background music intended to accompany dining, sound “associated with television or similar media” or establishments in which the three features are part of private events such as wedding receptions, banquets or others. Restaurants or other venues can have all three features without being classified as a nightclub, as long as they don’t happen after midnight.
The idea behind this ordinance is to better separate a nightclub from a restaurant. As Richmonders know, restaurants can be located literally right next to someone's private residence, like in the fan district. According to reports, council member Kathy Graziano said "A nightclub is truly different than a restaurant, it attracts a different clientele. It has different hours." That being said, if the new ordinance is passed, it will be easier for the city to locate new nightclubs in appropriate and logical areas. If someone wants to open a nightclub in a neighborhood with a specific zoning designation, that person would apply for a conditional-use permit which comes with regulations from the city. The permit application process includes a public hearing before the Planning Commission and City Council. With the hearing, the council can verify that the venue fits the definition of a nightclub and avoids any logistical problems (parking, etc.) The next few months will tell whether or not the ordinance is a help or a hindrance, but if done right, it could benefit everyone in the city.