CITY HALL — The Moonlight Family Restaurant held on to its permit to serve beer and wine this week, despite accusations from nearby residents that it was operating more as a nightclub or banquet hall.
The Planning Commission on Wednesday voted to allow the restaurant at 1022 E. Chevy Chase Dr. to keep its alcohol permit, but the commission placed stricter restrictions on its operations. The restaurant's permit will be valid for 18 months.
The restaurant's owner, Oganes Menedjyan, must supply the city with a functional menu, serve meals, never use 30% of his facility for a banquet hall event, outline a dance floor and post hours of operation, according to the ruling. The restaurant can operate five days a week only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and from 5 to 11 p.m. for dinner and must never close for private events.
Menedjyan must also show records of food and alcohol sales to city officials.
"We are taking a leap of faith and there is reluctance on our part," Commission Chairman Bill Kane said. "We are going to give you a chance. Don't betray it."
Before upholding the restaurant's permit, Kane advised Menedjyan to take extra steps to reach out to the neighborhood and business community.
Concerns over the restaurant came before the commission after Chris Welch, president of the Adams Hills Homeowners Assn., appealed an earlier planning decision granting the permit.
Welch alleged the restaurant wasn't serving food to the public, was often closed and was only open for private parties. He also cited live music and dancing.
"The bottom line is this: As long as this operator intends to offer dancing and live music and has not built an adequate kitchen, we will remain opposed to granting them a liquor license," Welch told commissioners.
Resident Patty Silversher told commissioners that she tried having dinner at restaurant, but it was closed for a private party.
When she requested a menu, she said they gave her a calendar.
"I walked by several times. No people, service, no food," Silversher said.
Commissioner Chang Lee said he also stopped by the restaurant for lunch before Wednesday's meeting, but he was unable to secure a menu.
A representative for Menedjyan said the restaurant's chef quit after not being paid due to slow business. And due to the permit appeal, the restaurant couldn't serve alcohol, which further cut into business, the owner's niece, Anna Menedjyan, said.
"This is a slow restaurant because this man took a chance in this economic downturn and he opened this business and he is not being allowed the opportunity to run his business properly," she said.