ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Ah, the "Virtues" of outdoor dining. They're about to go before the Virginia Supreme Court.
In May 2010, Alexandria's Planning Commission granted a special use permit to Virtue Feed & Grain -- Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong's new restaurant on the Alexandria waterfront -- to let them put a 1,000-foot deck, with outdoor seating, into a city-owned alley.
Wales Alley was described in the permit as being "a public way" -- an assessment not quite shared by the Old Dominion Boat Club, a private rowing and social club founded in 1880, whose "very first members were 'Alexandrians of the highest order', leaders of the business, civic and social corridors" according to the club's website. The Old Dominion Boat Club moves boats through Wales Alley, and the proposed outdoor deck would have, the club argued, unlawfully blocked this use.
Alexandria's Circuit Court agreed. The boat club won a ruling in April that the city could not block its access to the alley by allowing the 1000-foot deck -- Alexandria's Circuit Court found that the city owns Wales Alley, but the boat club has an easement in the alley for moving boats. The boat club later rejected the city's offer to buy the easement.
The Virginia Supreme Court will now be taking up the Wales Alley outdoor deck issue. Until the appeal is decided, we'll be stuck enjoying Virtue's beer cocktails, video games and swings big enough for two in the restaurant's enormous indoor space.
And now for some historical fun: Wales Alley is named for Alexandria's first commercial beer producer, Andrew Wales. In 1770, Wales filed a notice for a missing indentured servant: "Michael Tracey, born in Ireland, 25 years of age, about 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, fair complexion, pitted with the smallpox, and freckled....[A]ll masters of vessels are forewarned not to harbour or convey him away at their peril."
And in the late 1770s -- about a hundred years before Old Dominion Boat Club arrived on the scene, and more than two hundred years before Virtue became part of the controversial Alexandria waterfront development program -- Andrew Wales was accused, and acquitted, of planning to burn Alexandria to the ground.
RELATED VIDEO: A June 2011 protest of the proposed Alexandria waterfront redevelopment plan.