Virginia is not for small businesses.
And it’s a damn shame. I find it inexplicable and infuriating that, if everything that is reported is true – that Friday was the owners’ first notice that they were in violation – then the State’s choice to enforce their rules and shut down the store is inexcusable and unacceptable. The Batesville Store is part of what makes Albemarle Albemarle.
The Batesville Store
is was an integral part of the community. Personally, I’d like to see the community of Batesville, if they were so inclined, refuse to let the state shut the store down.
At RealCrozetVA – read the letters from the owners.
Update 13 June – Perhaps the best explanation comes from a Newsplex comment:
If you take time to read the letter provided by the Batesville Store to its clients, which is linked in the story, the reason for closing is clearly explained. They had been operating as a country store and were under the governance of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. However, it was determined that the store did too much business to remain a country store. The only option available was for them to become a restaurant and to comply with all Virginia Health Department regulations. The owners state in their letter that the requiremetn (sic)to operate as a restaurant was not viable for many reasons.
At cvillenews – read insight from Waldo into the possible rationale, including a link to the County’s discussions about Country Stores as well as a question as to whether Country stores are economically viable (the government should either ensure that country stores do fit within code or choose to ignore them)
At the Newsplex – read about the State’s rationale; don’t miss the comments.
Read a couple of their newsletters:
What will happen to the Batesville Broadband?
I’m awfully dubious that the state has shut down the store. If the story given by the owners is accurateâ€”and I see no reason why that shouldn’t be soâ€”then they would only have needed to eliminate their seating that exceeded capacity, and all would have been well. The Department of Health has very few powers w/r/t closing down business establishmentsâ€”there has to be a significant threat to health and safety. The only two reasons that I can summon off hand are the routine provision of alcohol to minorsâ€”which I think might just result in the elimination of the ABC licenseâ€”and gross, repeated violations of health standards. The truth here, I’m guessing, is that the cost of complying with the requirement to eliminate seating was a greater burden than the owners wanted to (or were fiscally able to) bear.
Hence my hedge – “if all the reporting is true” … in this instance the store (from my admittedly limited point of view as a visitor of and not resident of Batesville) it fulfills a place in the town that is needed – both from a community point of view and an economic one.Â
I’d love to know all the facts about what led up to the shutting down of the store; the laws need to have flexibility to accommodate for anachronisms such as the Batesville Store.
But, I’d still like to know all the facts.Â
Originally posted on Cvillenews blog, hope this answers a few questions.
Walt: “For anyone: is there an issue with zoning (country store v. restaurant)?”
@Walt: Good question and gets to the heart of what has frustrated me. “Country Stores” fall under the VDACS, which is the State Ag folks. Bville Store has been inspected by Ag since Cid and Liza started there, probably for many years before that, but obviously this is a “New Model” for a “Country Store”, and obviously (and admittedly by Cid) they were given some slack by the Ag inspector. That slack was necessary to stay profitable, they started out as a cool, updated version of Page’s Store, open 7am to 7pm 7days a week. Guess what? Didn’t work, just not enough traffic in spite of the wireless and all the amenities, just not enough traffic (I don’t know the population of “Batesville Proper” as some have called it, but I’d guess it’s 100 or less) It’s one of the things I love about Batesville, it’s still REAL country, which Crozet no longer is.
Anyway, being astute business people, Cid and Liza set about to adjust their hours and figure out how they could draw people in the store, and being music lovers they started to do their Friday and Saturday evening shows, and they made something magic, lots of people came. As Old Timer or others could tell you they managed to piss off some of their near neighbors with the increased traffic (hard to park to get into the PO for instance), but by and large they were very successful. And all the while they were being inspected by Ag. Zero violations recorded.
Then some unhappy individual filed a complaint a few weeks or so ago, that he/she bought bad meat there, and that’s where things began to get complicated. First of all, I believe the complaint was bogus, I’ve heard the story several times and it just sounds like bs.
But they filed it with the Health Department which is an interesting entity; it’s a State agency as you can tell from their web address, but the county funds it as well, and while I don’t know all about the org structure, it’s frequently referred to as the Albemarle County Health Dept, in spite of the fact they cover a multi-county area (Fluvanna, Louisa, Greene, and I’m not sure where else.
I haven’t talked to Jeff McDaniel, the HD guy that showed up in Batesville a week ago Friday, but the Hook story says that HD called Ag about the complaint, presumably because they didn’t have “jurisdiction” over a “Country Store” and Ag had been inspecting them all along. Presumably that would have generated a follow up visit from the Ag inspector, Allyn Ollinger, no big deal.
But for some reason Mr McDaniel decided he needed to visit Batesville himself, and things went downhill fast. He quickly made the determination that Batesville Store was not a “Country Store”, but a “Restaurant” and was therefore under his jurisdiction. I wasn’t present for the conversation but have been told by multiple people I trust, both in Batesville and the County govt, that he gave them 5 options:
1. Get rid of seats (limit of 15)
2. Sell only prepackaged food (whatever that is, Twinkies and such I guess)
3. Have the food catered and brought in from an outside “approved facility” (sure, that’ll work)
4. Upgrade the building to meet Restaurant code, which if you’ve ever read it is a long, tangled process that would certainly involve septic upgrades and major building renovations.
5. Close. Like now.
As everyone is aware, Cid chose #5. I’ve read where he’s criticized in this and other blogs, even called “cowardly” in a FB blog, and I don’t get that. First of all, Cid has had issues with State govt before, and he’s told me they were enormously difficult and took him years to recover from. So here is the STATE, showing up unannounced in his face, at his place of business, giving him 4 unworkable options (to say the least, ridiculous would be more appropriate) or else close, and he chose to close.
I don’t know what the interaction was like between Ag and HD beforehand, and probably never will because there’s a lot of CYA going on at this point, and I understand that because they’re probably getting flack from all angles. But this is a classic BAIT and SWITCH by the goverment agencies. I’ve tried to explain previously to folks that were critical of Cid and Liza for “not following the rules” that they WERE FOLLOWING THE RULES as they had been presented/allowed by Ag. Then HD comes in and changes the game.
And not gently either. Government enforcement is like a club or a sledgehammer, it is rare to find someone with initiative and wisdom in government (they are there, love my govt friends), and I could tell you a thousand stories to support that assertion, you could probably add a few of your own.
As anybody knows, free born Americans don’t like laws, don’t generally pay much attention to them either, and if you disagree with that, spend a little time on I64 going the speed limit and watch how many cars pass you.
It’s like deToqueville said, “America is great because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” I am not the least bit against the government trying to protect the public from scams and bad meat, but when it interferes with the exercise of people’s liberty to do what they want with their own property, or to run their own business, I’ll pretty much always want to err on the side of liberty, as long as you’re not hurting anybody.
I made the point earlier in this blog to Waldo that all human interactions are based on trust at some level, but as our society became increasingly litigious in the late 70’s and 80’s, the response of govt at all levels has been to increase regulation, and Albemarle has been ahead of that curve for some time. A LOT of people work in the department known as “Community Development” as compared to other surrounding counties, it makes DOING something productive in this county something of a nightmare. I’ve never met Oliver Kuttner, of Pegasus Motorworks, Starlight Express, and X Prize fame, but am told that he would have liked to build his electric car factory (or whatever it is he’s planning) in Albemarle, but opted for Lynchburg based on the difficulty of getting things up and running in Albemarle. And DOING SOMETHING is what creates a local economy, unless you want everyone in the entire county to either work for County Govt or UVA.
While this might not effect a lot of folks, it is a sad thing for the average joe in the area, because it would mean a lot of jobs, good ones, local ones that keep average people here to contribute to the local economy and community. And possibly able to buy some of the raft of overpriced home stock around here.
And “zoning” issues are probably the thorniest regulations of all. They are an attempt by our representatives to balance maintaining what’s good about what we have now, with the property rights of those who want to build or start something new. Applying those regulations must be a difficult job, but wisdom in that job is essential, not just knowledge of the law but wisdom in it’s application. Heard 2 good stories this week about the HD’s lack of wisdom in applying their regulations (that’s not a personal attack, I love some of the folks over there).
In my estimation, we’ve forgotten that in the original version of the Declaration, Jefferson listed the inalienable rights as “Life, Liberty, and Property.” Again, I’m not for unfettered development as exists in other parts of the state, but the rights of property owners are trampled on regularly in Albemarle, to the point that people don’t even try.
In my business, what I learned, after a series of near disasters, was to get to know my elected officials, and many of them are sympathetic to the difficulty of dealing with the bureaucracy. They’ve guided me to the people in Alb Co Govt who are sympathetic and easier to deal with, who will freely give information and help, rather than acting like you’re bothering them and failing to return your phone calls/emails. I can tell you for a CERTAIN fact that the business climate is very different in Nelson and other nearby counties.
How ironic that the State Ag Dept has held up Batesville as a model of how to successfully revive a country store, then HD shut them down.
Don’t want to ramble on too long, Walt, best to you, Old Timer, Waldo, and everyone else reading. And here’s hoping things work out well for Batesville, it’s a special place.
Thank you so much for this.