Board denies liquor license for Va-Hi theater 

Traffic, noise main concerns voiced by civic group

Nearly 15 months after the owner of North Highland Avenue's Hilan Theatre applied for a liquor license, the License Review Board recommended Aug. 15 that the license be denied.

Mayor Shirley Franklin has the final say, though she rarely contradicts the board. The owner of the Hilan, Jeff Notrica, has the right to appeal her decision.

Notrica faced fierce opposition from some of the theater's Virginia-Highland neighbors. At issue was whether the Hilan is far enough away from the nearest private residence. According to the city's alcohol code, the distance must be at least 300 feet.

Neighbors also expressed concern about noise and traffic at the theater, which Notrica wants to open as a convention center.

Jonathan Weintraub, an attorney representing the Virginia-Highland Civic Association, wrote a letter to the License Review Board earlier this month claiming Notrica had built a zigzagging hallway in the theater's foyer to circumvent the law: "We respectfully submit that the measurements of the applicant are at best incorrect ... in that a maze ... adds approximately 229 feet to the distance." Weintraub claims the actual distance to the nearest home is about 90 feet.

The former movie theater, which has an occupancy of about 700, has been fully renovated with two bars and a rooftop terrace. Three prior attempts to reopen it -- as a pool hall, a brew pub and a live-music venue -- all failed, due in part to the vociferous neighborhood group.

According to the Hilan's website, the theater is available to rent for bar mitzvahs, wedding receptions, private parties and corporate events.

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