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Support for Sunny, Fan History Recalled

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I enjoy Jack Lauterback's Punch Drunk in Style Weekly and read his column about the Fanhouse zoning situation (“Red-Tape Brigade,” Food & Drink, Feb. 2).

I was glad to see someone point out Charlie Diradour's role in all this. I don't see how old Charlie as the owner of several Fan restaurants can be taken seriously when he opines about matters relating to other Fan restaurateurs. His conflict of interest is patently obvious.

But I write to express support for Sunny Zhao and his proposed redo of the Fanhouse. If approved, the pending proposal for an outdoor patio with the already-built downstairs bar would merely bring the restaurant back to its origins as a corner bar and grill.

When I moved to the Fan some 40 years ago, Soble's was located at the corner of Floyd and Robinson. Complete with downstairs bar and outdoor patio, Soble's was one of the Fan's prime watering holes. It came complete with wrought iron railing and awning — just like Buddy's (Diradour's place) two blocks away.

I wasted many an hour there when I and my liver were much younger. Ah, to be 40 again, but I digress. In the '70s Nick Kafantaris pushed Soble out to build Vendalia, which was seen to be a significant upgrade of the corner, but neither Vendalia nor any of its “upscale” successors have been huge successes. Maybe Zhao can succeed with the new/old business model of a corner restaurant with outdoor patio. Meanwhile Soble went on down the street and started another corner bar and grill at the corner of Main and Robinson. It was a successful endeavor, but Soble passed on and other restaurateurs succeeded him at that corner. Star-lite Dining & Lounge is the current occupant.

All this kerfuffle seems to have been kicked up by Diradour and his restaurant patrol. And when he says he hopes Zhao is successful I want to burst out laughing.

I think it would be fitting if you brought some of this information to the attention of Style readers so that those readers in the Fan may be aware of history of the corner of Floyd and Robinson. I am also sending a copy of this e-mail to Charles Samuels, City Council member representative for the Fan District for his information in case this history is not fully developed at the meeting on March 28.

Sam Clifton
Richmond

Editors' note: Style expanded on some of this history in a Feb. 23 cover story about the Fan and its growth cycles, “Where the Sidewalk Bends.”

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