Lilly Pad permit would limit live music volume, hours at Varina venue

A community meeting was held at The Lilly Pad last month as part of the dockside restaurant’s application for a new permit to continue operations. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

The party doesn’t appear to be over for The Lilly Pad, though the popular dockside restaurant in eastern Henrico could soon have a county-imposed curfew.

A provisional-use permit proposed for the restaurant and the larger Kingsland Marina would limit live music to certain hours and decibel levels, among other conditions that county staff is recommending after determining that the expanded restaurant had outgrown the parameters of a previous permit.

Complaints from some neighbors and area residents about noise from live music and an increase in the number of concerts at The Lilly Pad prompted the county to require that owners Max and Karen Walraven apply for and secure a new permit to bring the restaurant into compliance with new zoning rules and to address such concerns.

The proposed permit, which is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission at its meeting this Thursday, would limit live music to 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 5-11 Saturdays and 1-11 Sundays. The Lilly Pad is currently closed Mondays.

It would also prohibit dining hours from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. The restaurant’s website says it currently operates from 4-10 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 4-11 Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 11 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 10 p.m. Sundays.

The Lilly Pad restaurant is the centerpiece of Kingsland Marina. (File photo courtesy The Lilly Pad)

A sound study conducted at the site in late March recommended that a sound level limiter device be used to limit any amplified live music to 98 decibels, which the permit states would keep the volume to 55 decibels at the property’s perimeter. Lilly Pad’s 10-acre property off Osborne Turnpike is adjacent to a residence to the south, and to Osborne Boat Landing to the north.

The permit would also require that a 100-foot tree buffer between the marina and the residence to the south be maintained and preserved. The Walravens had asked to commit only to a 20-foot buffer because they’re considering building their own residence on the property, according to an email to the county from their attorney Will Shewmake.

Included in county documents is a petition supporting The Lilly Pad with more than 300 signatures, as well as numerous letters of support from restaurant patrons and area residents.

Among them is a letter from Andy Edmunds, an area resident and director of the Virginia Film Office, who described the Walravens’ improvements as a benefit to the community. He noted the venue’s appeal to film crewmembers and actors such as Michael Keaton and Ewan McGregor, who frequented the restaurant while filming in Richmond.

A search of the county file by BizSense found three emails expressing concerns about noise and traffic that has increased with The Lilly Pad’s expansion. Two residents said they could hear the live music from their homes a mile or more away.

More than 150 people attended the meeting to show support for The Lilly Pad’s permit request.

A county staff report for the permit states that Henrico issued a building permit for the expansion in 2020, but additional improvements were made to the building’s exterior that were not reflected in the permit application.

Those additional improvements included a 5,600-square-foot outdoor dining area along new decking over the water, a 400-square-foot concert stage, two tents covering a portion of the dining area, and a 1,300-square-foot patron waiting area and additional outdoor dining area at the restaurant’s entrance.

Max Walraven has said he put $250,000 into the upgrades, which have allowed the restaurant to be able to accommodate as many as 150 patrons, according to the report.

A site visit in October found additional violations, including an extension cord powering a sound system that was running through the kitchen. The county required that the cord be replaced with permanent wiring, and permits were required for the tents, a kitchen hood and a brick pizza oven that were installed.

The county had also issued a stop-work order related to placement of dredge soil without an approved erosion and sediment control plan from the county. Walraven also was required to apply for a floodplain development permit, documents show.

Some Lilly Pad supporters arrived by boat.

Despite those violations, county planning staff supports the new permit request with the proposed conditions, which also address permitted uses, concept and site plans, location of outdoor music, parking conditions and signage.

At a community meeting that was held at The Lilly Pad in April, more than 150 people showed up to support the restaurant and to rally attendance at the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings. None of the speakers who addressed the crowd spoke in opposition.

Among those who spoke was David Napier, owner of Old City Bar and White House Catering in Richmond, who said he bought his first boat at Kingsland Marina 40 years ago

“I encourage the opposition people to bend a little bit for the greater good,” Napier said, adding that he’d heard some people describe the new Lilly Pad as a night club.

“My business is in Shockoe Bottom, and I know what a night club is. This is not a night club,” Napier said. “The folks who come here have to head home before the night clubs open.”

Lilly Pad owners Max and Karen Walraven with their daughters Sydney, left, and Lola.

Walraven, who was in attendance with Karen and their two daughters, said he was overcome by the showing of support.

“I had no idea the amount of support we’d have. It’s made me almost want to cry,” he said.

Walraven added that he’d received encouragement from Supervisor Tyrone Nelson, who represents the Varina District that includes the marina and was also in attendance.

“He was really positive and said they would see us through this, so I think we’re on a trajectory upwards,” Walraven said.

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