With hundreds of houses neatly tucked along a series of quiet cul-de-sacs, the Virginia Oaks neighborhood in Gainesville is like any other upscale golf course community in Northern Virginia, except for one key difference.
The course opened with the community in 1999, but its current owners shuttered it earlier this year, according to Prince William County staff, and have yet to sell the property.
Lisa Fink-Butler, a zoning administrator with the county’s planning office, said the restaurant was zoned as a support building for the golf course.
“We know there’s no golf course, and there hasn’t been one since shortly after we opened the restaurant, and the code is pretty clear,” said Charles Gilliam, the owner of Okra’s.
Gilliam said it was no great surprise that Okra’s would need to find a new home after the golf course closed he was just taken aback a bit that the property would close so soon after he opened his new bistro nearby.
“We went into the location and developed our business plan based on it being a restaurant that had a golf course behind our patio…so we were very surprised when it disappeared just a couple weeks after we opened it,” Gilliam said.
Gilliam said he spoke with some of the course owners before opening the restaurant he did confirm that Cappellini was among a group of private investors in the course, though he declined to identify any others and his expectation was that “the course would be open for a couple of years, at the very minimum, to give us the chance to turn things around.” Even still, Gilliam assumed that the opening of an established local business like Okra’s near the property would help the course turn things around.
“By all indications, Okra’s coming into that spot was going to be an event that would potentially help the golf course become a viable business,” Gilliam said.
Fink-Butler noted, however, that because the property is zoned as a golf course, any change in use by the current owner (or any future buyer) would require approval by the Board of County Supervisors, which can be quite a lengthy process.