The Oakhurst Inn and Apartments on Jefferson Park Avenue is now legally allowed to serve food to people who are not guests of the 27-room boutique hotel.

Charlottesville’s Board of Zoning Appeals last week overturned a ruling by city staff that Oakhurst’s operators needed a special-use permit to open up its café to the general public.

“The point of us being here is whether he can serve food to outside guests,” said Kevin O’Halloran, chairman of the BZA, at the board’s meeting Thursday.

The inn opened in January and began serving food this spring.

When Oakhurst owner Bill Chapman submitted plans for a sign advertising the café, zoning administrator Reed Brodhead rejected the application out of a concern that food service to non-guests was not allowed under city zoning without obtaining a permit.

“I informed Mr. Chapman at that time that his inn was a legal non-conforming use because he got approval under [an] old definition,” Brodhead said.

Chapman appealed to the BZA, claiming zoning code defines his establishment as an “inn,” which allows food service.

The new rules put a cap on the number of rooms at 15.

However, that definition was not added to the city’s zoning code until after Chapman secured a special-use permit in 2008 to operate the inn, as well as a 36-unit apartment complex on an adjacent parcel. Soon thereafter, the Planning Commission wrote new rules in response to Chapman’s application to better define bed and breakfasts.

The BZA voted 4-0 to overturn Brodhead’s ruling after Chapman volunteered to restrict food service to only occur between 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Chapman, who is also a member of the BZA, recused himself from the vote.

Chapman’s appeal was supported by several members of the neighborhood at a public hearing.

“It’s in our interest for this to be a viable, successful business,” said Michael Osteen, a member of the city Planning Commission who also lives in the neighborhood.

Osteen praised Chapman for his work helping to beautify Oakhurst Circle, and for providing an amenity that serves the neighborhood.

But another neighbor was not supportive.

“R-3 zoning does not permit food service,” said Nina Barnes, an Oakhurst Circle resident concerned that commercial uses in a residential zone would generate too much traffic.

But Chapman said the café is a small space and he does not intend it to become a destination restaurant.

“I don’t want people imagining us as a late-night bar,” he said. “This thing closes [in the afternoon].”

If Chapman changes his mind about the hours of operation, the BZA established that he would need to obtain a special-use permit to proceed.