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by ARLnow.com — December 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm 5,294 16 Comments

The regional SoberRide program will be offering free cab rides throughout the holidays.

From Friday, Dec. 14 to Tuesday, Jan. 1, SoberRide will be providing no-cost cab rides to those who call 1-800-200-TAXI from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Last December, more than 2,000 D.C. area residents used SoberRide in December, according to the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).

In addition to the SoberRide program, WRAP and Red Top Cab recently unveiled a half-taxi, half-police cruiser that has been parked in Clarendon in an effort to deter drunk driving.

From a WRAP press release:

Combating that time of year classified by U.S. Government officials as one of the deadliest times on America’s roadways due to an increase in drunk driving, a local nonprofit organization announced today that free cab rides will be offered to would-be drunk drivers throughout Arlington County, Virginia during the winter holidays.

Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the annual Holiday SoberRide program will operate between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am each evening between Friday, December 14, 2012 and Tuesday, January 1, 2013 as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk, holiday period.

During the evening hours, between December 14th and January 1st, Washington-metropolitan area residents celebrating with alcohol may call the toll-free SoberRide phone number 1–800–200–TAXI and be afforded a no-cost (up to $ 30 fare), safe way home. (AT&T wireless users can dial #WRAP for the same service.)

“Last December, over 2,000 (2,032) Greater Washington residents did the right thing and availed themselves of this lifesaving service rather than possibly driving home impaired,” said Kurt Gregory Erickson, WRAP’s President. “For SoberRide’s hours of operation during just last New Year’s Eve, such ridership (396) translated into the removal of a would-be drunk driver from our shared roadways every 72-seconds.”

SoberRide is offered in the: District of Columbia; throughout the Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s; and throughout the Northern Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, (eastern) Loudoun and Prince William. In these areas, local taxicab companies will be providing this no-cost service to local residents age 21 and older who otherwise may have attempted to drive home after drinking.

Since 1993, WRAP’s SoberRide program has provided 55,851 free cab rides home to would-be drunk drivers in the Greater Washington area.

Sponsors of the 2012 Holiday SoberRide campaign include: Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Diageo, GEICO, Giant, MillersCoors, Red Top Cab, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, Volkswagen Group of America and the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association.

Participating taxicab companies include: Alexandria Yellow Cab; Barwood; Fairfax Yellow Cab; Loudoun Yellow Cab; Manassas Cab Company; Red Top Cab; Silver Cab of Prince George’s County; Yellow Cab of D.C.; and Yellow Cab of Prince William County.

by ARLnow.com — December 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm 7,736 99 Comments

(Updated at 3:00 p.m.) The land under a long-time Arlington institution is on the auction block.

The family that owns Mario’s Pizza House is selling the 16,000 square foot parcel of land on which Mario’s and the Carvel Ice Cream shop sits. Mario’s has been in business at that location, 3322 Wilson Boulevard, between Clarendon and Virginia Square, since 1958.

The land — much of which sits fallow as a surface parking lot — was originally listed for sale for $3 million. After apparently not finding a buyer at that price, the land is now going up for auction.

“This property is located in one of the only prime development areas remaining in Arlington, VA,” according to the auction website. “It… consists of 3 parcels totaling 16,073 square feet. The 2,400 sf retail building is currently home to Mario’s Pizza and Carvel Ice Cream and produces $12,500 per month in rental income.”

The auction is set to take place on Thursday, Dec. 20, but the winning bidder will not necessarily be allowed to purchase the property.

“This sale is subject to our motivated Seller’s approval,” the auction listing notes.

We’re told that there are still 12-15 years left on the leases for Mario’s and Carvel. (Though owned by the same family, the land owner and the restaurant are separate business entities.) The stores are likely to remain open until the land buyer, if there is one, manages to get a redevelopment plan approved by the county.

“The C-2 zoning lends for a unique opportunity in that the developer has the chance to change the landscape of the current parcels while simultaneously collecting rent,” the auction listing says.

One possibility is that a developer might buy this property, then attempt to buy the adjacent Pio-Pio restaurant and Highlander motel properties. That could allow a large high-rise development, given the proximity to the Orange Line. Either way, both Mario’s and Carvel are here to stay, says Mario’s owner Alan Levine.

“Both leases are long term and convey,” Levine told ARLnow.com. “There will be no interruption of operations for either business. It is just time to allow others to put this block together properly for the future and Mario’s and Carvel have first rights to go into any new development.”

Photo courtesy (top) Timothy D. Image (bottom) via Google Maps. Hat tip to various tipsters.

by ARLnow.com — December 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm 6,445 132 Comments

A man is in jail after police say he touched a woman inappropriately and whispered dirty things in her ear at a store on Glebe Road.

The alleged incident happened at the Goodwill store on S. Glebe Road this past Friday afternoon. Police say the victim was shopping inside the store around 4:30 p.m when a man approached her, grabbed her buttocks, and “whispered vulgar comments in her ear.”

“The suspect was holding the victim against him for several minutes until the victim was able to break free,” according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “Police located the suspect nearby. Laurence Allan Watkins, 40, of no fixed address was arrested and charged with abduction and sexual battery. He was held without bond.”

File photo

by ARLnow.com — December 3, 2012 at 11:05 am 5,879 109 Comments

Restaurants in Arlington collectively owe more than $900,000 in unpaid meals taxes to the county. Arlington Treasurer Frank O’Leary is lobbying for the power to shut the worst offenders down.

By law, restaurants collect a 4 percent food and beverage (“meals”) tax in Arlington on top of the 5 percent state sales tax. The meals tax is then to be remitted to the county. But some restaurants — especially restaurants experiencing financial difficulties — simply pocket the money and accrue a debt to the county.

Frustrated by weak enforcement measures, O’Leary is seeking the power to seize and shut down restaurants that continue to accrue large meals tax debts, with no end to the delinquency in sight.

“What we would like to do is get the power to close down restaurants that are going deeper and deeper into debt,” he told ARLnow.com. “What they’re doing is essentially criminal. You can’t charge people tax on their meals and keep it for yourself, no matter how pressing your problems are. That money belongs to the county.”

O’Leary said he has been meeting with members of Arlington’s delegation to Richmond and is hoping to get a law passed in the state legislature’s upcoming session.

The effort is an uphill battle, however; the Republican majority in the state legislature has been reluctant to pass tax-related bills, especially those sought by Arlington County. O’Leary says he plans to argue that the measure could benefit the state’s coffers. He says restaurants that aren’t paying their meals taxes might be skimping on their state sales taxes, too.

Part of the challenge of enforcing the meals tax is the nature of the restaurant business itself. The county can seize property from tax cheats, but restaurants often operate in rented spaces with rented furniture and rented kitchen equipment.

“There’s very little to actually confiscate,” O’Leary said.

Restaurant owners are also able to keep the tax man at bay by offloading their personal property to others. His proverbial white whale, chef and restaurateur Roberto Donna, managed to get away with pocketing some $140,000 in meals taxes — for awhile, at least — in part because most of his personal property, like his McLean mansion, was in his wife’s name. O’Leary took the extraordinary step of having Donna prosecuted, but he avoided jail time and is now paying off his debt at a rate of a mere $500 per month.

O’Leary said he even considered having Donna extradited back to Italy, but decided he’d rather have the famous chef make his paltry debt payments than no payments at all.

Should O’Leary get his way, sheriff’s deputies would be dispatched to a severely delinquent restaurant to post closure notices on the doors and change the locks, so restaurant owners aren’t able to remove any property.

“Nothing else seems to work,” he said. “What we really need to do is stop them from operating. That’s the only thing I can think of to solve the problem.”

Even if his lobbying efforts prove unsuccessful, though, O’Leary has another trick up his sleeve: public shaming.

This month, the treasurer’s office is sending a mailing to tax delinquent restaurants, warning the owners that their tax delinquencies will be publicized in the media and on the county’s web site should they not agree to a repayment plan. Should any restaurants continue to flout the tax laws, O’Leary says he hopes Arlington residents will take note and do as he does: not dine there.

by ARLnow.com — December 3, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,923 1 Comment

Two house fires caused damage in Arlington over the weekend.

A fire in the attic of a home on the 900 block of Patrick Henry Drive, in the Dominion Hills neighborhood near Seven Corners, caused significant damage late Saturday night. Two residents were displaced by the fire and the Red Cross responded to the scene to assist them, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl.

Another house fire was reported around the same time on the 2500 block of Walter Reed Drive, at the Windgate townhouse community. The fire was on the first floor of the home and was quickly extinguished.

Both fires are under investigation, Karl said.

by ARLnow.com — December 3, 2012 at 9:05 am 3,742 55 Comments

BonChon Chicken Coming to ArlingtonBonChon Chicken, a popular Korean-based chicken chain, will be coming to the ground floor of the new 2201 Pershing apartment building. The restaurant, noted for its wings, expects to open in the summer of 2013. [Washingtonian]

Galaxy Hut Goes Vegetarian — Galaxy Hut has introduced a new menu and meat is nowhere to be seen. The revamped menu is all-vegetarian and includes tofu seitan and vegetable-based cheesesteaks, burgers and barbecue sandwiches instead of the genuine article. Some meat-based meals are still available, but by request only. [Washington Post]

Wakefield Half-Way Finished — Construction of the new Wakefield High School has hit the half-way mark. The new $115 million high school is expected to open next summer in time for the 2013-2014 school year. [Sun Gazette]

Church Prepares Meals for the Hungry — Instead of a traditional Sunday service, members of Arlington-based Grace Community Church prepared nearly 100,000 meals for those in need. The church meets at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. [WUSA]

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