Drivers heading toward northbound I-395 will now turn left at the traffic signal on S. Quinn Street and bear right to merge onto the interstate, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Those going south will drive through the intersection with S. Quinn Street and use the ramp on the right.
That’s a change from before, when northbound and southbound traffic could both take the ramp. VDOT workers will be on the road today making the switch, which is expected to be complete by 5:00 p.m.
VDOT also announced that Columbia Pike will be closed to drivers between S. Queen Street and Orme Street each of the next three weekends as workers demolish the old Washington Blvd overpass. The closure will begin at 9:00 p.m. tomorrow night until 4:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 3, and it will be closed again at the same times Feb. 7-10 and Feb. 14-17.
The demolition is the next phase in the $51.5 million Washington Blvd improvement project, still slated to be finished in the summer of 2015.
Photo via Google Maps
Building permit applications show that a business tentatively called “Al-Huda Hookah & Smoothie Bar” is seeking permission to construct a new interior, with a section for hookah smokers and another for smoothie drinkers. The business will replace the former White Birch Traditional Martial Arts kung fu, tai chi and kettlebell gym, located in the back of the small brick-construction strip mall on the 2500 block of Columbia Pike.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated) The Arlington County Board revoked the live entertainment permit for Pines of Italy (3111 Columbia Pike) last night, siding with dismayed neighbors over outraged management.
Pines of Italy General Manager Darlene Wilcher calmly presented the case for a permit renewal. After the board’s unanimous vote against the restaurant, a woman can be heard going up to the live microphone in the board room and calling County Board members “c–ksuckers.”
Wilcher, who said she took over as manager in October, had earlier asked to speak again during the Board’s discussion.
“Can I just say one thing?” she asked while Board Chair Jay Fisette was speaking.
“No, I’m sorry, the discussion is with the Board,” Fisette responded, before telling Wilcher, an Arlington native, “I do want to compliment you personally because you appear to be someone with great possibility, you present yourself very well.”
Less than two minutes later, the Board voted and the expletive was hurled before leaving the room.
The decision to revoke the permit came after neighborhood controversy in 2012 over fights outside the restaurant/hookah bar/nightclub and multiple deferrals by the Board to approve a live entertainment permit, which it finally did in March 2013. Restaurant owner Jorge Escobar — who has owned the building and business since it was called Coco’s Casa Mia a decade earlier — and his management group had vowed to reach out to the community and to put a stop to the health and Alcoholic Beverage Control Board violations that had been repeatedly reported.
“That meeting was one of my high points 9 months ago because I felt so good about it,” Board Member Libby Garvey said. “Where we are now, I find myself thinking about the classic abusive relationship. Things are really awful, and then you say ‘oh no I’m going to be better now,’ but look at this list [of violations since March]… We’ve got to stop this.”
Since the permit was approved in March, the Arlington County Police Department has reported six calls for service at the restaurant, including “use of the premise for residential purposes” and serving alcohol when the kitchen was closed. According to county staff, it was the second such occurrence since 2011 of an individual appearing to be living in the space.
Five residents of Arlington Heights, some of whom live down the street from the business, asked the Board to revoke the license, citing broken promises in the past from the management to do things differently.
“It’s been a bane in the neighborhood for many years,” resident Scott Winn said. “We’ve had new management, new agreements, new promises and I think it’s time once and for all that we cut the problem to the quick and that the live entertainment license is revoked.”
Wilcher, in her presentation, said since she has taken over the operations, all the code violations and issues with the use permit agreement have been fixed.
“In those months, we have done better,” she said. “We have fixed all of our violations and have no issues with anyone.”
Escobar wasn’t present yesterday during the meeting. He had previously attended meetings on the issue and, in April 2012, his attorney “promised the board that the three partners of this establishment are interested in starting anew.”
Without music, DJs and dancing — all of which will be prohibited without the permit — the nightlife-oriented business faces long odds of survival.
“The main protagonist of this drama is still the owner of the property,” Fisette said. “This doesn’t happen very often, but time’s up. The words that come back to me are fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. But fool me thrice, shame on me, and that’s where we are.”
Update at 12:55 p.m. — The video of Fisette’s comments and the restaurant manager’s outburst can be found below. It’s not safe for work.
County planning staff are recommending the Arlington County Board revoke the live entertainment and dancing license for Pines of Italy (3111 Columbia Pike).
The restaurant/nightclub/hookah bar was approved for the permit in March 2013, but, according to the county staff’s report, its owner never scheduled a meeting with the Arlington Heights Civic Association, which was a requirement of the permit. In addition, the restaurant was allegedly operating with live music on Thursday nights, which was not allowed by the permit.
The permit was scheduled for review in March, but because of the lack of compliance, as well as issues with the police and the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, staff recommended the Board review the license two months early.
“The applicant has demonstrated a lack of compliance with the conditions of approval and other state and county ordinances,” the staff report says. “Operation of live entertainment and dancing at this site will continue to generate issues given the combination of greater numbers of patrons drawn to the business by live entertainment and the applicant’s lack of compliance with use permit conditions and other laws, and lack of communication with the surrounding community.”
Pines of Italy has generated neighborhood controversy since it opened, with neighbors complaining about noise and crime generated by the business.
Before being approved for the live entertainment permit last March, Pines of Italy’s owner had applied for the permit in early 2012. The application was deferred twice — first because of “police and community issues” with the last restaurant in the space and again because Pines of Italy conducted insufficient community outreach — before its ultimate approval.
Arlington County Police Department has reported six calls for service at the restaurant since the use permit was issued, including “use of the premise for residential purposes” and serving alcohol when the kitchen was closed.
The County Board will review the permit during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Two alleged prostitutes from California were arrested by Arlington police early Friday morning.
The pair was arrested at the Sheraton hotel on Columbia Pike, after police discovered online prostitution ads on the website Backpage.com, according Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
“That’s usually the place these individuals are posting their solicitations,” Sternbeck said. From this week’s crime report:
KEEPING A BAWDY PLACE, 140110007, 900 block of S. Orme Street. On January 10 at 12:50am, two females were arrested after posting online solicitation ads and offering services to officers. Maryrose Ioane, 22, of Antioch, CA and Erlynn Sanchez Edwards, 22, of N. Highlands, CA were charged with keeping a bawdy place.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump. All named suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.
The restaurant at 2413 Columbia Pike opened as Eamonn’s and TNT Bar in August 2012. While the sit-down fried fish restaurant is popular in Alexandria, it never quite attracted the crowds needed to sustain the business on the Pike, we’re told. Instead of closing, over the next month owner EatGoodFood Group will transition from Eamonn’s to a second location of its “Society Fair” bakery, cafe, market and eatery, which is also popular in Alexandria.
Already, couches have replaced some tables and chairs, to give the space a more “warm and comfortable” vibe. More furniture changes are in the works, and curtains will be installed, at least in part to dampen noise. The hope is to become more of a neighborhood hangout, a formula that has worked for nearby William Jeffrey’s Tavern, the biggest success so far on a block of restaurants that are mostly treading water business-wise, thanks to virtually non-existent lunch business.
By mid-February, the restaurant is expected to begin opening at 7:00 a.m. to serve breakfast customers with coffee, espresso drinks and pastries made fresh at the original Alexandria location. At other times of the day the food offerings will be more of the small plates variety, plus paninis, charcuterie, cheese and salads.
TNT Bar will remain and will serve drinks every night of the week, we’re told, but will continue adding more affordable cocktail options. With the exception of perhaps a few lunchtime closures, Eamonn’s will remain open as the space is gradually transformed.
The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema reports that fish and chips will remain on the menu once the Society Fair transition is complete.
(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) Firefighters from several jurisdictions responded to a fire at the Days Inn on Columbia Pike this morning.
The fire started in an unoccupied room on the second floor of the motel, according to the Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. The blaze was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported.
According to Marchegiani, the fire department received the first call about the fire at 11:36 a.m. and the bulk of the fire was extinguished by 11:42 a.m. Firefighters are now packing up their equipment and the county fire marshal is investigating the incident.
Earlier, flames and smoke could be seen from the motel, located at 3030 Columbia Pike. Early video of the incident shows a significant amount of smoke coming from the structure.
For a period of time the eastbound lanes of Columbia Pike were blocked in the area of the motel. The lanes have since reopened.
Photo courtesy @OwenHassig
A water main break has been reported on S. Scott Street, near the intersection with Columbia Pike.
Cars are being towed from the area to allow crews to dig and access the broken water main.
No word yet on how large the water main is nor how long repairs might take.
Update at 10:45 a.m. — It was an 8-inch cast iron water main that burst, according to Arlington County Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy. Water service to the apartment building on S. Scott Street is impacted by the break. Repair crews are on scene.
Home oxygen tanks helped fuel Sunday morning’s three-alarm apartment fire near Columbia Pike, the Arlington County Fire Department said today.
The fire broke out around 9:15 a.m. in an apartment at 850 S. Greenbrier Street. Firefighters from Arlington and Fairfax County arrived minutes after a 911 call was placed, and found heavy smoke coming from a second-floor apartment.
Firefighters rescued 20 trapped residents using ladders, and rescued an unconscious man from a smoke-filled hallway. He was transported to Medstar Washington Hospital Center in critical condition, ACFD said.
More than 80 fire personnel helped to extinguish the flames, which extended to the third and fourth floors and caused some $50,000 worth of damage. Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management set up a temporary shelter for 120 displaced residents in the nearby Greenbrier Baptist Church. The American Red Cross also helped to provide food, water and other essentials.
The cause is still under investigation, but the fire department says medical oxygen tanks “contribute[d] to the rapid fire spread.”
Photo courtesy @itsjustmejona
An FBI SWAT team observed while three men allegedly robbed the Wells Fargo at Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive at gunpoint on Tuesday, apprehending the suspects a block away after the robbery had been committed.
The men — two from Maryland and one from Washington, D.C. — had been under FBI surveillance after being suspected of committing several bank robberies around the D.C. area, according to federal prosecutors.
The men left the bank with $47,000, but were apprehended a block north on George Mason Drive. They have been charged with armed bank robbery.
Below is the full press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – James McNeal, 63, of Hyattsville, Md., James Link, 56, of Washington, D.C., and Alphonso Stoddard, 59, of Forest Heights, Md., were charged today by criminal complaint with armed bank robbery.
Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the initial appearance of defendants Link and Stoddard before United States Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson.
The defendants each face a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment if convicted.
According to court documents and court proceedings today, the FBI received information in December 2013 that McNeal, Link and Stoddard had been responsible for the armed robberies of multiple banks in the Washington metropolitan area. After identifying the subjects, the FBI kept the three men under close surveillance, which included observing the defendants as they cased banks in Arlington, Va. for potential robberies.
On December 31, 2013, FBI agents followed the three subjects as they drove from Maryland to a Wells Fargo bank branch in Arlington. An FBI SWAT team was prepositioned near the Wells Fargo bank before the defendants arrived. At approximately 1:15 p.m., Link and Stoddard entered the bank with their faces covered. Link brandished a gun and pointed it at individuals in the bank, while Stoddard jumped the teller counter and removed approximately $47,000 in cash from teller drawers. The two men exited the bank and returned to their vehicle, where McNeal was waiting.
As the three subjects attempted to flee the scene, FBI and Arlington County Police apprehended them approximately one block away. A handgun and cash were found in the vehicle. A search of McNeal’s house in Hyattsville, Md. led to the discovery of additional firearms, gloves and items of clothing that were linked to previous bank robberies.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office with the assistance of the FBI’s Baltimore Division and the Fairfax County and Arlington County police departments. The United States Attorney’s Offices for the District of Columbia and the District of Maryland also provided assistance in the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Adam B. Schwartz is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
(Updated 2:20 p.m.) Three suspects have been apprehended after a bank robbery on Columbia Pike.
The Wells Fargo Bank at the corner of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike was robbed this afternoon, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Three suspects have been taken into custody, he said.
The robbery occurred around 1:20 p.m., according to scanner traffic.
Significant police activity at the intersection is impacting traffic and 16-line Metrobuses. Northbound George Mason Drive is closed at Columbia Pike.
Update at 10:00 a.m. — VDOT says the change has been postponed: “Please note this new pattern has been postponed until January due to additional signal work. A new date for the shift will be announced soon.”
A new traffic pattern will be in effect at the under-construction Columbia Pike and Washington Boulevard interchange
VDOT says drivers heading eastbound on the Pike will now have a different way of getting to northbound I-395 (toward the District). Now, instead of bearing right after the light at S. Quinn Street, drivers will need to wait to turn left at the light, onto a new ramp to Washington Boulevard.
Those heading to southbound I-395 will still bear right onto the ramp after S. Quinn Street.
“Work to complete the switch will take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday,” VDOT said in a press release. “Message signs will be in place to notify drivers of the new traffic pattern.”
“This new access is part of the $51.5 million project to replace the Washington Boulevard bridge over Columbia Pike,” the press release continued. “The project will be complete in summer 2015.”
As part of the project, the new bridge over Columbia Pike opened last month.
Bangkok 54 restaurant (2919 Columbia Pike) was open for lunch and is now open for dinner today (Thursday) as usual, despite a fire that ripped through the business’ next-door market early this morning.
We’re told the Thai restaurant only suffered minor smoke damage as a result of the fire, which caused significant damage to the market. The heaviest damage was in the ceiling of the market, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Bill Shelton.
Fire investigators are still on the scene, trying to determine the cause of the fire. So far, there’s no estimate of the cost of the damage.
Update at 4:30 p.m. — The restaurant portion of Bangkok 54 was open for business today.
Arlington County firefighters battled a two-alarm fire at Bangkok 54 on Columbia Pike early Thursday morning.
The Thai restaurant is located at 2919 Columbia Pike, next to the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. The fire appeared to be in the Asian market portion of the business, not the restaurant itself. However, it’s likely that smoke from the blaze spread throughout the business.
The emergency response to the fire shut down Columbia Pike in both directions for about an hour and a half.
(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) A large water main break has been reported on Columbia Pike, just in time to cause significant issues with the evening commute.
The water main break was reported at Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road, on the Arlington/Fairfax county line. Fairfax County police are shutting down the Pike in both directions between Carlin Springs and Route 7.
Police have shut down the eastbound side of the Pike to pedestrian traffic, because workers are cautious to prevent the sidewalk from collapsing into a sinkhole, according to police on the scene. Fairfax Water workers are trying to turn off the water — which is still pouring out of the sewer grates in the closed-off section of Columbia Pike — before beginning repairs.
There are no estimates so far for the timeline of work to be completed, so drivers should avoid the area entirely on their commute, if possible. As of about 5:30 p.m., Carlin Springs Road was backed up all the way into the Buckingham neighborhood, and several other roads in the area were also suffering major backups.