(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) Several restaurants in the food court at the Pentagon City Mall are closed as the mall undergoes repairs to its sewer system today.
The hours-long repairs caused mall management to shut off the water. As a result, Arlington County Public Health closed the food court earlier today, the agency announced.
Among the businesses closed as of 1:00 p.m. were Taco Bell, Chipotle and McDonald’s, but Panda Express, Panera Bread and Popeye’s were open. Post-holiday shoppers had to wait in long lines to buy meals at the restaurants that remained open.
“The County continues to monitor the situation and will take additional action if necessary,” a county media alert stated.
According to Arlington’s Director of Public Health Dr. Reuben Varghese, the mall is reporting they have turned the water back on, which means restaurants that have running water are now allowed to operate. Varghese said health department staff is “on the way” to the mall to confirm the water is running.
The mall is currently undergoing renovations that will change the design of the food court and add tens of thousands of square feet for new shops and restaurants.
At least 20 students went to the school clinic Friday because of nausea or vomiting, according to Arlington Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick.
Officials say they’re investigating whether the illness was caused by norovirus, and whether the virus might have spread due to a bathroom that was not cleaned properly.
Photo via APS
Orange/Silver Line Delays — There were delays on the Orange and Silver lines this morning due to a disabled train at Virginia Square. The disabled train has since been cleared and trains are no longer single tracking around it. [Twitter]
Video: Don’t Put H-B Woodlawn in Reed School — A video created by members of the Westover community urges Arlington Public Schools to reject any proposal to relocate the H-B Woodlawn secondary program to the Reed School. [YouTube]
Design Tweaks for Courthouse Building — Developer Carr Properties has made several tweaks to the design of 2025 Clarendon Blvd, its proposed office building which will replace the Wendy’s in Courthouse. Responding to concerns from county planners, Carr has added a fourth retail bay and replaced most of the terra cotta in the facade with more glass and steel. [Washington Business Journal – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Health Violations at Arlington Restaurants — WUSA9 investigative reporter Russ Ptacek has set his sights on Arlington restaurants that have had food safety licenses revoked, including Mario’s Pizza, Aroma Indian Cuisine, Pedro & Vinny’s and Astor Mediterranean. In Virginia, restaurants get their violations cleared from the public database after getting a new license post-revocation. [WUSA9 – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Parking App for DCA — Starting Nov. 1, those parking at Reagan National Airport will be able to pay via a smartphone app. [MWAA]
Sun Gazette Carries Doomsday Ad — The Arlington Sun Gazette recently carried an ad for Disaster Retreat, a doomsday safe haven in central Virginia for “serious-minded families and executives.” The half-page ad was adjacent to a streetcar editorial and ads for window treatments and dog training. [Slate]
Pedro and Vinny’s, the popular burrito stand in the CVS parking lot at 2599 Columbia Pike, is closed indefinitely after having its health license revoked.
The restaurant opened in 2011 in what was once an Ollie’s Trolley. It has since served hungry Pike residents, Pentagon employees, and even members of Congress. Earlier this month it was included in the prestigious Five Thirty Eight Burrito Bracket.
Arlington County Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick says the health department placed Pedro and Vinny’s on a one-year probation in February due to repeated food safety violations that “significantly increased the risk of foodborne illness.”
The violations were mostly centered around improper food holding temperatures: the cheese and sour cream were too warm in the refrigerator and the chicken and beef were not hot enough in the countertop well, according to health inspection records. As part of the probation, the restaurant was informed that its food service license would be revoked if they were found not in compliance again, according to Larrick.
Yesterday (Wednesday), an inspector again found “improper hot and cold holding temperatures,” Larrick said. The license was immediately revoked and Pedro and Vinny’s was closed.
Last night, handwritten signs posted on the restaurant’s doors stated that it was “closed for a few days due [to] a kitchen problem.” Larrick said that Pedro and Vinny’s may submit an application for a new license, but will “need to meet all applicable requirements of… Arlington County Code” in order to receive it.
Measles Patient Traipsed Around Arlington — Virginia health officials have released a list of businesses patronized by a person who has since been confirmed to have a case of measles. Three North Arlington businesses are on the list. Officials are trying to determine who might have been exposed to the disease. [Virginia Department of Health]
Beyer Calls for Carbon Tax — Democratic congressional candidate Don Beyer has released a third TV ad, in which he addresses the issue of climate change and calls for the imposition of a carbon tax. Beyer is the owner of several local car dealerships. [Washington Post]
ACPD Detective Recognized — An Arlington County police detective has been honored by Virginia State Police for his role in fighting auto theft. Detective Scott Whalin’s investigation of the theft of a Dodge Charger from Pentagon City mall resulted in the arrest of two suspects whose fingerprints were allegedly found on numerous other stolen vehicles. A total of 65 cases were closed as a result of Whalin’s two arrests. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Cameron Manuel
The restaurant reopened Wednesday morning with temporary A/C units, District Taco owner Osiris Hoil said in an email. The county’s health department told the restaurant to close Tuesday after it was determined that food was being stored in an environment that was too warm.
“The A/C was a contributing factor, but not the reason for closure,” said Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick. “With the A/C not working, the refrigerator was overburdened and wasn’t able to keep the food cool enough.”
Hoil said he had already submitted plans to the county for approval to install a permanent replacement for the air conditioning unit. Temperatures reached 96 degrees Tuesday afternoon in Arlington, according to Weather.com.
“We couldn’t work and it was not safe for our food to be exposed in the restaurant,” Hoil said in an email. “So we had to transfer everything at our commissary where we have the toritos (taco stands) because we do have a lot of refrigeration there.”
During Wednesday’s lunch rush, the previous day’s shutdown did not seem to have an adverse effect. The restaurant crowded and warm, as the temporary A/C units struggled to keep the crowded space cool.
The restaurant was closed yesterday after a county food inspector discovered that the restaurant did not have any hot water, according to Michael Peter of the Arlington County Dept. of Human Services.
“The restaurant was closed by one of our food inspectors due to an imminent health risk,” Peter told ARLnow.com. “It was reported and confirmed that Union Jack’s had no hot water in the restaurant.”
“With no hot water, there is no way to properly clean and sanitize utensils and dishes,” he continued. “In addition, with no hot water, employees are less likely to wash their hands properly as they engage in food preparation.”
Red “Notice of Food Establishment Closing” signs were posted on the doors of the restaurant, located within Ballston Common Mall. So far, the restaurant has not reopened.
“The Arlington County food inspector left instructions for Union Jack’s to contact her once hot water was running again and she would immediately come to confirm and lift the closure order,” Peter said. “As of 11:18AM, no contact had been made.”
Courtesy photo (bottom)
Arlington’s Public Health Division has reversed course and will now allow restaurants to have “dog friendly” outdoor dining areas. As recently as November, the health department was reminding restaurants that no pets — except for service animals — were allowed in any dining area, inside or outside.
Now, restaurants can apply for a variance that would allow dogs in outdoor dining areas.
“Restaurants that wish to allow dogs in their outdoor dining areas now have an administrative process they can initiate to request a code variance,” Arlington’s Public Health Director, Reuben Varghese, said in a statement. “To receive a variance, a restaurant will have to comply with a set of safeguards designed to minimize risks to the dining public.”
“The change is in response to community requests,” the health department said in a press release. “With proper safeguards, restaurants can protect their customers’ health and safety in the presence of dogs.”
“Safeguards include requiring dogs to be leashed and not allowing them on seats and tables, restricting food and drink preparation from the outside dining area, and requiring signs to inform diners they are in a ‘Dog Friendly Area,'” said the press release. “Compliance would be evaluated as part of the routine restaurant inspection process.”
Photo via Arlington County
The stickers were mailed out on Nov. 26 as part of an ongoing Arlington health department initiative to remind restaurants that it’s against county code for animals to be in “areas where food is prepared, cooked or served,” according to Arlington County Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick.
Restaurants are not required to post the stickers, but a number of eateries, like Sawatdee Thai (2250 Clarendon Blvd), pictured, have already displayed them prominently for customers entering the establishment.
Larrick says the “no pets” rule applies to sidewalk cafes, too.
“The code applies to indoor and outdoor settings,” he said. “With the growth in outdoor dining in the County over the last year or so it seemed like a timely reminder. We started work on the signs this summer but it just took a while to get them done.”
The stickers note, however, that service animals, like seeing eye dogs, are exempt from the regulations. As for why your favorite fluffy friend is a no-no at restaurants, Larrick says it comes down to health concerns.
“The presence of animals would create a risk of people getting sick due to fecal contamination,” he said.
30th Anniversary of Air Florida Crash — Thirty years ago today Air Florida Flight 90 took off from Reagan National Airport, slammed into the 14th Street Bridge and plunged into the icy Potomac River, killing 78 people. Only five people on the plane survived the crash. [Wikipedia, Washington Post]
Bondi Releases Statement on Tax Lien — County Board candidate Melissa Bondi has released a statement to supporters regarding the recent revelation of her tax troubles. “Blog commenters very recently have begun attacking me about two issues,” Bondi began. “The attacks have been sudden, nasty, highly personal, and intended to derail the excellent work we have done together as a campaign.” Bondi said that she has hired a tax advisor “to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.”
Il Radicchio Back Open After Sewage Backup — Il Radicchio (1801 Clarendon Blvd) closed temporarily on Jan. 3 due to a sewage backup, according to public records. The Italian restaurant reopened on Jan. 6. [Washington Post]
Seller’s Market in Arlington — Only 0.5 percent of all homes in Arlington were listed for sale late last year — a statistic that is a likely indicator of stiff competition between home buyers. [Washington Times]
Flickr pool photo by Divaknevil
With temperatures in the 60s this week, it may seem too early to worry about fighting off sickness this winter. Already, though, illnesses are popping up around the area. That should be the perfect reminder to go out and get a vaccine now that flu season is in full swing.
Flu season continues into the spring, and although shots are effective no matter when they’re administered, it’s better to get one early in the season. This is especially true considering the vaccine will typically take a week or two to kick in.
Flu shots gained popularity in Arlington during the H1N1 scare, and county officials are pleased with the number of people continuing to get vaccinated. Although it’s difficult to predict so early in the season, thus far there are no indicators to suggest a flu outbreak like we’ve seen in recent years. The county also reports there is ample supply of this year’s flu vaccine. It protects against three different strains of influenza, including H1N1.
“The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated,” said Arlington County Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older should get an annual flu vaccine.”
“Residents can get vaccinated at doctor’s offices, many retail stores throughout the County and at special community clinics offered through Partnerships for a Healthier Arlington and Inova Health Systems,” Larrick continued. “At these community clinics you can get the entire family vaccinated, and the vaccine is free for older adults with Medicare Part B.”
If not covered by insurance, flu shots typically go for about $30.
Prevention, Larrick added, should also be part of any flu season strategy.
“It’s also important to cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently and stay home when sick,” he said.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
The County Board is expected to vote in October on a request to advertise an ordinance change that would no longer require massage therapists to obtain a permit from the county’s health department. Instead, local massage therapists will only have to be certified by the state.
Arlington County’s massage regulation started decades ago, in response to a proliferation of prostitution operations masquerading as massage parlors. County officials say those days are largely past, and its time to look at massage therapists in a new light.
“The whole field of massage has evolved and changed incredibly in the past couple of decades, such that there are a lot of very legitimate medical practitioners out there using massage for all kinds of health reasons,” Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier told ARLnow.com. “In a way, it’s kind of an archaic law that we’re getting rid of… the old way of looking at massage therapists really does have to change.”
Allgeier said that the Arlington County Police department, not the health department, will be responsible for making sure that massage businesses — like the recently-opened Arlington Physical Center on Columbia Pike — are on the up and up.
“If there are illegal activities going on — that is, prostitution — that it needs to be treated as a police matter,” Allgeier said. “That’s the way to deal with the illegal activity that’s going on, not by requiring all massage professionals to go through an unnecessary… bureaucratic licensure process.”
Current regulations require massage practitioners to apply for a county Massage Therapist Permit by submitting a form, a $50 fee, a massage school diploma or certificate, two passport size photos, a Virginia massage therapist certificate and an FBI record check including fingerprints.
In September, the Board voted to hike the license fee from $100 to $285, in response to a mandate from the Virginia Department of Health. Earlier this year, state authorities reversed themselves and decided to slash the statewide fee — which is administered by localities — to just $40. The Board must now approve the change for Arlington.
The $40 fee will apply to license applications and renewals for both restaurants and mobile food vendors. In addition to the license fee change, the cost of reviewing plans for new or remodeled food establishments will drop from $200 to $40 if approved by the Board, as expected.
County staff is recommending that the fees be modified “on an emergency basis” so that the change can take effect immediately.
Arlington’s health department is responsible for licensing and inspecting restaurants in the county. The department is funded cooperatively by the state, which sets the fees for licensing and other services.
Arlington’s Community Health Protection Bureau is looking for a volunteer with marketing or communications experience “to partner with a community-based coalition working to address underage binge drinking and drug use in Arlington County.”
Responsibilities include working with a team to develop program image; developing marketing plan; and creating various promotional materials such as pamphlets, brochures, and press releases.
Desired qualifications include: communications/marketing experience, excellent organizational skills, attention to detail and accuracy, good interpersonal skills, and proficiency in Microsoft Office (Word, Publisher, PowerPoint). This is a great opportunity for someone looking to expand their portfolio and work with a community group.
This is a Virtual Volunteer position. The volunteer will need to meet with the program team periodically and communicate on a regular basis via e-mail and phone. All work can be done off-site.
See more details here. Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to contact Margaret Ostafin at 703-228-5659.
The county issued a short statement to ARLnow.com last night confirming they’re “currently investigating reports of gastrointestinal (GI) illness at a long-term care facility.”
Citing “confidentiality rules,” a Department of Human Services spokesman refused to identify the facility. A source, however, tells us the facility is the Sunrise at Bluemont Park (5910 Wilson Blvd) senior living community.
The source says paramedics were called to the building on Wednesday. Medics then called the health department.
“We have not yet identified the cause of the illness; however, it is not uncommon to have GI illness due to Norovirus this time of year,” DHS spokesman Kurt Larrick said. “We are working with the facility on ways to control the spread of illness.”
The county said members of the public can help stop the spread of Norovirus and other gastrointestinal illnesses by washing one’s hands frequently with warm water and soap for 20 seconds and by staying at home if you feel sick.
“Please postpone visiting an assisted living facility, nursing home or hospital” if you’re sick and “keep your sick children home from school,” the county advised.