Concealed Carry Permits Spike in Arlington — The number of applications for concealed-carry permits in Arlington has quadrupled in the past 8 years, and continued to spike. Last year the Circuit Court received 1,042 applications from whose who want to carry concealed weapons. This year the office is expecting nearly 1,600. [Sun Gazette]
Whipple Pens Pro-Streetcar Op-Ed — In an op-ed, former state Senator Mary Margaret Whipple compares the heated debate over the planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar systems to the debate over the construction of Metrorail through Arlington in the 1970s. “A small but vocal faction of our community claimed that the proposed Orange, Blue and Yellow lines were too expensive and risky and argued that we should just use buses instead,” Whipple writes. “After much deliberation, Arlington invested in rail.” [Washington Post]
New Gym for George Mason? — George Mason University’s Arlington campus currently lacks a fitness center for students. A plan to build a new gym, put in place after a student petition in 2011, has not moved forward because it was determined that the project would go over budget. The university is currently exploring options for either constructing a new fitness center or partnering with a nearby office building to use its gym. [Connect2Mason]
DCA Fight Attendants Protest Knife Decision — Flight attendants have been handing out flyers to passengers at Reagan National Airport, encouraging them to sign an online petition against a recent TSA decision that will allow small knives to be carried on to planes. [WAMU]
The establishment, which is located in a strip mall at the corner of Columbia Pike and Glebe Road, was seeking a renewal of its entertainment permit, to allow it to continue to host karaoke nights. Neighboring civic associations, the police department and Virginia ABC all opposed the renewal due to concerns about crime.
In a report to the Board, county staff said Sports House Grill has “had numerous [county] reviews and a consistently high number of police calls.”
“In the last year alone, there were 15 police calls for service for incidents (most resulting in arrests) related to the establishment,” staff wrote. “The consistently high numbers of calls for service at this establishment, along with concerns about over-serving of patrons, litter, various inappropriate activity in the parking lot and surrounding neighborhood, and other issues have adversely affected the health and safety of surrounding businesses and communities by, among other things creating noise and reducing the residential character of the area.”
Neighbors told the Board that Sports House Grill owner Hugo Flores had made “zero effort” to respond to their concerns over the past few months. Concerns cited by neighbors include violence in the parking lot, vandalism and “drug sales.”
The business owner and his attorney told the Board that Sports House Grill has private security inside the restaurant, has had no problems with noise or health code violations, and has just appointed a new community liaison. The liaison appointment, however, seemed to be viewed by the Board and neighbors as too little, too late.
In the end, the Board voted unanimously to deny the live entertainment permit renewal.
“The County goes to great efforts to allow businesses to do this sort of thing,” said County Board member Chris Zimmerman, who lives in nearby Douglas Park, citing the relatively long list of county reviews of the business in the 7 years it has been owned by Flores. Zimmerman said the Board’s vote to deny the permit was “highly unusual.”
Sports House Grill is the second Columbia Pike restaurant with a primarily Hispanic clientele to face questions about its karaoke nights in the past year. In November, the Board deferred a live entertainment permit request for Restaurante El Salvador (4805 Columbia Pike) over crime concerns.
In a separate agenda item, the County Board voted to allow a live entertainment and dancing permit for another Columbia Pike restaurant with a history of crime and noise problems.
After numerous deferrals, the Board voted unanimously on Saturday to grant Pines of Italy (3111 Columbia Pike) a live entertainment permit. The vote had the blessing of the president of the Arlington Heights Civic Association, a major reversal of the association’s outspoken opposition to the permit last year.
At the request of the restaurant’s owner, who said a county staff recommendation to require a midnight closing time would scuttle its nightclub-oriented business plan, the Board also voted to allow Pines of Italy to stay open until 2:00 a.m., on the condition of quarterly staff reviews and a County Board review in one year.
The Board was told that the owner had conducted sufficient neighborhood outreach and had agreed to various measures to address problems that had previously plagued the location, which borders a residential neighborhood and which has seen a succession of owners over the past few years.
The restaurant has been seeking a live entertainment permit since last spring. The permit, which would allow live music and dancing, has proven controversial with neighbors, who cited problems with noise, violence and public drunkenness at the location in the past. The Board twice deferred consideration of the permit last year, each time asking the owners of Pines of Italy to do more outreach to neighbors.
According to county staff, that outreach has still not occurred. While staff is recommending another deferral, the restaurant is apparently asking for the Board to vote on the permit once and for all.
From the county staff report:
The County Board considered this request at their April and September 2012 meetings, at which the County Board deferred consideration of the use permit due to concerns about Police issues and insufficient outreach to the community. The applicant was directed to establish communication with the community and to work with them on addressing their concerns. The applicant requested a deferral from the December 8, 2012 County Board meeting to the January 26, 2013 meeting with the intent that additional meetings would be scheduled to continue to work to a resolution on issues related to noise and crime impacts. Sufficient outreach has not been completed by the applicant. The intent of scheduling a meeting in December was to organize a representative meeting in which nearby residents and civic association members could discuss specific mitigation measures by which the applicant could implement to address ongoing issues. This meeting did not occur. The applicant does not agree to defer and wishes to be heard by the County Board in January. Staff is recommending that the County Board defer this request for two (2) months to allow sufficient time for the applicant to hold a meeting, which has not been scheduled as of the date of this report, with the Arlington Heights Civic Association to work through ongoing issues. Staff further recommends deferral to allow sufficient time to evaluate the applicant’s outreach and to ensure that issues have been addressed to the extent possible.
Arlington start-up EV Taxicabs had requested permits for 40 cabs, for which County Manager Barbara Donnellan gave a stamp of approval in October.
The topic has garnered much discussion over the past few months, and was held over from last month’s Board meeting to allow for more time to examine the details.
One of the sticking points is Arlington’s lack of infrastructure to support electric cars, namely charging stations. EV had promised to install charging stations throughout the county that residents would be able to use as well.
“There is no question that we do not have the infrastructure,” said Board member Jay Fisette. “Again, part of this application’s strengths was that in fact, after two years we would, without any public investment.”
Board member Chris Zimmerman said although the charging stations are part of the plan, the electric car technology is too new and there’s not enough evidence to prove it can be a long term option.
“This is a very interesting technology and very well may be the wave of the future. I don’t think we, at this point, know exactly how that technology is going to shake out,” said Zimmerman. “I feel like we’re not quite ready for this yet.”
Fisette pointed out that there were many skeptics when EnviroCab first proposed launching a hybrid fleet, but the company’s idea has since transformed the community.
“We’re out in front of the pack in most instances, this would put us further out,” Fisette said. “This is exactly the kind of innovation, the kind of opportunity that is needed for us to meet in the community energy plan.”
Board Chair Mary Hynes agreed that the electric fleet would be in line with the county’s long term energy plan, but feels it’s currently not a viable option.
“We’re at the infancy stages of this, we don’t yet have our county-wide strategy related to chargers,” Hynes said. “And I recognize that this proposer would jump start this a little bit, but I think we really do need to have our strategy in place.”
The board members encouraged EV to return during the next cab certificate allocation, in two years, to put in another request.
“I would hope that two years from now they’ll be back and we will have our game plan together and we’ll be in a position to allow this sort of a launch,” Hynes said.
Board members Libby Garvey and Jay Fisette voted in favor of EV Taxicab’s request, but Chris Zimmerman, Walter Tejada and Board Chair Mary Hynes voted no.
Despite going against Donnellan’s recommendation to approve the EV permits, the Board did side with Donnellan’s suggestion to grant additional cab permits. It’s the first time in four years the county suggested increasing the number of taxis on the road, during the certificate allocation process which takes place every two years. Prior to the increase, seven companies owned 765 licensed cabs.
Wheelchair accessible taxis make up a significant portion of the newly granted permits. Red Top Cab and Blue Top Cab companies each received five such permits. Friendly Cab Co. received 12 permits and will also launch a dispatch service. The total of 22 granted taxi certificates is well below the 65 suggested by Donnellan.
The Board sided with the county Transportation Commission in denying permits for EV Taxicab, but against the commission’s recommendation to divvy up some of the permits proposed for the company to Arlington-based EnviroCab.
Before her vote, Hynes also dealt a blow to taxi drivers hoping to obtain individual cab operating certificates. Hynes said that in the future, the Board is unlikely to approve new cab permits for companies that do not plan to utilize dispatch service.
Restaurante El Salvador (4805 Columbia Pike) had asked for a live entertainment permit, but at its Saturday meeting the Board voted unanimously to defer the request six months until its May 2013 meeting.
The local civic association, the Barcroft School and Civic League (BSCL), opposed the granting of the permit, which would allow karaoke until 2:00 a.m. on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday nights.
According the BSCL and county staff, there have been recent complaints about “alcohol related incidents and violations” that prompted police to respond to the restaurant. Neighbors worry that allowing the live entertainment permit would increase the instances of public drunkenness and rowdiness.
“BSCL concurs with the Arlington County Police Department that such an addition would exacerbate the crime problems the neighborhood is currently experiencing at and around this establishment,” said BSCL President Pat Williamson.
County staff recommended deferring the issue for six moths in order for Restaurante El Salvador to foster a better relationship with the community. Restaurant representatives, county staff and members of BSCL are supposed to meet within the next few weeks to address issues such as hiring security and enforcing drink limits for patrons.
“Staff will work with the applicant to foster a better relationship with the community and with other County agencies,” said the staff report. “The applicant is aware of the reasons staff is recommending deferral, and staff will be working with the applicant, the Arlington County Police Department, and the community over the next few months to address the issues that have been identified.”
Photo via Google Maps
The Board had previously deferred the issue at its April meeting in an effort to give the business owners more time to prove themselves worthy of being granted a permit. Similar to past meetings, residents from the surrounding area showed up on Saturday to voice concerns about issuing the permit. They cited the property’s history of consistent problems with patrons being violent and noisy. Some neighbors noted how peaceful the neighborhood has been for approximately six months because there has been no live entertainment on the site.
“The past six months have been a welcome reprieve from some of the extreme loud noise and violence,” said resident Aristia Glinka.
The county staff report for the permit had recommended approving the permit if the property owners agree to meet a series of conditions. However, Board members expressed concern that existing conditions had not been met, and there is no evidence that future conditions would be adhered to.
Although there have not been violent incidents during the past several months, Board members didn’t believe the owners had met the condition of fostering a relationship with the community. Tajalli did attend one Arlington Heights Civic Association meeting, but the Board said one meeting does not prove sufficient for making amends after all the previous years of poor relations.
“I think the neighbors are generally concerned about the lack of communication. We went over this in great detail last time,” Board member Walter Tejada said. “It’s really not acceptable from what I’ve heard so far, your lack of communicating.”
Another sticking point is Jorge Escobar’s continued involvement with the business. He has owned the property for more than a decade, including during the period when a previous entertainment permit was revoked.
The property currently has three partners who oversee the three different parts of the property — a restaurant, hookah bar and night club. Ali Tajalli, who manages the restaurant portion, said one business would not be able to handle the $15,000 a month cost of rent, so all three pay Escobar $5,000 each month.
Tajalli further explained his inability to keep the business open if the permit is not approved. He said that without all three partners contributing to the rent, the businesses will have to close in a matter of months. He asserted that being allowed to stay open until 2:00 a.m. for a six month trial period would keep the property afloat, while allowing an adequate period for the owners to prove themselves to the county.
County staff researching the permit request had recommended the issue be deferred until the board’s September 15 meeting. That recommendation — which was approved by a unanimous vote of the Board — is supposed to give the owner time to convince the community there would not be violence or disruptive incidents like those that previously occurred on the property. Police and neighbors have expressed opposition to approving the permit.
Seven residents who live nearby showed up at the meeting to enumerate the reasons they oppose the permit. In addition to the noise, loitering and public drunkenness that all reported witnessing, a major concern is safety. Nearly all of the speakers had reported calling the police after witnessing brutal fights between club goers, some of which spill into the neighborhood.
“I’m afraid for my safety, I don’t know what’s going to come out of one of these fights,” said Melanie Myers. “I can’t even sit out in my backyard.”
It was noted that the establishment is at the end of a residential street and has a significant impact on people’s lives.
“It’s unsettling and it’s not fair,” said Amy Pasion. “It’s a residential area and we shouldn’t have to deal with this.”
Like other speakers, Pasion stated she didn’t mind the restaurant or hookah bar inside the building, but a club is too disruptive and dangerous.
Part of the controversy is the involvement of Jorge Escobar, who is currently named as the landlord. He has been involved with the property in various capacities for more than a decade, sometimes as a manager of the club.
“We’ve suffered for many years as a result of this specific location and business,” said Aristia Glinka. “And the people that are applying for this permit are linked to the problems that we’ve been having over the years.”
Escobar’s attorney testified at the meeting and promised the board that the three partners of this establishment are interested in starting anew. He expressed Escobar’s interest in working with people living in the neighborhood. However, residents claim attempts to work with him before have been unfruitful.
Arlington will soon be home to a tea house. House of Steep (3800 Lee Hwy) is moving into one of the retail spaces at the Bromptons at Cherrydale property, which is now known as 3800 Lofts.
The store’s website highlights the calming tea house atmosphere, in which customers can enjoy tea, snacks and sandwiches. Interestingly, spa services will also be offered, with the signature treatment being an aromatherapy foot soak.
So far we only know of one other retailer that’s coming to the building: a Subway sandwich shop.
There’s no official opening date yet, but the website hints that the owners of House of Steep are aiming for June. Until then, customers can purchase items from the store online.
Meanwhile, the building’s management company is applying for a permit for outdoor seating. The seating area would be in front of the building, along Lee Highway.
County staff had previously raised concerns about the outdoor seating plan first put forth in 2003. In addition to trouble with the placement of tree pits, the layout reportedly didn’t provide corridors to the retail entrances and the residential exit stairs.
The plan redesign fixed the issues, so reviewers now recommend the County Board approves the outdoor seating permit at Saturday’s meeting.
The Costa Verde restaurant near Clarendon is no more, and another tenant has quietly taken over the space. A restaurant called DARNA (946 N. Jackson Street) has apparently moved in, and it’s seeking a live entertainment permit from the county.
This location has had live entertainment permits dating back to 1994. According to the county staff report, when Costa Verde’s permit came up for review in February, it was discovered that the restaurant no longer existed. At that time, staff members learned that DARNA was looking at continuing the permit. The county zoning office confirmed that the new restaurant is not currently providing live entertainment.
DARNA requested to have entertainment and dancing from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday. But reviewers raised concerns about the hours, and the owner has agreed to modify the times to 8:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 8:00 p.m. to midnight on Wednesdays and Sundays.
The owner also has to agree not to play music outside, and to keep windows and doors shut to soundproof the structure. Security must be provided on nights when there is music and dancing.
Because police and neighbors haven’t expressed concern, county staff doesn’t anticipate trouble with the request. Reviewers recommend the County Board approves the permit request at its meeting on Saturday.
We have been unable to get in contact with the owner to get more details about the restaurant.
The recently-opened Pines of Italy restaurant (3111 Columbia Pike) is applying for a live entertainment and dancing permit, but it doesn’t look like the request will be granted at Saturday’s County Board meeting.
Due to concerns from police and the Arlington Heights Civic Association (AHCA), the recommendation is to defer the permit request until the board’s September 15 meeting. Police note previous violent incidents at this site, and suggest future trouble could arise based on the history with the property’s management. AHCA opposes the permit due to the potential for crime and noise to impact neighbors.
A letter from the AHCA president says representatives met with the three partners of the property to address resident concerns. The property apparently is divided into a restaurant, a hookah bar and a night club and has one partner for each entity. The partners reportedly said the entertainment permit was not needed for the restaurant or hookah bar to do business, but wouldn’t specifically say it was for the club.
County staff recommended deferring until the September 15 meeting in order to give the restaurant owner time to establish a clean track record. If there are no issues for a six month period, which began at the Pines of Italy opening in February, the county will consider issuing the permit. The owner was asked to demonstrate good management and to establish better relationships with neighbors during this time period. County staff states in the permit report that the owner has agreed to the deferral.
In its letter last month, AHCA said if no problems arise from the property for one year, it will reconsider its position on the permit. In recent years the property has been home to a succession of restaurants, including Padrino’s Fine Italian Cuisine, Club 31-11, Coco’s Italian Restaurant, Lalibela II, and Cottage Ethiopian Restaurant.
(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) William Jeffrey’s Tavern (2301 Columbia Pike) is expected to be a topic of conversation at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting. The restaurant has requested a permit for live entertainment and dancing, in addition to a permit to have outdoor seating.
The entertainment permit would cover the hours of 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. every day of the week. However, restaurant owners indicate they only intend to provide live entertainment and dancing during late evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and for brunch on Sundays.
Although the restaurant is in a mixed-use building, county staff points out it is not directly adjacent to any housing, and would therefore not disturb residents. Permit reviewers also believe allowing William Jeffrey’s Tavern to have live entertainment would assist in achieving the county’s goal of revitalizing Columbia Pike. For these reasons, the recommendation is to allow the permit.
One of the requirements for obtaining the permit is to provide dedicated security during times when there is live entertainment. The restaurant will also have to keep its doors and windows shut during performances, to comply with the county noise ordinance. The permit will come up for review in one year.
The recommendation for the outdoor cafe permit, however, is to defer the issue until the board’s May 19 meeting. At issue is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, due to a grade change where the outdoor cafe would be on the sidewalk. Staff also wants to ensure that the seating will be only for temporary use, which the county typically defines as nine months of the year.
The recommendation to defer until the May 19 meeting is to give the owners of William Jeffrey’s Tavern adequate time to address the county’s concerns.
After more than a decade of working to make it a reality, the Lyon Park Citizens Association may finally get its community house renovated. The Arlington County Board is scheduled to take up the issue at Saturday morning’s meeting.
The association has requested a permit to expand and renovate the community house, which was built in 1925 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If approved, the permit would allow for the addition of more than 1,000 square feet. Among the changes would be an update to the kitchen and the addition of a sunroom. The plan also includes various updates to make the house handicap accessible.
Typically, an expansion of this kind would also require the addition of parking spaces; In this particular case, 13 extra. However, the building was constructed before a zoning ordinance regarding parking was put in place. Therefore, county staff has recommended that the expansion be allowed without the addition of parking spaces. The permit would require the association provide handouts with off-site parking information to anyone who applies to rent the facility.
If the County Board follows the staff recommendation to approve the permit, the association hopes to begin construction sometime this year.
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) World of Beer, which is coming to 901 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, has requested a permit for live entertainment and outdoor seating. The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on the permit this weekend.
The original application requested a permit for live music and dancing from 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. every day. However, after receiving advice from county staff, the permit request was revised to be in line with other similar permits around the county. It now says live entertainment would run until 12:00 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and until 1:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, with exceptions on certain holidays.
The application also requests outdoor seating on the sidewalk along N. Glebe Road. A separate application was filed for a 70 square foot canopy sign.
County staff who have reviewed the request note that there are no residences close to the location and the live entertainment would not negatively affect businesses in the area. Therefore, they’re suggesting the county approves World of Beer’s permits.
The restaurant’s website still lists the expected opening date as July 2012.
After a number of delays, the long awaited construction on the Overlee Community Association pool and clubhouse (6030 Lee Hwy) has begun. Final permits were obtained just last week, allowing construction to move forward.
The delay in obtaining county permits has been one of the numerous factors contributing to overall project delays, according to Overlee Long Range Planning Committee Chairman Chris Tai. He explained that a project like this is difficult due to squeezing a number of different things onto one compact site.
To those who criticize the length of time the project has taken to get going, Tai suggests remaining focused on forward progress.
“There’s plenty of time later to go back and figure out what could have been done differently,” Tai said. “But for now, we’re focused on getting the pool open and minimizing the disruption to members and the community in general.”
Demolition of the pool and the late 19th centruy clubhouse began in January and recently finished. Currently, crews at the site have begun construction on the new pool, deck and surrounding facilites.
The plan is to open different sections of the club in phases as they’re completed. Safety barriers will surround areas that are still under construction. The goal is to get the bath house and lap pool opened first, so swimmers can get back in the water as soon as possible. At this point, the best estimate for opening the main pool and surrounding deck is early June. The clubhouse will open last, possibly as soon as mid-July.
Tai says the lack of a clubhouse for at least part of the season should come as no surprise to members.
“We told all our members from day one that they shouldn’t anticipate much use of the clubhouse this coming summer,” Tai said. “The priority is to get the main pool up and running as soon as possible.”
The store was originally slated to open “mid-2011,” but that hoped-for opening has been pushed back due to an unexplained delay in applying for (and getting) the necessary permits and inspections. In May, a Trader Joe’s rep told ARLnow.com that the store is expected to open by the end of the year.
In addition to the building permit, Trader Joe’s has also received a zoning permit that will allow it to modify the building’s first floor facade (pictured) for use as a grocery store. The only other regulatory hurdles that remain, for now, concern the store’s fire prevention plan.
The new Trader Joe’s will be located at 1109 N. Highland Street, one block from the Clarendon Metro station.