Update at 12:00 a.m. — Following a half hour of public comments both for and against A-Town, and some tongue lashings from Board members, the Arlington County Board voted Tuesday night to renew A-Town’s live entertainment permit for three months, as recommended by county staff..
Earlier: A-Town Bar and Grill is facing scrutiny over noise and crime as it seeks to renew its live entertainment permit tonight (Tuesday).
The restaurant, located at 4100 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston, has been drawing the ire of neighbors who complain about loud, drunken patrons. It’s also the subject of an investigation by Arlington County police and the Virginia Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), over a violent episode at an employee-only party on Feb. 12.
“The Arlington Police Department considers A-Town to be the most troublesome establishment in Ballston,” according to a report by county staff.
The Arlington County Board will decide tonight whether to renew A-Town’s live entertainment and dancing permit. County staff is recommending that it be renewed for three months, with additional restrictions on the establishment’s outdoor cafe area.
“Late night disturbances make it an unpleasant community experience and thus directly impact the value of all our homes,” said Roger Lindberg, president of the condominium association for the nearby Berkeley building, in December. “Late night outdoor partying even on weekends, is not a reasonable expectation of any homeowner.”
To help combat that, A-Town has voluntarily agreed to close the patio at 9:00 p.m. on Sundays, 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Previously, the restaurant had only agreed to close the outdoor bar early — at 10:00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Those provisions will be overwritten by the new patio closing times.
County staff noted that noise complaints to the police department declined from 25 between August and November, 2013, to nine between January and April, 2014. However, staff opined that “the long unusually cold winter (when the outdoor patio was not used and patrons refrained from lingering outside the establishment) may be at least partially responsible for a decline in noise-related calls.”
Non-noise police calls to A-Town declined by one — from 25 to 24 — during the same period. The 24 non-noise calls from January to April included four calls for fights, one for an assault, and one for a stabbing (the Feb. 12 incident). Separately, there were eight arrests for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) from January to April where the suspect reported coming from A-Town, according to county staff.
County staff says that A-Town should remain on thin ice even should the live entertainment permit be renewed.
“Staff recommends a three month County Board review in order to monitor progress with these issues, and if there is no substantial reduction in the number of police calls or reduction in the evidence of over serving patrons, staff is not likely to recommend renewal of the use permit for live entertainment and dancing,” the staff report says.
A-Town is facing possible disciplinary action from Virginia ABC pending the outcome of the Feb. 12 malicious wounding case. After the incident an ABC agent “issued an administrative charge to A-Town stating that ‘[t]he Licensee has failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the licensed premises… from becoming a place where patrons of the establishment commit criminal violations… and such violations lead to arrests that are so frequent and serious as to be reasonably deemed… a continuing threat to public safety.’”
The disciplinary action could range from a fine to suspension or revocation of its beer, wine and liquor license.
Sen. Kaine Speaks to RAFOM — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) spoke to the Radnor – Fort Myer Heights Civic Association, near Rosslyn, on Monday. The meeting was RAFOM’s 15th anniversary. Kaine spoke about budget issues, defense issues, foreign policy issues, and broad issues of working together politically. He said that “we as a nation are in a period of significant soul searching.” [Ode Street Tribune]
Pedro and Vinny’s Makes ‘Best Burrito’ Bracket — Pedro and Vinny’s, the acclaimed burrito stand at 2599 Columbia Pike, has made the south region bracket in data website Five Thirty Eight’s methodical search for America’s Best Burrito. Five Thirty Eight founder Nate Silver “felt strongly” that Pedro and Vinny’s should be on the list since it had the second-highest VORB (Value Over Replacement Burrito) score in the south. [Five Thirty Eight]
Tysons Wants to Be Arlington — Fairfax County officials are trying to emulate Clarendon and Ballston in remaking Tysons Corner into a vibrant, walkable, transit-accessible community. The plan is getting a boost from the expected summer opening of the Silver Line, for which Metro has added 460 new employees in recent weeks. [Citylab, Reston Now]
Beyer Again Leads Fundraising Race — Former Va. lieutenant governor Don Beyer is still at the top of the fundraising heap in the race to succeed Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). Beyer, one of seven Democrats seeking the party’s nod on June 10, has raised $1.1 million so far, according to the latest Federal Election Commission finance report. Beyer’s campaign has $351,371 on hand for the remainder of the primary. The only other primary candidate to have more than $100,000 cash on hand is Mark Levine, who has loaned his campaign $400,000 and has $292,753 on hand. [Washington Post]
Hazing Film to Be Shown to Parents — The Arlington READY Coalition will be screening a film on college hazing for parents Monday night. The screening will take place from :007-8:30 at the Lyon Village Community Center (1920 N. Highland Street). It tells the story of a “preventable tragedy” caused by college hazing. [Arlington Public Schools]
Ballston Restaurant Challenge Dustup — The final round of competition in the Ballston Restaurant Challenge will be held this coming Wednesday, but one competitor who did not advance to the finals is upset that they won the public vote in the last round and yet was not chosen to advance. Another passed-over competitor is upset that established restaurateurs were allowed to compete in the contest. [Washington City Paper]
Disclosure: Ballston BID, organizer of the Restaurant Challenge, is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
McAuliffe: I-66 Widening Outside the Beltway — Speaking to the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said he will press for more lanes on I-66, but only outside the Beltway. The governor “noted ruefully” that the Arlington County Board strongly opposes the widening of I-66 through the county. [InsideNova]
Flags In at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — Soldiers from the Old Guard helped to place more than 220,000 American flags in front of gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day. The annual event has taken place every year for four decades. On Monday the cemetery will host the annual Memorial Day observance and wreath-laying ceremony. [WJLA]
Confusing Metro Maps — New strip maps that incorporate the Silver Line are too complicated, says a writer for the blog Greater Greater Washington. “They confuse many riders with labels that line up in a misleading way, and try to cram too much information on the maps,” the writer opines. [Greater Greater Washington]
Rosslyn, the Brooklyn of Washington – A 1889 real estate ad in the Washington Post describes Rosslyn as “the Brooklyn of Washington.” Editor’s note: This item previously appeared in a previous Morning Notes post. Its inclusion today was inadvertent. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
ACPD Participating in ‘Click It or Ticket’ — The Arlington County Police Department is participating in the annual Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign this month. The seat belt use rate in Virginia rose from 78.4 to 79.7 percent between 2012 and 2013. Still, 54 percent of all traffic fatalities in Virginia last year were drivers who weren’t wearing a seat belt. [Arlington County]
Bayou Bakery Opening New Location — Courthouse-based Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) is expanding to a second location. Chef David Guas’ second Bayou Bakery will be located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, near Eastern Market, in the former carriage house of the Old Naval Hospital. The historic building is now a civic center known as Hill Center. [Washington Post]
West Coast Tech Meetup Coming to Crystal City — The Bay Area-based group Women 2.0 will be holding its first East Coast tech meetup in Crystal City next month. The “City Meetup” will take place on June 26. In choosing Crystal City, the group cited the recent opening of the $50 million Crystal Tech Fund as evidence that the area has a “budding tech ecosystem.” [Women 2.0]
ACPD K9 to Get Protective Vest — Astor, an Arlington County police dog, will be receiving a new ballistic protective vest. K9 Astor is getting the vest thanks to a national fundraising campaign in honor of K9 Rocco, a Pittsburgh police dog who was killed in the line of duty in January. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
La Tagliatella Expansion Plans on Hold — La Tagliatella, the Europe-based Italian restaurant chain that opened in Clarendon only to receive a scathing review from Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema, is putting its U.S. expansion plans on hold. That includes the chain’s planned Shirlington location, in the former Extra Virgin space. The Clarendon location will remain open for the time being. [Washington Business Journal]
Remembering Arlington’s ‘Little Saigon’ — The timing of two separate events helped to transform the Clarendon neighborhood into a cluster of Vietnamese stores and restaurants known as “Little Saigon” in the 1970s and 80s. One event was the Vietnam War and the Communist takeover of Vietnam, which drove tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees to the United States. The other was the construction of Metro, which drove away mom and pop businesses from Clarendon and forced landlords to lower their rents and seek new tenants. [Falls Church News-Press]
Raises for Top County Officials — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday quietly approved raises between 3.2 and 3.5 percent for top officials like County Manager Barbara Donnellan and County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac. The raises are retroactive to Jan. 1. Rank-and-file county employees are receiving a 3.5 percent raise this year. [Washington Post]
Reporter Embeds with Clarendon Bar Crawl — Reporter Dan Zak embedded himself with revelers participating in the Cinco de MEGA-Crawl over the weekend. He found plenty of loud, opinionated young people — one of whom compared Clarendon to Brooklyn — but he apparently did not find any public urination, vomiting or destruction of property worth noting. [Washington Post]
Parents Rip Board on Autism Program Cut — Parents of children with autism swarmed the Arlington School Board’s budget meeting, angry with a proposed $270,000 cut to a program that provides assistants for autistic students and their teachers. [InsideNova, Fox 5]
Bracket Room Facing Backlash? — A backlash seems to be forming against so-called “female-friendly” restaurants. Some women say the designation is insulting. One such restaurant mentioned in an article about the backlash: Clarendon’s the Bracket Room, which has billed itself as a female-friendly sports bar. [The Week]
Preservation Arlington Mourns 2013 Losses — The group Preservation Arlington is lamenting the loss of 179 single-family homes lost in Arlington in 2013. The group is also marking the loss or impending loss of the Blue Goose building; part of the Arlington House Woods and Arlington National Cemetery’s Seneca sandstone perimeter wall; and a number of garden apartment buildings. [Preservation Arlington]
Ft. Myer Road Closed – Cyclists who bike on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall may be impacted by a road closure on the base. McNair Road is closed from Lee Avenue to Marshall Drive due to “road damage.” The closure is expected to be in place until Monday. [Facebook]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
Don’t let the title mislead you. This is not a column to teach you how to win a drinking contest. Rather, I thought I would offer a few tips on how to stock your bar at home for entertaining. Hopefully, it will complement your amazing new cooking skills.
First off, you don’t need a bar. I mean, how many people actually have a bar in their house? You really need a cabinet, a fridge and some ice. The key is having the right stuff. I’ll break it down into categories — beer, wine and spirits. And since it seems we always know someone who is pregnant, nursing or on the wagon for one reason or another there is a fourth category — other.
A friend once apologized to me when I was at his house that he didn’t have any beer to offer. He was ashamed and said a man should always have beer on hand to offer another man. It was endearing, if perhaps dated, and I was just as happy with a glass of wine.
That said, beer is popular, cheap and easy to store. It’s the foundation for a good home bar. I love beer, and I really love craft beers. I have a vintage kegerator, and it always has something interesting tapped that walks the edge between mainstream crafty and esoteric (think Lagunitas IPA or a Bell’s Seasonal), but I like to make my guests happy, so I always have crowd pleasers on hand. Usually it’s Miller Lite or something similar. In the summer, Corona.
I find guests gravitate towards whatever the kegerator is pouring even if they aren’t into the fancy stuff. Then, if they’re not wild about it, they can find their comfort beer. Nobody likes a beer snob, and I want my guests to be happy, not suffer through a hop-bomb that pleases only me. Pick two beers and always keep plenty around.
What I Love Now: Founder’s All Day IPA leads the pack of “sessionable IPAs.” These beers have the best part of what makes IPAs great–bold, bright hops, intense aromas and flavors, but the alcohol is dialed down to less than 5%, so you can have a few without keeling over, and your guests who might not be accustomed to the style can enjoy them as well.
Every house should have a decent red and white around. Plenty of each. You never know when you’ll need it. The options are dizzying, so stick with what you like first off and think about what you usually cook. That way, you’re paired up all the time. Having multiple varietals on hand is ridiculous unless you are really into wine yourself. Most people will be happy drinking whatever you have as long as it tastes good, and if they aren’t, then they are wine snobs and they shouldn’t be at your house.
I find oaky Chardonnays and big Cabs to be isolating. A lot of people like them, and would drink them happily all night, but they are hard matches for food, and if you like lighter wines, you’re stuck. I prefer crisper whites and balanced reds. If the flavors are good, they’ll line up with almost anything you cook, and your hard core Chard/Cab friends might be pleasantly surprised. I love Sauvignon Blancs or dry Rieslings and Rhone Reds or earthy Pinot Noirs (especially from the Willamette Valley in Oregon). These wines have layers to them that make them fun to enjoy with or without food. And you can find good ones without breaking your bank.
Le Sandwich, the gourmet sandwich shop that opened March 23 at 3033 Wilson Blvd, may already be closed.
The shop has been locked all week, with chairs up on tables and the “Le Sandwich” logo scrubbed from the building’s signage. However, the other parts of the Le Sandwich sign, with the phone number and social media logos, remain. Multiple attempts to reach Le Sandwich’s owner, Mehdi Ben, have not been successful.
Ben told ARLnow.com when the restaurant opened that he planned to stay open late to serve Clarendon’s bar-going crowd, but in the month since, he changed the hours on the store’s sign to show it closing after dinner. Another restaurant owner in Clarendon told ARLnow.com that the restaurant is closed for renovations, but the shop has been empty during the day on several different occasions this week.
The shop’s location at the corner appears to be bad luck for restaurateurs: Cafe Wilson closed in 2011, Paciugo Gelato opened, rebranded as Street Corner Cafe in 2012, and then closed earlier this year.
Lower prices, more burgers, a new delivery service and parking validation. Those are among a series of recent changes made by RedRocks, the pizza-centric restaurant on Columbia Pike, to help boost business.
The restaurant, located in the Penrose Square shopping center at 2501 Columbia Pike, is “relaunching” after a year in business due to lower-than-expected sales, according to co-owner Doug Baj.
“It’s been a little bit challenging, the whole Columbia Pike corridor,” Baj said. “I’m probably not the only business owner to voice that.”
Before its February 2013 opening, RedRocks’ owners thought the Pike would be similar to Columbia Heights in D.C., their first location, which had been a smash hit thanks to strong neighborhood support. They have since come to a realization that the Pike is a significantly different market.
“We saw a lot of similarities,” Baj said, citing young families he’s talked to who have moved from Columbia Heights to the Pike. “What’s lagging a bit is a bit of the sense of community in the Penrose neighborhood so far. It’s getting there, but you still see a lot of people on weekends going up to Clarendon, going in to the city, instead of staying here. We’re trying to make it more enticing for people to stay home and not go to the District” or the R-B corridor.
Among the enticements being rolled out are a revamped menu, which subtracted small plates and added burgers and other pub fare “that we wouldn’t [serve] at our other location.” Two weeks ago RedRocks added a delivery service that serves a two-mile radius around the restaurant. And RedRocks will have an expanded outdoor seating area when the weather finally warms up.
Many of the changes, however, are value-oriented. There are nightly food specials; a happy hour with $3 beers and half-priced appetizers; a $13.99 all-you-can-eat weekend brunch with 99-cent mimosa and bloody mary refills; a kids-eat-free deal on Sundays; and, starting next week, a pizza, pasta and salad lunch buffet that will run Tuesday through Friday.
“People tend to like value on the Pike, that’s what we’re finding overall,” Baj said.
RedRocks has given up on trying to convince Arlington County to offer free parking after 6:00 p.m. in the Penrose Square garage — instead it is now offering free parking validation.
The relaunch started rolling out in February, and Baj said the results so far are promising. “It’s good, very good, the neighborhood is responding,” he said.
In a phone interview with ARLnow.com, Baj was reluctant to wade into the “hot-button” issue of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, but he did point out that his fourth RedRocks location, along D.C.’s soon-to-open streetcar line on H Street NE, is doing well. The area is getting a new Whole Foods – the streetcar helped to bring that and other “positive development” to the corridor, he said.
“I’d love to see that kind of excitement on Columbia Pike,” said Baj. It could potentially help other restaurant owners on the Pike, who are also dealing with lackluster sales.
“It’s been a struggle for many of them,” he said. “There are definitely some growing pains with the neighborhood, but I don’t think anybody’s going to bail on it. They’re going to stick it out, especially with new housing coming in.”
ARLnow.com first reported in Februrary that numerous businesses in the Clarendon area — mostly bars and restaurants — saw their real estate assessments skyrocket this year, in one case nearly 200 percent. A week later, the county announced that it would review “all commercial real property assessments with a 50 percent or greater increase from calendar year 2013.”
That review is continuing, with Donnellan telling the Board that she had “no projection as to when it would be completed.” In an earlier interview with ARLnow.com, Rick Melman, Arlington’s director of real estate assessment, said he expected the review to wrap up by the end of May.
In all, 64 commercial properties had 50 percent or higher assessment increases and are being reviewed, Melman said. Responding to a request from ARLnow.com, the county released a list of those properties — albeit in the form of Real Property Codes, not addresses. Those codes can be searched here.
For some of the properties on the list, the big jump in assessments can be explained by building projects or development plans that drove up the value. Others remain unexplained — for instance, Rien Tong Restaurant’s nearly 200 percent increase, when neighboring restaurant Kabob Bazaar only increased 32 percent. Or Revolution Cycles’ 64 percent increase, when the Whole Foods across the street saw no increase.
Outside of Clarendon, some properties on the list stood out.
The Dolley Madison Towers apartment complex at 2300 24th Road S. saw its assessment spike from $44 million to $103 million between 2013 and 2014. The aging retail strip at 927 S. Walter Reed Drive rose in value from $1.3 million to $2.2 million. And the assessment for Ballston Animal Hospital at 5232 Wilson Blvd rose from $543,000 to $1 million.
“The assessment office is right now in the process of looking through these 64 properties,” said Melman. “It’s quite a lot to look at. At this early stage it looks that about half of them are explained by new construction, site plans, things like that. Examiners are re-examining the other half. There’s no real trend, they’re all over the county.”
Melman said the real estate assessment office, on balance, had a “pretty low appeal rate” this year. Still, he encouraged anyone who feels their property’s assessment was too high to contact the office and/or file an appeal. Today (Tuesday) is the final day to appeal to Arlington’s Board of Equalization.
“There have been some human errors on our part… and that’s what the appeals process is for,” Melman said. “We’d be glad to talk to any property owner if they have questions or concerns. Our goal is to be fair and equitable to citizen.”
The County Board on Saturday voted to release Pan American Bakery and Cafe from its seven-year lease at Arlington Mill. Rent on the 1,875 square foot retail location, on the ground floor of the community center, was to start at $56,250.00 per year and rise to $67,165.44 at the end of the seven year term.
The eatery was supposed to serve healthy fare, along with coffee, gelato and salteñas.
The owners of the restaurant, which has existing locations at 4113 Columbia Pike and at 650 S. Pickett Street in Alexandria, asked the county to terminate the lease “because of personal and family health problems.” One owner’s mother, who lives in Bolivia, was said to be seriously ill, and the other owner has been battling two serious illnesses, according to the staff report.
County staff “continues to pursue a replacement tenant,” but the county is not projecting any lease revenue in its Fiscal Year 2015 budget.
New Restaurants Coming to Rosslyn – At least three new restaurant concepts are reportedly coming to Rosslyn. The restaurants will be opening on the ground floor of the Sedona/Slate apartment building and office buildings at 1100 and 1501 Wilson Blvd, according to speakers at a Bisnow conference in Rosslyn yesterday morning. Little is known about the restaurants — so far, property owners aren’t naming names — but one rumor relayed to ARLnow.com is that one of the restaurants will feature a Top Chef contestant as its head chef. [Bisnow]
Vihstadt Swearing-In Set for Friday — The swearing-in of new Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. The ceremony will be aired live on Arlington TV (Comcast 25 / Verizon 40). [Arlington County]
Other Localities Are Also Having Transit Debates — Arlington County isn’t the only community having a debate over a large transit project, like the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line. Streetcar critics are also active in Cincinnati, where a 3.6 mile, $133 million streetcar line is under construction. In Nashville, meanwhile, opposition to a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line has spilled over to the state Senate. [Greater Greater Washington]
Yorktown Boys Soccer Moves Up in Rankings — The boys soccer team at Yorktown High School is now ranked No. 6 in the region after opening the season with a 5-1 record. [Washington Post]
Rosslyn McDonald’s Demolition Scheduled — The demolition of the now-closed McDonald’s restaurant near the Rosslyn Metro station is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 21. Demolition work is expected to take 7-10 days. [Rosslyn BID]
Flickr pool photo by Nathan Jones
Restaurateurs Eye Rosslyn — Rosslyn has been long neglected in the restaurant and bar department, primarily because it has been viewed as a place where only fast casual lunch places can be successful. That may be changing thanks to Heavy Seas Alehouse, which has been doing boffo beer and dinner business since it opened last month. [Washington City Paper]
Streetcar Battles Continue — Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey continued her one-woman campaign against the Columbia Pike streetcar from the County Board dais last week. Garvey used her time in the County Board meeting to do a slideshow of streetcar systems that have well-exceeded their budget or which have performed poorly in wintery weather. Meanwhile, the streetcar remains the central issue in April’s County Board special election. [InsideNoVa, Greater Greater Washington]
Tribute to Terry Holzheimer — Acting Director of Arlington Economic Development Cindy Richmond has penned a tribute to her former boss, Terry Holzheimer, who died of a sudden heart attack on March 1. [Arlington Economic Development]
Grand Opening for Arlington Mill Residences — A grand opening ceremony will be held tonight from 4:00-6:00 p.m. for the Arlington Mill Residences, at 901 S. Dinwiddie Street. The four story, 122-unit apartment complex, located next to the new Arlington Mill Community Center, is 100 percent committed affordable. There was a long waiting list for those hoping to live in one of the units.
Arlington Woman on Jeopardy Tonight – Arlington resident Nancy Akerman, who works as a science policy fellow, will compete on Jeopardy tonight. The game show airs at 7:30 p.m. on WJLA (ABC 7).
The nominations for the annual RAMMY restaurant awards have been announced and five Arlington eateries are among the nominees.
The awards gala, which recognizes excellence among Washington area restaurants, owners and employees, will be held on June 22. The following Arlington restaurants are among the nominees.
- Rising Culinary Star of the Year: Tim Ma, Water & Wall
- Wine Program of the Year: The Curious Grape
- Beer Program of the Year: Lyon Hall
- Favorite Fast Bites: Bayou Bakery and Buzz Bakery
All but one of the local nominees has opened within the past four years. (Curious Grape was originally founded in 2002.)