‘Hula Girl’ to Open Shirlington Restaurant — The founder of the Hula Girl food truck, which specializes in Hawaiian style food, will be opening a new brick-and-mortar restaurant in the former Aladdin’s Eatery space in Shirlington. Mikala Brennan says Shirlington is “a very friendly place for families and dogs and everyone, and I always thought it’d be a great fit for what I do.” [Eater]
Bike to Work Day is Today — Hundreds of people stopped by the half-dozen Arlington pit stops for Bike to Work Day this morning. Among them were Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and a guy on an old-timey penny farthing.
Candidates Want Manager to Live in Arlington — The candidates for Arlington County Board said they would like Arlington’s next county manager to live in Arlington. Retiring county manager Barbara Donnellan lives in Clifton, Va. [InsideNova]
(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Next month, the Bungalow Sports Grill plans to close its Shirlington location. Yesterday, the doors of Bonsai Grill were locked and the lights were off in the restaurant, indicating the Japanese restaurant has likely closed.
If Bonsai doesn’t reopen and Bungalow indeed closes on June 10 — when manager Carla Marquina tells ARLnow.com it will — the two businesses will be added to the growing list of Shirlington establishments that have fallen by the wayside, and more could be on the way.
Since last October, counting Bonsai and the Bungalow, seven businesses in the Village at Shirlington have closed: Bloomers, Periwinkle, Aladdin’s Eatery, Cakelove and The Curious Grape are all gone. Other than the Curious Grape, whose space was quickly taken over by an Italian restaurant, all of the spaces remain vacant.
With the vacancies have come less foot traffic and rising frustrations, business owners say. Some are blaming Village of Shirlington owner Federal Realty Investment Trust for their woes, saying the company keeps raising rents even as tenants struggle in a local economy that seems to be slowing.
“We are struggling to survive,” one Shirlington restaurant owner told ARLnow.com, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of landlord repercussions. “The landlord should reduce the rent or at least keep it the same. They don’t care about the business.”
Marquina, the Bungalow manager, said landlord problems are the reason that the neighborhood sports bar, which has occupied its large space off S. Randolph Street for decades, is shutting down.
“The owners have had disputes with the landlord,” she said. “They haven’t been fixing things that they should fix, and it’s not worth it to us to fix it.”
Bungalow owner Win Froelich spoke to ARLnow.com this afternoon and said Marquina “was not involved with what was going on,” and added “Federal has been lovely to work with.”
“We had an extended negotiation over renewing the lease, and the economics of renewing for us just didn’t work,” Froelich said. “There’s nothing that the landlord is obligated to repair that the landlord hasn’t repaired. The total package that worked for us and the total package that worked for them didn’t match up in price… They’ve been a great landlord and we’re sorry that we’re going to be leaving the Shirlington Village.”
While some vacancies have filled — the Extra Virgin space that has sat empty for two years will soon be home to an art-themed restaurant called Palette 22 — many others remain, and even store owners who say they have “a great relationship” with FRIT say they wish the Bethesda-based real estate firm would step up its effort.
“Walking down this really small area and seeing a bunch of empty spaces is depressing,” another store owner, who claims to be “doing fine” with no complaints about his relationship with FRIT, said. “[FRIT] could be doing a lot more to bring in new business.”
When Periwinkle closed, its owner told ARLnow the rent was too high, a refrain repeated by at least five business owners we contacted. According to multiple business owners, FRIT raises rent every year — a not uncommon practice for commercial and residential real estate — despite what they see as declining foot traffic.
Shirlington isn’t the only place FRIT is losing tenants either; in Pentagon Row, Denim Bar closed in April and another retailer is expected to announce its closure soon. When asked for comment, FRIT spokeswoman Jill Powell said she “was unable to reach the appropriate people at corporate.”
Along with Palette 22, FRIT is renovating Shirlington’s AMC movie theater and Powell said they are expecting to make “another exciting new lease announcement” soon. Regardless of Shirlington’s future businesses, some of its current tenants remain deeply dissatisfied.
The first owner said she’s not sure how much longer she’ll be able to stay open. She said she doesn’t take home a salary and works 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We signed a contract and agreed to the rent. We can’t blame [FRIT],” she said. “But people aren’t going out to eat anymore. If the landlord understood about the economy, they’d stop raising the rent every year.”
The venture, called Palette 22, was announced by Village at Shirlington’s owner, Federal Realty Investment Trust. The new restaurant, at 4053 Campbell Ave., will be the first business in the corner storefront since Extra Virgin closed in March 2013.
In between, Italian restaurant La Tagliatella had signed a lease to move into the vacated shop, but the international chain’s planned U.S. expansion fizzled out, and it never moved in. It has since closed its location in Clarendon.
It’s unclear when Palette 22 will open, or who will be running it when it does. Multiple calls to Federal Realty today have not been returned.
“Palette 22 combines food, art and fun, focusing on modern street food small plate dishes with an international flavor,” The Village at Shirlington’s website says. “It will integrate local art and artists into the whole dining experience.”
Shirlington Movie Theater to Renovate — The AMC Lowes Shirlington 7 movie theater will be undergoing a “complete renovation” this year, starting as soon as July. The theater will be getting reclining leather seats, like the AMC theater in Courthouse, plus a new concession area with beer and wine and new bathrooms. [Washington Business Journal]
Downed Trees, Wires in Arlington — On Sunday morning a tree fell on Old Dominion Drive, bringing wires down with it, causing power outages and and closing the road for hours. On Sunday night, an accident on Wilson Blvd caused downed wires and the closure of Wilson from N. Illinois to N. Jefferson Street. [WTOP]
Candidates: Lack of Diversity at Top County Ranks — Candidates for Arlington County Board spoke about the lack of diversity among top county staff last week, at a forum sponsored by the African-American Leadership Council of Arlington. The County Board has little direct involvement in the hiring of county staff, save the Board’s hiring of and direction to the County Manager. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Fifteen restaurants and shops are participating in “Shirlie’s Chocolate Crawl,” with free mini-chocolate ganache and chocolate and cream cheese cupcakes at Best Buns and a free chocolate tasting at Cheesetique among the offerings.
The event itself is free for participants, who must register online. With the temperature expected to be in the mid-70s and no rain in sight, the event should draw dozens, if not hundreds, of chocolate lovers to the streets of Shirlington.
Here is a list of the participating businesses, according to the event website:
- Ah! Love Oil and Vinegar — An opportunity to meet the gourmet shop’s “Chocolate master” and pair spices and chocolates.
- Best Buns — Free mini cupcakes in chocolate ganache and chocolate cream cheese flavors, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. while supplies last.
- Blue Sea Seafood & Bar — Complimentary chocolate strawberries and $5 chocolate martinis. From 4:00-7:00 p.m., Blue Sea is serving $1 oysters.
- Bungalow Sports Grill — $4 “coco loco” shooters.
- Busboys & Poets — The café will be serving $9 chocolate martinis, $7 gluten-free hazelnut chocolate, $6 chocolate layer cake and $6 white chocolate banana bread pudding.
- Café Pizzaiolo –House-fried dough with chocolate drizzle, paired with two 4-ounce chocolate stouts ($10 sharing plate for two) and a chocolate stout float ($7 single serving).
- Cheesetique — Meet Rob Kingsbury of Kingsbury Chocolates and enjoy a free chocolate tasting from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Plus, happy hour from 4:00-7:00 p.m., including $2 off all beer/wine, $4 off all three-item or more cheeseboards.
- Copperwood Tavern — Serving “Shirlie’s Raspberry Chocolate Martini” made with Bailey’s, Stoli Vanilla, Kahlua and Chocolate Raspberry sweet moonshine.
- Dogma Bakery — 15 percent off all chocolate or expresso colored beds, and limited time only carob coated bully sticks.
- Hardwood Artisans — “Fresh baked Ghirardelli Brownies & other goods. Perhaps some wine, too.”
- Le Village Marche — 10-40 percent items in the store, with free chocolate giveaways. The signature item for the event, chocolate-dipped Oreos, will be served here.
- Luna Grill & Diner — Luna is offering an extensive $4 dessert menu, which can be paired with $4 chocolate martinis.
- PING by Charlie Chiang’s — Two chocolate cocktails will be on the menu, and local chocolatier Robert Rhoda of Tempered Chocolates will be on site as with samples of his debut line of Tastes of Asia Truffle Collection: Sesame Sake Truffle, White Chocolate Yuzu Matcha Truffle, and a Lapsang Souchong Chai Truffle.
- Samuel Beckett’s — Sample “Sam & Shirlie chocolate specialty drinks.” Customers get a chocolate dessert free with a dinner entrée and drink from the “Land and Sea” menu.
- THAI in Shirlington — $5 chocolate martinis.
Tomorrow, Campbell Avenue Shirlington will close down while dozens of breweries will open up tents and booths for the second annual Spring Beer Festival.
From 4:30 a.m. to about 8:00 p.m., Campbell Avenue will be shut down between S. Randolph and Quincy Streets, according to the Arlington County Police Department, to allow the more than 35 breweries in attendance to set up their tents.
The actual event begins at noon, when festival-goers can purchase a $30 booklet of 10 tickets for tastings from the breweries, which are largely from the mid-Atlantic region. The taps will turn off at 6:00 p.m.
In addition to vehicular traffic, parking will also be restricted in the area. Residents and visitors should look for “no parking” signs in the area before leaving their car parked overnight.
(Updated at 7:00 p.m.) The Curious Grape, the wine bar and shop in Shirlington, closed Saturday night, but a new restaurant will be taking its place shortly.
Coming in to the location on 2900 S. Quincy Street will be Osteria da Nino Cucina Italiana & Bar, an Italian restaurant that plans to start its soft opening on Thursday, its owners told ARLnow.com today.
The restaurant is being launched by a pair of couples and helmed by Italian chef Nino Pino, who has worked at a number of restaurants in Northern Virginia, including Palio Ristorante in Leesburg. Crews will be working around the clock until Thursday night, when Osteria da Nino hopes to get in a few practice runs before a planned Easter brunch on Sunday.
The turnaround might catch some by surprise — many restaurant openings take more than a year in Arlington. Even more so because The Curious Grape had been a Village at Shirlington staple for more than a decade.
“As most people know, running a restaurant is really a 24/7 commitment,” Curious Grape owner Suzanne McGrath said in an email. “Actively managing the restaurant has also diverted my efforts away from wine education, which is really my career focus. We have so appreciated all the support of our loyal customers and the wonderful people who enjoyed The Curious Grape.”
Osteria is looking for waitstaff, bussers and kitchen staff to join the team immediately, and is asking those interested to apply in person.
The event will take place outdoors, closing down a portion of Campbell Avenue. It will feature tastings from 35 area craft brewers, all of which will be from Virginia, Maryland or the District, including “several newly opened breweries.”
“New this year, all participating breweries will sport their own exhibition tents that showcase their company creations and colorful brand designs,” organizers said in a press release. “A variety of Shirlington Village restaurants and local eateries will feature their favorite springtime fare with music provided by a popular local DJ.”
The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 25. Much like Capital City’s Shirlington Oktoberfest event, the Spring Beer Festival will run from noon until 7:00 p.m., rain or shine, with taps closing at 6:00 p.m.
Tickets to the event will be available for purchase the day of the event, starting at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $30 and include a wristband, tasting glass and 10 drink tickets. Additional tasting tickets will be sold for $1 each, with a $5 minimum.
Non-drinkers and children can attend for free.
A man was transported to Virginia Hospital Center after crashing into the fence of the Shirlington dog park this morning.
According to multiple witnesses, the driver of the Dodge sedan revved his engine on S. Oxford Street and sped into the fence of the park, smashing through the chain links, metal poles and a tree. An Arlington County Fire Department source on the scene said he suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The driver was an employee of Arlington Collision Center, the body shop’s manager confirmed to ARLnow.com, and the Dodge was a car the shop was servicing.
Witnesses said the car barreled through the entrance to the park, but no dogs or owners were hurt in the crash. One witness said the car “wasn’t just parked and he revved his engine. He sped into the fence.”
Another witness said the driver never lost consciousness, but went into shock a couple of minutes after the crash occurred. ACFD’s rescue crew had to use its “jaws of life” device to tear the roof off the vehicle to remove the driver and place him on a stretcher.
The owner of Wag More Dogs daycare and boarding center right next to the park, Kim Houghton, told ARLnow.com employees of the collision center “race these cars” down Oxford Street “all the time.”
“From where the end of the street is to here, they just gun it with the wrecked cars they have,” Houghton said. S. Oxford Street is only a few hundred feet long. “I’ve told them they need to go slow because there are people letting their dogs out and it’s dangerous.”
The collision center’s manager declined further comment. No other injuries were reported.
The entrance to the dog park was severely damaged in the crash, and it’s unclear how functional the dog park will be until the county can repair it.
(Updated at 7:05 p.m.) Arlington County firefighters are on the scene of a two-alarm in South Arlington.
The fire was reported in the basement and first floor of condominium on the 2800 block of S. Wakefield Street. As of 7:00 p.m., firefighters on the scene reported that the fire had been extinguished, although they’re still looking for hot spots.
Two people were reportedly transported to the hospital. Several paramedic units have responded to the scene
A large plume of smoke from the fire could be seen from apartments in nearby Shirlington.
Another retailer has closed up shop in the Village at Shirlington.
Cakelove, the pastry specialty store at 4150 Campbell Avenue, has closed its doors after seven years in the shopping center. According to its website, Cakelove is closing “in in order to scale up production of our cake in a jar.”
Cakelove will still operate its location on U Street NW in D.C., but it has also closed its two Maryland locations.
Cakelove closed in December, making it the fourth retailer in the Village to close since October. First, lingerie store Bloomers closed, followed by health-conscious Lebanese restaurant Aladdin’s closed, and Periwinkle — sharing the same block as Cakelove and Bloomer’s, told ARLnow.com it wouldn’t renew its lease for 2015.
Hat tip to Stephanie
The decision came just hours after County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended closing Rosslyn’s Artisphere next June. The County Board ultimately decided that the two arts organizations’ situations were different enough to begin a new investment as it acknowledged the failure of a previous one.
“Signature really is an Arlington treasure,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “It reaches into our community and impacts our community in substantial ways.”
The theater will receive the loan at a low, 1 percent interest rate; it will no longer have to pay $411,000 in unpaid county taxes and fees; and $2.7 million of its $7.7 million debt to United Bank will be forgiven.
“Signature will pay back this loan in full and on time,” the theater’s managing director, Maggie Boland, told the Board. “We often joke that ‘hope is not a strategy’ at Signature. We don’t commit to a production plan that we can’t afford.”
Signature’s yearly debt payments will be reduced from more than $1 million to about $300,000, a difference that county Director of Management and Finance Michelle Cowen called “transformative.”
“It allows them to bulk up on their balance sheet, which is in poor shape,” Cowen said.
There were 11 speakers from the public, and eight of them spoke in support of the County Board’s action. Many of the supporters were either current or former members of the Signature in the Schools program, Shirlington business owners or those with active interests in the theater’s success.
“We believe Signature is vital to the overall success of Shirlington and the greater Arlington County community,” Ken Mosig, director of asset management for the Village at Shirlington’s parent company, Federal Realty Investment Trust, said. “Their programs attract people to the Village of Shirlington. Having Signature Theatre as an entertainment venue has helped bring 100,000 people to the area per year.”
Among the dissenters were Jim Hurysz and Tim Wise, two frequent County Board critics and opponents of government spending.
“Taxpayers who oppose public subsidies for the arts do not oppose the arts,” Wise said. “We just think the arts should pay for themselves.”
Board member Libby Garvey asked Boland why they couldn’t raise ticket prices to generate the additional revenue, needed, but Boland said that if the tickets were any more expensive, “that would be detrimental to our business.”
Although the County Board unanimously approved the loan — the money for which comes from FY 2014 closeout funds — several members indicated that this would be the last chance Signature has for county funding for some time.
“We don’t want to be here again,” Fisette said.
Photo via Signature Theatre website
The outside patio Copperwood Tavern, the farm-focused restaurant at 4021 Campbell Ave. in Shirlington, is going to have a campfire-esque feel this winter.
The restaurant, which opened last fall, has installed two propane-powered fire pits, which it will turn on every day starting at 5:00 p.m. The tables surrounding the fire pits will be first come, first served and there will be complimentary fleece blankets available, according to director of operations Jon Gardiner.
“Nobody else in the area is doing it,” Gardiner told ARLnow.com yesterday. “It looks nice and it distinguishes us even more from the surrounding businesses.”
In addition to the blankets, Copperwood is also rolling out a hot cocktail menu with outdoor patrons in mind. On the menu will be “Moonshine with coco syrup, coffee and crème; Spiced Rum with apple cider redux, lemon and nutmeg; Apple Brandy with port-vanilla syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange; and Bourbon with lemon, honey syrup, orange and clove.”
Copperwood is also offering s’mores kits for customers to roast over the flames, Gardiner said.
(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) Runners participating in 5K races next weekend will weave their way through opposite ends of the county.
The Global Strides 5K sends runners into the streets surrounding Tuckahoe Elementary School next Saturday, November 1. The 5K begins at 8:00 a.m. and the 1 mile fun run begins at 9:00 a.m.
Proceeds from the Global Strides 5K will benefit Arlington Academy of Hope School in Uganda. AAH is a nonprofit organization founded by an Arlington family, aimed at improving the lives of children in rural Uganda through education and health care.
Registration is $25 and can be done online or at the race. Those who register online by next week’s deadline will receive a race t-shirt.
Also on Nov. 1, the inaugural Paws2Care 5K Family Fun Run/Walk will be held in Bluemont Park, at 9:00 a.m. The event will include free activities and giveaways like yoga, massages, face painting, music, dog treats, raffles and prizes.
The next day, on November 2, things will get a little hairy in Shirlington for the Beckett’s Irish Pub Stache Dash. Proceeds from that race go to The Movember Foundation, an organization that raises funds for men’s health programs.
The 5K begins at Samuel Beckett’s Irish Pub (2800 S. Randolph Street) at 8:00 a.m. There will be a post-race party at Samuel Beckett’s, where attendees will be provided with a mustache if they don’t already have one.
Registration is $40 and can be done online. Participants will receive a tech tee and light snacks after the race.
Periwinkle, a women’s clothing boutique in the Village at Shirlington, plans to close at the end of the year.
The shop, at 4150 Campbell Ave., is owned by Elizabeth Mason, who said she has decided not to renew her lease after being in the location for five years.
“Business is down and rent continues to go up, but it was always going to be a 5-year deal, the option to renew was never going to work for me,” Mason told ARLnow.com via email. “The landlord and I did discuss if I wanted to renew, but they wanted too much rent and as I said, this year sales have been down so it worked out to just let the lease end.”
Periwinkle also has a location in Old Town Alexandria, which Mason said is closing in November when her lease is up there. She plans to focus on Periwinkle’s online shop, her affordable online shop The Pink Armoire, and finding a new retail space in the area.
Periwinkle is the third storefront to close in the Village at Shirlington in the last two weeks, following Bloomers and Aladdin’s Eatery. Mason said “business is down” while a Bloomers employee told ARLnow.com the store may have shut down due to “a lack of foot traffic.” A manager in a nearby store told ARLnow.com that both companies have no one to blame for their closing but themselves.
“Bloomers always struggled in its execution,” the manager, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “The average female doesn’t look for lingerie and bras on the sidewalk. Periwinkle has struggled in the past year, but I heard from customers it’s because of the shop’s pricing and sizing.”
The manager, who said she had worked in the Village at Shirlington for more than five years, said foot traffic in the shopping and restaurant district has rarely been better.
“Shirlington has great foot traffic,” the manager said. “People never used to come to the side of the village with Bloomer’s and Periwinkle because they didn’t know it was there. It’s just been getting better and better over the years.”
Photo via Periwinkle