Walk into The Forest Inn in Westover on a Friday evening, and chances are you’ll hear southern rock emanating from the jukebox in the corner, two friendly bartenders chit-chatting with the patrons, and more than a dozen customers gabbing like old friends.
In fact, all of The Forest Inn customers are old friends. Asked how many people in the bar were there every week, Manager Ken Choudhary looked around and simply said, “everyone.”
The Forest Inn opened as The Black Forest Inn in the mid-1970s in what is now the Post Office building in Westover, and moved to its current location — sandwiched between Ayers Variety & Hardware and Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream — 31 years ago.
Since then, not much has changed. The food and drinks are as standard as pub food gets, few items on the menu are pricier than $10 and there is just one tap: Budweiser. There used to be a lot more bars like this in Arlington, but as urbanization and the explosive growth of young, affluent newcomers to the area has taken hold, The Forest Inn is one of the last vestiges of a bygone era: a true dive bar.
“There are very few places you can go by yourself and you don’t feel a little weird,” said Gary Harvey, an Arlington native — like many of his fellow regulars — who has been coming to The Forest Inn just about every Friday night for 12 years. “It’s a throwback to Arlington’s roots. There are really not many bars around here like this anymore.”
Even the customer base at The Forest Inn, while largely consistent, has changed over the years. Choudhary and his partners changed the restaurants hours from 7:00 a.m. to midnight to 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. a couple of years ago, which has brought in some of the younger crowd, many of whom stumble in after the Westover Beer Garden a few doors down closes.
The old crowd is also a fan of the change, and they’ve stayed just as loyal. Choudhary said the bar is like its own little neighborhood.
“They’ve come in here for so many years,” he said. “My whole clientele is people who do construction jobs, painters, landscapers, but we get engineers and lawyers, too. It’s a good mixture.”
Harvey said he’s had HVAC and landscaping work done on his house by friends he met at The Forest Inn. However, his favorite times at what he simply calls “The Forest” are chatting with his elders.
“There are some old-time, native Arlingtonians in their 70s who are here every week,”
he said. “To hear them tell stories about the area when they were growing up, it’s really special.”
Dave Batten is a chef at LA Bar & Grill on Columbia Pike, another of the dying breed of dive bar, but the Westover native still finds himself at The Forest Inn on Saturdays and Sundays, and “maybe a night or two during the week.” And he has plenty of stories.
“I was delivering papers in the 1970s when it was called The Black Forest Inn and owned by this German guy named Rolph,” he said. “He used to feed me breakfast in the morning and I would go out and buy groceries for the restaurant.”
Since Batten has grown up, he said he’s met two ex-girlfriends at his neighborhood bar. “I didn’t meet my current girlfriend there, that’s probably for the best.”
As the Nationals game gets underway, the chatter and music don’t die down even a little, but the patrons’ eyes drift upwards toward the screen, just as they would in the living room of any one of their homes. In fact,
“The regulars here are like family,” Batten said.
A noted streetcar critic will address a meeting of the Northern Virginia Tea Party on Tuesday.
The event is scheduled from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Westover Branch Library (1644 N. McKinley Road). Randal O’Toole, a transportation expert at the libertarian CATO Institute, will “speak about current transportation policy issues, including the Columbia Pike streetcar.”
O’Toole wrote the book The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths: How Smart Growth Will Harm American Cities in 2001, and published a policy analysis entitled “The Great Streetcar Conspiracy” last year. The analysis says municipal streetcar systems are being encouraged by the federal government and by “engineering firms that stand to earn millions of dollars planning, designing, and building streetcar lines.”
“Streetcars are the latest urban planning fad, stimulated partly by the Obama administration’s preference for funding transportation projects that promote ‘livability’ (meaning living without automobiles) rather than mobility or cost-effective transportation,” O’Toole wrote.
“Based on 19th-century technology, the streetcar has no place in American cities today except when it functions as part of a completely self-supporting tourist line. Instead of subsidizing streetcars, cities should concentrate on basic — and modern — services such as fixing streets, coordinating traffic signals, and improving roadway safety.”
(Supporters argue that a modern streetcar system is a clean and efficient transportation solution that reduces traffic congestion and promotes economic development.)
Tuesday’s event is free and open to the public. “Extensive free parking in the evening is available at the rear of the adjacent elementary school,” according to the event invitation.
Photo via CATO Institute
Pentagon City Mall Renovations — Coming on the heels of the news that Ballston Common Mall will be getting a revamp, the owners of Fashion Centre at Pentagon City announced plans to renovate that mall as well. Although no formal plan has been revealed, changes could include adding office space or apartments. Renovations for the 24-year-old mall would be paid for out of a pot of about $1 billion that Simon Property Group Inc. has set aside for updating its properties. [Washington Business Journal]
Fire Hydrant Color Meaning — Arlington doesn’t have one standard color for fire hydrants; instead, the county adopted a coloring system in the 1990s indicating the flow of water at each particular hydrant. Blue hydrants have water flow above 1,500 gallons per minute (gpm), green is between 1,000 and 1,500 gpm, orange is 500 to 1,000 gpm and red is below 500 gpm. The color scheme allows firefighters to quickly determine if one hydrant will be enough to fight a fire, or if a water relay system is necessary. [Washington Post]
More Signs Requested for Westover Market — Organizers of the Westover Market believe a drop in attendance occurred for the new winter market because of the county’s sign restrictions. There has been a drop of up to 90 percent, according to organizers, and they believe the attendance would be greater if they were allowed to post more signs advertising the market. The County Board asked County Manager Barbara Donnellan to investigate the issue. [Sun Gazette]
Library Hosts Croatian Ambassador — The Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) will host a celebration of Croatia tonight featuring music, food, cultural displays and a visit from Croatian Ambassador Joško Paro. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. [Arlington Public Library]
Hybrid Tax Petition — Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Scott Surovell launched a petition to get Gov. Bob McDonnell to eliminate the so-called hybrid tax in the newly passed transportation bill. Under the bill, drivers of hybrid vehicles would have to pay a $100 fee each year. McDonnell said he’d review that portion of the bill. [NBC 4]
Thieves Steal Wheels from Hotel — Two suspects were seen stealing tires and rims from two vehicles parked at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott (1700 Jefferson Davis Highway) early Thursday morning. A security guard tried to intervene but the suspects fled. Arlington, particularly south Arlington, has seen an apparent uptick in wheel thefts recently. [NBC Washington]
Santa Coming to Clarendon Saturday — Santa Claus will be coming to Clarendon on Saturday evening. The Jolly Old Elf will arrive at Market Common Clarendon (2700 Clarendon Blvd) on a “big red sleigh,” otherwise known as an Arlington County fire truck, at 4:00 p.m. He will be on hand for photos until 7:00 p.m. There will also be strolling carolers and other family-friendly entertainment. It’s the shopping center’s 12th annual “Winter Wonderland” event. [Market Common Clarendon]
Last Westover Farmers Market of 2012 — The new Westover Farmers Market will hold its last market of the year from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. The market, located at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. McKinley Road, will go on a holiday hiatus before returning on Jan. 13, 2013. The market’s winter hours run through April. [Westover Farmers Market]
Brink Commends Funding for Blind Students — Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington) is praising Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) for his proposal to add $4.9 million in funding for blind and visually impaired students to the upcoming Virginia budget. The funds will help localities cover the cost of teachers, teacher’s aides and staff for blind and visually impaired students. [Alexandria News]
Bike Advocates Call For Plowed Trails — Bicyclists are calling on Arlington County to start plowing snow from bike and pedestrian trails. “By failing to plow the trails, [Arlington's Department of Environmental Services] puts more people onto the streets in cars,” said one bicycle advocate during yesterday’s county-organized online snow chat. “Is that really what you want, during a snow event?” [Along the Pike]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
Human Rights Award Winners Announced — The Arlington Human Rights Commission has announced the winners for the 2012 James B. Hunter Human Rights Award. Two community groups — Wakefield High School’s Project Upstanders and Washington-Lee High School’s Best Buddies Club — received the honor, along with two individuals — recent Wakefield graduate Sara Heisey and Santa Fe Cafe owner John “Kip” Laramie. Awards will be presented at a ceremony on December 13. [Arlington County]
Red Top Toys for Tots Drive — From now through Monday, December 17, all Red Top Cabs will serve as Toys for Tots collection sites. Customers can bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate when riding in one of the cabs. Red Top will deliver the toys to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation for distribution to local needy children. Arlington Yellow Cab is also participating in the program.
Board Approves Year-Round Westover Farmers’ Market — At its meeting yesterday (November 27), the County Board unanimously approved a new schedule and location for the Westover Farmers’ Market. The existing summer market will now run from May through November and a winter market will run from December through April, essentially making it a year-round market. The winter market will be smaller than the summer version. As far as location, the market will now be located mostly on the Reed School property.
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider an expansion of amplified music at the Westover Market beer garden (5863 Washington Blvd).
In June, the beer garden was granted a permit to allow amplified outdoor music on Saturday nights. In response to the market’s request to expand amplified music to three nights per week, county staff is recommending the County Board meet the business half way and grant a permit to allow amplified music two nights per week — on Fridays and Saturdays.
Only one neighbor has complained to the county about the amplified music, according to the staff report.
“No formal complaints have been made to the Zoning or Code Enforcement Offices since amplified entertainment was started one night per week in June 2012,” staff noted. “Staff has received informal complaints and concerns by one neighborhood resident. However, the applicant has been found upon investigation by staff to be compliant with the Noise Ordinance, and compliant with all conditions of approval.”
Westover Market also requested permission to operate the beer garden year-round, but staff concluded that such a move would require a change in the Zoning Ordinance. The ordinance requires all outdoor cafes in the county to be “seasonal” in nature — typically open from April to November and closed in the winter.
The Board is expected to consider the amplified music request at its meeting this coming Saturday, Nov. 17.
All of the products in the store are handmade by people in lesser developed countries including Kenya, Guatemala, South Africa, Nepal and Madagascar. Rather than resorting to working in a sweat shop, the laborers receive a fair wage for their products and are involved with a system that helps the goods get to market in more developed nations. Many of the items are created from recycled goods and promote sustainability.
“Fair trade is huge in Europe, it’s quite big on the West Coast and I think it’s going to continue to grow here,” said owner Lisa Ostroff. “When people come in they’ll see this is not a charity. They’re all beautiful things and they secondarily help someone struggling in some of these countries.”
Ostroff has lived in Arlington for nearly 30 years and wanted to open a store that tapped into her time spent studying international relations and non-profit management.
“It sort of brings all my skills together,” said Ostroff. “I’m not able to go there and be in the Peace Corps at this time in my life, but this was a good way to help people without actually being over there.”
Fair trade coffee will be sold by the bag, and customers can sample freshly brewed java. Ostroff hopes customers will visit the store for more than picking up a birthday or holiday gift. She pointed out that some smaller items could be hostess or teacher gifts, and many of the items can simply be a personal treat.
“Think of it as a little something for yourself, because it’s not expensive,” she said.
For now, Ostroff is working to stock the last few shelves and tie up loose ends. Trade Roots will officially open once its occupancy certificate is approved, which Ostroff hopes is in the next two weeks.
“I just think this is great for Arlington. Arlington is a liberal community,” Ostroff said. “I’m actually surprised that there isn’t something like this already. I’m hoping that this really grows.”
A little before 10:00 a.m., three cars became involved in an accident near N. Longfellow Street. Police and fire fighters blocked off Washington Blvd for several blocks while crews extricated a woman trapped inside her vehicle. She was transported to Fairfax Inova Hospital, and a person from another car was transported to Virginia Hospital Center with minor injuries.
Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl wasn’t able to give an update on the extricated woman’s condition. He did say regardless condition, it’s standard procedure to send a victim to a trauma center such as Fairfax if emergency crews had to remove the person from a vehicle.
The scene drew crowds and neighbors explained to each other what they had seen.
“A car came flying over the hill,” said a neighbor who witnessed the accident and wishes to remain anonymous. “People are going to keep doing that until somebody gets killed.”
A firefighter on the scene, however, said medics aren’t sure if the driver who was extricated may have experienced a medical emergency before becoming involved in the accident.
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Police are investigating an unusual accident near Westover involving a bicyclist.
Initial reports said the cyclist was unconscious when police arrived, after being struck by a vehicle that left the scene. However, a police spokesman now says there might not have been a vehicle involved at all.
Police believe the cyclist may have suffered some sort of medical emergency and then fell onto the road, unconscious. However, the investigation is still ongoing and details are still coming in.
A tipster said the cyclist was transported to Fairfax Inova Hospital.
Earlier, Patrick Henry Drive was closed between 9th Road North and 11th Street North, and 10th Street North was blocked off where the accident occurred. All roads have been reopened.
There’s no word so far on the cyclist’s condition or the nature of the possible medical emergency.
An oak tree that has, for centuries, towered over what is now the Westover neighborhood is being cut down today.
The derecho on June 29 irreparably damaged the historic Post Oak, a majestic 93-foot tall tree that likely dates back to the mid-to-late 1700s. The county decided that the tree, believed to be the oldest in Arlington, had to be removed for the safety of residents.
“What’s remaining is really only about a third of the tree. It had several large trunks coming out of the main trunk, and two of those were broken off,” said Jamie Bartalon with the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation. “As a result, the remaining trunk has quite a bit of decay and the tree is no longer balanced. It could potentially fall.”
Contractors are spending the day cutting down the tree — on the 5800 block of 11th Street N. — in sections. Parts of it will be salvaged instead of being used for mulch. The county is still trying to figure out exactly what to do with the saved portions.
Although the tree’s exact age is unclear, it’s believed to have been around since the 1700s. That would make it not only the oldest tree in Arlington, but also perhaps one of the oldest in the state. Rings will be counted from salvaged sections of the 18-inch circumference trunk to determine exactly how old the tree was.
The Post Oak was designated as a protected “Specimen Tree” by the County Board in 2008.
Bartalon said part of what made it noteworthy besides the age was its height, considering those types of trees are slow growing and typically don’t exceed 50 feet.
The tree should be removed down to the stump by this evening.
Arax Cafe (5852 Washington Blvd) in the Westover neighborhood has closed its doors for good.
A sign in the window of the now-empty coffee shop reads: “To our extended family… we are sorry to announce we are closing at the end of the month. Thank you for 11 fabulous years!”
Arax Cafe enjoyed generally positive reviews on Yelp, where patrons raved about the shop’s Armenian specialties, including pastries and meat pies.
Hat tip to Megan F.
For the first time in nearly two years, amplified music has returned to the beer garden at Westover Market (5863 Washington Blvd).
Market manager Devin Hicks says Arlington County, at long last, granted an amplified music permit to the beer garden on Saturday, June 16. This past Saturday, June 23, about 90 people came out to see the Front Porch Rockers play the first full amplified set at the beer garden since 2010.
It has been an arduous journey for music at the beer garden, according to Hicks. The Market has “bent over backwards” to fulfill the county’s requirements for a live music permit — including building a restaurant within the Market, since only restaurants are allowed to have live music permits in Arlington. The beer garden was allowed to have non-amplified music this past April and May, but Hicks said it doesn’t compare to the full experience of amplified music.
“It was great having the music back, but you couldn’t really hear it,” he said.
Hicks said that so far, he hasn’t received any complaints about the music from neighbors. Per the terms of its music permit, the Market has hired an acoustic engineer to try to ensure that excessive noise from the concerts doesn’t disturb local residents. One of the methods being used to keep noise pollution to a minimum is a “sound curtain” around parts of the beer garden.
“It’s working out well,” Hicks said of the noise-muffling curtain.
Amplified music will continue at the beer garden every Saturday through the end of October. This coming Saturday, local soul and rock group lower case letters will perform. Non-amplified music will still be performed at the beer garden throughout the summer and into fall, on Wednesdays and Fridays.
“We have a lot of great bands on the agenda, so it’s going to be a great summer for everybody,” Hicks said. A full music lineup is available on the Market’s website.
When the Westover Market’s live music permit comes up for renewal in January, Hicks says he plans to ask the Arlington County Board for permission to host amplified music on more than just one day per week.
In addition to music at the beer garden, Hicks said he’s also excited about a new addition to the Market’s restaurant: Sunday brunch. From 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sundays, the restaurant is now serving brunch, using meats from the Market’s butcher shop. Hicks said the decision to add brunch service was made thanks to the new Westover Farmers Market, which has brought large crowds to Westover on Sundays.
Despite initial fears that it might hurt businesses in the area due to a scarcity of parking and competition from farmers market merchants, Hicks said the farmers market has been a net positive.
“I’ve never seen so many people on a Sunday morning around Westover,” said Hicks.
Building Boom in D.C., Arlington — In 2011, an otherwise slow year for residential construction, Arlington and the District of Columbia captured a disproportionately large portion of local building projects. According to the Washington Post: “… while the District and Arlington County have historically accounted for only about 8 percent of the region’s residential building permits over the past two decades, these two jurisdictions accounted for 36 percent of the building activity in 2011.” [Washington Post]
Moran Horse Slaughter Ban Passes Committee — A bill championed by Rep. Jim Moran (D), which would effectively ban the slaughter of horses for food, has passed the House Appropriations Committee. Moran tried to insert language banning horse slaughter in an agriculture bill last year, but the provision was ultimately removed. [Office of Rep. Jim Moran]
Mid-Week Movie at Westover Library — Looking for a way to beat the heat today? The Westover branch library (1644 N. McKinley Road) will be screening the film Pride as part of its summer mid-week movie series. The series features movies with “sporting themes,” in honor of the Summer Olympics. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
May Day — It’s the first of May and, after a relatively cool April, the weather is finally expected to warm up today. [Capital Weather Gang]
Worries Over Westover Farmers Market Parking — As part of a compromise between the organizers of the new Westover Farmers Market and the Arlington County Board, the market will close at noon (instead of 1:00 p.m., as originally proposed) and will provide attendants to direct patrons to designated parking areas. Still, some businesses and residents are worried that market-goers may cause parking woes in the neighborhood. [Arlington Mercury]
Defense Contractor Relocating to Arlington — DRS Technologies, a military contractor, is relocating its corporate headquarters to Crystal City from New Jersey. The move is expected to bring at least 75 new jobs to Arlington, on top of the 26 employees who already work in an existing DRS office in Crystal City. Gov. Bob McDonnell reportedly initiated talks with DRS about moving to Virginia while attending an air show in England. [Washington Business Journal]
Photos: Children Reading to Dogs — The library has posted some photos from a recent Paws-to-Read session at Westover Branch Library. The Paws-to-Read program, which is now in four Arlington libraries, gives children an opportunity to practice reading aloud to a cuddly, non-judgmental audience. [Arlington Public Library]
Westover Farmers Market Approved — The County Board on Saturday unanimously approved a use permit for the proposed Westover Farmers Market. The market will operate on Sundays starting on May 6. [Arlington County]
Complaints About Parking Meters at New Park — The Arlington Soccer Association has raised concerns about parking meters at the recently-opened Long Bridge Park. It’s expensive for parents and referees to park their cars in the Long Bridge Park lot, Arlington County Board members were told over the weekend. Board members asked county staff to study the impacts of allowing free parking on Saturdays. [Sun Gazette]
‘Earth Day Every Day’ in Arlington – Sunday might have been the nationally-recognized environmental awareness day known as Earth Day, but to the county government “every day is Earth Day in Arlington.” In a press release, the county touted some recent environmental initiatives, including obtaining LEED Silver certification for Fire Station No. 3, reducing county government electric and natural gas use by 3 percent, and work in progress to install 153 energy-efficient LED streetlights along Columbia Pike. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Alex