Arlington, VA

Reese Gardner had planned to open The Pinemoor in March but… well, you know. After months of pandemic-related delay, Gardner said today (Thursday) is finally the day to throw open the new Clarendon restaurant’s doors.

For a little over a year, signs have announced that The Pinemoor would be inhabiting the space that was once Clarendon Grill at 1101 N. Highland Street. Gardner said the restaurant is launching today with its full menu after months of consideration for when the right time would be to reopen.

Eventually, Gardner said he had to reckon with the fact that there likely wasn’t going to be a better time to open in the near future.

“We don’t see anything going back to normal,” Gardner said.

Opening with the current restrictions aimed at curbing the likelihood of spreading coronavirus means an expectation of lower-than-hoped-for revenue.

“The Pinemoor has two bars, an outside bar and an inside bar,” Gardner said. “The set up for restaurants is [for customers] to enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine while the table is getting ready. When you remove that from the restaurant experience they end up sitting at their table longer and it takes away 25-30% of your numbers off the top.”

At least at first, Gardner said the focus will be on the in-person restaurant experience with appropriate social distancing and utilization of the restaurant’s patio, as opposed to trying to subsist on takeout and delivery, as others are doing.

“We’re going to focus on in-restaurant experience for the first couple months,” Gardner said. “It’s a scratch kitchen with a protein-heavy menu — all à la carte — and family-style sides like truffle mac and cheese… We’re focusing on the in-dining experience over the next sixty days and then probably roll out to-go and cocktails.”

Gardner said he’s also hopeful that the brunch menu will be a draw early on.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on weekends.

Today’s opening will be very different from those of Gardner’s other restaurants, like Copperwood Tavern and Dudley’s in Shirlington. There’s a lingering concern that an uptick in local cases could trigger rapid changes in how restaurants are required to operate. Gardner said he still has to order perishable food items every day assuming that the restaurant will be open the next.

On the plus side, coronavirus cases have been trending down in Arlington lately and Clarendon has been drawing large weekend crowds.

“It’s all nervousness,” Gardner said. “The nerves are there. With COVID, you want to make sure your staff is safe and your customers are safe. It’s very unpredictable. It’s going to be an interesting next three weeks.”

Photos courtesy The Pinemoor

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