Arlington, VA

by ARLnow.com February 2, 2016 at 4:25 pm 0

3111 Columbia PikeThe name of the restaurant at 3111 Columbia Pike will be changing once again.

“Purple Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge” will be opening at the location, according to a recent ABC license application. It’s the latest in a procession of eateries that double as nightlife spots to occupy the two-level restaurant space at 3111 Columbia Pike.

In the past, neighbors have been critical of excessive noise and crime at the location, which has at times hosted nighttime events. It didn’t help that a manager of Pines of Italy, one of the former establishments, apparently called Arlington County Board members “c-cksuckers” after a vote to revoke the restaurant’s live entertainment permit in 2014.

No word yet on when Purple might be opening.

by Scott Fields December 18, 2020 at 12:45 pm 0

After a myriad of controversies, Purple Lounge is set to vacate the property at 3111 Columbia Pike.

Property owner Jorge Escobar confirmed that the lease for the business runs out in January, at which point the Purple Lounge will leave the premises. A “for lease” sign currently hangs from the second story of the building.

Purple Lounge has repeatedly been in hot water with state alcohol regulators over the last few months. The business lost its liquor license on Oct. 9 after violating a settlement it reached with Virginia ABC on Sept. 16 to resume alcohol sales with a number of restrictions.

The October suspension came after Arlington County police officers recovered a gun and charged two people with narcotics offenses. Arlington County police notified Virginia ABC, which determined that Purple Lounge was not complying with two restrictions set by the settlement:

  • Restriction #4: The licensee agrees to have at least four (4) clearly identified Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) certified security personnel on duty every day of operation between the hours of 9 p.m. and closing with at least one (1) guard assigned to patrol and monitor the parking lot, who will begin monitoring the parking lot no later than 8:30 p.m. and will remain on duty after closing until the parking lot has been cleared or until at least thirty (30) minutes after closing (whichever is longer).
  • Restriction #5: The licensee will not permit any loitering, loud music or drinking in the parking lot at any time.

The settlement came after the business had its liquor license suspended earlier in September after multiple shootings at the location. The September suspension immediately followed a double shooting on Aug. 30, and a triple shooting in June that resulted in one death.

The Purple Lounge had its live entertainment permit revoked by Arlington County last December amid local safety concerns. The business was also the site of violence the previous September when a man was shot outside the venue.

Purple Lounge’s nightlife predecessors at the same location have had similar controversies in the past. Pines of Italy restaurant previously occupied the building and had its live entertainment permit revoked in 2014, with a restaurant manager calling County Board members a vulgar term after the vote.

by ARLnow.com September 16, 2020 at 11:45 pm 0

Purple Lounge is resuming operations after reaching a settlement with Virginia ABC for the restoration of its liquor license.

Six people have been shot in violence linked to the business at 3111 Columbia Pike since last September, including a double shooting late last month and a triple shooting, in which one person was killed, in June. The continued violence, complaints from neighbors, and repeated code violations led Virginia ABC to suspend Purple Lounge’s license to serve alcohol earlier this month.

As a result of a settlement this week the business can resume serving alcohol — but with a number of restrictions.

The restrictions include “stopping all sales and consumption of alcohol at 12:45 a.m.,” “closure of the business no later than 1:00 a.m. and no reopening sooner than 8:00 a.m.,” and keeping four certified security guards on duty — including in the violence-prone parking lot — when the lounge is open at night.

In a press release Wednesday night, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said the county would have preferred the business been fully closed by Virginia ABC. She noted that further violations, however, could result in a permanent loss of Purple Lounge’s ABC license.

More from the county press release:

Today, Arlington County officials were informed of a settlement agreement reached between the management of the Purple Restaurant and Lounge and the Virginia ABC. Arlington County is not a party to this settlement.

“We are very disappointed that ABC did not fully close or revoke the liquor license for The Purple Lounge.  We view the result in this matter as only a partial step towards ensuring our community’s safety, which is our primary concern,” Libby Garvey, Chair of the Arlington County Board noted. “The restrictions now in place, if followed, at least offer a path forward. The penalties for failure to adhere to the restrictions include permanent loss of licensure. Our police and public health officials will work closely with Virginia ABC to ensure that this settlement is strictly followed. Our staff will be conducting regular visits and monitoring activity inside and outside of the Purple Lounge to ensure full compliance.” Community members who observe behaviors believed to be outside of the negotiated agreement are urged to contact Virginia ABC or the Arlington County Police Department.

On September 1, following a series of disturbing events at the Purple Ethiopian Restaurant and Lounge (Purple Lounge), the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (“ABC”) issued an Order of Summary Suspension, temporarily suspending its alcohol licenses.

After an investigation, Virginia ABC cited two violations against the Purple Lounge relating to its failure to take reasonable measures to prevent violence on the property, and the Purple Lounge’s adverse effects on neighboring properties.  A formal hearing was scheduled to occur on September 16-17th regarding the status of the Purple Lounge’s liquor license as a result of these charges. Possible outcomes ranged from full reinstatement of the Purple Lounge’s ABC licenses, partial reinstatement of the Purple Lounge’s ABC licenses with restricted hours, or full revocation of the Purple Lounge’s ABC licenses.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com September 2, 2020 at 3:55 pm 0

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Purple Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge has had its permit to serve beer, wine and liquor suspended by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.

The nightlife venue at 3111 Columbia Pike was the scene of a double shooting over the weekend. A 33-year-old Maryland man, who was wounded by armed security guards after allegedly firing into a crowd in the parking lot, has been charged in the case.

Purple Lounge was also the scene of a shooting last September, in which a man was shot in the abdomen outside the venue. That and a myriad of complaints and violations led the Arlington County Board to revoke its live entertainment permit in December.

After the latest shooting, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey told ARLnow that the county would “explore all the options” with respect to Purple Lounge. Today, the county announced the suspension of the ABC license in a brief statement.

Following a series of disturbing events associated with the Purple Ethiopian Restaurant and Lounge, LLC on Columbia Pike, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority issued an Order of Summary Suspension temporarily suspending its alcohol licenses effective September 1, 2020. Arlington County fully supports this action and will continue to work collaboratively with Virginia ABC throughout this process.

The incident on Sunday morning (Aug. 30) at the Purple Lounge is the latest in a series of disturbances associated with the establishment. The County Manager is working with the County Board to explore all the options available to us within and around the property.

Arlington County is a safe place to live, work and play, and we are committed to addressing problems that present potential threats to our public health and safety.

Virginia ABC’s summary of its decision to suspend the license contains additional details about the weekend shooting and another shooting earlier this summer.

The report says that a dispute between venue staff and a group of people who were denied entry into the lounge just before 5 a.m. on Sunday prompted one of the members of the group to pull out of a gun and start firing in the air. That, in turn, led to a security guard firing back, striking one person in the shoulder and grazing another’s neck.

The report also says that a previously-reported triple shooting in June along Columbia Pike was the result of a dispute that started at Purple Lounge.

“On June 28, 2020, there was an incident of gunfire where following an altercation inside the establishment the suspect drove away from the area and then fired a gun into the crowd in the parking lot of the business leaving two people injured,” Virginia ABC said.

Arlington County Police did not previously reveal that shooting’s connection with Purple Lounge. The ABC report does not reference the fact that a third person was shot and killed in a car during the incident, a crime for which two people were subsequently arrested.

by ARLnow.com September 1, 2020 at 11:55 am 0

(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) Another shooting in the parking lot of Purple Lounge on Columbia Pike has county officials mulling additional action against the nightlife venue.

Police say a man was shot around 5 a.m. Sunday outside the business at 3111 Columbia Pike, after the suspect opened fire into a crowd. The shooter was also shot and lightly wounded by security guards, according to an Arlington County Police Department press release.

Both the victim and the suspect suffered injuries considered non-life threatening.

The weekend exchange of gunfire follows another shooting in the same parking lot nearly a year ago. A 29-year-old suspect was arrested last September after police say he shot a man in the abdomen, seriously injuring him, following an early morning dispute.

Last year’s shooting prompted the Arlington County Board to revoke the lounge’s live entertainment permit in December. The Board was told that police had responded to the venue nearly 70 times between January and November, and that neighbors were frequently complaining about early morning noise and incidents associated with the business, even well after closing time.

Despite the incidents and alleged health code and alcohol violations, Purple Lounge had its Virginia ABC permit to serve beer, wine and liquor renewed for a year on May 1, according to public records.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in a statement to ARLnow, said the county is exploring ways to “halt bad behavior” at the business.

“The incident at the Purple Lounge is the latest in a series of very disturbing events associated with that establishment,” Garvey said. “The Board is working with the Manager and our attorney to explore all the options available to us to halt bad behavior within and around the property.”

In July, Arlington denied Purple Lounge’s application for expanded outdoor seating in its parking lot, a county spokeswoman noted.

Photos courtesy @lavvra/Twitter

by ARLnow.com August 30, 2020 at 2:55 pm 0

(Updated at 9:20 a.m.) Arlington County Police have announced an arrest following a double shooting along Columbia Pike early this morning.

Police said two adults were shot on the 3100 block of Columbia Pike and “are being treated for injuries that are considered non-life threatening.” Photos of the scene show numerous evidence markers and crime scene tape around the parking lot of Purple Lounge at 3111 Columbia Pike.

A helicopter was brought to “assist with the search and recovery of evidence in this case,” Arlington County Police said, adding that the “preliminary investigation indicates there is no ongoing threat to the community.”

Around 4:45 p.m. Sunday, police revealed more information about the shooting and announced that one of those shot has been charged in the shooting. He was shot by security guards and lightly wounded after opening fire on a crowd in the parking lot around 5 a.m., police said.

From a police press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a shooting that took place on Columbia Pike in the early morning hours of August 30, 2020.

At approximately 5:04 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a shooting in the 3100 block of Columbia Pike. Upon arrival, officers located an adult male suffering from a gunshot wound. He was transported to an area hospital with injuries that are considered non-life threatening.

The preliminary investigation indicates security guards were clearing the parking lot of a business when the suspect drew a firearm and discharged towards the crowd. Two security guards, licensed by the Commonwealth and authorized to carry firearms, then returned fire. The suspect fired additional rounds before fleeing the scene in a vehicle prior to police arrival.

A lookout for the vehicle was broadcast. Responding officers located and stopped the vehicle at the intersection of 9th Street S. at Walter Reed Drive. The suspect was transported to an area hospital for treatment of a superficial wound. Once medically cleared, Yared Denbu, 33 of Dundalk, MD, was arrested and charged with Attempted Malicious Wounding, Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony, and Reckless Handling of a Firearm. He is being held in Washington D.C. pending extradition to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This appears to be an isolated incident between the parties and there is no known threat to the community related to this incident. This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

The Arlington County Board revoked Purple Lounge’s live entertainment permit last year after a man was shot in the leg in the nightlife venue’s parking lot in September.

“The Arlington County Police Department has noted ongoing issues and violations at this establishment that have created a public disturbance and violate the conditions of the live entertainment use permit,” a county staff report said at the time.

A man was fatally shot a block away from today’s shooting scene, on the 3000 block of Columbia Pike, in June. Two were arrested last month in connection to the shooting and charged with murder.

Photos courtesy @lavvra/Twitter

by Kalina Newman December 17, 2019 at 10:05 am 0

The Arlington County Board has voted 4-1 to revoke the live entertainment permit for a Columbia Pike nightlife venue with a history of violations.

The County Board held a rare “off-cycle permit review” for Purple Ethiopian Restaurant and Lounge (3111 Columbia Pike) during its meeting this past Saturday, after county staff recommended revoking the restaurant’s ability to host music and dancing due to safety concerns.

Between last January and this November, the Arlington County Police Department answered a total of 69 calls to the restaurant/hookah bar/nightclub, per a staff report. Of those, 58 calls were made during live entertainment events, and reported incidents ranged in severity from noise complaints to security using pepper spray against patrons to assault.

Notably, one person was shot outside the lounge early on a Thursday morning in September, resulting in a non-life-threatening injury and an arrest.

“Purple Lounge is contributing to alcohol-related harm, and that is affecting public safety,” said county planner Kristen Walentisch during a staff presentation. “Its live entertainment use is intensifying that situation.”

Adding to concern, the restaurant also faces multiple health code violations and is the process of appealing a violation from the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau for sales to a minor. The County Board also noted the Fire Marshal’s Office found 10 violations of Fire Code last year, which have since been addressed.

In effort to improve the situation, last month the County Board tasked Purple Lounge with participating in ACPD’s Arlington Restaurant Initiative (ARI), which was established last year “to raise the standards of restaurants that serve alcohol.”

According to ACPD’s Nightlife and Restaurant Liaison Officer Jim Mastoras, since the Thanksgiving holiday, police officers and fire marshals have trained Purple Lounge staff on a number of safety issues, including:

  • De-escalation techniques
  • Bar bystander training to reduce assault
  • Active shooter training
  • Responsible alcohol service

“I think with this training, the staff will be fully accountable — we acknowledge there were mistakes,” said a Purple Lounge representative during the board meeting, noting the restaurant had reduced its alcohol sales during weekdays and now firmly upholds a last call on the weekends at 1:30 a.m.

The County Board concluded, however, that there was sufficient evidence from ACPD to suspend the restaurant’s live entertainment license, with the opportunity to apply again in a year.

“When it comes to minority communities, we have to be very mindful that we’re not giving unequal treatment, inequitable treatment, and in this case I do not believe that is the case,” said Board Chair Christian Dorsey. “I believe there are some problems that need to be corrected — we’ve got issues with drinking, impact on patrons, late night hours, and inspection concerns.”

Nearby residents, Board members said, were rightfully concerned about violent incidents — many occurring in the early morning hours, well after posted closing times — just steps from their front yards.

Dorsey called the revocation “the ultimate last step” and suggested the Board was doing it reluctantly, but out of necessity.

The dissenting vote was cast by County Board member Katie Cristol, who noted the restaurant’s cooperation with ARI training over the last month.

“I’m having a harder time with this decision than I was a month ago,” Cristol said. “We asked them to work, to train their staff to address these issues, and they did.”

Purple Lounge is not the first business at this address known for its nightlife issues. Pines of Italy restaurant had its live entertainment permit similarly revoked in 2014 — an action that notably led to someone calling Board members an obscenity after the vote.

by ARLnow.com November 19, 2019 at 11:20 am 0

Tonight the Arlington County Board is expected to vote on advertising a review of the live entertainment permit of a Columbia Pike nightlife venue.

A staff report recommends moving up the review of Purple Ethiopian Restaurant and Lounge (3111 Columbia Pike) from January 2021 to next month, due to a series of violent incidents as well as alleged noise and alcohol violations. The restaurant opened in 2016.

“The Arlington County Police Department has noted ongoing issues and violations at this establishment that have created a public disturbance and violate the conditions of the live entertainment use permit,” the report says.

Notably, one person was shot outside the lounge early on a Thursday morning in September, resulting in a non-life-threatening injury and an arrest.

A memo from the police department, attached to the report, details some of the other violations and concerns. Most of the police dispatches to the restaurant have been after — sometimes well after — 2 a.m., when the restaurant should not be serving alcohol.

More from the ACPD memo:

On February 25, 2019 at 2:06am and 3:20am, an ACPD OCS confidential informant purchased and consumed alcohol at The Purple Lounge located at 3111 Columbia Pike. The VA ABC violation is captured in report # 2019-02250152. The calls for service reflect an apparent disregard for the conditions of their County live entertainment permit, their responsibility to comply with the law as a VA ABC alcohol licensee, and they are contributing to alcohol-related harm effecting [sic] public safety. Regular alcohol service past 2am has resulted in fights, disorderly conduct, intoxicated patrons, and destruction of property well into the early morning hours.

On May 22, 2019, ABC Agent Jacobs advised VA ABC filed an administrative violation and hearing for the after-hours service violation on February 25, 2019. On September 27, 2019, VA ABC Agent Jacobs advised a verdict from the VA ABC hearing held on August 2, 2019 imposed a $4,000 fine and a suspension of Purple Lounge’s VA ABC license for six (6) days. This finding will be effective after a thirty-day appeal period. Despite the above, according to Purple Lounge’s Yelp reviews, guests that stay after 2am are invited to an “After Hours Party”. After hours alcohol service was mentioned by guests on April 5, 2019, July 10, 2019 and September 18, 2019.

Additionally, there have been two (2) incidents of security using pepper spray on patrons. The first occurred on December 10, 2018 at 5:39am, when a patron who was being escorted out attempted to re-gain entry. After being sprayed, the patron retrieved a gun and smashed the front window of the business. On May 18, 2019 at 4:19am, a security guard sprayed a patron that had just been assaulted by another member of security causing injury. After being injured, the patron returned to the front entrance and was sprayed with pepper spray.

Should the live entertainment permit be revoked, the restaurant will no longer be able to host music and dancing.

by ARLnow.com September 12, 2019 at 9:10 am 0

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A man has been arrested in connection with an overnight shooting along Columbia Pike.

The shooting happened just before 1 a.m., outside a business on the 3100 block of Columbia Pike. Initial reports suggest the man was shot in the abdomen and rushed to the trauma center at George Washington University Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. As of 4 p.m. today, police said the victim was in “critical but stable condition.”

“The suspect fled the scene prior to police arrival. Police are utilizing the assistance of a helicopter to search for the suspect,” police said via social media, shortly after the shooting. “Suspect described as [a black male], 20s with skinny build wearing dark clothing. Expect police activity in the area.”

Aaron Steele, 29, was arrested and charged with aggravated malicious wounding, shooting in the commission of a felony, and aggravated malicious shooting, the Arlington County Police Department announced Thursday afternoon.

“During the course of the investigation, officers developed a possible suspect description based on evidence located at the scene and witness interviews,” said ACPD in the afternoon press release. “A lookout was broadcast and a patrol officer traveling in the area of Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike observed the suspect on foot and took him into custody without incident.”

The suspect was also charged with violating a protective order and firing a weapon within 1,000 feet of a school — roughly the same distance the Arlington Career Center is from the scene of the shooting.

The Pike was closed between S. Glebe Road and Walter Reed Drive for an extended period of time after the shooting, according to WTOP.

As of 9:30 a.m. detectives were still on scene, canvassing the parking lot of Purple Lounge (3111 Columbia Pike). Discarded medical supplies could be seen along the sidewalk near the parking lot.

The full police press release is below.

The Arlington County Police Department has arrested and charged a suspect for his role in an early morning shooting on Columbia Pike. Aaron Steele, 29, of No Fixed Address has been charged with Aggravated Malicious Wounding, Shooting in the Commission of a Felony, Aggravated Malicious Shooting, Discharging a Firearm within 1,000 feet of a School, Use of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony and Violation of a Protective Order. He is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.

At approximately 12:48 a.m. on September 12, police were dispatched to the 3100 block of Columbia Pike for the report of a shooting. Upon arrival, officers located an adult male in the roadway suffering from a gunshot wound and immediately began rendering aid. The victim was transported by medics to an area hospital where he is listed in critical but stable condition.

During the course of the investigation, officers developed a possible suspect description based on evidence located at the scene and witness interviews. A lookout was broadcast and a patrol officer traveling in the area of Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike observed the suspect on foot and took him into custody without incident.

The preliminary investigation indicates that the suspect and victim are known to one another and that a dispute preceded the shooting. This is an isolated incident and there is no evidence of any continued threat to the community.

This incident remains under investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact Detective S. King of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4243 or [email protected]. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Airey contributed to this report

by Ethan Rothstein January 29, 2014 at 11:35 am 11,557 0

Darlene Wilcher(Updated) The Arlington County Board revoked the live entertainment permit for Pines of Italy (3111 Columbia Pike) last night, siding with dismayed neighbors over outraged management.

Pines of Italy General Manager Darlene Wilcher calmly presented the case for a permit renewal. After the board’s unanimous vote against the restaurant, a woman can be heard going up to the live microphone in the board room and calling County Board members “c–ksuckers.”

Wilcher, who said she took over as manager in October, had earlier asked to speak again during the Board’s discussion.

“Can I just say one thing?” she asked while Board Chair Jay Fisette was speaking.

“No, I’m sorry, the discussion is with the Board,” Fisette responded, before telling Wilcher, an Arlington native, “I do want to compliment you personally because you appear to be someone with great possibility, you present yourself very well.”

Less than two minutes later, the Board voted and the expletive was hurled before leaving the room.

The decision to revoke the permit came after neighborhood controversy in 2012 over fights outside the restaurant/hookah bar/nightclub and multiple deferrals by the Board to approve a live entertainment permit, which it finally did in March 2013. Restaurant owner Jorge Escobar — who has owned the building and business since it was called Coco’s Casa Mia a decade earlier — and his management group had vowed to reach out to the community and to put a stop to the health and Alcoholic Beverage Control Board violations that had been repeatedly reported.

“That meeting was one of my high points 9 months ago because I felt so good about it,” Board Member Libby Garvey said. “Where we are now, I find myself thinking about the classic abusive relationship. Things are really awful, and then you say ‘oh no I’m going to be better now,’ but look at this list [of violations since March]… We’ve got to stop this.”

Pines of Italy at 3111 Columbia PikeSince the permit was approved in March, the Arlington County Police Department has reported six calls for service at the restaurant, including “use of the premise for residential purposes” and serving alcohol when the kitchen was closed. According to county staff, it was the second such occurrence since 2011 of an individual appearing to be living in the space.

Five residents of Arlington Heights, some of whom live down the street from the business, asked the Board to revoke the license, citing broken promises in the past from the management to do things differently.

“It’s been a bane in the neighborhood for many years,” resident Scott Winn said. “We’ve had new management, new agreements, new promises and I think it’s time once and for all that we cut the problem to the quick and that the live entertainment license is revoked.”

Wilcher, in her presentation, said since she has taken over the operations, all the code violations and issues with the use permit agreement have been fixed.

“In those months, we have done better,” she said. “We have fixed all of our violations and have no issues with anyone.”

Escobar wasn’t present yesterday during the meeting. He had previously attended meetings on the issue and, in April 2012, his attorney “promised the board that the three partners of this establishment are interested in starting anew.”

Without music, DJs and dancing — all of which will be prohibited without the permit — the nightlife-oriented business faces long odds of survival.

“The main protagonist of this drama is still the owner of the property,” Fisette said. “This doesn’t happen very often, but time’s up. The words that come back to me are fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. But fool me thrice, shame on me, and that’s where we are.”

Update at 12:55 p.m. — The video of Fisette’s comments and the restaurant manager’s outburst can be found below. It’s not safe for work.

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