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(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) The former Forest Inn space in Westover will be switching from Budweiser and burgers to margaritas and tacos.

The Forest Inn, one of Arlington’s last dive bars, closed in June after more than 40 years in business in the neighborhood. Its general manager told ARLnow that the landlord declined to renew the lease.

But the storefront at 5849 Washington Blvd will not be vacant for long.

Westover Taco, a new Mexican restaurant and bar, is planning to open next year in the relatively small restaurant space. It’s being helmed by Sarah White, a restaurant industry veteran who runs the Cowboy Cafe on Langston Blvd, which many lovingly consider a dive bar, as well as several local Lost Dog Cafe franchise locations.

We’re told White will co-own the business with five partners: Cowboy co-owners Jim Barnes, Mike Barnes, Mike Danner and Wes Clough, plus local serial entrepreneur Scott Parker.

(White was also a 2021 candidate for House of Delegates in Falls Church and part of Fairfax County.)

Westover Taco logo (courtesy Scott Parker)

Parker tells ARLnow that the plan for the dog-leg-shaped, 1,000+ square foot space is to “blow out the ceilings and really open up the space and give it a brighter vibe.” That might include roll-up windows in the back of the space, which looks out on a parking lot, to provide an open-air setting during nice weather.

“It’s definitely going to be an entire flip of the space,” Parker said. “Everything will be brand new.”

The concept for Westover Taco is simple: margaritas and tacos. While it will no longer be a dive bar, Parker hopes to attract a mix of Westover residents and other locals while establishing a solid base of regular customers.

“Everyone is welcome,” he said.

Parker noted that many of the half-dozen partners grew up near the Westover area and, given the small size of the restaurant and the number of co-owners, this is more a labor of love than a money-making opportunity for those involved. It’s also something that the partners are looking at in the long term.

“Most of the restaurants there are pretty busy, and many of them have been there for decades. So it’s a it’s a really strong, loyal market,” he said. “When you put something good there, it should do really well. So I do expect us to build a solid regular [customer] base pretty quickly. And I think the locals will love what we do.”

The partners have not yet taken possession of the space, Parker said, but the hope is to start work soon and open at some point in mid-2023.

Parker, who recently returned from a trip to Mexico City, posted photos from inside the cleared-out Forest Inn via an Instagram story on Aug. 1, as noted by ARLnow at the time.

Parker counts the Cowboy Cafe and Lost Dog co-owners as long-time friends and said they’ve been looking to partner on something local for awhile.

“We just always wanted to do a project together,” he said. “This is certainly something that borders on a passion project of sorts. None of us is going to get rich or take over the world having all these partners in one small restaurant, so it’s more of something that we just want to work as a team to put something special in a neighborhood that we think is really cool.”

Images of the closed Forest Inn posted on social media (via Scott Parker/Instagram)

As for his other business ventures, the prolific Parker told ARLnow that boxing gym Bash and pet daycare and boarding business Playful Pack are both on track to start franchising nationally in the near future. High-end barbershop Bearded Goat — currently in Ballston and Shirlington — is also eyeing an expansion to other cities, but that may take longer to play out, he said.

Asked about his ability to open so many local businesses, Parker credited his business partners for helping to make them a success while he focuses on the long-term path to growth.

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Local nightlife king Scott Parker is branching into fitness, launching BASH Boxing with fitness instructor and manager Alex Trakas.

We asked Parker and Trakas about their new venture, which officially opens on Friday, Nov. 16 in Rosslyn and is also coming to Ballston Quarter mall. We also talked with Scott about the state of the local bar scene and about that time the Washington Capitals brought the Stanley Cup to Don Tito in Clarendon.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

Courtesy photo

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A new upscale barbershop is on the way for Ballston next year.

Scott Parker, the co-founder of a bevy of businesses throughout Arlington, announced in a Facebook post yesterday (Monday) that he plans to help open “Bearded Goat Barber” in early 2019. He said he hopes the Bearded Goat will be a “premier barbershop specializing in tailored haircuts, hot lather shaves and sculpted beard trims.”

Parker subsequently told ARLnow that the barbershop will be located at 4201 Wilson Blvd, as part of the Ballston Exchange development, the former home of the National Science Foundation.

“We’re really excited to be among all the awesome new tenants that are coming into that project like Shake Shack, Cava, and Philz Coffee, among others,” Parker said.

Parker himself has previously focused primarily on the restaurant business, backing bars like A-Town in Ballston, the G.O.A.T. and Don Tito in Clarendon and Barley Mac in Rosslyn. He’s also recently helped start a new boxing gym, Bash Boxing, with locations set for Rosslyn and Ballston.

But Parker said that he plans to team up with a pair of barbers, Eric Renfro and Jon Dodson, on this latest venture. They previously worked at the Hendricks Barbershop, another high-end barber that opened in Clarendon in 2016.

“Jon and Eric decided to start their own shop, and asked me to be a part of it,” Parker said. “They’re super talented guys with almost 20 years of combined experience in barbering. For them it was a chance to finally realize their dream, and, for me, a great opportunity to work with two very passionate, accomplished people.”

Photo via @beardedgoatbarber

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Scott Parker is part of a group of partners who together have built something of a nightlife empire in Arlington.

A-Town Bar and Grill, Don Tito and Barley Mac have all been hits along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. And now Scott and his partners are getting ready to open (in the next couple of weeks) The G.O.A.T., a new sports bar right across from the Clarendon Metro station in the former Hard Times Cafe space.

Scott has helped to build this empire based on Sunday Fundays and happy hour drink specials all while having a somewhat unique personal background for a bar impresario: he does not drink.

On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we sat down with Scott to discuss how he achieved success after success in the notoriously difficult restaurant industry, what to expect with the G.O.A.T., what comes next, and what he thinks of the current state of the Arlington bar and restaurant scene.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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There was a time when Arlington — Clarendon, in particular — was known for bar crawls.

There was Shamrock Crawl, the Clarendon Halloween Crawl, and Shirlington’s SantaCon. Thousands of mostly younger people attended. Along with the revelry, however, there were arrests, property damage, public intoxication, and nudity.

Then, in 2014, the Arlington County Board had enough and passed a number of regulations designed to allow local officials at least some control over how bar crawls operated in the county. It made event organizers apply for a special events permit, have insurance, and reimburse the county for any event-related expenses, like the cost of assigning extra police officers.

The regulations not only curtailed the number of incidents related to bar crawls but decreased the number of crawls in Arlington overall. From many people’s perspectives, the regulations worked.

Eight years later, the bar crawl scene in Arlington still hasn’t recovered.

Only 9 bar crawls have been issued special event permits since 2018, per data provided to ARLnow by the county’s Dept. Parks and Recreation (DPR), which manages the process.

“Pub crawls can draw a crowd and impact our community, so their organizers need to have a permit to hold a pub crawl,” DPR spokesperson Susan Kalish told ARLnow. “Special event organizers are required to pay any costs to the County due to their event, such as public safety, trash removal, and more.”

The upcoming crawls include an 80’s and 90’s themed crawl set for this Saturday (Sept. 17) in Clarendon. It’s being co-organized by local restaurateurs Christal and Mike Bramson.

There are two more bar crawl applications pending for this year as well.

While DPR said statistics are not available for permitted bar crawls prior to 2016, anecdotally and going through the ARLnow archives, it appears there are now far fewer bar crawls — especially those of the large, 1,000+ attendee variety — than prior to the enactment of regulations.

While the pandemic certainly impacted the last several years, 2018 and 2019 both only had 3 permitted crawls per year. That’s out of combined 401 permitted special events. With 2022 wrapping up, though, special events are returning to the level of the “before times,” including bar crawls.

“This fall we are pretty much back to pre-pandemic levels of applications,” said Kalish.

It takes a lot more to put on a bar crawl in Arlington today than it did in the free-wheeling days of the early 2010s.

“You’d be surprised how many people who are organizing a special event haven’t thought about all the specifics,” Kalish wrote. “Trash. Toilets. Noise. Flow. The [county’s] Special Events Committee helps them through a number of possible scenarios so they can have a successful event.”

How far in advance organizers need to submit their application, either 30 or 90 days, depends on a number of factors including the size of the crawl. Kalish noted crawls with only three or four establishments on the route usually require less time to process.

“The first year we had [permitted] pub crawls they were quite large, but recently they have gotten much smaller,” Kalish said.

A crawl or organizer “with a satisfactory history” of managing safe events also requires less processing time, as well as one that has a clear mapped route.

Because of these regulations, guidelines, and extra costs, though, some companies have decided to forgo organizing crawls in the county and instead stick to a place where the process is more straightforward and there’s no shortage of potential young and single attendees: the District.

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Exterior of Poppyseed Rye (staff photo)

Sandwich and salad spot Poppyseed Rye is revamping its menu and bringing on a new chef in the kitchen and as a partner.

Greg Lloyd, who worked as Executive Chef at D.C.’s busy Le Diplomate since 2016, is now the Ballston restaurant-slash-flower-shop’s chef and managing partner.

“At Le Diplomate Greg oversaw a kitchen team of 125 people, and ran one of the busiest kitchens in Washington,” a press release notes. “Prior to Le Diplomate he ran Parc in Philadelphia and Buddakan in [NYC], other properties of restaurant magnate Stephen Starr.

“This is a dream addition to our team. Greg’s talent and tenacity know no bounds,” said Poppyseed Rye partner and local serial entrepreneur Scott Parker. “He’s someone we’re looking forward to growing with, and he has revolutionized our offerings at Poppyseed Rye. We’re really thrilled to bring one of D.C.’s top chefs to Arlington, and specifically Ballston.”

Lloyd said in a statement that he wants to “make bellies happy.”

“Greg’s new menu kicks off at Poppyseed Rye effective immediately, it’s already live,” said the press release. “It features breakfast all day, with all new breakfast sandwiches and awesome classics like biscuits and gravy. He’s also added some of his favorite sandwiches and will run daily specials.”

Other menu items include a bahn mi sandwich, mushroom tart toast, and pork belly biscuit breakfast sandwich.

Poppyseed Rye has changed its hours, focusing on lunch and later breakfasts.

“To coincide with the changes, Poppyseed Rye is now open daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and has added a coffee menu to go with the new food,” the press release said. When it opened last November, the hours were 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Parker and Lloyd have their sights set on other ventures, as well. The team is now “busy concepting upcoming restaurants… to be announced in the coming months, including one project in Fells Point, Baltimore.”

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Construction continues at Amazon’s HQ2 site in Pentagon City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

We’re calling it a week a touch early today, while most of you have already started your weekend, so we can better prep for next week.

While this month has been pretty slow overall, the week that will usher in the start of September promises to be a bit busier, with the start of school, some local business-related scoops, and other stories that are already in planning.

Not that this week was a snoozefest. Quite the opposite, in fact, considering that all of our top 10 most-read stories had more than 2,500 views.

Here are the top stories of the past week:

  1. New concept plan for Langston Blvd shows sweeping vision of greener corridor with taller buildings
  2. EXCLUSIVE: Scott Parker, Cowboy Cafe owners and manager partnering on Forest Inn replacement
  3. Police: Nude man attacked officer, ran into Ballston apartment
  4. NEW: Arlington ranks No. 3 on “top family-friendly cities” list
  5. Another commercial vehicle tow leads to another questionable call to police
  6. Man arrested after attack in front of library
  7. Arlington’s planetarium is looking to finally reopen this fall with a new director and modern projector
  8. NEW: “Old School” Italian restaurant and wine bar coming to Ballston area
  9. Metro says “plan now” for the eight-month-long Yellow Line shutdown that starts next month
  10. Starting as a Rosslyn food cart, District Taco is taking over the world “one taco at a time”

Feel free to discuss these stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Have a great last weekend of August, Arlington!

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Who doesn’t love some live music? From Nighthawk Brewery & Pizza, Bandito’s Tacos and Tequila, and the other restaurants and bars of Pentagon Row comes our summer concert series!

Nighthawk Brewery & Pizza is a new concept from Arlington bar owner Scott Parker, Michelin-star award winning chef Johnny Spero, and the founders of Aslin beer company. Bandito’s brings their third location to Pentagon Row for Mexican bites and brews.

Starting this Saturday, July 30 from 6-9 p.m. join us once a month for live music on the plaza kicking off with Maggie Shot Burns.

Maggie Shot Burns will rock the plaza with all things 90s. Keep in mind that the entire plaza now allows for open carry and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Newly opened Nighthawk Brewery and Bandito’s will be cranking out all the pizza, beer, tacos and margaritas you can handle, and Pentagon Row provides a number of awesome food and beverage options as well as a bevy of life size outdoor games.

This year’s concert series will be as follows:

The concert is absolutely free — come one, come all.

Help us kick off this year’s concert series strong, and join us for some 90s rock on the plaza with Maggie Shot Burns, Saturday, July 30 (tomorrow night) from 6-9 p.m.

Pet owners in Arlington now have another doggie daycare to choose from with the opening of Playful Pack.

The Rosslyn daycare and boarding center, located at 1528 Clarendon Blvd in the former LavaBarre space, is set to hold an open house this Saturday (June 20) between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It plans to officially open toward the end of June.

Giveaways and dog treats are expected at the open house, Playful Pack co-owner Scott Parker told ARLnow. During the event, participants have a chance to visit the play areas and meet the owners and employees, according to a Facebook post. Dogs are also welcome, as long as they are leashed. Those interested can RSVP on the website.

Playful Pack is a daycare and overnight boarding center that provides physical exercises and games for dogs. Some of the activities scheduled at different store locations include frisbee, tug of war and story times, according to its schedule.

The owners chose to open a new store at Rosslyn because of the number of dog owners there.

“We just thought that there are so many people in Rosslyn with so many dogs and there’s no dog daycare there to take care of them,” Parker said.

The store has four other locations, in Fairfax Station, McLean, Alexandria and Annapolis, Md. The first store was opened in Fairfax Station in 2019 by Parker, his brother Tyler and Tyler’s wife Alyssa, according to previous ARLnow reporting. Scott Parker has opened numerous other businesses in Arlington like a beer hall, retro pizzeria, sandwich shop-slash-flower shop, barbershop and boxing gym.

Once it is officially open, Playful Pay is expected to operate between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. every day and charge $44 for a full day of care, with discounts for 5-day, 10-day and 20-day daycare packages. For overnight boarding service, the store is set to charge $74 per night and $45 for each additional dog, according to its website.

Playful Pack also works with shelters in Virginia, including Home Animals Rescue Team, Mutt Love Rescue, A Forever Home and LOVEPAWS, to help foster dogs find homes.

“We will usually have one foster dog per location staying with us at our facility, and we take care of that dog and feed it and just give it a place to stay while we help find a home,” Parker said. “And then in the meantime, we advertise the dogs there available to our client base.”

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(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) The former Champps space at Pentagon Row is back in business as a beer-and-pizza spot.

Nighthawk Pizza will open to the public on Thursday (March 24) at 3 p.m., in the large space at 1201 S. Joyce Street, after a series of private “friends and family” nights this week.

The concept marries a 90s vibe with a pizza-centric menu and an on-site brewery operated by Aslin Beer Company. It’s helmed by Chef Johnny Spero, of Netflix’s Final Table fame plus other culinary cred, and backed by a group that includes local serial entrepreneur Scott Parker. (The group also recently opened Poppyseed Rye in Ballston.)

In addition to thin-crust pizza and beer, the menu includes a range of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and cocktails — both handmade and on tap. The red-and-blue neon lights, bench seating and retro arcade games help to give the restaurant its 90s feel, partially offset by the abundant flat screen TVs that surround the large bar and the cavernous dining area.

“The design inspiration for the space was The Max from ‘Saved By The Bell,'” Parker noted.

In all, the brew pub has 10,000 square feet of space, plenty for the crowds Parker and company are hoping to attract from the growing neighborhood, which includes Amazon’s HQ2, set for a 2023 opening a few blocks away.

Parker said his group of partners “is already looking for our next locations for Nighthawk, as well as developing other projects.” Additional locations in the D.C. area and other cities are expected to be announced “in the coming months,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nighthawk is not the only spring opening at Pentagon Row, which was renamed “Westpost” in 2020.

“Taco temple” Banditos Bar & Kitchen is set to open in April, one restaurant over and also overlooking Westpost’s central square and soon-to-be-dismantled-for-the-season ice skating rink. Also expected to open next month are a new, 34,000 square foot Target store, on April 3, as well as sushi restaurant Kusshi.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Cryptocurrency — and the technology underpinning the latest developments within this world, like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) — are complex enough to make the average person’s head spin.

Enter OVRT, a new Arlington-based crypto-community that exists to offer locals and D.C.-area artists free education on cryptocurrency, like bitcoin, and how they can dive into this wholly digital financial world and make money in it.

OVRT is co-founded by Scott Parker, who is behind a bevy of businesses throughout Arlington like Don Tito’s restaurant and Bearded Goat Barber, and Northern Virginia local Ryan McNey, who Parker considers a “borderline certified expert” in cryptocurrency.

“We both have a lot of energy, we both love to work on stuff, and we’re both were excited about this space,” Parker tells ARLnow. “It makes sense for me to be able to connect him to local business people, entrepreneurs, artists — anyone I can help with OVRT. I’ve been successful with helping a lot of people come join the OVRT movement, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Their aim is threefold: first, educate locals about cryptocurrency; second, help artists earn a more sustainable living from their art using NFTs; and finally, open up conversations about this wholly digital financial world with lawmakers and regulators.

OVRT logo (courtesy photo)

So what are all these concepts?

Cryptocurrency is a form of encrypted digital currency. It is stored on the blockchain, which is basically a “digital ledger.” People use blockchain technology to make non-fungible tokens, or unique versions of things like digital artwork or sports memorabilia that can be digitized.

And how does all this benefit artists?

NFTs are fundamentally a way of verifying someone owns something digitally. There is a contract attached to that image, McNey notes, and every time an NFT gets bought or traded, the person who issued it can take a cut. That contrasts with physical art that is sold by the artist once, only to appreciate in value without returning any of that value to the original creator.

For artists, NFTs can mean significant income in royalties without cuts to managers and middle men. They can use NFTs to make money on their artwork, which might otherwise circulate the internet via screenshots and illegal downloads, without them seeing a penny, he says.

The co-founders of OVRT say successful artists will make great reference points when they discuss the benefits of cryptocurrency with lawmakers and regulators, who will eventually be drafting policies and regulations governing these transactions.

“As someone who’s been in crypto for eight years, I know that for us to succeed, it’s vital that policymakers and regulators are making informed and educated decisions versus reactive ones,” McNey said.

But the conversation cannot begin with heady jargon like “yields, staking and decentralized banking,” he says. It has to begin somewhere tangible.

“I’m going to talk to them about art,” he said. “We have to meet them where they are.”

OVRT is fully remote right now, but eventually, Parker and McNey would like to open up a space — likely in Arlington, given Parker’s local connections — where they can showcase artists and host events. Next Wednesday (March 30), they are launching OVRT’s first NFT called “HYPEES,” made by Matt Corrado, a prolific D.C. artist who has worked with Nike, Heineken and Converse.

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