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Eska, a family-friendly eatery and hookah lounge that is replacing the troubled Purple Lounge on Columbia Pike, is finally set to open around Feb. 1, the owner tells ARLnow.
The alcohol-free restaurant will highlight Arabic culture, owner Layth Mansour says. But its opening has been delayed by months, due in part to permitting issues and Mansour’s health.
While the restaurant received a county permit in September, a “stop work” order was issued a month later because of zoning ordinances and building code violations. As of Tuesday afternoon, the notice remained on the window of the building.
But all of that is in the midst of being resolved, Mansour assured ARLnow.
The “stop work” order was related to him not knowing that a permit was needed to throw out furniture and other trash left by the previous tenants, he says.
“The place was a complete dump when we got it,” Mansour says. “It’s also 9,000 square feet and huge… so, there was a lot of stuff.”
A county inspector, however, told ARLnow prior to the conversation with Mansour that the “stop work” order was actually due to work and construction being done without a permit that was potentially impacting the building’s structure and egress.
Mansour says that isn’t exactly what he understood it to be about, but says updated documents, plans, and blueprints are now with the county. He’s hoping to hear back soon about the needed permits so that he can continue necessary work in order to open the restaurant within the next six weeks.
Mansour understands the history of this property and why Arlington is being careful
“They told me before I did anything that this place had a lot of issues,” he says. “The permitting process is just slow because of Covid. Arlington is great and doing everything the right way. I can’t blame them [for being careful].”
Purple Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge was the site of a number of incidents, including multiple shootings, fights, narcotics offenses, noise complaints, and destruction of property. All of this resulted in a bill being passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam that gave communities greater say over the issuance and revocation of liquor licenses.
The Purple Lounge finally closed and the former tenants vacated the property a year ago.
Shortly after, it was announced that Mansour would take over the lease and open a new business that the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (now, the Columbia Pike Partnership) said “embodies the spirit of Columbia Pike.”
Eska will be an “authentic celebration of Arabic culture,” Mansour told ARLnow back in April, with decor and a menu that reflect his Jerusalem roots.
Those plans haven’t changed, he says today, with more details coming in a few weeks.
Mansour is a former professional basketball player who recently had back surgery, part of the reason that Eska wasn’t able to open in June as originally intended.
Initially, Legend’s lease was supposed to run out next month, but it has been extended until at least May. In the meantime, Mansour is continuing to look for a new location for the business since a new development is eventually coming to that block. He says he hopes the store can stay on Columbia Pike.
Hat tip to SRtwofourfour
A new local business owner is taking over the troubled, former Purple Lounge location and is pledging to make it family-friendly.
Layth Mansour will be opening a restaurant and hookah lounge called “Eska” at 3111 Columbia Pike, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) announced earlier today.
Mansour also owns Legend Kicks & Apparel several blocks down at 2609 Columbia Pike.
This new restaurant will be an “authentic celebration of Arabic culture,” featuring decor, seating, and a menu inspired by Mansour’s roots. He tells ARLnow that he’ll make the new establishment “more family-friendly” and won’t be serving alcohol.
“I just want to provide a different vibe to the Pike,”said Mansour, who was born in America to a family originally from Jerusalem. “Also, that’s just not me. I’ve never drunk liquor… It’s against my religion.”
Plus, he says, the customer base at Legend Kick is predominantly 19 or younger, so he wants an establishment that complements his other business.
“Literally, five feet from our back door are houses,” he says. “‘It gives the community a peace of mind as well. There’s not going to be a lot of chaos.”
Mansour noted that, instead of alcohol, traditional Arabic teas, coffees, and desserts will be served. In fact, he’s bringing in a chef from Ramallah to help build out the menu.
“The Chef is well known in the village of Ramallah,” Mansour said, as quoted by CPRO. “He’ll be here for six months to help us build the menu.”
Mansour is working on repainting the exterior from purple to a “beige, brick-color.” Interior renovations are ongoing, as well, but the work has been challenging since the building was not kept in good shape.
“The last people here really, really screwed this place up,” Mansour says. “The exterior of the building is damaged, the plumbing is messed up… they were never up to date with any type of inspection. They didn’t even have fire extinguishers in the place.”
For years, the nightlife venue Purple Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge was the site of a number of incidents, including multiple shootings. The situation got so dire that a bill was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Ralph Northam that gives communities greater say over the issuance of liquor licenses.
Despite the building challenges, Mansour expects Eska to open by June 1, a prospect that excites local business boosters.
“CPRO is thrilled to have a new business coming to this location that embodies the spirit of Columbia Pike — a celebration of community, family, and the diverse cultures that make up our amazing corridor,” Kim Klingler, Executive Director of CPRO, tells ARLnow. “And we are proud to see a Columbia Pike small-business owner continue to grow and invest in our community.”
Mansour’s other business Legend Kicks & Apparel, a popular store focused on reselling high-end athletic gear, was a victim of arson and theft back in 2018. Later that year, the store reopened in a new location, a few doors down from the original one, which was severely damaged in the fire.
Mansour says that he’s currently looking for a new location for Legend Kicks, since a multi-use development is being planned for that block. He says his lease runs until January 2022, but expects to keep Legend Kicks in the Columbia Pike corridor
A former Columbia Pike business has inspired a state bill that would allow localities greater say over liquor licenses.
It has since passed the House unanimously and is now in the Virginia State Senate.
Despite “a series of disturbing events” and much to the chagrin of the Arlington County Board, the venue was given its liquor license back by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority in September.
While the Purple Lounge has since closed, HB 2131 would allow greater input from localities about what businesses are granted liquor licenses by the Virginia ABC. It would add “chief administrative officer of a locality” to the list of those sent license applications. In Arlington County’s case, that’s the County Manager.
It also would expand the definition of “criminal blight,” meaning a condition on the property that endangers the public health or safety of local residents, thus making it easier for a license to be denied in cases of criminal activity.
Delegate Lopez tells ARLnow that he believes that this is the most important part of the bill.
“We’ve tightened the firearm section. In the past it had said repeated use of firearms,” says Lopez. “What we’ve done is [added] the simple discharge of a firearm once now it rises to the level of the criminal statute.”
The bill also adds “in possession” of a controlled substance, as opposed to just “under the influence,” and includes criminal activity that takes place on the property — like, in the parking lot — as opposed to simply in a building.
“It is easier now for community groups to give proof [of criminal activity],” says Lopez. “It’s easier for localities to meet the threshold by which they can report a bad actor establishment to ABC.”
Virginia ABC remains the only agency that can suspend or revoke liquor licenses.
While the frustration in the community over the Purple Lounge directly influenced this bill, Lopez says that he’s heard of similar situations in other Virginia jurisdictions.
Kristi Sawert, President of the Arlington Heights Civic Associations, is one of the local leaders that helped bring attention to the matter. She says “a lot of bad things were happening” at the Purple Lounge that were upsetting and scaring residents.
Sawert says too often she felt that the local civic associations were “kind of shut out of the process” when it came to the Virginia ABC making decisions and settling liquor license disputes. She applauds this bill since it gives Arlington County more tools and more say in preventing businesses like this from operating in neighborhoods.
She also thinks it would be advantageous to include civic associations on the list of those that would receive liquor license applications.
“99.9% of the time, there’s no issue at all with any type of business getting their alcohol license,” says Sawert. “This would give another opportunity for civic associations in Arlington a chance to weigh in on what’s going on in their boundaries. I think it’s just more information.”
Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti also agrees with the bill.
“Arlington was supportive of this legislation, which is why Board Member Takis Karantonis provided testimony before the House General Laws Committee on behalf of the Board,” he writes to ARLnow. “We appreciate Delegate Lopez’s efforts on behalf of our residents in this matter.”
The bill was referred to the Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services in the Virginia State Senate on Feb. 4.
Lopez remains optimistic that it will pass the Senate, be signed by the governor, and become state law.
“I am hopeful that it will pass the Senate,” he says. “But, you know, the Senate is very different than the House.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
(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.
(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
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.
Legend Kicks has found a new home across the Pike, after moving because of Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center’s pending redevelopment.
The sneaker reseller and clothing store has moved from its home for the past four years at 2609 Columbia Pike to a storefront about a half block away at 2514 Columbia Pike, a few doors down from the Celtic House.
The shop opened its doors at its new location this past weekend, according to an Instagram post.
The step was necessitated by imminent demolition and redevelopment of Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center. In March, the Arlington County Board approved replacing the one-story, aging retail strip with “The Elliott,” which will feature 247 market-rate apartments, a renovated CVS, a relocated Burrito Bros, and a new grocery store that could end up being an Amazon Fresh.
Legend Kicks first opened on Columbia Pike in 2017, but in April 2018 the store fell victim to arson. It reopened four months later a few doors down. Now, four years later, Legend Kicks is on the move again, but this time it’s because of redevelopment.
In an Instagram video from late last week, owner Layth Mansour claimed he was only given a few days to move.
“The first Legends got burned down. The second Legends I put so much money into, but then I got a letter saying that someone bought the whole building and I got three or four days to move,” Mansour says in the video. “Literally, I got a new place in, like, two days.”
That timeline may not be totally accurate. ARLnow reported in January that all tenants received a notice that told them they needed to vacate by May 31. In those preceding six months, a number of businesses have since closed or moved including the Columbia Pike Partnership, the Black Heritage Museum, and Atilla’s Restaurant.
ARLnow has reached out to Mansour and Legend Kicks several times but has yet to hear back.
Mansour also owns the alcohol-free restaurant Eska on Columbia Pike. In April 2021, he took over the troubled, former location of Purple Lounge with the pledge to make it “family-friendly.” However, more than a year later, that restaurant has yet to open despite hopes it would be in business by February 1.
With Legend Kicks moving out, the only remaining tenant remaining in Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center is CVS. It’s not immediately clear when the store will make the planned shift to a trailer in the parking lot next door.
Though no demolition permit application has been filed for the now-mostly abandoned building, a county spokesperson says that work should begin late this year after all the needed permits are obtained.
If that timeline is followed, The Elliott could be completed and be move-in ready by early 2025.