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Arlington’s long regional nightmare has ended: the Taco Bell Cantina at 2039 Wilson Blvd will open at last next week.

A company spokesperson confirmed to ARLnow today that the restaurant will open on Monday, March 13.

Unlike traditional Taco Bells, Taco Bell Cantinas serve alcoholic beverages including beer, sangria, and frozen drinks. The Arlington location will also have a walk-up window for faster service.

The Taco Bell Cantina is opening in the space that was once Guarapo Lounge, a Peruvian restaurant and hookah lounge that closed in 2016.

There are Taco Bell Cantinas in neighboring D.C. as well as one on King Street in Old Town Alexandria — a popular post-City Council meeting spot given that it’s one of the few Old Town restaurants open until 2 a.m.

The new Courthouse Cantina has been the object of intense local interest. ARLnow has been bombarded by emails and social media messages from readers wanting updates.

“Are there any updates for when the Taco Bell Cantina in Courthouse will open?” one reader inquired last month, just over two weeks into the 3-4 week timeline given for the opening. “I saw your 2/8/23 article but wanted to know if it will keep to its timeline.”

Prior to the February article, other eagle-eyed readers noted that the project was running behind schedule.

“I was just reading one of your posts from December… you quoted a representative from [Taco Bell] who said the TB should be ‘open within the next 30 days.’ 30 days have passed and I don’t believe the TB Cantina has opened yet,” the reader astutely pointed out. “It’s a matter of universal importance and essential to my quest to eat TB with a high BAC that was achieved in-house. Godspeed.”

Easter Bunny at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City (via Fashion Centre at Pentagon City/Facebook)

Santa’s lap is out and Easter lapins are in.

The Easter Bunny is making a few trips to Fashion Centre at Pentagon City this month and in early April.

The holiday hare will hold court in Nordstrom Court, located in the first level of the mall at 1100 S. Hayes Street.

“Reserve your visit now and make it an Easter tradition,” the mall said on its website.

Scheduled photo op hours for the rabbit are as follows:

  • Friday, March 24: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 25: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 26: 12-6 p.m.
  • Monday, March 27 through Thursday, March 30: 2-7 p.m.
  • Friday, March 31 through Sunday, April 2: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Monday, April 3 through Thursday, April 6: 2-7 p.m.
  • Friday, April 7 & Saturday, April 8: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

In addition to the main photo sessions, there will be a sensory-friendly “caring bunny” experience exclusively for children with special needs and their families on Sunday, March 26 from 9-11 a.m, per a mall webpage.

Photo via Fashion Centre at Pentagon City/Facebook

O’Sullivan’s in Clarendon (file photo)

(Updated at 10 p.m.) Next Friday, March 17, is a celebration of all things Irish: the release of a new Hozier EP.

But for some local bars and the Catholic Church, next Friday is more notably St. Patrick’s Day. The weekend is set to be marked with celebrations of Irish dancing, music, and drinking.

Some of the local happenings are listed below.

  • Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd)
    A combined St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness celebration called Irish Madness Fest. The bar will be showing NCAA games and there will be bands, DJs, drink specials, a buffet and more. Doors open at noon and the event runs all day.
  • The Lot (3217 10th Street N.)
    The Lot is celebrating its last St. Patrick’s Day with Shamrock & Roll, featuring live entertainment, food trucks, and of course the quintessentially Irish tiki bar and “adult sandpit.”
  • Wilson Hardware (2915 Wilson Blvd)
    The Clarendon bar is celebrating with Guinness and Jameson specials from opening to 9 p.m., along with an all-night dance party.
  • The Celtic House (2500 Columbia Pike)
    Staff said the St. Patrick’s Day event will start at 9 a.m. and include a full day of music and Irish dancing.
  • O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub (3207 Washington Blvd)
    The Irish pub will have Irish dancers and live music on both Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18.
  • McNamara’s Pub and Restaurant (567 23rd Street S.)
    The bar will be open, but it won’t be a special event — St. Patrick’s Day will be just another day that ends in “y” — we’re told.
  • Mattie & Eddie’s (1301 S. Joyce Street)
    Staff said the restaurant will have live music for the holiday.
  • The Union (3811 Fairfax Drive)
    The Ballston bar is offering 50% off for all small plates until 8 p.m. for anyone wearing green and 50% off drinks after 8 p.m., also for anyone wearing green.
  • Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub (2800 S. Randolph Street)
    Doors will open at 10 a.m. and live Irish music will be performed all day, a manager tells us. There will also be live Irish dancing performances throughout the day.

B Social Hospitality, meanwhile, will be hosting its Leprechaun Lap Bar Crawl across multiple locations in Clarendon this coming Saturday, March 11. Tickets range from $10 to $20. The crawl includes giveaways and drink specials, including (distastefully named) $8 car bombs.

Locals can also show their support for Ireland by keeping their fingers crossed for The Banshees of Inisherin at the Oscars this weekend, as well.

One notable absence from the above list is the venerable Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse. Four Courts remains closed but is being rebuilt, after a rideshare vehicle plowed into it last summer, seriously injuring several patrons and sparking a devastating fire.


The annual furry convention Fur the ‘More is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a time travel-themed extravaganza in Crystal City.

Fur the ‘More is scheduled to run from Friday, March 10 to Sunday, March 12, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at 2799 Richmond Hwy.

The convention features a vendor marketplace, a gaming room, dance competition, an art show, a parade and more — all based around the subculture of anthropomorphic animal characters. Each year, the convention has a theme, and the time travel theme celebrates the convention’s 10-year anniversary.

Like many conventions, Fur the ‘More often prominently features elaborate, full-body animal costumes, though many attendees in past years opt for more low-key animal themes like kigurumis or cat ears.

The convention also features an auction every year that raises money for a charity. This year it is raising money for The Frederick Center, an LGBTQ+ support and advocacy organization.

The basic tickets are $70, though those are prorated at $50 for Saturday and $35 for just Sunday.

For those staying at the hotel, it’s offering both a standard room block and a “noisy hotel block” for “you late night room partiers.”

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In 1989, when Raffis Cleaners opened at 5119 Langston Blvd, the Berlin Wall came down, the Game Boy was released, and Taylor Swift was born.

Now, after 33 years, the owners of Raffis Cleaners say the business never fully came back post-Covid, forcing the alterations and dry cleaning service to close.

“We reached a point where we’re not covering our expenses,” said Eugenei Hovsepian, who owns the cleaner with her husband Harout. “We didn’t want to declare bankruptcy, we wanted to go out the right way.”

Eugenei said their landlord was a big help in keeping the businesses afloat as long as it has been: only paying half their usual rent for the last three years and getting several months in 2020 completely free.

The business also received support from the local community, with neighbors doing everything they could to help.

“We know people by their names here,” Eugenei said. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood and people really tried to help out.”

Eugenei said her husband has retired, but she’s hoping to go to Fairfax County Public Schools to work as a classroom monitor. Eugenei is in the interview process for the schools, saying she heard they needed support and wanted to help.

Raffis Cleaners closed for good yesterday (Wednesday) but will be open for the next two weeks to clear the store and return cleaned garments to customers.

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Rain drops on a cherry blossom in Freedom Park in Rosslyn (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

You won’t have to go across the Potomac to enjoy cherry blossom festivities this year.

The National Landing BID is hosting Pink in the Park, a celebration of the region’s cherry blossoms sans D.C. tourist crowds.

Pink in the Park is scheduled for Saturday, April 1, from 3-7 p.m. The festival will be held outside the Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center, at 333 Long Bridge Drive.

Current predictions say the Pink in the Park festival might miss peak bloom by about a week, thanks to warmer temperatures this winter.

The event will be emceed by comedian and American Gods actor Orlando Jones, with rock band Black Alley headlining. Black Alley is scheduled to take the stage at 5:45 p.m.

Other scheduled performers include DJ Chan DonCrush Funk BrassUmami HouseReesa Renee, and Footwerk. The National Landing BID website said the event will feature several food trucks as well as beer and wine vendors, including food trucks from Health Pub, Kona Ice, Pho Wheels, Peruvian Brothers, and The Grease Wagon.

Beauty Champagne and Sugar Boutique, Crystal City Wine Shop, DC Brau, District Fray, Drunkfruit and Lost Boy Cider are listed as beer and wine partners.

Pets are allowed at the event but must be leashed at all time, and it’s not recommended for pets that are sensitive to loud music and crowds.

The event will also have “Instagrammable moments,” “immersive art installations” and giveaways, organizers say. It will be preceded by Pink in the Pool, a family-friendly event from 9 a.m.-noon in the Long Bridge Aquatics Center.

Tickets to the event, of which Amazon is the marquee sponsor, are free and available online.

Pink in the Park graphic (via National Landing BID)
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Ahead of an official opening this weekend, Haute Dogs hosted a preview event last night with a coterie of Arlington’s underground “foodie” influencer community.

Haute Dogs has become a beloved local institution in Alexandria’s Old Town North neighborhood. The new location at 2910 N. Sycamore Street in the Williamsburg neighborhood takes over the spot previously occupied by Smoking Kow BBQ.

The menu features an array of the eponymous hot dogs, from the classics to the more outlandish, like a veggie dog topped with jalapeño and pineapple.

The official opening is Saturday, Feb. 25, but last night (Thursday) the new restaurant was packed with local food writers getting close-up shots of hot dogs and comparing notes.

At the center of the scene was Chloé Swanson. Chloé is one of Haute Dogs co-founders, along with her mother Pamela Swanson and her stepfather Lionel Holmes.

Chloé said the new restaurant is a shift in more ways than just moving across Four Mile Run. While the Old Town North location is located in the epicenter of a rapidly developing section of Alexandria, the Arlington location is in a decidedly more residential community and closer to several schools.

“There are so many schools around and parents didn’t really have a place to get a burger and beer that’s also family-friendly,” Chloé said. “There are not a lot of dine-in options in the neighborhood.”

The different type of neighborhood necessitated some changes in the menu, like the inclusion of new burgers on the Haute Dogs menu. Chloé said, in preparation of opening a new location with a slightly different menu, she opened a ghost kitchen to test concepts. Chloé said the ideas were tested against the jury of D.C. residents, and burgers won out.

“It’s overwhelming and exciting,” Chloé said. “We’ve wanted an Arlington space for a long time, then Covid hit.”

Chloé said during the pandemic, it was all hands on deck with a focus on keeping the main restaurant afloat, but in September they found the Smoking Kow BBQ location.

“We wanted to erase the BBQ identity and wanted to create a different space,” Chloé said, “a different visual look both from Smoking Kow and from our Alexandria location.”

Samara Singer, creator of Arlington foodie Instagram account A Town Bites, said there were a lot of other familiar faces in the local foodie community at the preview event. The Arlington social media foodie circle is a small but fairly tight-knit community, Singer said.

Many started their blogs after Covid started, and Singer said the Haute Dogs debut was a fun chance for many of them to meet each other in person.

Singer said she was excited for the fries and onion rings at Haute Dogs, but also said the location’s milkshakes could help fit a niche in the Williamsburg neighborhood.

“There are not a lot of other great shake locations around here,” she said.

Singer hopes Haute Dogs is able to capture an underserved evening demographic in the area with parents coming by after they’ve put their kids in bed. The eatery will be open at 11 a.m., closing at 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and at 5 p.m. on Sundays.

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The Mount Vernon Avenue bridge is a vital link between Alexandria and Arlington, but it’s in rough shape and in desperate need of a refit.

This morning (Friday) Sen. Mark Warner and local leaders met with engineers to review the state of the Arlington Ridge Road/Mount Vernon Avenue bridge and advocate for it to get a significant boost from federal funding. Federal funding for bridge infrastructure is currently in the hands of state leaders who will allocate funding to bridge projects around the state.

Greg Emanuel, director of the Department of Environmental Services for Arlington County, led Warner and other leaders on a tour of the bridge and highlighted where the issues are. Beneath the Arlington side of the bridge, where the Four Mile Run trail runs, Emanuel said the superstructure will require replacement to the tune of around $28 million.

The nearby West Glebe Road Bridge is in a similar state of disrepair and Emanuel said Alexandria and Arlington are working together for bridge replacement over the course of this year and into 2023. Once that’s completed, Emanuel said Arlington and Alexandria will turn their attention to the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge in the 2024-2025 timeframe.

Emanuel said the current bridge is comprised of stacked slabs of concrete that are difficult to inspect without taking the bridge apart. While the piers and abutments holding up the bridge will remain, an inspection in 2018 found that parts of the roadway superstructure have deteriorated and need to be replaced with a steel bridge — which Emanuel noted will also be easier to inspect.

As part of a new infrastructure bill, Virginia is receiving $537 million for bridge repair. Of the bridge replacement’s $28 million estimated budget, up to 80% of that can be paid for from that federal funding that the state is currently divvying up.

“What we don’t want in Virginia is what happened in Pittsburgh a week ago,” said Warner. “Help is on its way for additional funding.”

Local leaders said more state and federal support for the bridge repair projects would be greatly appreciated.

“Bridges are about connecting communities,” said Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “We do have a plan to address [the bridge repair] but could use federal support. This project will make a big difference and improve connectivity between low-income communities.”

Alexandria City Council member John Chapman said he grew up around the area and saw little difference as a local between the Alexandria and Arlington sides of Four Mile Run. Chapman said residents on both side of Four Mile Run need to be able to move seamlessly from one side to the other.

“This is a great opportunity to show we caught something before it became a problem,” said City Council member Sarah Bagley. “Inspections are vital.”

Emanuel said localities are currently waiting for more announcements from the state on how the federal funding will be allocated, but Emanuel said the bridges that are in poor condition — which the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge qualifies as — will be first in line for funding.

Despite Gov. Glenn Youngkin getting a less-than-warm reception in Alexandria yesterday, Jennifer Deci, Youngkin’s Deputy Secretary of Transportation, was a welcome presence at the tour and said that state leadership was eager to work with federal and local partners to fund bridge projects and seek more infrastructure funding from the federal government.

Deci said the timeline for allocating the bridge funding is still being worked out, but will likely be sometime in the first half of this year.


Well, it’s no Civil War gold, but there are buried artifacts in a Ballston office building just waiting to be uncovered.

A time capsule in Ballston’s Fairgate office building (1005 N. Glebe Road) was originally scheduled to be opened last year, but those plans got lost in the mix and now it’s unclear when or if the time capsule will be opened.

The capsule was placed there in 1988 and was scheduled to be opened in 2020.

The building had been owned by real estate investment company WashREIT, but Deanna Schmidt said the building was sold in July and there had been no opening event prior to that.

“We actually sold the building to Brookfield back in July,” said Schmidt, WashREIT’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications. “We hadn’t opened it prior to that due to COVID. But perhaps the new team has done something.”

A manager at the Brookfield Properties regional office told ARLnow that he helped oversee the purchase of the Fairgate building but said there was no mention of the time capsule in their discussions. It was unlikely property management has done anything with the time capsule since then, he added.

So, for now, the capsule apparently remains buried.

We do have some idea of what’s in there thanks to Melinda Schaedig, who was a third-grader at Taylor Elementary School and contributed to the capsule when it was buried. Spoilers: items inside include a steering wheel with an airbag and Washington Redskins memorabilia.

Should the time capsule finally be opened, it’s unlikely to get as dramatic of a revealing as a recently-discovered 1887 time capsule received in Richmond, with the governor watching and television cameras rolling as preservationists removed each of the items.


After nearly two years of serving up a unique range of coffee — most famously the orange juice-espresso blend called bumble coffee — Kino Coffee (2607 Wilson Blvd) has closed its doors for good.

Owners Anna Tsybko and Jason Blevins said in an Instagram post that the coffee shop and independent movie venue would be closing on Sunday after they decided not to renew their lease.

“This Sunday (11/28) will be Kino Coffee’s last day,” Tsybko and Blevins said. “We made the challenging decision not to renew our lease at 2607 Wilson Blvd. Thank you to everyone who joined us on this journey over the last two years!”

The owners emphasized the difficulty of the decision in an email to ARLnow.

“The decision not to renew our lease was a difficult one. With constant and persisting COVID uncertainties we made a challenging decision not to renew our lease,” they wrote. “We announced early last week that it was going to be our last one. We saw nothing but an incredible amount of support from our customers and community in general, who shared how meaningful Kino was to them.”

“We are proud to say that given the unfortunate circumstances of the pandemic we were able to build a healthy business, as well as create this community around our coffee shop,” the owners added. “We received emails, cards, and personal messages that showed so much appreciation and we will always treasure it!”

Kino Coffee, under its original name This is Fine Coffee, replaced the former Blümen Cafe in January 2020 — which unfortunately was just two months before COVID hit Arlington. The cafe added an indie theater and rebranded to a more cinematic feel last December.

The cafe’s legacy will continue in disgusted looks from this reporter’s girlfriend as he mixes coffee, orange juice, and caramel every few days.


(Updated on 11/22/21) The way has been cleared for the demolition of a home built in 1889, near the East Falls Church Metro station.

The Fellows-McGrath House, located at 6404 Washington Blvd and profiled in the Falls Church News-Press earlier this year by local historian Charlie Clark, was home to Harry Andrew Fellows. Fellows was Mayor of Falls Church and in 1932 became the first chairman of the newly formed Arlington County Board. The home was later a bed and breakfast known as “Memory House,” according to a real estate listing.

There is also a 130-year-old chestnut tree on the site that may be destroyed in the redevelopment now that demolition permits have been approved for the site.

Earlier this year, Clark reported that the home was purchased by Manassas-based FNM Investments LLC for $1.1 million and determined to be “uninhabitable.”

A demolition permit has since been filed and approved for the property. A county spokeswoman said such permits for private homes are outside of the discretion of the County Board.

“On August 18, the County approved a Land Disturbing Activity (LDA) permit for the Fellows-McGrath House… and on September 3, the County approved a demolition permit,” said Erika Moore, communications specialist for Arlington County. “Both LDA and Demolition permits are approved administratively. Neither the County Board nor the County Manager has authority to stop their issuance when all requirements are satisfied.”

Like the Febrey-Lothrop estate, which was demolished earlier this year, the Fellows-McGrath House’s run-down state makes the land it sits on more valuable to developers than the house itself.

“Manassas realtor Masum Kahn, who bought the house after eight months on the market to build modern homes, has not set a demolition schedule,” Clark reported in September. “Though he would consider selling ‘for the right price.'”

Local preservationist Tom Dickinson, after an unsuccessful bid to save the Febrey-Lothrop, launched a similarly doomed effort to save the Fellows-McGrath House.

“This sad situation about the subject property only serves to reinforce the fact that the County Manager and County Board could not care less about preserving and conserving unique, significant historic homes and property in Arlington,” Dickinson said. “Unlike our neighboring jurisdictions in Alexandria and Fairfax, Arlington is completely oblivious to the civic, community, and even economic value tied to historic properties… [it’s] another sad and unjustified loss to the entire community to see a magnificent, totally restored, unique 1889 Victorian crushed and bits and pieces hauled to a landfill.”

Dickinson said he filed an application with the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board to designate the property as historic, but the application was tabled — and the fate of the house was likely already sealed given that the owner had already filed for a demolition permit.

Now, Dickinson said he is advocating for changing state laws so that Arlington County’s historic designation process no longer needs to race against its own administrative permit approval process.

“We are working to amend state laws in order to eliminate this Catch-22 that was also the death knell for the late, lamented Febrey Lothrop Rouse estate,” Dickinson said. “If passed, this amendment would prohibit the issuance of a demolition permit for any property under review for local historic district designation.”


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