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The pandemic has claimed yet another local restaurant — and this time, it’s one of the oldest bars in Arlington.
Summers, the soccer bar at 1520 N. Courthouse Road, will not reopen, owner Joe Javidara confirmed to ARLnow today. The restaurant’s furnishings — from kitchen equipment to framed soccer memorabilia to the Tiffany-style stained glass lamps — are now being offered for auction through Oct. 13.
Summers temporarily closed at the end of August, warning that the closure could be permanent if it was unable to obtain a permit for an expanded outdoor seating area. Javidara said he was not able to get the county permit and instead made the tough decision to close permanently.
A staple of the Courthouse neighborhood, Summers first opened in December 1982. It showed soccer matches from around the world at a time “when no one else in the U.S. watched soccer,” Javidara said, but went on to serve millions of customers over its 38 years.
It has remained in business through big changes to Arlington, but rent increases have made it difficult to make ends meet, said Javidara. It was set to close eventually due to a planned redevelopment of the block, but COVID-19 hastened the inevitable.
Javidara says he has been losing money every month since the start of the pandemic. The main dining used to hold 150 cheering soccer fans, but social distancing restrictions reduced that to 16. Only a handful actually would show up to watch the games, making it hard to retain employees who rely on tips.
Sales were off 95%, Javidara said, but the rent remained $20,000 per month. He said he was also unable to obtain a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan as a potential lifeline.
“It’s disappointing we have to go like this after 38 years,” Javidara told ARLnow.
Still, there’s some hope for the future. After taking some time off, something he hasn’t been able to do for decades, Javidra said he’ll test the waters to see if any investors might want to help Summers reopen elsewhere, perhaps as soon as next year.
Any new location would have to have more outdoor seating and, potentially, a rooftop. A German beer garden with sports could be a new format worth exploring, he said.
“We’ll look for another place,” he said.
The restaurant announced on its Facebook page Friday that it is terminating its lease as of Jan. 1, 2015. It did not specify a reason for the lease termination.
“We are very grateful to our loyal customers who throughout the past 30 years have made it possible for Summers to twice be voted as America’s Best Sports Bar,” the restaurant said.
Summers said it is looking for a partner to help it move to a new location.
After nearly 40 years, Joe Javidara said the future of his soccer-themed bar Summers Restaurant in Courthouse (1520 N. Courthouse Road) hinges on a permit he said is being processed through Arlington County government.
The restaurant announced on Monday that it was temporarily closed until it could get a permit for outdoor seating.
Like many local restaurant owners with insufficient indoor seating to allow for social distancing, Javidara said getting one of the county’s temporary outdoor seating requests is crucial to ensuring that customers feel safe returning to local eateries.
Jessica Margarit, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development, said the county has received 110 applications for Temporary Outdoor Seating Area permits. Of those, 75 have been approved. Four were denied while 13 remain under review. The other 17 are listed as inactive — meaning they have not followed up with staff on requests for additional information — and one was withdrawn.
Asked about it by ARLnow, Margarit said the county had not received a new TOSA application from Summers yet.
Dear Summers friends,We will TEMPORARILY CLOSE until we get an outdoor seating permit from the Arlington, County. …
It’s a process the county has worked to make easier over the last few months, but Javidara faces a critical snag: his sidewalk is too narrow. An earlier application in June was denied because staff found that putting the restaurant space on the sidewalk would not allow enough space for pedestrians to safely maneuver.
“This time, I went to county and told them we’re going to close, we’ve closed already,” Javidara said. “We got the application. Hopefully we’ll see. They’re going to send the engineer to check it out… Without the outside seating we can’t pay the rent.”
Javidara’s solution had been to utilize the on-street parking area, removing four parking spaces to make way for tables with a cleared space on the sidewalk between the seating and the restaurant for pedestrians to pass through. It’s a move that’s been implemented in places like Clarendon and Shirlington, and in other jurisdictions like Alexandria, to the benefit of local restaurants.
He tried that approach in June, arguing that no one was coming to work in the nearby buildings anyway, but was rejected.
“We tried to open anyway, but we’re losing a lot of money and paying $20,000 in rent,” Javidara said. “And there’s no sports, so it feels like everything is against us.”
It isn’t the first time Summers Restaurant has been in dire straits. In 2014, Javidara expressed similar concerns about increasing rent possibly driving the restaurant out of business.
Now, he’s been told the application could be processed sometime in the next two or three weeks. Margarit said the average application reviews for TOSA permits take 5-10 days, sometimes less.
“They’re slow these days,” Javidara said. “By the time we get it, it could maybe be the end of October. There might still be a few weeks of nice weather. We’ve been here for 37 or 38 years, but if this doesn’t go through we’re going to go.”
Regardless, the building Summers calls home may not be long for this world: the entire block is set for redevelopment.
Time has expired for Spanish tapas restaurant and soccer-watching venue Copa Kitchen & Bar in Ballston.
The establishment at Ballston Quarter mall served its final brunches over the weekend after apparently failing to score with local diners. Of course, stiff opposition — in the form of the pandemic and a labor shortage — probably didn’t help.
Copa opened in March 2019, in a separate space adjacent to the Quarter Market food hall. It offered Spanish-inspired small plates, flatbreads, sangria from its “sangria garden,” outdoor seating and soccer matches on the bar’s TVs.
Late last month, however, Copa announced on its website it would soon close.
We’ve got some news to share about Copa Kitchen & Bar. We’re closing our doors and serving our last brunch on Sunday November 7th. We have had such a good time bringing you our Spanish inspired tapas and being a part of the Ballston Quarter family over the last two years. We want to thank every customer who has dined with us, watched games with us, followed our journey on social media or enjoyed a happy hour with us. We’d like to extend a special thanks to the customers who have supported us (and all restaurants) through the pandemic.
Today workers could be seen in the restaurant space, packing up items and removing some of the fixtures.
It’s the second time in just over a year that a soccer-centric restaurant has shuttered in Arlington. Summers Restaurant in Courthouse closed last fall ahead of a redevelopment project.
The restaurant business is hurting nationwide.
The pandemic has kept diners at home and contributed to the closure of thousands of restaurants. It has also prompted temporary restrictions on how restaurants operate, which in Virginia means no bar seating, reduced capacities, and increased cleaning expenses, among other things.
Here in Arlington, at least 17 restaurants have closed since the start of the pandemic; the most recent closures include Spirits of ’76 and Riverside Hot Pot in Clarendon, and Summers in Courthouse. Owners of restaurants that have closed, who have talked to ARLnow, have said that business — particularly indoor business — was greatly reduced, while the already-high rent stayed the same.
What’s keeping diners away is pretty simple: it’s risky to dine out during a pandemic. Doing anything in an indoor, confined space without a mask, including eating, elevates one’s risk of contracting COVID-19.
Outdoor dining is safer — a new contact tracing report from the City of Alexandria saw only about 2% of new COVID patients report recently dining outside — but, of course, the weather is now getting colder, making it a less attractive option, even with the mass deployment of heaters.
In the meantime, coronavirus cases nationwide are increasing, though for now new cases locally are holding relatively steady.
Given all that, how do currently feel about dining out? Are you willing to dine inside a restaurant at this point?
Tired of making lunch and dinner? Luckily, many of Arlington’s restaurants are still open and ready to serve you via takeout and delivery.
Support a local business during a trying time and get some tasty food. This list is designed to let you call or order online with one tap.
A very special thank you to Arlington Community Federal Credit Union for sponsoring this feature. See anything that needs to be added or changed? Email ARLnow’s Turquoise Jackson at [email protected].
*Asterisk indicates restaurants only open for takeout
Bakeshop (1025 N. Fillmore Street G)
Now closed (temporary)
Olive Express Mediterranean Cafe (1100 N. Glebe Road)
Now closed (temporary)
A minor parking mishap attracted a crowd of restaurant owners in Courthouse yesterday.
Just before lunchtime, the “KBBQ Taco Box 2” food truck accidentally struck the front bumper of a parked car on the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd, as the truck was trying to squeeze into a tight parallel parking space. There was no damage evident — but police were called and a citation issued, as a small crowd of restaurant owners and mangers gathered.
As it turns out, the car belonged to a delivery driver for the Afghan Kabob House across the street, and this was the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle between brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks in Courthouse.
The war started last month with the emergence of an unlikely leader on the restaurant side. Bar Concepts, a restaurant consulting company, had been brought in to operate the back bar area of the recently reopened Summers Restaurant. Though Summers is not exactly known as a haven for Courthouse office dwellers seeking a quick grab-and-go bite to eat, Alan Beal, COO of Bar Concepts, zeroed in on food trucks — at least those that parked along Wilson and Clarendon Blvds — as the enemy of local restaurants.
Beal swiftly organized a coalition of about a dozen Courthouse area restaurants who say that the trucks “are running amok” and having “a serious impact on these brick and mortar restaurants” by parking directly in front of their establishments. The collective effort was on display Thursday as owners took turns complaining about parking enforcement to police.
Food trucks, they said, were reserving precious street parking spots in front of restaurants by having workers park cars on the street as early as 6:00 a.m. Some weren’t even feeding the meter, they said.
There’s nothing illegal about reserving street parking spaces in such a manner, the cops said, though they did encourage the owners to call when they did spot a violation like an expired meter. There is also a two hour limit on parking, which is enforced, but there’s a loophole: trucks can simply pull into into another open space after two hours, provided it’s at least 25 feet away from their existing parking space.
With little recourse other than calling in the meter maids, the owners seemed to agree to double down on an unofficial group tactic: encouraging employees to park on the street, thus taking away available parking spaces from the trucks. One owner could be heard telling several employees to be sure to park on the street during their shifts. Another ran across the busy four-lane road when a spot opened up, driving his Mercedes from a small private lot behind his restaurant, making a U-turn and pulling into the open spot, thus boxing out the food truck hoard.
Beal — who was in D.C. during the fender bender fracas — insists that he doesn’t oppose food trucks, only their parking choices. He said trucks park directly in front of businesses, billowing smoke, creating crowds that block the sidewalk and taking away customers. He has been documenting the woes on a YouTube channel.
“No one opposes food trucks, they’re good for consumers and good for the economy,” he said via phone. “The problem is where they’re parked.”
Purposely blocking parking spots, for hours on end, only hurts restaurants by keeping the spots from potential customers, according to Beal. “It is kind of unethical,” he said of food trucks, or anyone else for that matter, reserving street parking spots for commercial gain.
Beal said he has been having constructive conversations with the county about solutions that could work for both restaurants and food trucks. That potential solution — which had until then not been revealed to the media — is creating and enforcing specific areas for food trucks to park in a given area.
Cara O’Donnell, spokeswoman for Arlington Economic Development, said the county is hoping to implement a “street vending zone” pilot program in Rosslyn within a few weeks.
(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) The owners and managers of 12 restaurants centered around the Courthouse Metro station say local food trucks are severely impacting their restaurants.
We’re told that representatives from Summers Restaurant, Guarapo, Me Jana, TNR Cafe, Afghan Kabob House, Subway, Cosi, Boston Market, California Tortilla, Jerry’s Subs and Pizza, Corner Bakery, and Ireland’s Four Courts met Wednesday to form a group that plans to push the Arlington County Board to further regulate food trucks.
Alan Beal, COO of Bar Concepts, a restaurant consulting company that recently started working with Summers Restaurant, was the one who called Wednesday’s meeting to order.
“We’re forming a coalition because the food trucks are running amok,” says Beal. “It has a serious financial impact on these brick and mortar restaurants.”
Beal says between three and five food trucks park in front of Summers Restaurant and other Courthouse area eateries each day. Though the trucks are legally allowed to park there for two hours, Beal and other restaurant owners say the trucks sometimes skirt that time limit.
“Parking is free until 8 a.m.,” says Beal. “From 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., food trucks will send cars to the Courthouse area to park in all the spots in front of these restaurants and wait for the food trucks to show up.”
“Sometimes, the food trucks even send people to stand in the spots and wait for the food trucks to arrive.” says Beal.
Guarapo owner Nesrin Abaza says the accumulation of food trucks caused her business to stop serving lunch altogether.
“It just wasn’t feasible,” says Abaza. “How can you compete? There’s no control.”
“It’s like, can I stand outside the restaurant next door and sell my empanadas?” Abaza says. “Would I be allowed to do that? Absolutely not. But food trucks can do that to us.”
Despite the recent outcry in Courthouse, this is hardly the first time food trucks have clashed with brick-and-mortar restaurants. In 2012, Rosslyn’s Business Improvement District mulled asking for restrictions on where food trucks could operate. But in 2013, the Arlington County Board went the opposite direction — voting to extend the parking time limit for food trucks from one hour to two hours.
“Our argument is that Arlington County has been listening to the food trucks,” Beal says. “At the end of the day, none of our businesses were approached or represented, and we see the food trucks multiplying.”
Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the DMV Food Truck Association, says he’s sympathetic to the restaurants’ problems, but that more regulation isn’t the answer.
“This has been something very common to hear from brick and mortar owners,” says Ruddell-Tabisola. “The underlying myth is that food trucks are somehow harming existing businesses, and it’s just not true.”
(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) Summers Restaurant in Courthouse, a longtime haven for soccer fans, reopened in February after closing at the end of 2014. Now, the sports bar at 1520 N. Courthouse Road will try something new to draw in more customers.
Summers 2, the re-branded back bar, is hosting a grand opening party Friday night, with 1990s cover band The Dial Up. On Saturday, the bar will show the boxing match between superwelterweighs Canelo Alvarez and James Kirkland, with no cover.
The sections of Summers will remain connected and part of the same business, according to a restaurant employee reached by phone this morning. Owner Joe Javidara hired a promotion company, Bar Concepts, to liven up the space.
“We’re just trying to spice up the other bar,” the employee said.
Doors will open at 5:00 p.m. on Friday. The back bar will host events almost every day of the week, with “Draft Night” on Tuesdays, “Drunk Karaoke” on Wednesdays, trivia on Thursdays and live bands on Fridays and DJs on Saturday, according to its website.
The back bar was damaged by a fire in June 2013, and, according to the Washington Post’s Steve Goff, when it was reopened, the business did not return. The Summers employee reached by phone said that business has picked up steadily since the restaurant’s brief closure, and the rebranded bar is another attempt to rejuvenate the 31-year-old business.
Salt and pepper shakers are still on the tables at Summers Grill and Sports Bar, which closed at the end of last month, and customers will soon join them.
The restaurant, which opened in 1982 and rose to prominence as a haven for soccer fans before the sport became popularized in the U.S., terminated its lease because of a big dip in business, according to the Washington Post. Just weeks after it closed, a sign appeared on its door this weekend announcing it would soon reopen.
“Back by popular demand of our loyal customers,” the sign reads, “and the generosity of our landlord (JBG Cos.), Summers Sports Bar will re-open soon!”
Summers’ owner and JBG representatives did not return requests for comment. Looking through the windows of the restaurant — which sits at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Courthouse Road — it appears that it shouldn’t take long to prepare for a reopening.
But beyond the “Landmark” project (2050 Wilson Blvd) by Greystar, there are no near-term private or public projects set to pick up wherever Greystar leaves off.
Over the next 20 years, Arlington County has plans to transform some of the mid-rise buildings, county facilities and the surface parking lot at the epicenter of the neighborhood into a vibrant area. Dubbed Courthouse Square, the area is bounded by Clarendon Blvd to the north, N. Courthouse Road to the east, 14th Street N. to the south and commercial buildings to the west.
The future Courthouse Square would feature a civic square for rallies and programs, new cultural and civic buildings, shared streets and a pedestrian promenade. Courthouse Square will be, visionaries said in a 2015 planning document, “where the revolution begins.”
Greystar is leading the charge with “The Commodore” apartments, which replace some brick buildings that housed Cosi, Boston Market, Jerry’s Subs and Summers Restaurant. But the revolution will only be fully realized after a few more county projects and private developments materialize.
“It’s a balance. The full vision will come together through public- and private-sector investment and actions,” says Anthony Fusarelli, Jr., the director of the county’s Department of Community, Housing and Development.
Part of the burden of redevelopment is on the county, which envisioned in 2015 building a new headquarters — after the county’s lease was set to end in 2028 — as well as up to two civic and cultural facilities. The then-looming end to the lease on the headquarters was the impetus for the 2015 Courthouse Square addendum, he said.
In 2018, Arlington County negotiated a lease extension until 2033, however, allowing the county to focus on renovations to its existing building and giving it an extra five years to start on new construction. The pandemic — and the changes it brought to the workplace — could mean a more modest approach instead of building a 400,000-square-foot building once envisioned in 2015.
“There’s been a massive forced experience about how people do work, whether they’re in a small business or a government agency,” Fusarelli said. “I think going forward in the immediate future, trying to pursue discrete development plans would be very challenging.”
As for the cultural facilities, Arlington Cultural Affairs is still determining whether they’re needed after conducting an assessment in 2006.
“Informed also by the findings of our comprehensive 2017 Enriching Lives Arlington Arts and Culture Strategy, Arlington Cultural Affairs will continue to work with other County agencies to determine next steps,” the division said.
Meanwhile, of the privately owned sections, the Landmark Block is the only corner where a developer has expressed interest in redevelopment. (Across the street from Courthouse Square, Greystar is shepherding a 220-unit building on the vacant Wendy’s lot through county processes.)
“We worked hard to realize as many of the public benefits as we could through community benefits partly because we understood it may be some time, and there may be some uncertainty, [before] the next private development could come forward,” Fusarelli said.