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An outdoor concert in Long Bridge Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Arlington County Board will be considering whether to allow alcohol sales during special events at Long Bridge Park and Penrose Square next month.

On Saturday, the Board approved public hearings on the change at these two public parks located, respectively, near Crystal City and along Columbia Pike.

“These sites were selected for this expansion because both are designed as event venues, which is referenced in their master plans, and both already host a variety of successful special events,” per a county report. “Additionally, it is anticipated that Penrose Square will be expanded in the near future, which will enhance its ability to host special events.”

The proposal has support from a majority of people who responded to a county survey this fall, although many respondents articulated public safety concerns.

“Many supported this change, and some felt the County should explore further expansion of the sale and consumption of alcohol and other concessions in County parks than what is currently proposed,” the report said. “Commenters opposed to the change cited concerns regarding the increased noise, potential damage to park property, unruly behavior, and a negative impact to the public’s safety and ability to enjoy parks.”

The county says much of the negative feedback had to do with issues that the process for hosting a special event is designed to mitigate.

If approved, alcohol will be limited to sales at special events only during designated dates and times. Special events already require a permit, and organizers would need a separate ABC permit that provides “a controlled and delineated area for the sale and consumption of alcohol.”

Some wanted to see alcohol sales in more parks, such as Virginia Highlands Park and Lubber Run Park, provided that the rules were properly enforced. Others wanted more non-alcoholic options at events where alcohol is allowed.

Alcohol sales during approved special events are allowed at Fort C. F. Smith Park in the Woodmont neighborhood, Clarendon Central Park and Gateway Park in Rosslyn.

The Board is expected to vote on adopting the changes during its meeting on Saturday, Jan. 21.

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An outdoor concert in Long Bridge Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Events at Long Bridge Park and Penrose Square could get boozier.

Arlington County is considering amending ordinances to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages during special events at these two public parks located, respectively, near Crystal City and on Columbia Pike.

Currently, county code allows alcohol at approved special events at Fort C. F. Smith Park in the Woodmont neighborhood, Clarendon Central Park and Gateway Park in Rosslyn. But amid support from some residents and the National Landing Business Improvement District to expand approved locations, the county is conducting a public outreach effort.

Locals can share if they think allowing drinking during special events at these parks is “a great idea, a bad idea or something in the middle.” The survey, originally set to close last week, is now open through Sunday, Nov. 6.

“Both of these sites were designed to be event venues and currently host a variety of events where alcohol would be a complement, including concerts, movie nights and festivals. In fact, both locations have closed off streets or easements nearby for their events to include alcohol,” says county staff member Adam Segel-Moss, in a video (below)explaining the proposed policy change.

The survey — which has been advertised online and on at least one sandwich board sign on Columbia Pike — asks respondents if there are any other locations staff should consider in the future. People can also share their experiences at special events they have attended at the three parks where alcohol sales are allowed.

“The county is going to take this change slowly, and in stages,” Segel-Moss said. “To be clear, we are not proposing alcohol in all parks every day at any time.”

If the change were to go through, special events organizers would have to request a permit to serve alcohol. Police review is required for special event permits requesting to serve alcohol, and the county can choose to require a police presence at the event, per the video.

The National Landing BID expressed its enthusiastic support for the change in a recent email promoting the survey.

“Having the ability to serve beer and wine during County-approved special events at Long Bridge Park (just like Gateway Park does currently in Rosslyn) is critical to our success in bringing diverse entertainment options to our district,” the BID said.

This ability would help the BID “bring world-class programming and major events to Long Bridge Park, including a signature event for the National Cherry Blossom Festival,” the email said.

A few years ago, Arlington asked locals what they thought of alcohol sales in public spaces, in general, when the county was updating its Public Spaces Master Plan.

“Nearly 60% of survey respondents indicated that they would be supportive of the sale of food and beverages, at least on a temporary basis, in parks and public spaces,” according to the plan. “This rises to over 60% when asked about the sale of food and beverages in the County’s high-density corridors or certain designated parks and plazas.”

Given the support, the updated parks plan recommends the allowing alcohol sales at more parks.

This change to county code could go to the Arlington County Board for review in January, Segel-Moss said.

Survey respondents on allowing concessions in Arlington parks (via Arlington County)
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The 7-Eleven store at 2001 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse (photo via Google Maps)

A man upset that he couldn’t buy alcohol before 6 a.m. allegedly stole it by force and then threw some of it at a store employee.

The incident happened around 5 a.m. Sunday, at the 7-Eleven at 2001 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse.

An “unknown male suspect entered into the business and began selecting alcoholic beverages,” Arlington County police said in the department’s daily crime report. “An employee informed the suspect that the sale of alcohol could not be completed prior to 6:00 a.m., during which the suspect ignored him. Another employee attempted to intervene, during which the suspect pushed him and exited the store with the unpaid merchandise.”

“A short time later, the suspect returned and threw one of the stolen items at the employee before fleeing the scene in a vehicle,” the crime report continued. “No injuries were reported.”

The suspect fled in what was described in police radio traffic as a white Budget rental van. Police were unable to locate the van or the man, who was described as “a Black male, approximately 30-35 years old, 6’0″, wearing a yellow cap, white shirt, yellow shorts and white shoes.”

Photo via Google Maps

A new series of county-sponsored walking tours will distill the history of Arlington’s bootleggers, rum runners, and whiskey raids during Prohibition.

The “Bootlegger’s Guide to the Parks” trains its focus on the era of Prohibition, a 13-year period when the manufacturing and sale of alcohol was illegal in the U.S. The walking tours begin at a county park before ending at a local brewery, bar, or distillery.

The first tour, which will meet up at Penrose Park, is scheduled for Friday, March 25. Another is scheduled in April, at Rocky Run Park, while a tour in May will meet at Benjamin Banneker Park. Registration opens on Wednesday (March 16) for all three.

In the public’s mind, Prohibition has always conjured images of gangsters and criminal activity, making it a historical period ripe for movies and other popular entertainment. John McNair, a county park historian who is leading the tours, says that while we may associate the exploits that came with Prohibition with large metropolitan cities, Arlington had its fair share of dealings with illegal alcohol activity.

“We might consider these images of, say, Chicago or New York, but Prohibition was very real and very much on the table for people in Arlington County as well,” he says.

Even prior to Prohibition, several Arlington neighborhoods, like near the Key Bridge in Rosslyn, had earned reputations for attracting District residents who wanted to engage in vice. The reputation was well-earned, says McNair, with Arlington becoming a favorite place to grab a drink and play cards for many in the region.

While he doesn’t want to spoil too much about what the tours will cover, McNair says the March 25 event will focus upon the famed Thanksgiving whiskey raid of 1921.

On that day, federal agents joined up with police from across Virginia to raid four illegal distilling sites in Arlington.

“It took the eternity of the day. And at the end of which, they set state records for highest yield of [confiscated] whiskey products in Virginia,” says McNair. “While it made massive headlines at the time, the record would not stand for very long.”

Beyond the scandalous stories, McNair says the hope is that the programs bring in new audiences who want to learn about local history, parks, and public places. Telling stories about Prohibition in Arlington also opens up a window into what life was like here a century ago, during a very important time in America’s development.

“There were issues of suffrage, civil rights, the growing industry of war production that all became factors in how Prohibition plays out in Arlington,” McNair says.

Spots are limited on the walking tours and are open only to those 21 and over, due to a planned visit to a local bar. After all, how would be a Prohibition walking tour be complete without its own “raid” of a serving establishment?

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It appears that Bowlero — an allegedly rowdy Crystal City bowling alley at the base of apartments — won’t be headed to the gutter this year.

The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to renew use permits for Bowlero (320 23rd Street S.) sparing it from closure, on the conditions that staff will review its operations next January, closely monitor the business in the meantime and review it again in 2025.

But the relationship between the bowling alley and the residents of The Buchanan apartments above it is uneasy. There have been dozens of reports to Arlington County Police Department of fights, drunk and loud patrons, indecent exposure and damaged property.

It reached a point where ACPD hosted an online town hall on March 31 last year to hear tenants’ concerns and discuss the work by officers and Bowlero staff to get crowds under control.

Eighteen months after opening, Arlington County is recommending the Board renew Bowlero’s permits with the one-year review to make sure community concerns about night-time nuisances are minimized. Since it opened in July 2020, there have been nearly 70 calls for service to ACPD.

The county says it supports renewing the permits because the quality-of-life problems caused by rowdy patrons are being addressed through the Arlington Restaurant Initiative (ARI), a partnership between ACPD and restaurants and bars to make Arlington a safe nightlife destination.

Otherwise, it says in a county report, staff found no other problems with the business operating there.

The police department supports the renewal because Bowlero maintains the restaurant initiative accreditation it earned in October 2020, per the report. The alley’s management plays an active role in involving police, ACPD said in the town hall, making half of the 52 calls for service between July 2020 and March 31.

“Bowlero has also implemented proper security measures and best practices, as recommended by Arlington County Police Department (ACPD), for calming and managing crowds, in addition to proactively responding to pending reports on site,” the report said. “The Police Department has not identified any outstanding public safety issues related to the continuation of the subject use.”

These security measures include scanning people with wands and checking bags, the report says. In addition, a neighborhood liaison has been appointed to address residents’ concerns.

Still, members of a nearby civic association have expressed their concerns “about reports of a high volume of late-night noise and potentially dangerous activity related to patrons of the establishment,” the report said.

One former resident, who moved away partially because of the nuisances downstairs, said metal detectors and police’s best practices are “treating the symptoms” but not addressing their root causes: alcohol, prices, promotions and hours.

The permits allow Bowlero to operate from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Saturday through Sunday.

The former Buchanan resident said the calls to police detailed in the report — chiefly calls about fights and loud and drunk patrons — “seem typical of what I experienced.”

“They are absurd,” he said. “Gun issue? Street fights? Woman exposing herself? These are not just noise complaints, nor was this U Street [a street in D.C. known for its nightlife] prior to Bowlero opening. It was a calm and pretty safe street that turned into a place to actively avoid.”

Here’s the full list of what residents called for in 2021:

Calls to ACPD for service at Bowlero in Crystal City (via Arlington County)
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Morning Notes

Body Found in Metro Tunnel Last Year — “On April 2, 2020, a report said, a person jumped on top of a Yellow Line train at L’Enfant Plaza station. A track inspector found the person’s body three days later between the Pentagon and Pentagon City stations in Arlington, Va.” [Washington Post, WMSC]

Runway Reconstruction for DCA — “Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $13,715,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded to four airports… [the] Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will receive a grant of $1,700,000 to go toward a runway reconstruction at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.” [Press Release]

Theme Announced for County Fair — “We are officially 50 days away from the Arlington County Fair! This year’s theme is… *drum roll please*… NIGHTS, LIGHTS, AND BITES! We are so excited for all the colorful nights, bright lights, and yummy bites at this year’s Fair, and we can’t wait to see you there!” [Twitter]

VHC Gets Grant for Remote OB Appointments — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has received a $38,000 grant from the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation (JBLF) for the pilot of the Hospital’s OB Connect program, which provides patients with the flexibility to receive prenatal care from home.” [Press Release]

Robbery at Pentagon City Mall — “At approximately 9:30 p.m. on June 25, police were dispatched to the late report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the employee was assisting the suspect when he began to give her commands and directed her to open the display cases and place merchandise into his bag. The suspect then ordered the employee into the back of the store until he left the business.” [ACPD]

Restaurant T0-Go Drink Changes Extended — “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurants were shuttered, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) created a safe and secure way for restaurants to offer cocktails to go with a meal. The General Assembly has now continued this practice in statute for one year. In addition, restaurants who are delivering wine and beer can continue to do so for another year.” [Zebra]

Outdoor Balloon Launches Banned — “The revised law, sponsored by Del. Nancy Guy (D-Virginia Beach), takes effect on July 1, and will prohibit the intentional releasing, discarding, or causing to be released any balloon outdoors. Violators are liable for a civil penalty of $25 per balloon. The bill provides that if a person under the age of 16 releases a balloon at the instruction of an adult, the adult shall be liable for the civil penalty.” [Sun Gazette]

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The soon-to-be-revamped Crystal City Water Park is set to become Arlington’s third “sip and stroll” destination.

The privately-owned, 1.5 acre park at 1601 Crystal Drive has long hosted a small food and drink vendor. Thanks to a pending “Commercial Lifestyle Center” permit from Virginia ABC, that vendor — Peruvian Brothers — will soon be able to offer park-goers alcoholic beverages that can be consumed anywhere in the park.

“The overall goal is to cultivate an inviting setting where local residents, office workers and visitors are encouraged to hang out, relax and interact,” said JBG Smith Vice President Taylor Lawch, in a statement. The company owns the park and numerous nearby buildings, including those housing Amazon’s growing HQ2 workforce.

The Arlington County Board recently approved a plan to add five new vendor kiosks, a performance stage, and a bar to the park, in addition to planned upgrades to its water features.

“There will be places for parents to sip on a glass of wine while their kids go for ice cream nearby; a couple to meet for a date where they can hear live music and grab a beer at intermission; or coworkers to gather for an informal outdoor happy hour right outside their office,” Lawch said.

The initial sipping and strolling will take place this spring and summer, before the park is temporarily closed during the cooler months for construction. It is expected to reopen in the spring of 2022.

The park will join a pair of Arlington retail centers — the Village at Shirlington and Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) — in allowing legal, on-the-go outdoor alcohol consumption on privately-owned property.

“The creation of a Commercial Lifestyle Center is in keeping with JBG SMITH’s vision for National Landing as a vibrant 18-hour environment where people want to live, work and visit,” a company PR rep said. “This licensure enables JBG SMITH to take great existing and planned areas of the National Landing neighborhood and make them even better.”

Additional JBG-owned property in National Landing — the collective term for Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — may eventually be added to the permit.

“JBG SMITH is looking on a case-by-case basis to identify other areas within National Landing for future activations,” the rep tells ARLnow. “As of right now, they are focusing on this initial designation at Water Park.”

Making the Water Park into a more active destination for hanging out is part of the neighborhood’s evolution away from being known as a sleepy, concrete-filled office corridor.

“National Landing continues to evolve into an exciting destination complete with diverse dining options and growing entertainment venues,” National Landing Business Improvement District President Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said in a statement. “Enhancing and activating our outdoor public spaces for community use is more important than ever, and we are thrilled that National Landing has been approved as a Commercial Lifestyle Center. JBG SMITH’s initial activation at Water Park will create a desirable new way for area residents, workers and visitors to gather and support our local businesses in a safe environment.”

The Water Park will continue to host BID-organized events, she added. The BID obtained temporary Virginia ABC permits to allow alcohol consumption at the park for previous events.

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(Updated 4:30 p.m. 3/11/21) Although it might not be a normal St. Patrick’s Day, local restaurants and bars are finding a way to celebrate.

The pandemic was not kind to Arlington restaurants. At least 26 places have closed since last March, including the Pentagon City Irish pub Siné (though a replacement is trying to open soon).

The lockdown started right before St. Patrick’s Day last year, canceling the festivities at Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse and other popular mid-March gathering spots.

This year, local restaurants are finding ways to safely celebrate. Rather than packing in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, as might happen during the before times, most places are requiring or highly recommending reservations due to limited capacity. Some have expanded their outdoor seating and some are spreading out their celebration over a few days to avoid crowding.

Below is a list of some local restaurants that are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Arlington this year.

Celtic House (2500 Columbia Pike) The Celtic House will be celebrating its Irish roots with an extended St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The festivities will kick off on Friday, March 12 and conclude on Wednesday, March 17. A full Irish menu and specials will be available. Reservations are highly advised due to limited capacity. For information call (703) 746-9644.

Ireland’s Four Courts (2051 Wilson Blvd) Celebrating its 26th St. Patrick’s Day, Four Courts is ready to pick up where it left off last year. The pub will be celebrating March 13-15 and on March 17. There will be Irish dancers on the patio in the afternoon. Due to the pandemic, bar seating will be closed and there will be no live music inside. Making reservations is highly encouraged due to limited seating. For information call (703) 525-3600.

McNamara’s Pub & Restaurant (567 23rd Street S.) — The festivities start early at McNamara’s this year with doors opening at 9 a.m. on March 17. Because of the pandemic, there is a two-hour limit at tables, and reservations are highly recommended. The patio will be open, weather permitting. For information call (703) 302-3760.

O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub (3207 Washington Blvd) O’Sullivan’s has three days of live music and Irish celebrations lined up. On Friday, March 12, Britton James will be performing at 8 p.m. On Saturday, March 13, Uncle Jesse will be performing at 8 p.m. On March 17, Irish dancers will perform at 2 p.m, Pete Baker will perform at 3 p.m. and Willem Dicke will perform at 6 p.m. Their traditional Irish menu will feature dishes such as their homemade Irish bread topped with smoked salmon, corned beef, beef and Guinness stew, and fish & chips. First come, first serve. For information call (703) 812-0939.

Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub (2800 S. Randolph Street) – Samuel Beckett’s will open its doors from 10 a.m. to midnight on March 17. There will be Irish dancers at 5 p.m., as well as live music from Eddie Pasa at 5:30 p.m. If you are not comfortable eating in the pub, Samuel Beckett’s is offering “Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Home” kits. Family-style meals (serving six people) will be offered as well as a limited supply of Jameson cocktail kits. Orders must be placed at least 24 hours in advance. For information or to order the at-home St. Patrick’s Day kit call (703) 379-0122.

Whitlow’s On Wilson (2854 Wilson Blvd) — Whitlow’s will kick off the St. Patrick’s Day festivities with a live music performance from DjKillabeats24 on Saturday, March 13. On March 17, Irish food will be available along with live music from Timmie Metz featuring Tambo starting at 6 p.m. The rooftop will also be open for patrons, weather permitting. For information call (703) 276-9693.

File photo

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that he is easing some public health restrictions, including the 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales.

Effective March 1, Virginians will be able to buy and drink alcohol at restaurants, food courts, breweries, distilleries and wineries until they are required to close at midnight.

The changes to the current executive order come amid declining rates of hospitalizations and infections and rising vaccination rates in the Commonwealth, Northam said during a press conference this morning (Wednesday).

Northam is also easing restrictions for outdoor entertainment and social gatherings, where evidence shows the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 is lower, as well as allowing overnight summer camps to open “with strict mitigation measures in place.”

“Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of all Virginians, hospitalization and positivity rates across the Commonwealth are the lowest they have been in nearly three months,” Northam said in a press release. “As key health metrics show encouraging trends and we continue to ramp up our vaccination efforts, we can begin to gradually resume certain recreational activities and further reopen sectors of our economy.”

He attributed the rise in cases over the winter to cold weather and the holidays.

In Arlington, the rate of new coronavirus cases dropped from a peak of around 850 cases per week since mid-January, but has since leveled off between 250-300 cases per week. Cases have similarly dropped nationwide, but that drop has been leveling off.

Meanwhile, Virginia’s Safer at Home strategy — and its accompanying requirements for physical distancing, mask-wearing, gathering limits and business capacity restrictions — will remain in place.

“Even as we take steps to safely ease public health guidelines, we must all remain vigilant so we can maintain our progress — the more we stay home, mask up, and practice social distancing, the more lives we will save from this dangerous virus,” Northam said.

The current modified Stay at Home order will expire on Sunday.

Several Arlington restaurants have told ARLnow that they were waiting on a decision about the Stay at Home order before making plans for March, a month that includes St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness basketball and other events that are traditional draws for local bars.

The full press release from the governor’s office is below.

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A month after Shirlington Village first allowed it, “sipping and strolling” is now permitted at Pentagon Row.

The shopping centers, owned by Bethesda-based Federal Realty Investment Trust, both applied for new Virginia ABC “Commercial Lifestyle Center” permits earlier this year. Pentagon Row’s permit was just approved.

The permit, which was enabled by a new Virginia law that went into effect on July 1, allows customers to take beer, wine and cocktails to go within a privately-owned shopping center. In the case of Pentagon Row, patrons can buy the drinks at any of a half dozen restaurants, then enjoy them while strolling around the recently-opened ice skating rink or other parts of the retail district.

It’s kind of like Bourbon Street, but colder and with fewer beads.

FRIT said the permit approval “further supports Arlington businesses in the neighborhood.”

The company posted the following FAQ about the permit approval.

Can I carry an alcoholic beverage around Pentagon Row?
Enjoy alcoholic beverages to go from Asia Bistro, Basic Burger, Bund’Up, Wild Tiger, Saigon Saigon and Sin’ E Irish Pub and stroll throughout the designated common areas and participating stores at Pentagon Row. (You must be 21+). Please keep the beverage in a disposable cup provided by the restaurant where the drink was purchased.

Where to Sip & Stroll?
You can now roam with your cocktail on the main pedestrian walkways throughout Pentagon Row. Click here for a map of the specific designated areas. Alcohol not permitted in any parking lot or garage.

Can you bring your own alcohol to Pentagon Row?
No. Only alcoholic beverages purchased from Asia Bistro, Basic Burger, Bund’Up, Wild Tiger, Saigon Saigon and Sin’ E Irish Pub may be taken outside the restaurant and into the neighborhood. No outside alcohol is permitted.

Can I take my drink into a store while shopping?
Yes, apart from the stores that prohibit alcoholic beverages inside. If you see a sign on the store that reads “Sip & Shop”, you may enter that store with your alcoholic beverage.

Can you take a drink purchased from Asia Bistro, Basic Burger, Bund’Up, Wild Tiger, Saigon Saigon and Sin’ E Irish Pub into another restaurant?
No. You are welcome to Sip & Stroll to your heart’s content, but if you want to stop for a snack or a second beverage, you cannot take that same cup back into the restaurant where it was purchased or into any other restaurants. If you order a second beverage, the restaurant will provide you with a new cup.

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Virginia is getting several new coronavirus-related restrictions after the weekend, as the upward trajectory of new cases and hospitalizations continues.

Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement Friday afternoon.

“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are,” Northam said. “We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse.”

“Everyone is tired of this pandemic and restrictions on our lives. I’m tired, and I know you are tired too. But as we saw earlier this year, these mitigation measures work. I am confident that we can come together as one Commonwealth to get this virus under control and save lives.”

The restrictions, detailed below, include slashing the maximum size of indoor and outdoor gatherings, reducing the age for the state’s mask requirement, and a 10 p.m. alcohol sales curfew at all restaurants and other dining and drinking establishments. The Commonwealth also plans to step up enforcement.

The new restrictions will take effect on Monday.

The rate of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the state. Hospitalizations also spiked by nearly 25% over the past week, InsideNova reported.

In Arlington, the average daily rate of new cases ticked down Friday, after reaching the highest point since the spring epidemic on Thursday. The seven-day rate of new COVID-related hospitalizations, however, rose to 15 on Friday, after 6 new hospitalizations were reported overnight.

The full announcement from the governor’s office is below.

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