Clarendon is getting a new café and bar with an emphasis on outdoor drinking and dining.
Construction permits were approved earlier this summer for a new restaurant at 3303 Wilson Blvd, with expansive outdoor seating and a 120 square foot outdoor kiosk. The new establishment will be called “Bar Ivy” and will also feature a nearly 3,000 square foot indoor space on the ground floor, permit applications suggest.
Last October the County Board considered a request from the owner of the office building to allow an outdoor café and kiosk in an existing, sparsely-used plaza area along Wilson Blvd, near the intersection with N. Highland Street and catty-corner from the Clarendon Metro station.
From our reporting at the time:
The proposed café would have 125 seats outside and 59 seats inside, according to a county staff report.
“The outdoor café will occupy the majority of the existing plaza and be enclosed by moveable planters,” the staff report notes. “Although all existing trees will be maintained, the existing raised planter walls will be redesigned to accommodate the outdoor seating.”
The kiosk will serve “grab-and-go beverages” to both passersby as well as those dining at the outdoor café. It’s being considered by the County Board separately from the café.
“The kiosk will operate the same hours as the restaurant and outdoor café and will be located on private property at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North Highland Street,” the staff report says.
According to a county staff report, the approval was granted on the condition that it applies to just one restaurant operator: a company called Meowlington LLC.
The LLC was formed in March 2020 by Greg Algie, records show. Algie was a business partner in the former Fado Irish Pub in D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood and is the founder of Blagden Hospitality Group, the company behind a number of trendy D.C. restaurants including Tiger Fork, Calico, The Fainting Goat and Primrose.
Construction permits for the new restaurant were issued to Hospitality Construction Services, which counts Tiger Fork among its former projects. The company’s past projects also include the Ballston Quarter food hall and The Italian Store.
Outside 3033 Wilson Blvd today, fencing was up around the plaza and some excavation activity could be seen. Adjacent to the plaza, doors to an under-construction ground floor space were propped open.
There’s no word on when how long construction might take nor when the new restaurant may open, though such projects usually take a few months at a minimum.
A PR rep for Blagden Hospitality Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Update on 9/30/21: Charges against Briscoe were dropped earlier this week.
Earlier: Celtic House Irish Pub on Columbia Pike says it “does not wish to embroil itself” in the ongoing saga involving a local TikTok personality.
The bar released a statement on its social media channels yesterday, in response to allegations traded between TikToker Coco Briscoe, who attracted a sizable following with her videos about dating in the D.C. area, and a bartender the business now calls “a former employee.”
While the statement suggests that the bartender who Briscoe accuses of harassing her is no longer employed by Celtic House, it does not specify the circumstances around her departure. The bartender previously testified in court, during a hearing about an emergency protective order she obtained against Briscoe, about being “terrified” of the social media personality and her devoted followers.
“I’m afraid to be in my house. I’m afraid to be in this courtroom with her,” the bartender testified. “I just want to be left alone and don’t want attention.”
The judge allowed the protective order to expire, suggesting that it should not have been issued by a county magistrate in the first place due to a lack of evidence of legitimate physical threats, but Briscoe is still facing a misdemeanor charge for allegedly violating it by continuing to post about the situation on TikTok. She is next due in Arlington General District Court in two weeks, on Sept. 23.
Briscoe says the bartender is among a group of people, including employees of two Columbia Pike bars, who “bully, stalk and harass” her, making her feel unsafe in her neighborhood.
The Celtic House statement references at least some of Briscoe’s specific claims, which she has repeated in many of her dozens of TikTok posts over the past month — namely that video taken of Briscoe riding her bike near one of the bars, along with derogatory comments about her, were shared in a group chat.
“It would be improper to further comment… or to engage persons who have attacked the Celtic House, or the reputation of its owners and staff,” the statement says, before adding: “To be clear, the Celtic House does not condone the filming of any patron by employees, nor the public dissemination of pictures or comments on the actions of its patrons, except where such matters are required by, or, in furtherance of some interest of law enforcement or required as part of a civil or investigative action.”
The bartender in turn testified in court that it is Briscoe who has been the aggressor, weaponizing her following to harass her and others via hundreds of phone calls, social media messages and online reviews. The video sent to the group chat, which Briscoe subsequently obtained, was intended as a warning to local restaurant employees about an erratic customer, the bartender said.
Briscoe, meanwhile, has continued to rail against the two bars — Celtic House and Rebellion on the Pike — and their employees in videos posted since her last court appearance. She has also levied various accusations against the Arlington County Police Department, ARLnow, the Washington Post, and online review site Yelp.
Celtic House, in its statement, asserted that its business has been unfairly targeted. The bar “does not tolerate, nor wish to participate in on-line posturing or bullying,” it said.
Celtic House’s owner has not responded to emailed requests for further comment.
A statement issued by Rebellion on the Pike last month insisted that the accusations against it were an “attempt to smear our business [that] has zero evidence and truth to it.”
The full statement from Celtic House is below.
(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Beloved local watering hole Carpool is returning to Arlington after a more than four year absence.
A popular after-work and sports-watching spot, Carpool closed its Ballston-area location on the 4000 block of Fairfax Drive in 2017, to make way for what is now the 22-story J Sol apartment tower. After two decades in Arlington, the brand lived on in the Fair Lakes area of Fairfax County. But now it’s coming home.
Co-owner Mark Handwerger tells ARLnow that the new Carpool will open on the ground floor of the Virginia Tech building at 900 N. Glebe Road in Ballston. It will occupy a space that has been home to a succession of short-lived restaurant outposts over the past half dozen years or so, including Greene Turtle, Applebee’s and, most recently, Filipino eatery Bistro 1521.
“We have already put in for permits and licenses and hope to do minimal work and be open next month (October),” Handwerger said this morning. “We plan to bring back all the fun, tons of the decor, and a lot of the staff in a refreshed space and upgraded kitchen.”
“We also plan to feature some of our signature garage doors opening onto a large patio,” he added.
A PR rep later revealed additional details.
“CarPool’s new 6,382 SF location will offer the same fantastic experience locals and regulars know and love including billiards, pinball, craft cocktails, live sports, and an extensive draft beer selection,” the rep said via email. “The space will be able to accommodate up to 300 people, and host private parties of all sizes. Patrons will also enjoy an expanded menu, courtesy of a large, second-generation kitchen space.”
Carpool relocated to the Fair Oaks area of Fairfax County following its closure in Ballston, “but couldn’t come to terms with our landlord during the pandemic so [we] agreed to truncate the lease,” Handwerger said. That location closed at the end of May.
A second Carpool location, in the Herndon area, has been in business for nearly 20 years and remains open, he noted.
A full press release about the new Carpool in Ballston is below.
And to celebrate the grand opening of the café at 2016 Wilson Blvd, RĀKO will offer $1 coffees from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with specially-priced natural wines available all day Saturday until 9 p.m.
The roasting company, founded by sisters Melissa and Lisa Gerben in late 2019, sources and roasts sustainably farmed, single-origin coffee. They planned to open a café last year, but the pandemic delayed that, and they launched an online store and a D.C. pop up location instead.
Now, the Gerbens have a space, in the former location of The Olive Oil Boom, to sell fresh roasted coffee from around the world, espresso drinks, food, cocktails and natural wines.
“Through its thoughtful offerings like the signature baklava latte made with cinnamon, cardamom, and clove infused honey syrup, RĀKO aims to make specialty coffee approachable,” according to a press release.
The company and shop are named for a mountain in Ethiopia called Rako, which translates to “challenge.”
“The brand’s name underscores its mission to create elevated and exceptional coffees while giving back to the communities it touches, both locally and globally,” the release said.
Weekday happy hours will start at 4 p.m. The drinks menu will center natural wines, a collective term for wines that eschew the chemicals, additives and extra processes found in many commercial wines, from cultivation to harvest to production.
“Much like its coffee program, the natural wine program is both approachable and dynamic, with the opening menu aptly named Summer Crush, boasting a curated selection of refreshing summer wines by women winemakers,” the release said.
Coffee will seep into the cocktail menu, from an espresso martini to a Negroni made with coffee-infused Campari.
To eat, RĀKO will offer seasonal foods, such as cucumber gazpacho and strawberry and manchego salad, meze and cheese boards. It will also serve “pocket foods” such as salteñas, empanadas and sambussas, a nod to the coffee-growing regions of Bolivia, Colombia and Ethiopia, respectively. Breakfast and baked goods will come from local bakeries.
All this will be in a trendy space that can accommodate 55 people and double as a private event space. RĀKO will be decorated with local art, textiles from Guatemala and vibrant paintings of Ethiopian flora.
“Lush and comfortable, the café is designed to be a space where guests can recharge and connect over a specialty coffee or a glass of biodynamic wine,” the release said.
The sisters aim to host a variety of events at the space, including wine tastings and latte art classes.
RĀKO regular hours are Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(On Monday, RĀKO updated its regular hours of operation.)
A man sitting at a bar in Clarendon was repeatedly stabbed in a seemingly random attack on Saturday.
The stabbing happened at 7:30 p.m. at Spider Kelly’s (3181 Wilson Blvd).
“Upon arrival, officers located the male victim suffering from a laceration and the suspect being held down by witnesses,” Arlington County police said today in a crime report. “The investigation revealed that while the victim was sitting at the bar, the suspect allegedly approached him from behind and began repeatedly striking the victim with a sharp object.”
“The victim was transported to an area hospital with serious injuries,” ACPD said. “Patrick Casey, 34, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with Aggravated Malicious Wounding. He was held on no bond.”
Spider Kelly’s co-owner Nick Freshman said the attack looks “like a completely random act” by someone “who came in off the street.” The suspect walked in and started attacking a customer near the front of the restaurant without provocation, Freshman said, adding that his security staff jumped in and tackled the suspect, holding him until police arrived.
“I’m incredibly grateful to our staff and our security team… [they were] able to quickly detain the perpetrator and secure the weapon,” he said. “We’re praying for [the victim].”
“It was really pretty terrifying,” Freshman added. “It’s left our whole team pretty shook. I’m so sorry something like this happened.”
Asked about the suspect’s motive and about the weapon used, a police spokeswoman declined to provide additional details.
“There’s no additional details to provide at this time,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “This remains an active criminal investigation and detectives continue to review evidence and conduct interviews to determine the events that preceded the incident. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected]”
“It’s a very personal story,” chef and restaurateur Cathal Armstrong tells ARLnow about the Irish pub’s origins. “There are pubs all over Ireland that have great food and I wanted to show that… and be respectful to my grandparents.”
Mattie and Eddie’s is named after the Dublin native’s grandparents — Martha and Eddie — and the logo featuring two well-dressed figures was designed by Armstrong’s brother.
“Every restaurant we’ve ever done… is an expression of something personal,” he says. “Each one has its own sense of community… and I’ve always wanted to do something along my own heritage, my own roots.”
In late March, Mattie and Eddie’s opened its doors in the former Siné space at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row).
“It wasn’t necessarily something we planned. It just kind of fell into my lap. The landlord reached out to us and they had a space available and asked if I was interested,” says Armstrong. “It was just a kind of serendipity.”
This is Armstrong’s eleventh restaurant and first in Arlington since Society Fair closed on Columbia Pike in 2014.
He says Pentagon City offers a chance to be near a nexus of restaurant-goers; those commuting on Metro, those who live in the big apartment buildings close by, office workers and nearby Amazon employees, and tourists staying at hotels. Plus, there’s plenty of parking for those who choose to drive.
It also was attractive that Westpost has become somewhat of a magnet for buzzy restaurant concepts in recent months, from Bun’d Up and its new mahjong bar Sparrow Room to just-opened Lucky Danger to Nighthawk Pizza, which set to start serving later this year.
“That’s definitely a big appeal because people have a tendency to go to where there’s a lot of activity,” says Armstrong. “They might go to Nighthawk Pizza for dinner and come to us for a pint afterwards… There’s a perfect kind of symbiosis of restaurants feeding off each other.”
He admits business hasn’t fully returned to what could have been expected pre-pandemic. Armstrong says they are still operating at about 50% of what the restaurant is capable of.
But he remains encouraged that things will continue in a positive direction. Nothing made him feel more like things were slowly getting back to normal than the day in May when Virginia allowed bar seating again.
“I didn’t even realize it…. until the stools came back, that it was just kind of sad without bar stools,” he says, “And now it’s much more fun and lively.”
Nonetheless, Armstrong — like many others — are concerned about the Delta variant, vaccination rates, and increasing COVID cases.
“I’m kind of conservatively expecting not to get back to what we would call normal before spring of next year,” he says.
As for the future, Armstrong has toyed with opening a scaled-down version of Restaurant Eve (which closed in Old Town Alexandria three years ago) and maybe a more modern-styled Irish restaurant.
But, for right now, he’s happy with sticking to his other restaurants and shepherding Mattie and Eddie’s.
“I don’t foresee myself doing anything else for a couple of years,” says Armstrong. “We’ve got to get back to normal first.”
(Updated 4:05 p.m.) Arlington restaurants can now apply to increase the number of diners they are permitted to serve indoors and outdoors, according to Arlington Economic Development.
The county is allowing restaurants to temporarily up their maximum capacity so that the eateries can keep using — and possibly expand — their pandemic-era temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs), even as indoor capacity restrictions have lifted, the AED newsletter to local businesses said.
Kate Bates, President and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, praised the decision.
“The Chamber of Commerce applauds the county for moving forward to extend TOSAs in way that works for restaurants and the community,” Bates said. “We shared this with our member restaurants, and they are very pleased. Some made big investment in TOSA areas and they’re able to use that to draw in more customers.”
When restaurants prepared to reopen last summer, they needed outdoor dining to make up for the space they lost inside to social distancing requirements. Additionally, the format had a lower risk of transmission than indoor dining.
So in May 2o2o, the Arlington County Board approved a process through which restaurants could obtain a permit to set up these seating areas, provided that they met fire and safety codes. In December, the board granted restaurant and bar owners the ability to set up in common areas, such as plazas.
One year later, capacity restrictions governing Virginia restaurants have lifted. In Arlington, that means restaurants still using their TOSAs could technically exceed their permitted occupancy maximums. So the county is allowing restaurants to request a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) for their TOSAs, which will allow them to operate these seating areas while also operating at full capacity indoors.
The TCOs will expire with the TOSAs, which will remain in operation at least through 2021. The seating areas are permitted by the county’s Continuity of Government Ordinance, which will run for six months beyond the declared end of the pandemic.
“We really can’t emphasize enough that, even though TOSAs were helpful, restaurants still faced incredible losses and decimation,” Bates said. “In 2021, restaurants still need support from the losses over the last 16 months.”
But restaurant owners can’t run out and set up more outdoor seating just yet. Inspections, permits and amendments will be required to make these changes, according to AED.
Those interested in getting a temporary occupancy permit should schedule a free code consultation with the county, the economic development agency said.
“To ensure the safety of all restaurant staff and patrons, the Virginia Building and Fire Prevention Code regulates capacity limitations,” said AED. “For this reason, the ability to obtain a TCO for a TOSA will depend on a restaurant’s individual circumstances and existing indoor and/or outdoor capacity.”
Those interested in expanding their TOSAs must also submit an amendment to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, which regulates liquor sales in these seating areas, the newsletter said. TOSAs approved for liquor sales will be able to serve drinks at least for through the end of 2021.
Going forward, Bates said the Chamber wants to see the county “make it work” for restaurants facing extra hurdles, rather than coming up reasons for barring them from participating. The process needs to be a streamlined “not just on paper but in practice,” she said.
Eventually, the Chamber would like to see these outdoor seating areas become permanent parts of local codes, she said.
“This is community-building,” Bates said. “Outdoor dining makes Arlington vibrant and promotes other community interactions.”
From Clarendon bars to crowded gyms, unmasked store clerks to house parties, Arlingtonians asked the county to investigate more than 1,000 reported cases of COVID-19 non-compliance.
The reports came in through a form that Arlington County launched last year to report lax social distancing and masking.
ARLnow obtained the full list of reported instances from a resident who acquired the list with a Freedom of Information request. After removing incomplete or abusive requests, about 1,175 remained. Of those, around 200 were filed in 2021, with the rest — just shy of 1,000 — filed in 2020.
The entries provide a snapshot into the kinds of activities that worried Arlingtonians the most during the height of the pandemic. People reported facilities operating without authorization, restaurants allegedly exceeding 50% capacity and large religious gatherings, as well as crowded non-essential businesses, parks and county facilities. A final category, “other,” included home gatherings and complaints about little masking enforcement in apartment buildings.
Referencing a rowdy house party, one reporter asked the tip line, “can we lock everyone under 30 in a closet until this is over?”
Of the nearly 1,200 submissions, about 370 referenced restaurants exceeding 50% capacity.
Far and away, the most frequently reported establishment was The Lot beer garden near Clarendon, which racked up at least 100 reports. Many of these came the Friday (May 29, 2020) that The Lot reopened along with other non-essential businesses permitted to reopen with additional precautions.
The opening day went viral when Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko posted a photo showing a large crowd outdoors, with none wearing masks. The bulk of the tips came that weekend.
“People packed in like sardines. Minimal masking. Shut it down,” wrote one.
Board member Katie Cristol retweeted the photo, suggesting The Lot was out of compliance and included a link to the hot line. She later apologized for the suggestion in a tweet. Outdoor settings were later found to be much safer than indoor settings in terms of virus spread, though not without risks.
Some complaints about Clarendon’s day-drinking and nightlife continued into the fall and winter. In October a tipster said the crowding happens “every night.”
“Surely someone should be policing this — for years you have had extra police in Clarendon for the bars, so why not assign someone here?” the tipster wrote. “The line at the farmers market is better policed by volunteers than this one.”
Behind restaurants were “other” violations (about 330) and reports of public outdoor facilities not following guidelines (nearly 300). Of these, the most common were reports of social gatherings and complaints about enforcement in apartment buildings and gyms.
One tipster said their management company took four months to post signs saying masks were recommended and was not doing any enforcement: “I would estimate fewer than 50% of residents wear face covering in halls and elevators.”
A gym-goer said the building’s fitness center was “full of people” and “no one was wearing a mask except me.”
A stretch of Wilson Blvd in Ballston will be shut down and transformed into an open-air pub and stage next month for a new event: Bands & Brews on the Boulevard.
The Ballston Business Improvement District will turn the thoroughfare between N. Stuart Street and N. Randolph Street, near Ballston Quarter, into an event space serving drinks and featuring live music from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 24.
Bands & Brews on the Boulevard is hosted by BallstonGives, the charitable arm of the BID. The event is free to attend but people will need to buy drink tickets, the proceeds of which will benefit BallstonGives’ Bartenders Relief Fund.
“We want to generate funding to support our local restaurants and their bartenders, who made sacrifices to serve our community in challenging times,” a BID spokeswoman said. “In addition to our efforts throughout the pandemic, this relief fund will allow us to create future programs and events that feature our neighborhood’s restaurants.”
Drink tickets can be purchased in advance at a discount. Discount prices are $7 for one beer or glass of wine, $10 for a craft cocktail and $30 for five beers or glasses of wine. For $5o, people can buy a “bar bundle” with eight beers or glasses of wine and two cocktails, which can be shared.
Drink tickets purchased at the event will not be discounted.
Participants will have two stages of live performances to choose from. The main stage will host a DJ as well as bands whose styles range from rock and pop to oldies and funk:
- 11 a.m. — Andrew Savoia and Fordson Labs
- 12:30 p.m. — Turtle Recall
- 2 p.m. — JunkFood
- 3:45 p.m. — Popstar Drive
- 5:45 p.m. — Aztec Sun
- 7 p.m. — Bobby McKey’s Dueling Pianos
Attendees can request songs for Bobby McKey’s Dueling Pianos to play in the last hour by messaging the Ballston BID’s Instagram page.
A smaller stage in Welburn Square — where the Ballston farmers market is held — will host a performance by Arlington-based Avant Bard Theatre from 2-3:30 p.m. and singer-songwriter Lucia Valentine from 4-5:30 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Ballston BID
Residents Want Better HQ2 View — “The tallest and most distinctive tower planned for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, the conch-shaped ‘Helix,’ will be like no other building in Greater Washington. And Arlington residents would like to see it from their neighborhoods… [as planned] the positioning would obstruct the surrounding community’s views of the signature structure, said Leonardo Sarli, an Arlington planning commissioner.” [Washington Business Journal]
Ebbin Endorses Colleague’s Challenger — “State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax) has endorsed challenger Elizabeth Bennett-Parker in the competitive Democratic primary in the 45th House District. ‘I feel a responsibility to weigh in,’ Ebbin said in an April 22 statement… Bennett-Parker, who currently serves as vice chair of the Alexandria City Council, will face off against [Del. Mark] Levine in the June 8 Democratic primary.” [Sun Gazette]
County Launches Hunger Task Force — “Arlington County has launched a Food Security Task Force to develop strategies and recommendations to achieve a more food secure Arlington. ‘Our fellow Arlingtonians in need are our families and neighbors, and while the County and community came together to address hunger needs throughout the pandemic, much more remains to be done,’ said Matt de Ferranti, Chair of the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]
Bar Seating Now Allowed Again — “Remember sitting at a bar and ordering a drink from a bartender? It’s been a while since that simple activity has been allowed in much of the greater Washington area due to pandemic regulations. But in an executive order quietly updated on Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam is allowing Virginia bar patrons to be seated at a bar for service as long as there is a minimum of six feet between parties.” [Washingtonian]
Other Covid Restrictions Eased — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that sports and entertainment venues in Virginia may begin to operate with expanded capacity, and social gathering limits will increase beginning Saturday, May 15th. The announcement comes as vaccinations continue to rise in the Commonwealth, and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Nearby: D.C. Statehood Advances — “For the second time in history, the House passed legislation Thursday to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state, bolstering momentum for a once-illusory goal that has become a pivotal tenet of the Democratic Party’s voting rights platform. Democrats unanimously approved Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Washington, D.C. Admission Act, describing it as a bid to restore equal citizenship to the residents of the nation’s capital and rectify a historic injustice.” [Washington Post]
Ballston games-and-drinks destination Punch Bowl Social is planning to reopen next Wednesday.
“I’m excited to let you know that [on] Wednesday, April 21 Punch Bowl Social will be reopening its Arlington location,” a PR rep wrote. “Back and better than ever, Punch Bowl Social looks forward to welcoming guests again for food, drinks and entertainment!”
With vaccinations continuing at a record pace, Punch Bowl Social will be reopening its various games and activities, to let patrons “blow off steam.”
“Guests will be welcomed back to dine, drink and participate in available activities, including bowling, arcade games, ping pong, Bocce Ball and more,” the rep said. “Punch Bowl Social will host Happy Hour on Sunday and Wednesday-Friday from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. with drinks and bites for $3-$7 and brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.”
According to Punch Bowl’s website, masks will be required except when seated at tables, and patrons are discouraged from congregating at bars or in open spaces.
Punch Bowl Social is located at 4238 Wilson Blvd, along the outside of Ballston Quarter mall.