Arlington, VA

Purple Lounge is resuming operations after reaching a settlement with Virginia ABC for the restoration of its liquor license.

Six people have been shot in violence linked to the business at 3111 Columbia Pike since last September, including a double shooting late last month and a triple shooting, in which one person was killed, in June. The continued violence, complaints from neighbors, and repeated code violations led Virginia ABC to suspend Purple Lounge’s license to serve alcohol earlier this month.

As a result of a settlement this week the business can resume serving alcohol — but with a number of restrictions.

The restrictions include “stopping all sales and consumption of alcohol at 12:45 a.m.,” “closure of the business no later than 1:00 a.m. and no reopening sooner than 8:00 a.m.,” and keeping four certified security guards on duty — including in the violence-prone parking lot — when the lounge is open at night.

In a press release Wednesday night, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said the county would have preferred the business been fully closed by Virginia ABC. She noted that further violations, however, could result in a permanent loss of Purple Lounge’s ABC license.

More from the county press release:

Today, Arlington County officials were informed of a settlement agreement reached between the management of the Purple Restaurant and Lounge and the Virginia ABC. Arlington County is not a party to this settlement.

“We are very disappointed that ABC did not fully close or revoke the liquor license for The Purple Lounge.  We view the result in this matter as only a partial step towards ensuring our community’s safety, which is our primary concern,” Libby Garvey, Chair of the Arlington County Board noted. “The restrictions now in place, if followed, at least offer a path forward. The penalties for failure to adhere to the restrictions include permanent loss of licensure. Our police and public health officials will work closely with Virginia ABC to ensure that this settlement is strictly followed. Our staff will be conducting regular visits and monitoring activity inside and outside of the Purple Lounge to ensure full compliance.” Community members who observe behaviors believed to be outside of the negotiated agreement are urged to contact Virginia ABC or the Arlington County Police Department.

On September 1, following a series of disturbing events at the Purple Ethiopian Restaurant and Lounge (Purple Lounge), the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (“ABC”) issued an Order of Summary Suspension, temporarily suspending its alcohol licenses.

After an investigation, Virginia ABC cited two violations against the Purple Lounge relating to its failure to take reasonable measures to prevent violence on the property, and the Purple Lounge’s adverse effects on neighboring properties.  A formal hearing was scheduled to occur on September 16-17th regarding the status of the Purple Lounge’s liquor license as a result of these charges. Possible outcomes ranged from full reinstatement of the Purple Lounge’s ABC licenses, partial reinstatement of the Purple Lounge’s ABC licenses with restricted hours, or full revocation of the Purple Lounge’s ABC licenses.

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Starting tomorrow, standing in the wrong place with the wrong number of people could land you a warning from police.

Arlington County says it will begin enforcing its emergency sidewalk crowding ordinance — which makes standing in a group of more than three in designated zones a traffic infraction — on Friday.

This weekend verbal and written warnings will be issued. After that, police will start issuing fines of up to $100.

“We are serious about this,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz told members of the County Board on Tuesday. “I remain deeply frustrated with what I’m seeing in the community… This is not a game when you’re dealing with the public’s health.”

At issue is groups of young, often maskless bargoers bunched up in lines, waiting to enter popular — but capacity constrained — nightlife spots in Clarendon. Photos and first-hand accounts of the lines have circulated on social media, leading to an outcry that the Board responded to with an emergency ordinance passed on July 31.

The ordinance limits groups standing in line to no more than three people, spaced at least six feet apart from other groups and people in line, in certain areas.

The first phase of implementation includes four line-prone stretches in which the distancing will be enforced, identified via the county’s online social distancing complaint form, county staff said. There will be additional phases in the coming weeks to add new areas, including in portions of Crystal City, Schwartz said.

Police are placing signs and sidewalk markers in areas where the ordinance is being enforced, the County Board was told.

Thus far, efforts to get those in lines to distance to the county’s specifications have been met with mixed results: some compliance and some defiance.

“We have have seen quite a bit of defiance and hostility towards the security staff and officers, who are being flat out ignored,” said Arlington County Police Department bar and restaurant liaison Jim Mastoras. “We’re trying our best to keep the lines apart and keep people separated, as they need to be.”

Mastoras noted that businesses have been trying to comply with the rules. Outdoor beer garden The Lot, a frequent subject of photos of alleged overcrowding this summer, has two employees just assigned to monitoring the line, he said.

In addition to pandemic-era capacity restrictions, Mastoras said that lines have become an issue due to a rush of patrons into the Clarendon area between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., which may or may not be linked to the fact that D.C. and Montgomery County have stopped alcohol sales after midnight and 10 p.m., respectively.

“Over the past few weeks, we have seen an influx of patrons into the Clarendon area,” he said.

The ordinance is not without its critics, who question its implementation and prioritization over other public health risks.

“The ordinance appears to criminalize common behaviors: A plain reading of the ordinance would appear to prevent a family of four from walking down one of these signed sidewalks together without maintaining 6′ of distance between all family members, including small children,” wrote Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt earlier this month.

Schwartz called that line of criticism a “red herring,” suggesting that is not how the ordinance will be enforced.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, is calling for the ordinance to be scrapped, citing concerns about enforcement and equity.

“The hastily developed ordinance has led to confusion and presents enforcement challenges,” the Chamber wrote this week. “The Chamber will continue to advocate that the County Board abandon this ordinance and find alternative, more constructive ways to promote social distancing.”

On the health side, experts agree that standing in line outside presents a risk, though it’s a risk that’s lower than equivalent behavior indoors.

Why, one may ask, are groups of more than three standing outside now prohibited, while larger groups are able to dine and chat maskless around a table inside restaurants? The latter is widely considered to be riskier behavior, albeit behavior that’s less likely to be photographed by those walking by.

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Crowding on sidewalks, which has occurred outside Arlington bars on recent weekends, has significant potential to spread the coronavirus, according to local infectious disease experts.

Confirming fears held by county officials and residents, infectious disease specialists at Virginia Hospital Center and George Mason University said the lack of physical distancing in these crowds, varying levels of mask wearing and the social environment makes the risk of coronavirus spread high.

Sidewalk crowds have become an increasing common sight during Arlington’s weekend nightlife, due to capacity restrictions inside venues. Long lines have formed outside spots like The Lot and Whitlow’s in Clarendon, leading some to fret about the implications on social media.

According to Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen, a professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University, pedestrians out for a stroll are not likely to contract the disease, but those standing in a crowd shirking the ordinance are in greater danger.

“There is little risk of infection if two people briefly cross paths walking in opposite directions on a sidewalk, but there is a high risk of the infection spreading if dozens or hundreds of people crowd together at a bar or club for several hours and one patron has coronavirus infection,” Jacobsen said. “That’s how we get superspreader events.”

Photos of the lines and crowds also show only a limited number of people wearing masks. While an exposed face allows for infectious droplets to travel unimpeded, Dr. Amira Roess, also a professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University, said prolonged time spent not physically distant is unsafe even with masks.

“Standing in line with masks on less than six feet apart from individuals outside of your family or closed social circle for more than 15 minutes is considered an exposure and these types of exposures should be avoided,” Roess said.

The experts all said being outside is safer than indoors, but there are still risks that customers at restaurants and bars with outdoor seating often underestimate.

Dr. Jennifer Primeggia, a Fellow of the Infectious Disease Society of America and specialist in the Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group, said virus particles can still travel within compact outside seating.

“Generally, being outdoors is safer than being indoors because there is more clean air for the droplets to disperse,” Primeggia said. “There is still a risk of exposure to infectious particles when social distancing is not practiced. Additionally, multiple studies have shown that factors such as wind can disperse particles further than six feet.”

With local coronavirus cases on the rise, the Arlington County Board approved an emergency ordinance two weeks ago “prohibiting groups of more than three people from congregating on streets and sidewalks posted with the restrictions, and requiring pedestrians to maintain at least six feet of physical separation from others on the posted streets and sidewalks.”

The ordinance has gotten pushback, even among those who believe such crowding poses a health danger.

The law “seems well-intentioned but flawed,” Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt wrote last week, adding that it “appears to criminalize common behaviors.” The Arlington Chamber of Commerce also penned a letter opposing it, saying that the ordinance was “constructed hastily, leading to confusion and missed opportunities to develop a better policy.” Others pointed out that it has the potential to prevent families from walking down the street and to lead to inequitable enforcement.

Nonetheless, the county’s new ordinance is seen by the experts as a step in the right direction to reducing disease spread, so long as it is obeyed and succeeds in breaking up the crowds.

“This ordinance highlights the importance of social distancing and wearing masks even outdoors,” Roess said. “However, if this ordinance is not enforced then it will not be effective.”

The police department plans to begin issuing violations and fines that are not to exceed $100 following a public education campaign about the ordinance and the posting of signs, the county said shortly after it passed..

Photo courtesy Brad Haywood

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Virginia’s Phase 3 reopening starts today, with relaxed rules for restaurants, stores, fitness studios and social gatherings.

But as new coronavirus cases continue to surge in the South and West, the reopening raises the specter of Virginia’s waning epidemic returning.

Unlike New Jersey, which recently postponed the return of indoor dining, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is opting to continue reopening indoor, communal settings. He announced yesterday, however, that bar seating will be prohibited inside restaurants.

Arlington County, meanwhile, is encouraging residents to stay “safer at home” and to continue social distancing, telecommuting, and wearing masks in indoor public settings.

“Because Arlington is an urban, high-density area — and because there is still community spread of the virus — the County is going to similarly move forward with caution in the hopes of continuing to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety and well-being of the entire community,” the county said in a press release today.

The press release notes that fitness rooms and gyms will reopen at four community centers — Fairlington, Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Langston Brown — next Friday, July 10.

The good news for Arlington is that the current level of coronavirus spread remains low: five new cases were reported overnight, for a seven-day total of 46. The seven-day rate of new hospitalizations stands at just three, a new low since such data started to be reliably reported by the Virginia Dept. of Health.

The county press release about the reopening is below.

Arlington County, along with the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, is transitioning to Phase 3 of the Forward Virginia plan on Wednesday, July 1.

In Phase 3, Arlington will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing and teleworking, and the requirement that individuals wear face coverings in indoor public settings. All businesses should continue to follow physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces and keep enhanced workplace safety measures in place.

As part of a cautious approach to entering Phase 3, Governor Northam on Tuesday announced that bar seating will remain prohibited in restaurants to reduce the likelihood of patrons gathering in bar areas without observing social distancing guidelines. The Governor added he is prepared to implement tighter restrictions if needed.

Because Arlington is an urban, high-density area — and because there is still community spread of the virus — the County is going to similarly move forward with caution in the hopes of continuing to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety and well-being of the entire community.

Arlington will continue to open government facilities gradually to ensure adequate space for social distancing and follow public health guidelines. […]

Playgrounds and Outdoor Restrooms Now Open, Select Fitness Rooms to Open July 10

Continuing its gradual reopening, in according with public health and safety guidelines, Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation reopened playgrounds and outdoor restrooms, including playgrounds located at Arlington Public Schools, effective Friday, June 26. Additionally, athletic field and court lighting returned to regular schedules.

Park users must continue to social distance and comply with the appropriate usage guidelines. Learn more on the Reopening Arlington Parks FAQ page.

Starting Friday, July 10, fitness rooms and gyms will reopen in four of DPR’s centers: Fairlington, Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Langston Brown.

Community and nature centers and spraygrounds remain closed.

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(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) The rates of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Arlington have hit new lows, though expanding outbreaks elsewhere in the country raise questions about how long the declines will last.

Only 28 new COVID-19 cases have been reported since Friday, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. The trailing seven-day total of new cases is now 78, the lowest mark since April 4.

Three new COVID-related hospitalizations have been reported since Friday, bringing the trailing seven-day hospitalization total down to just seven, the lowest hospitalization rate since ARLnow started tracking such data in April.

No new coronavirus deaths were reported over the weekend.

As of Monday morning, VDH listed a cumulative total of 2,424 cases, 412 hospitalizations and 126 deaths in Arlington. The county’s coronavirus test positivity rate is now just 5.3%, another new low.

The declining outbreak has been noticeable in the emergency room, according to a public Facebook post from Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman.

“This was a good week for our ED,” Silverman wrote. “Our COVID isolation patient volume (the way we track patients in the computer) did not increase compared to last week. Our admission rate was actually lower than it’s been in months for this patient group and our percent positive rate is dropping.”

Silverman, however, noticed a new trend: many of those enjoying the newfound freedom of going out to bars and restaurants are partying hard.

“In many ways, it resembled a typical summer weekend,” Silverman wrote about the first weekend of Virginia’s Phase 2 reopening, which started on Friday, June 12. “We had traumas, lots of alcohol related illness, and psychiatric patients. What was unusual from the alcohol perspective was the number of highly intoxicated people who were brought directly from bars. People partied hard. What was equally concerning were the reports we were getting from medics about bars being packed shoulder to shoulder with people and no one wearing masks.”

A Twitter user noted one such scene in Clarendon this weekend.

Among the states with expanding outbreaks, a common thread is that the upward momentum seems to have started with reopening. And the new cases are skewing younger, suggesting that bars and social gatherings may be playing a role.

So far, the data here has continued trending positive and Arlington — as well as Northern Virginia as a whole — has not seen the reopening uptick other states and localities have experienced. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, meanwhile, is still holding off on moving the reopening to Phase 3, which some experts fear could be the catalyst that pushes cases and hospitalizations back up.

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) A day after Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order allowing Virginia restaurants to offer mixed-beverages for takeout and delivery, a number of Arlington eateries are gearing up to serve cocktails to go.

Many restaurant in Arlington are still updating their menus before the order takes effect tonight at 11:59 p.m.

“We will be offering take out cocktails at Rhodeside Grill (1836 Wilson Blvd) as well as our sister restaurants, Ragtime (1345 N. Courthouse Road) and William Jeffrey’s Tavern (2301 Columbia Pike) in Arlington,” said Chris Lefbom, co-owner of Vintage Restaurants.

Renee Rojural, a brand and community manager for the Metropolitan Hospitality Group, said CIRCA at Clarendon (3010 Clarendon Blvd) and Open Road Rosslyn (1201 Wilson Blvd) will have cocktail menus to go sometime in the next few days.

Some, however, already have their new to-go cocktails planned and ready to sell.

“[We’ll have] curb-side and to-go custom cocktails,” a representative of Ms. Peacock’s Champagne Lounge (929 N. Garfield Street) said in a Facebook message. “32 oz jars filled with nothing but your favorites from our mixology team. Just add ice and enjoy!”

The Clarendon watering hole is also planning to offer 16 oz variants along with various bourbon mixes and a signature margarita.

An order by Northam last month allowed restaurants to offer beer and wine to go.

The Virginia ABC issued the following guidance on restaurants selling mixed drinks to go:

In order to maintain public safety, there will be restrictions placed on the service of mixed beverages in this fashion. Below are the highlights of the temporary regulation adjustment.

  • Distillery licensees are limited to a maximum of two mixed drinks per delivery or takeout order that contain 1½ ounces or less of spirits per drink.
  • Mixed beverage restaurants and limited mixed beverage restaurants are limited to four cocktails for each delivery or take out sale. Each order for delivery or takeout of cocktails must include a meal for every two cocktails purchased.
  • Cocktails shall be packaged in a glass, paper or plastic container (or similar disposable container) or in a single original metal can with a secure lid or cap designed to prevent consumption without removal of the lid or cap (lids with sipping holes or openings for straws are prohibited).
  • All recipients of delivery orders must be at least 21 years of age.

Photo via Dave B/Flickr

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Bracket Room, a sports bar in Clarendon co-owned by Chris Bukowski of Bachelor fame, is the latest victim of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Due to the national crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is with a heavy heart that Bracket Room in Arlington has decided to close its doors,” the restaurant said on Instagram Tuesday afternoon. “We want to sincerely thank all of our patrons and employees for all their support over the years. We are going to miss each and every one of you.”

The bar opened in the fall of 2013, offering a “higher-end, ‘female-friendly’ experience.” Located at 1210 N. Garfield Street, Bracket Room closed a week ago, after a weekend St. Patrick’s Day celebration, for everything other than take-out and delivery.

In today’s Instagram post, Bracket Room promised to honor its earlier promotion to refund all receipts since November if the Washington Nationals win the World Series again this year.

ARLnow’s list of other Arlington restaurants offering delivery and takeout can be found here.

View this post on Instagram

Due to the National crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is with a heavy heart that Bracket Room in Arlington has decided to close its doors. We want to sincerely thank all of our patrons and employees for all their support over the years. We are going to miss each and every one of you. Our promotion of reimbursement of every purchase if the Nationals win the World Series is still in effect. If the Nationals are lucky enough to win the 2021 World Series and you have all your receipts, we will honor it. Please contact one of our owners, Jeff Greenberg, at 703-307-9600, and he will personally make sure you get your refunds. It’s been a wonderful few years, please everyone stay healthy & stay safe!

A post shared by Bracket Room (@bracketroomva) on

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How seriously are people in Arlington taking the coronavirus outbreak?

Probably not seriously enough, in some cases, but at least enough so that Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse is cancelling St. Patrick’s Day.

The venerable local Irish pub announced tonight (Sunday) that it would be closing indefinitely after the close of business, just two days before St. Patrick’s Day.

Despite a presumably massive loss of business as a result, Four Courts said in a message to customers that it’s the right thing to do, given the need for social distancing to stop the spread of the disease, known as COVID-19.

“The safety and well-being of our customers and staff is our greatest concern,” the restaurant said. “We will reopen again when the time is right.”

Four Courts did, at least, hold a “St. Practice Day” event on Saturday. Amid the crowds at bars across the D.C. area this weekend, there were calls to put an end to such gatherings.

Several states — including California, Illinois, Ohio and Massachusetts — have ordered restaurants and bars closed, though with allowances for take-out and delivery. On Sunday night the Centers for Disease Control recommended that all gatherings of 50 or more people be cancelled for the next 8 weeks.

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Morning Notes

AWLA Announces COVID-19 Policies — “Out of an abundance of caution, and in line with CDC recommendations, AWLA is cancelling all public events, classes, tours, and clinics for the rest of March. We feel that this in the best interest of our staff, volunteers, animals, and the public.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington]

Rep. Beyer Couldn’t Get Coronavirus Test — “People ask ‘did @RepDonBeyer get tested for COVID-19?’ No he did not. We tried to get a test for him… But there aren’t enough tests, he didn’t meet the risk threshold.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Pentagon Makes Coronavirus Changes — Tours at the Pentagon have been cancelled, while a Pentagon clinic is offering coronavirus tests to employees who meet certain criteria. [Twitter, Twitter]

Crosshairs Garage Races Cancelled — “Hey everyone, we’ve made the decision to cancel the remaining weeks of the @crystalcityva Garage Races. I will be issuing refunds for everyone who pre-registered. We will let you know if any plans to reschedule in the coming months materialize.” [Twitter]

Restaurants and Bars Stay Open — Local restaurants like Bakeshop in Clarendon are staying open, and many have been posting about stepped-up sanitation measures. Among the local venues taking extra sanitation steps is Four Courts in Courthouse, which is still planning to host St. Patrick’s Day festivities. [Twitter, Twitter]

SAT Testing Cancelled — SAT tests that had been scheduled on March 14 at Wakefield and Yorktown high schools have been cancelled. [Twitter, Twitter]

Police St. Patrick’s Day Event Cancelled — “To ensure the health and safety of our community… the Don’t Press Your Luck Anti-Drunk Driving Event has been canceled.” [Arlington County]

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(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) Dating can be awkward, but Northside Social in Clarendon seems to ease anxiety when it comes to the search for love.

While the Arlington eatery doesn’t go out of its way to promote the location as an ideal date spot, it may be the epicenter of local dating activity.

From coffee to wine to food like vegan pastries and gluten-free scones, the spot has a wide range of offerings throughout the day to suit various needs, preferences or cravings. That makes it a pretty safe bet for a first or second date.

Northside offers an “easy, approachable and comfortable” environment, Northside Social’s Wine Director Karin Logan told ARLnow. “None of the staff are particularly overbearing, which can I know can be difficult with a first, second or even third date atmosphere.”

“I don’t think I have a single friend who hasn’t been to at least one of our restaurants on a date,” said Logan, referencing Northside’s sister restaurants of Liberty Tavern and Lyon Hall in Clarendon. She said she sees plenty of first dates and can often recognize first-time meetups driven by apps like Tinder or Bumble.

Apart from app-driven dates, there are also some honest-to-goodness meet cutes happening at Northside. Logan can recall instances where people have ended up meeting potential partners there.

“All of the regulars I know have at least met one or two people there because of its a welcoming place and all of my regulars are friends with one another,” Logan said. “It’s conducive to meeting people.”

Over the two years that Logan has held her position, she said she’s also witnessed at least five or six engagement photoshoots at Northside, which is more than any other restaurant she has worked for during her 18 years in the restaurant industry.

“And those just happened to be the days I was working,” she added.

There have been actual engagements as well. Arlington resident Kayla Laubach was at a Friday happy hour at Don Tito in July of 2017 when she received a text from her boyfriend Nick, asking her to stop by Northside Social, a block away.

Confused, she agreed and walked up the stairs into the wine bar to find Nick with candles scattered throughout the room and a bottle of champagne on a single stand-up table.

“It was really cute,” she said. “I was so focused going up the stairs I didn’t even notice they had a little chalkboard sign that said ‘Congrats Kayla and Nick.'”

Shortly after, all of the couple’s family and friends gathered in the space to celebrate their engagement with an after-party. The venue was chosen because Northside was where Kayla and Nick would meet while she was living in Arlington and he was living in Maryland, earlier in their relationship.

Kayla, a regular, says she chose it because she knew Nick would love the sausage and poached egg breakfast sandwich.

“When we were in Arlington we would go there every Saturday and Sunday. It was crazy how often we went there,” she said. “It was the place we fell in love.”

Northside Social has plenty of competition among newer Clarendon area coffee shops like East West Coffee and Wine and This Is Fine Coffee. But Logan doesn’t seem concerned for the future of the hangout. It’s hard to duplicate the community that has formed around a place like Northside — and special features like the dog-friendly outdoor patio and charcuterie boards done just so don’t hurt either.

As for people looking for a place with fewer first dates, there’s always the newer Northside Social in Falls Church, which opened in 2018.

Photos courtesy Kayla Laubach

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Morning Notes

Elite Yorktown Swimmer Has Bright Future — “So far during her three-year high-school swimming career, Victoria Huske has never lost an individual race. Included in Huske’s victories for the Yorktown Patriots’ standout are six individual state championships in various strokes and she has been a member of five winning relays with one close second.” [InsideNova]

Fairlington Bus Stop Getting a Roof — “Arlington County anticipates beginning work on enhancement of the bus stop at the corner of S. Buchanan Street and 30th Street S., which include installation of a weather shelter, the week of March 9th.” [Twitter]

New Tech Helps County Explore Pipes — “With no interruption to service, our new high-tech pal PipeDiver today explored key Arlington water supply pipes, gathering a wealth of unprecedented data to assess conditions now and for long-term planning.” [Twitter]

Whitlow’s to Serve Beer with Your Face on It — “Ever wanted to drink your face? Well join us [Thursday] night from 6:30pm-8:30pm! @guinness will take your [photo], and in less time than it takes to pour a perfect pint, the 3D Malt Printer puts your face in your beer.” [Instagram]

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