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Protesters Rally Against Arlington Social Security Office Closure

Despite this afternoon’s heat, dozens of protesters crowded the sidewalk in front of Rosslyn’s Social Security Administration office to rally against its potential closure.

The office, those speaking at the megaphone argued, is a vital component of serving the area’s Social Security benefit recipients.

“If you close this office, you’re cutting a social security benefit,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “It’s just like cutting somebody’s social security check — you’re cutting the ability for them to access the services that they need.”

The activists’ argue that many people who receive benefits are either aging or disabled and need an easily accessible, local office. That portion of the population needs to be able to consult a human being face-to-face in order to maximize their benefits.

Using an internet portal, they say, was inefficient for some benefit recipients because they tend to not include sufficient or accurate information on forms, have difficulty using a computer, or don’t have the ability to access the internet.

County Board member Christian Dorsey made an appearance, arguing that there’s plenty of room for the Social Security Administration to maintain an Arlington presence.

“This pains me to say as a public official, but office space is not that expensive in Arlington right now,” said Dorsey, pledging to use county resources to find the SSA a more amenable lease. “There are plenty of opportunities for the SSA to stay.”

The Social Security Administration has an office in Alexandria, but anyone looking to get there from Arlington would have to take a trip down the Blue Line to the Van Dorn Metro station and then hop on a bus. The SSA’s website doesn’t even list that office as being nearby if users enter a Rosslyn zip code to find a location.

“To lose the ability to connect people to an office thats within a short walk of heavy rail and to put them in an office more than a mile away from the closest Metro station speaks of poor planning and speaks of insensitivity,” said Dorsey. “We want to reverse that.”

Dorsey himself only learned of the closure a few weeks ago from an Arlingtonian who works with AFGE.

“You would expect, in a world where there’s a governmental asset, that you’d at least get a heads-up when there’s a rethinking of delivering that service — but that’s not the world we live in,” Dorsey said.

About 90 people come to the office every day to use the office, according to Dorsey.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has also written a letter to the SSA’s internal watchdog requesting an investigation into the agency’s decision to close the office.

A full video of the rally has been made available by Social Security Works, an organization in favor of expanding the program.

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Crystal City Pedestrian Tunnel To Eventually Close

The pedestrian tunnel that crosses Route 1 in Crystal City will eventually be removed as part of the 23rd Street alignment project, though a scheduled closing has not been set.

The project, which is several years out, will “accommodate redevelopment on the east and west intersections of 23rd Street S. between Crystal Drive and S. Clark-Bell Street” in two phases. (Clark and Bell streets are also being realigned and merged into one.)

The tunnel may be closed before the project begins, “because it is underutilized” and because of upkeep costs, according to a county spokesperson. The tunnel was intended as a safety improvement, though many locals take their chances at street level due to the tunnel being dark and smelling like urine.

Robert Mandle, Crystal City Business Improvement District’s chief operating officer, cited several reasons for the change, including increased visibility for the row of restaurants along 23rd Street S. and what he called the “surprisingly common misconception that the tunnel will take you to Metro.”

“The interest in closing the tunnel really arises from the fact that most people use the surface crossing because the tunnel is longer, indirect, and uncomfortable,” Mandle wrote in an email to ARLnow. “Recent safety enhancements completed by Arlington County have further improved the existing signalized crossings.”

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These Businesses Are Still Open in Arlington This Snow Day

(Updated at 5 p.m.) With Arlington schools, county facilities and the federal government closed for the snow day, it might be worth asking: just what is open today?

Below is a partial list of some restaurants, bars and other businesses that are still open or closed in the county.

What’s open:

What’s closed:

ARLnow reporter Bridget Reed Morawski was live on Facebook earlier this afternoon giving a walking snow tour of roads, sidewalks and businesses from Clarendon to Rosslyn. The video replay of that is below.

Join our reporter as she makes her way back to her home in Rosslyn from our Clarendon newsroom in the snow.

Posted by Arlington Now on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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Ray’s Hell Burger ‘Hiatus’ in Rosslyn Appears Permanent

Months after going on an apparent and indefinite “hiatus,” Ray’s Hell Burger appears to be officially leaving Rosslyn.

The restaurant at 1650 Wilson Blvd is now available for lease, albeit with the Ray’s awnings and signs still up, including one noting the hiatus.

Earlier this year, the Washington Business Journal reported that owner Michael Landrum wanted out of his lease on the spot, across the street from the redeveloping Wilson School site. That storefront was across from the original Hell Burger, which was visited twice by then-President Barack Obama.

Customers can still visit a Ray’s Hell Burger on K Street NW in D.C., as well as Ray’s the Steaks at 2300 Wilson Blvd in Courthouse. The latter received renewed praise from Northern Virginia Magazine earlier this year as one of its 50 best restaurants of 2017.

Landrum declined to comment further.

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Ride-Hailing App Sprynt Closed Until April

A free ride-hailing app in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor will be closed until April, according to a message posted when customers try to hail a car.

Sprynt launched in June, promising free rides along the corridor in electric vehicles that look a bit like a stretched-out golf cart with doors.

It initially offered short jaunts around a handful of Orange Line corridor neighborhoods, including Ballston, Virginia Square, Clarendon, Courthouse and Rosslyn. Within five days, the iOS app had over 700 downloads.

But when an ARLnow reporter tried to hail a ride today (Friday), a message popped up that the service is “not currently operating. Normal operating hours today are closed. We will be back in April 2018!”

Sprynt staff did not respond to requests for comment, and there is no mention of a closure on its social media accounts or website. Its last Facebook post touted free rides during the holiday season.

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Longtime Pizza Restaurant Faccia Luna to Become ‘Alto Fumo’

A longtime pizza restaurant in Clarendon is soon to shutter and reopen under new management.

Signs posted on the doors of Faccia Luna at 2909 Wilson Blvd show it will soon become Alto Fumo, another Italian restaurant. Faccia Luna first opened in Clarendon in 1992.

Permit applications filed with Arlington County indicate that the restaurant is under new management, but for now little is expected to change other than the name.

“Alto Fumo means ‘high-rising smoke’ in Italian, like smoke rising from a pizza oven,” the sign reads. “You will enjoy the highest quality customer service and foods and also enjoy our new additions.”

Faccia Luna also has locations in Old Town Alexandria and State College, Pennsylvania. A sign on the door at the Alexandria location thanked customers “for all the support.”

In 2015, co-owner Joe Corey said Faccia Luna has been a spot for successful first dates, with hundreds of couples ending up married after eating together at the Clarendon pizza joint.

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Spinfire Pizza in Rosslyn Permanently Closed

After initially suggesting it closed for renovations, Spinfire Pizza in Rosslyn is gone for good, with its former space now seeking a new tenant.

The pizza joint at 1501 Wilson Blvd, part-owned by former Washington Redskins player Pierre Garcon, had been planning to reopen on December 31, according to its Yelp page. That has since changed to it being permanently closed.

It offered customizable personal pizzas in 90 seconds, with toppings ranging from pizza staples like pepperoni and mushrooms to Sriracha sausage, candied pecans and dried cranberries.

Its other location is in Ashburn.

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Marble and Rye to Close at Year’s End on Columbia Pike

A wood fire kitchen and whiskey bar on Columbia Pike will close at the end of the year, staff confirmed.

Marble and Rye at 2501 Columbia Pike will close on December 31. A staff member said it will shutter after Sunday brunch that day. Staff in the restaurant declined to comment on a reason for the closure.

It opened in late 2015 at the Penrose Square property, replacing RedRocks Neapolitan Bistro.

The menu features pasta, pizza and seafood dishes as well as sandwiches and burgers. It has more than 150 different whiskeys and whiskey-based cocktails, in addition to its wine and beer selection.

When it opened, Marble and Rye had been hailed as part of a growth of whiskey bars on Columbia Pike.

Events company Magnolia Open Mics will host its final open mic night at Marble and Rye this Sunday (December 17), in conjunction with the Songwriters Association of Washington. The event begins at 6 p.m., and includes a raffle.

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Cantina Mexicana Closed in Crystal City

A longtime Mexican restaurant in Crystal City has closed its doors.

Cantina Mexicana at 515 23rd Street S. shuttered late last month. An employee who answered the phone at the restaurant’s location just off Columbia Pike confirmed the closure, which he said happened “a couple of weeks ago.”

He added that several employees from the Crystal City eatery had made the switch over to its other location, on Columbia Pike. That location has been open since 2013 and a sign on the door encourages patrons to continue visiting it.

“Thanks for the memories!” the sign reads. “It’s been a great journey. We sincerely appreciate your friendship and all your patronage the last 40 years!”

The restaurant served “fine Tex-Mex cuisine,” and had been in business in various guises since 1978. In 1995, former dishwasher Gloria Arias bought the restaurant, then known as The Taco House, and in 2005 changed its name to Cantina Mexicana.

Hat-tip to Michael H.

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Pancho Villa Mexican Cuisine Apparently Closed in Rosslyn

Pancho Villa Mexican Cuisine has apparently closed in Rosslyn.

The restaurant at 1850 Fort Myer Drive opened last year in the former home to the short-lived Secret Chopsticks restaurant. It is across the intersection from Arlington Temple United Methodist Church.

As of Monday morning, the restaurant’s chairs and tables were still in place, but the inside looked bare and the bar area had been stripped of all its bottles and draught beers. A sign on one of the outside windows appeared to have been ripped down.

The phone number listed on its website is also out of service.

Pancho Villa served made-from-scratch Mexican food. Its menu included staples like tacos, burritos, enchiladas and fajitas, as well as so-called “special dinners” for customers to have different combinations. It also had an extensive drinks menu.

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Spinfire Pizza in Rosslyn Temporarily Closed for Renovations

A Rosslyn pizza joint owned by a former Washington Redskins football player is temporarily closed.

Spinfire Pizza at 1500 Wilson Blvd is scheduled to reopen on December 31, 2017 after renovations, according to its Yelp page.

A sign on its front door has no further details on the work, only that it is closed. It offers customizable personal pizzas in 90 seconds, with toppings ranging from pizza staples like pepperoni and mushrooms to Sriracha sausage, candied pecans and dried cranberries.

Garcon posted a photo on his Facebook page in October showing him paying the restaurant a visit. Its other location is in Ashburn, near where the Redskins have their practice facility. Spinfire opened its Rosslyn space in 2015.

Posted by Pierre Garçon on Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hat tip to Christopher C.

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Jerry’s Subs & Pizza Closed for ‘Remodeling’ in Courthouse

Arlington County’s only Jerry’s Subs & Pizza is closed temporarily for what a sign on the door describes as “remodeling.”

A sign on the door of the eatery at 2041 15th Street N. in Courthouse does not say when it will reopen, and calls to the restaurant’s phone number were not returned.

On Tuesday afternoon when a reporter stopped by, a workman was on a step ladder doing what looked like painting of some light fixtures.

Jerry’s serves pizza, hot and cold subs and a variety of cheesesteaks. It is across the street from Arlington County jail, next door to a bond office and is a block away from an entrance to the Courthouse Metro station.

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Literacy Nonprofit The Reading Connection to Close Next Week

A local nonprofit that helps encourage at-risk children and their families to develop a love of reading will close next week after 28 years.

The Reading Connection, which has offices at 1501 Lee Highway near Rosslyn, will close its doors on Friday, August 11. It will hold its last “Read-Aloud,” where volunteers read to children at shelters and community centers, on Wednesday, August 9.

The nonprofit is dedicated to providing low-income children and their families with opportunities to read and be read to, as well as giving them free books when they might otherwise not have any.

Its volunteers held Read-Alouds at over a dozen locations — mostly apartment complexes — across the D.C. metropolitan area, including at Columbia Grove, New Hope Housing, The Shelton, The Springs, Sullivan House, Virginia Gardens and Woodbury Park in Arlington. Other locations are in Alexandria, Annandale, Bethesda and D.C.

The nonprofit’s director of program operations Stephanie Berman Hopkins announced the closure earlier today in an email to volunteers, which was obtained by ARLnow.com.

“I am so proud of the work we have done together and all of the children we have inspired to love reading,” Berman Hopkins wrote. “The impact our programs have had will continue to live on. Thank you for your dedication to this organization, the Read-Aloud program and the kids and families we serve. It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with you all. Our programs would not have been as strong as they have been without all of your efforts.”

In the email, Berman Hopkins said The Reading Connection’s board of directors reviewed the organization and determined it is not financially viable. TRC’s annual budget was $600,000, according to its website.

Berman Hopkins and The Reading Connection’s executive director, Catherine Keightley, declined to comment on the review, citing privacy considerations for those involved, but Keightley said finding continued funding would have been too difficult.

“What lots of reports are telling us is that funding is going to become more challenging, I think locally and regionally,” she said in a brief interview. “There may be a shift in funding priorities given some of the actions with the new [presidential] administration.”

Prior to its closing The Reading Connection will hold a book and supply sale from Monday, August 7 until Wednesday, August 9.

The email to The Reading Connection volunteers is below, after the jump.

Dear TRC volunteers,

It is with great sadness that I say that after 28 years of service to the greater DC community, The Reading Connection will be closing its doors this month. This decision was not made lightly, but after an extensive and thoughtful review by our Board of Directors based on where the organization is today and what we know of the upcoming funding landscape.

I am so proud of the work we have done together and all of the children we have inspired to love reading. The impact our programs have had will continue to live on. Thank you for your dedication to this organization, the Read-Aloud program and the kids and families we serve.  It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with you all. Our programs would not have been as strong as they have been without all of your efforts.

Now for a few logistics. The last Read-Aloud will be held on Wednesday, August 9 and our office will close permanently at noon on August 11. We’ll be announcing the news publicly later today. […]

If you’d like to volunteer for another reading-focused organization, here are a few recommendations:

We will be having a sale to find good homes for all of our books and supplies on August 7 to 9 from 10am to 2pm (until 1pm on August 9).  Registered 501c3 organizations, including our partners, can pick up items as donations with their tax ID letter and EIN and the public is welcome to buy books and supplies at yard sale prices.  If you want more specifics about the sale, just let me know and I’m happy to share. Feel free to come by if you’re available.  We’d love to have the opportunity to say “see you later”.

You and all of our wonderful volunteers have been the heart and soul of The Reading Connection and we are so grateful for all that you’ve done to help us fulfill our mission.  Thank you!

Photo (middle) via The Reading Connection

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Tara Temple Thai Restaurant Closed in Ballston

A Thai restaurant in Ballston shuttered late last week.

Tara Temple at 4001 Fairfax Drive closed Friday, July 21. It offered a variety of Thai foods including noodles and curries, as well as what it called a “sizable menu” of Japanese options. The restaurant offered a carry-out option, as well as delivery after 5 p.m. on weekends.

It was located on the ground floor of the Quincy Street Station office building, next door to fellow tenant Cafe Tirolo.

As of Monday, tables and chairs had been removed from the restaurant while materials from inside the kitchen were being brought out for removal. The eatery’s patio was still intact, but with items from inside starting to pile up nearby.

Calls to the restaurant’s main phone number went unanswered.

Hat tip to Brent Murray

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Minh Vietnamese Restaurant On Wilson Blvd Has Closed

Minh Vietnamese Restaurant, located at 2500 Wilson Blvd, has closed citing lease issues and other business concerns.

There is a sign posted by the owners that reads “Dear Customers, We are very sorry to inform you that due to business concerns including our lease on this space, Minh has ceased operation effective immediately. We appreciate your patronage over the years we have been here, and we are sad to be leaving.”

The restaurant has been at that location for over 10 years and it was one of the few remaining Vietnamese restaurants in the Clarendon area, a hotbed of Vietnamese businesses before the construction of the Orange Line. It was said to be “one of the original Vietnamese restaurants that put Clarendon on the map.”

There is no word yet on whether those behind the restaurant plan on reopening in another location.

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