Arlington, VA

(Updated at 10:15 p.m.) Like other local business owners, Andre Matini feels like he’s building his franchise back from the ground up.

Andre Matini and his sister Arita are the cofounders of Sweet Leaf Cafe, a bowl and sandwich-focused local restaurant with a handful of regional locations. The store’s Courthouse location (2200 Wilson Blvd) is set to reopen Thursday for takeout and delivery, with orders ideally placed online or — if necessary — with walk-ins.

Matini said the location is reopening with ambitious 9 a.m.-8 p.m. hours, 7 days a week, but that could change as it adjusts to operating during the pandemic.

“It’s like starting the whole business from scratch,” Matini said. “So many things go into getting production.”

The big problem, Matini said, is trying to rehire staff. Matini said he has had zero responses to a help-wanted ad he put out recently.

“Right now, my ex-employees won’t come back, which is causing a problem,” Matini said. “Some of them are making more by staying home because of $600 [weekly enhanced unemployment] bonus. That bonus runs out in mid-July, and then they all want to come back.”

For Sweet Leaf, though, Matini said that leaves businesses opening before July with very little to offer former employees to come back to work, potentially risking their health to earn less than they would staying at home. While some larger companies have offered extra pay for employees to work through the pandemic, Matini said many smaller businesses don’t have the profit margins to afford that kind of package.

“Who wants to risk possibly getting sick to break even and work for the money when you could get it for unemployment,” Matini said. “One of our biggest problems is getting anyone to come back. We’re staffing managers on salary, but that’s not a long term possibility here, to pay people $50 to $60 grand for hourly work.”

As frustrating as that is, Matini said he’s still happy about receiving a federally-based Paycheck Protection Program loan, saying even with an imperfect implementation it’s allowed the company some breathing room. He’s not sure there will be many customers when he reopens, but now that he has the PPP loan he has to most of the money on rent, utilities and employee pay within 8 weeks in order to have that portion of the loan forgiven, according to Small Business Administration guidelines.

Matini said he’s preparing for the careful balancing act of keeping employees and other customers safe while not embarrassing those who don’t follow social distancing standards.

“We have all these new procedures in place to keep customers and employees safe, but with the nature of the virus, it’s difficult,” Matini said. “It’s a balancing act. We’ll be asking people without masks to order online without embarrassing them. There are no issues right now, but you can see as businesses open up in a month and you have 20 people in a store, it might be difficult to single someone out.”

Matini said he’d prefer government step in to establish what the rules are — Arlington County officials are considering doing so by making masks mandatory while out in public — so individual businesses don’t have to set their own rules.

“We’re excited to open, but it’s not a grand opening type of excitement, it’s just ‘let’s get something rolling again we can keep in place for a couple of months or a year,'” Matini said. “We’re doing walk-ins, but you just can’t sit down. Please use delivery or takeout, it’s easier, you’ll get a discount. It’s about a 10% discount. If you spend $25, you get $2 off.”

As the Courthouse location gets restarted, Matini said the focus isn’t on thriving, but surviving.

“We’re not growing businesses, just seeing what we can do,” Matini said.

While Courthouse is reopening, one of the two Sweet Leaf locations in Ballston will remain closed — the one in an office building on N. Glebe Road. “There’s nothing going on there,” Matini said. The N. Quincy Street location is currently open with limited hours.

Sweet Leaf isn’t alone in reopening. McNamara’s Pub and Restaurant in Crystal City (456 23rd Street S.) is also planning to reopen tomorrow, offering dinner along with beer, wine and cocktails from 3-9 p.m. Other restaurants, like Mexicali Blues, have been reopening over the last few weeks and offering take-out and delivery options.

Photo courtesy Sweet Leaf

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Ireland’s Four Courts will once again be serving shepherd’s pies and fish and chips, starting Friday.

The long-time Courthouse watering hole closed on March 15, devastatingly just before St. Patrick’s Day. But customers have rallied around the pub and donated nearly $35,000 via a GoFundMe campaign to benefit Four Courts and its laid off employees.

“The closing of the doors is like closing the doors on a family, placing unwelcomed economic burdens and stress on its members,” the GoFundMe page said. “So please raise your glass and give a donation in honor of Ireland’s Four Courts and its staff members that have given so much to this community. All donations will go directly to help support the staff during this time of uncertainty.”

Yesterday, a month and a half since the closure, came word on the fundraiser page that Four Courts will be reopening Friday for takeout.

“We are pleased to announce that everyone has been offered their position back and that we plan to open for to-go orders on Friday, May 8,” Four Courts manager Dave Cahill wrote. “We are awaiting further instruction from the our Governor in regards to reopening our bar and restaurant for dine in customers… Ireland’s Four Courts has served the people of Arlington for over two decades and we have never been more excited to open our doors again!”

The announcement comes amid a wave of restaurant reopenings around the D.C. area, though one prominent local restaurant owner cautions that many are due to business receiving PPP loans. The doors might not stay open past the Fourth of July, he suggested.

The full announcement from Four Courts is below, after the jump.

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(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Just a few months after moving into a larger office space in Courthouse, Arlington cybersecurity startup DivvyCloud is being acquired for $145 million by larger cybersecurity company Rapid7, Inc.

In the crowded cybersecurity marketplace in Arlington, DivvyCloud specializes as a cloud-focused security option that not only fixes gaps in security coverage but makes it easier for a company to see where its security is weakest.

The acquisition is expected to close during the second quarter of 2020, according to a spokesperson for the company. When it does, it will be a big payday for the company and any employee that received equity in it, as well as one of the Arlington startup scene’s bigger exits, alongside fellow Courthouse tech firm Opower’s 2016 acquisition.

“Through DivvyCloud’s platform, Rapid7 will enable customers to innovate more securely in the cloud and make infrastructure more accessible and manageable for both DevOps and security teams,” said Brian Johnson, CEO and co-founder of DivvyCloud.

As more companies using the cybersecurity services of Boston-based Rapid7 start to move more to cloud-based services, DivvyCloud will allow customers to innovate and safely move out of data centers, making their infrastructure more accessible.

“Joining forces with Rapid7 is a natural next step,” said Johnson. “Their commitment to customers, employees, and company culture is well-aligned with the values that have made DivvyCloud so successful. With the combined expertise of both Rapid7 and DivvyCloud, we are even better positioned to help enterprises accelerate innovation using cloud and containers without the loss of control.”

Despite the acquisition, Johnson tells ARLnow that the company is staying put.

“The DivvyCloud team will continue to be located and work out of our office in Arlington,” he said, “although we are all working from home these days.”

Photo courtesy DivvyCloud

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) A 26-year-old Arlington man has been arrested after police say he tossed two dogs to their death from his apartment balcony in Courthouse.

The incident happened around 2:30 p.m. Monday. Police received a call about the dogs being thrown off a fifth floor apartment balcony at the Meridian building at 1401 N. Taft Street. According to police dispatches at the time, someone — possibly the building manager — had rushed the dogs to a local vet before officers arrived.

Police arrived on scene and arrested an apartment resident, who now faces animal cruelty charges.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

ANIMAL COMPLAINT, 2020-04280069, 1400 block of N. Taft Street. At approximately 2:30 p.m. on April 27, police were dispatched to the report of an animal complaint. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect allegedly threw two dogs off the balcony of a residence. Prior to police arrival, the dogs were located and transported to area animal hospitals, where they succumbed to their injuries and were pronounced deceased. Officers made contact with the suspect at his residence and took him into custody without incident. Zachary Hanson, 26, of Arlington, Va. was arrested and charged with Cruelty to Animals (x2). He was held on no bond.

A police spokeswoman tells ARLnow that one of the dogs was the suspect’s, while the other belonged to someone he knew.

“One belonged to the suspect, the other belonged to someone known to the suspect,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “To best protect the identity of the victim, we will not release additional information related to their relationship.”

“What preceded the incident is under investigation,” Savage added.

Court records show that Hanson — no relation to the well-known singer who was born in Arlington — has a preliminary hearing scheduled in Arlington General District on Aug. 28. The charges against him are both Class 6 felonies that generally call for 1-5 years in prison if convicted.

Photo via Google Maps

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Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and gourmet gift store The Olive Oil Boom is closing for good.

The store at 2016 Wilson Blvd in Courthouse, which opened in 2015, plans to close soon, after a 15% off sale for both in-store customers and emailed pick-up orders.

“After five booming years, we made the hard decision to permanently close our doors (or as they say in Texas “capping” the oil well),” owners Judy and Lynn Westfall said in a message to customers Tuesday. “We have enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people during this time and have made so many friends, feeling part of the community — however, we must move on.”

While the coronavirus has hit local retail businesses and restaurants hard, the Westfalls said the decision to close was made before the outbreak, but the current situation reinforced it.

“We made the decision to close in December as we want to spend more time with our family,” they told ARLnow via email. “However, Arlington has been a difficult environment for a small business due to high costs. As events have unfolded, it would be increasingly difficult to obtain many of our products which are sourced overseas in countries like Italy and Spain.”

“We appreciate all the support we have received from other local retailers and restaurants and wish them the best during this difficult situation,” the owners added. “We have enjoyed every minute of having this beautiful store! We will miss being part of the community, seeing our friends (both dog and human alike), and supporting the local organizations (e.g., Arlington K-9 unit), but hope to still see some of them around and support in other ways.”

They added that the response to the announcement has been swift, with orders and well wishes gushing in.

“We are overwhelmed with just the two of us with emails, orders, well wishers, phone calls,” the Westfalls said. “It’s heart-warming but exhausting.”

The store was temporarily closed this morning due to the crush of orders they’ve received, said Judy. The last day in business will likely be in mid-May, ahead of the May 31 end of the store’s lease, though that depends on how much inventory remains.

“We can’t thank our customers enough, we’re getting really nice comments,” an exhausted Judy Westfall said in a brief phone call Wednesday morning. “It’s making me cry.”

Closing Our Doors Soon. Last Call!Thanks for the Memories.Dear Loyal Customers and Friends,After five booming…

Posted by The Olive Oil Boom on Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Farmers markets in Arlington closed briefly by the coronavirus outbreak will be allowed to re-open this weekend, but with a catch: vendors can only offer food that’s been pre-ordered before the market.

The new rules are meant to bring local farmers markets in compliance with guidance from the state government. A similar policy was enacted for markets in Alexandria.

“To limit the exposure to COVID-19, vendors are not permitted to display food or on-site shopping,” Arlington County said in a press release. “This guidance enables markets to remain open giving Arlingtonians access to fresh, locally-grown food while promoting social distancing.”

While others will be opening later this spring, three Arlington farmers markets are currently in season and expected to reopen for order pickups:

Each of the markets will be limited to no more than ten customers at a time, and customers are being asked to comply with social distancing guidelines to prevent the person-to-person spread of the virus. Food orders will be boxed and the press release said customers are asked to avoid touching or inspecting their orders on-site.

Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said that some of the vendors have options to place orders online, while others might have to be contacted directly by phone or email. While the process may be cumbersome for the first weekend, Kalish said that should be ironed out over the coming weeks.

The Columbia Pike Farmers Market announced today that it will be taking online orders for three vendors.

“To ensure we can continue to support our local farmers and provide the community with needed produce and goods while complying with state-wide guidance on distancing and gathering restrictions, we have temporarily moved our Farmers Market to the web,” said the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. “Customers will now order from our vendors online and pick up their orders at the market on Sundays. We currently have 3 vendors prepared to take orders for pick-up THIS Sunday, March 29. Please note that orders MUST be placed in advance, unless otherwise noted. There will be no shopping at the market.”

The nearby Falls Church farmers market is also reopening this weekend with similar rules in place.

File photo

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A 33-year-old D.C. man was arrested after police say he vandalized about 17 cars in the Courthouse area.

The vandalism was reported to police around 12:45 a.m. Saturday, near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Rhodes Street, which is roughly halfway between the Courthouse and Rosslyn Metro stations.

The suspect has been charged with both Destruction of Property and Public Intoxication, according to police.

More from an ACPD crime report:

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY (Series), 2020-03140010, N. Rhodes Street at Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 12:45 a.m. on March 14, police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle tampering. Upon arrival, officers located a subject matching the description provided by witnesses and took him into custody without incident. The investigation determined that approximately 17 vehicles had been damaged to include removal of rear windshield wipers, broken rear windshields and a damaged side mirror. Zachary Fithian, 33, of Washington D.C. was arrested and charged with Public Intoxication and Destruction of Property. He was released on bond.

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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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The popular annual Four Courts Four Miler race, scheduled for this weekend, has been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.

The St. Patrick’s Day-themed race usually takes runners from Courthouse, through Rosslyn, down Route 110 and back. Instead, organizers announced today that it has been called off and those who signed up will have their registrations deferred until 2021.

Previously planned road closures will now be lifted.

The race website posted the following message:

In alignment with government officials, as well as our desire to create a safe environment for our runners, volunteers, staff, city services, and community, we are cancelling the 2020 St. Pats Run Fest and moving participants to the 2021 event. This includes all events (Saturday’s Four Courts Four Miler and Sunday’s 10K + 5K).

All runners will be automatically deferred into the 2021 St Pats Run Fest (3/13-3/14, 2021).  If you deferred prior to this announcement and paid a deferral fee your deferral fee will be refunded. Shirts and medals for challenge participants will be available for pick up at Pacers Clarendon or Pacers 14th Street through the end of March.

We appreciate the support of the running community and especially the hard work of our municipality and medical partners. This was a very difficult decision for our team but one we felt was necessary for the well-being of our community.

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After years of anticipation, preliminary plans have been filed for a major redevelopment project in Courthouse.

Apartment developer Greystar has filed a preliminary site plan application for the “Landmark Block,” consisting of the former CosiBoston Market and Jerry’s Subs restaurants, and the current Summers Restaurant and Mattress Warehouse.

The aging, low-slung buildings a block from the Courthouse Metro station are proposed to be replaced with a 20-story residential tower.

Greystar is proposing to contruct a 210-foot tall building with 418 residential units, about 400,000 square feet of total floor space, a rooftop deck, second floor pool and parking garage. The garage would have space for 418 bikes and 224 cars, including 60 vehicle parking spots for visitors.

The building would also have ground floor retail space, and penthouse apartments on the 20th floor. Greystar says the building would at minimum meet LEED Gold certification requirements, and the overall project would include a community benefits package with affordable housing and public art contributions, as well as “recognition of historic features and buildings,” among other things to be negotiated as part of the site plan process.

A planning process five years ago suggested that at least some of the building facades on the block would be preserved. The Envision Courthouse Square process also envisioned the Landmark Block redevelopment as being to the north of what could eventually become “Courthouse Square,” a large green park with underground parking below.

As part of fulfilling that more pedestrian-friendly vision for Courthouse, Greystar’s plans depict N. Uhle Street — located between the future building and the Metro station — as a tree-lined “promenade.”

While Greystar is listed as the applicant, affiliates of JBG Smith are listed as the owners of the underlying properties in county documents.

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A new high-end coffee shop is open in Arlington.

For Five Coffee Roasters opened yesterday in Courthouse, at 2311 Wilson Blvd. With every order, the cafe will serve a Nutella-stuffed cookie at no charge for the next three months, according to the owner.

“[Giving the cookies out] is us saying thank you, and we’re happy to serve you,” the owner, Stefanos Vouvoudakis said. “And giving back to the customer.”

The menu includes sandwiches and breakfast items, but Vouvoudakis is especially proud of the pastry selection at For Five, calling it “second to none.” The cafe serves a variety of cookies, including a “fruity pebbles” cookie with cream cheese frosting, plus red velvet, triple chocolate chip, and apple crumb pie filling cookies.

The coffee menu includes pour-over and cold brew options, and an espresso bar. Vouvoudakis’ favorite drink is the latte, for its “perfect balance between the milk and espresso.”

This is the second D.C. area location for the small, New York City-based chain. It has an existing location in Alexandria and others in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Vouvoudakis says For Five is also planning to open a location in Tysons within the next three to four months.

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