Arlington, VA

Unsurprisingly, Mardi Gras won’t be the same this year at Courthouse’s Bayou Bakery.

But that doesn’t mean that the decade-old, New Orleans-inspired eatery is out of fresh ideas for Tuesday’s festivities.

This year, the restaurant is offering a take-home “Mardi Gras in a Box,” which includes a king cake with a do-it-yourself decorating kit, beads, masks, a murder mystery party game, and Pat O’Brien’s signature Hurricane mix.

The party in a box is intended for six to eight people and costs $135.

“Knowing that really no one is going to large events or celebrating Mardi Gras anywhere, what we did is brought a kit… so that basically the party comes to you,” says David Guas, chef and owner of Bayou Bakery.

The restaurant is also selling individual king cakes, king crown cookies, and Mardi Gras pralines, as well as offering catering and its lunch and breakfast menus.

While business has continued to be steady, Guas says that king cake sales are way down this year.

“What’s obviously different than last year is that we don’t have our corporate clients that are buying 25, 30 king cakes all in one swoop,” says Guas.

Last year, he tells ARLnow, they sold about 1,500 king cakes. This year, he expects to sell fewer than a thousand. This despite the fact that they have now partnered with the online ordering platform Toast in order to sell cakes around the clock.

Guas is still keeping busy, despite the more subdued Mardi Gras this year.

Last March, 24 hours after schools shut down, the chef began serving red beans and rice from outside of the bakery to anyone in need. That evolved into a partnership with Real Food for Kids for an initiative called Chefs Feeding Families, which provided free, plant-based meals to local families, students, frontline workers, hospitals, and shelters.

That initiative continues, says Guas, with a recent partnership with Arlington County that sends 150 to 200 meals a week to Virginia Hospital Center. In total, the initiative is still providing about 300 meals a week; funds come from grants, private donations, and community support.

That isn’t all, though. Guas also helped to feed the National Guard while they protected the Capitol throughout January, dropping off hundreds of sandwiches to the troops. He’s currently in the midst of co-organizing Bean-efit, a joint effort with 25 other local restaurants to provide a free meal of beans to anyone in the hospitality industry on Mardi Gras (Tuesday, Feb. 16) from 4-6 p.m.

“Any industry employee who’s been furloughed, now part time, or lost hours, doesn’t matter, gets a free meal,” he says. “We’re not going to ask questions. We’re not taking names. We’re not vetting at all.”

While Guas and the Bayou Bakery team have continuously been cooking, baking, and working over the last year, business remains down. The care-free boozy brunches of the before-times, after all, were more lucrative than take-out sandwiches and coffee.

The restaurant, meanwhile, has taken on plenty of additional expense and effort to continue operating during the pandemic, from constant cleanings to a kitchen remodel to a new ventilation system.

“It sucks. There’s nothing positive about it,” Guas says.

He remains optimistic, however, that Bayou Bakery will make it to the other side of the pandemic.

“I’ve got no other choice but to make it work. That’s why I’m in the restaurant six days a week… and I have a mask on for 12 hours a day,” he says. “I got no plans to go anywhere.”

Photos courtesy of Bayou Bakery

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Arlington police are investigating a robbery that happened in the Courthouse area, just two blocks from police headquarters.

Police say a man followed a woman off of a bus and then forcefully stole her purse, pulling her to the ground and down a set of stairs in the process.

The masked man fled with the purse, along with a red duffle bag and dark backpack that he was carrying. The woman suffered minor injuries.

The incident happened on Wednesday, Jan. 20, just after 7 p.m. The Arlington County Police Department released more information about the crime and surveillance photos of the suspect Thursday afternoon.

The full ACPD press release is below.

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is seeking the public’s assistance to identify the suspect in a robbery by force incident captured on surveillance images.

At approximately 7:16 p.m. on January 20, 2021, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery by force in the 1200 block of North Troy Street. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect followed the victim off of a bus and approached her as she was attempting to enter her residence and grabbed her purse strap. A struggle ensued over the purse, during which the suspect pulled the victim to the ground, dragging her down a set of stairs. The suspect then stole her purse and fled on foot prior to police arrival. The victim sustained minor injuries during the incident.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 5’5″ and 155 lbs., with curly hair, wearing dark pants, a black and white striped jacket with the hood up, and carrying a dark backpack and a red duffle bag.

Anyone with information related to this incident and/or the suspect’s identity is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Photos courtesy ACPD

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Morning Notes

Megachurch Coming to Courthouse — “McLean Bible Church aims to lease about 10,000 square feet at 1310 N. Courthouse Road, according to documents submitted by MRP to Arlington planners earlier this month. The church would be able to host up to 450 worshippers in this new space, and use some other portions of it for classrooms and offices.” [Washington Business Journal]

Crane Erection to Close StreetUpdated at 11:15 a.m. — The erection of a crane at an apartment construction site in Pentagon City, near HQ2, will result in a road closure. The work, however, has been postponed after initially being scheduled this weekend. [Twitter]

Fairfax County Also Low on Vaccines — “‘Even though I have all the people power to be able to vaccinate folks. I literally just don’t have the vaccines,’ said Jeff McKay, Chairman of Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors… ‘My greatest concern is now we have ramped up this huge operation, I don’t want to be ramping it down and then ramping it back up again and ramping it down,’ said McKay. ‘We are overwhelmed by demand and underwhelmed by supply.'” [WJLA]

Sports Betting Now a Reality in Va. — “Virginia’s highly lucrative sports gambling market officially opened Thursday when, shortly after 2 p.m., a cellphone user placed a $25 bet on the Golden State Warriors to beat the New York Knicks. Sports betting was approved by the General Assembly in 2020, and the Virginia Lottery was tasked with vetting interested companies. That law included a provision that stirred controversy this week, though, as FanDuel was able to beat the other interested players to market by affiliating with the Washington Football Team.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, ESPN]

Prince William Co. Grapples with Namesake — “Prince William County was named after Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, Marquess of Berkhampstead, Viscount Trematon and Earl of Kennington. The Duke was the third and youngest son of King George II. In England, Prince William had another title. He was commonly called ‘Butcher Cumberland’ for his ruthless conduct during the Battle of Culloden and subsequent genocide of Catholic Jacobites.” [InsideNova]

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After 10 months of delays, D.C. coffee favorite Sweet Science Coffee opened its doors on Monday inside the former Java Shack building in Courthouse.

The soft opening this week will culminate in an open house on Saturday, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with coffee and pastry samples. The shop is open from 8 a.m.-p.m. this week, and this coming Monday will transition to its regular hours of 7 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sweet Science founder Sandra Wolter told ARLnow on Tuesday that she is ready to kindle in her customers a love of great coffee. Her philosophy can be taste-tested at 2507 Franklin Road, where she said the unpretentious space will make high-quality coffee feel approachable.

“We are doing the best we can to show a good variety of complex flavors while being open and welcoming,” she said.

In November 2019, Wolter announced her plans to move in after the community hub, owned by Commonwealth Joe, said it would close by Thanksgiving. But the road to opening was bumpier than Wolter anticipated.

The acclaimed coffee shop closed its basement location in Adams Morgan and moved to D.C.’s NoMa district in January 2020. Wolter planned to open in the Lyon Village neighborhood last March or April, but renovations and the coronavirus delayed the opening for 10 months.

First, the building needed new plumbing and electricity. By the time the unanticipated construction ended, summer was over, cases and restrictions were mounting and her NoMa location was struggling. She once more pushed off the opening.

“But hey, now we’re here,” she said.

Once Wolter receives her outdoor seating permit and a wine and beer license, she will extend her weekend hours so people can visit for coffee and a pastry, before slowly transitioning to a glass of wine and a snack — a nod to her European roots.

“I grew up like that,” said the Berlin native. “Over there, it’s so normal.”

The shop offers house drip coffee and espresso drinks as well as seasonal roasts. The beans are sustainably sourced, sometimes directly from farmers. A chef makes the pastries in-house and from scratch.

Still, Wolter is careful to avoid intimidating people into uncomfortably ordering “just a cup of coffee.”

“I don’t want people to walk in and feel like they need a code word to order,” she said. “If [a coffee] piques your interest, we’re more than happy to talk about it.”

She only wishes she can devote less time to surviving and more time to sharing flavors and menus with others.

“That would be really nice,” she said.

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Morning Notes

ACPD Warned About Possible IED Threat — “Virginia police are warning officers to be on the lookout for IEDs and disseminated photos of the two found in DC during the Trump mob, per internal bulletin leaked to me.” [Twitter, The Nation]

Beyer Signs On to Impeachment — From Rep. Don Beyer: “I have just signed onto the Articles of impeachment… Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country and he has to go immediately. [Twitter]

Local Eateries Get Dine-In Bump — “Nam-Viet Restaurant co-owner Richard Nguyen has similarly seen a bump in diners from Maryland and the District since those jurisdictions paused indoor dining. ‘We’ve been around for such a long time that I know my clientele,’ he says… ‘The locals have only been doing takeout.'” [Washington City Paper]

Robbery Attempt Near Police HQ Fails — “15th Street N. at N. Taft Street. At approximately 5:37 a.m. on January 6… the victim was walking in the area when he was approached by the suspect, who allegedly displayed a knife and demanded the victim’s belongings. The victim declined and began walking away, however the suspect followed for a short while and continued shouting at him. Arriving officers located the suspect still in the area and took him into custody.” [ACPD]

Discussion About Police Officers in Schools — “The APS School Resource Officer Work Group will host a virtual community engagement session on Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. The session will be an opportunity for the community to provide feedback and recommendations going forward on the relationship between APS and the Arlington County Police Department.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Columbia Pike Blanket Initiative — “Columbia Pike is working together with its restaurants with outdoor seating areas through our new initiative, the Columbia Pike Blanket Program. Launching today, customers will be able to purchase a Columbia Pike Blanket at these participating restaurants: Cafe Sazon, The Celtic House, Dama Cafe, Rebellion on the Pike, Ruthie’s All-Day, and William Jeffrey’s Tavern.” [Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization]

Flickr pool photo by BrauhausDC

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Two men who were allegedly caught inside a business during a burglary, but initially refused to come out, prompted a large police response over the weekend

The incident happened around 1:30 a.m. Saturday on the 2500 block of Wilson Blvd, roughly between Clarendon and Courthouse.

Police, after being flagged down and told 0f the possible burglary, spotted the men inside the business and ordered them to come out. After they refused a standoff ensued, and the U.S. Park Police helicopter and a SWAT team were called in.

“As Emergency Response Team officers prepared to make entry to the building, one suspect surrendered himself to police and was taken into custody without further incident,” said today’s Arlington County Police Department crime report. “The second suspect was located inside a closet during a search of the building and taken into custody without further incident.”

Two Arlington men, ages 46 and 34, were arrested and now face several burglary-related charges.

Police did not reveal which business was burglarized.

Photo via Google Maps

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County staff want to amend zoning ordinances to let some restaurants more easily establish outdoor cafés near the Ballston, Virginia Square and Courthouse Metro stations.

Arlington County has allowed outdoor cafés in most commercial and mixed-use districts since 1978, with the exception of a few zoned districts. The County Board is slated to review an amendment allowing cafés in one such zoning district — the “R-C” district — this weekend.

“Outdoor cafes are compatible with the district’s purpose and intent and would further bolster the economic vitality of restaurants located with the district,” the staff report said. “Outdoor cafes enliven the streetscape, provide passive surveillance of the street, and enable people’s participation in street life.”

The outdoor cafés in question could be either on private property, as a by-right use, or on the sidewalk, with an approved permit. It would apply to restaurants within R-C — “Multiple-family Dwelling and Commercial District” — zoning.

An informal survey conducted by the County found a majority of residents who responded support this change. Of the 69 respondents, 85% supported the amendment because cafés would have a positive effect on on activating street life.

“Other common themes included helping out restaurants during a challenging economic period, enabling restaurants to respond more effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, and seeking out opportunities to reclaim street parking for outdoor cafes in areas with narrow sidewalks,” staff said.

Concerns expressed by survey respondents ranged from noise, keeping pedestrian pathways clear and charging rent for the use of public space.

This amendment does not involve the program for temporary outdoor seating areas, or TOSAs, staff said.

“In response to the need for increased public health measures to combat the coronavirus, Arlington County permits restaurants, bars and cafes to establish temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs) which resemble outdoor cafes but are regulated and permitted under different laws,” staff said.

Rather, this amendment has been a work plan item for the Planning Division for a while now — “well before on the onset of COVID-19,” Arlington County spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said in an email.

“One benefit of TOSAs is that some of the restaurants who have been advocating for this amendment were able to have temporary outdoor dining since June through the TOSA process,” Smith said. “With the approval of this amendment, they can pursue a permanent outdoor café.”

Although the change comes as struggling restaurants lean on outdoor dining, even in the winter months, outdoor cafés have been part of Arlington County’s plan to enliven retail corridors for the last five years.

In the 2015 Retail Action Plan, outdoor cafés are encouraged because they improve the pedestrian experience in and increase the number of “third places” for the community to gather.

“‘Third places’ — locations outside of home or work where people meet, socialize and learn from each other — are highlighted as community elements that, when present, can add activity and excitement to street life as centers of gathering,” the County’s web page says.

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A man allegedly pulled a gun during a dispute at a business in Clarendon, leading to a high-speed chase that ended when it crossed the Potomac.

The incident happened around 2 p.m. on Monday, on the 2600 block of Wilson Blvd. Scanner traffic at the time suggests that the business involved was the used car lot on the block.

Two suspects were engaged in a verbal dispute with two employees of the business, when one suspect became irate and allegedly pulled a gun, according to police.

“The two suspects then fled in a vehicle prior to police arrival,” Arlington County Police said in a crime report today. “Arriving officers observed the suspect vehicle in the area. They attempted to effect a traffic stop in the area of N. Uhle Street and Clarendon Boulevard” — near the Courthouse Metro station — “after observing it run a red light, however, the driver disregarded officers and failed to pull over.”

“The driver continued to disregard officers, and a pursuit was initiated,” the crime report continues. “The vehicle continued at a high rate of speed onto Route 50 and fled into Washington, D.C. at which point the pursuit was terminated.”

Generally, Arlington County police will not chase suspects for minor crimes or traffic violations, but department policy does allow pursuits for more serious crimes. Yesterday’s chase was called off once the suspects crossed jurisdictional boundaries in D.C., though a lookout for the suspects was given to U.S. Park Police, according to scanner traffic.

ACPD said today that they were able to ascertain the identity of the suspect who pulled the gun, and issued warrants for his arrest.

“Based upon information provided by the subject to the business, a suspect was developed,” the crime report says. “Warrants for Brandishing (x2) were obtained for Suspect Two. The investigation is ongoing.”

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Arlington County police are searching for a man they say tried to rape a woman near Courthouse last night.

The incident happened around 10:45 p.m. in the Radnor/Fort Myer Heights neighborhood.

The victim was walking her dog alone when the suspect allegedly started chasing her. He fell on top of her at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Rolfe Street, then tried to remove her pants, but a witness started yelling at the suspect and he ran of, according to ACPD.

Officers on the ground and a police helicopter tried to find the man, but the search was unsuccessful.

More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is investigating an attempted rape in the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood that took place on the evening of November 17, 2020.

At approximately 10:47 p.m., police were dispatched to the 1300 block of N. Rolfe Street for the report of an attempted rape. Upon arrival, it was determined that the female victim was walking her dog along the N. Rhodes Street bridge over Arlington Boulevard when she noticed the male suspect begin to follow her. The victim picked up her pace to a run in an attempt to separate herself from the suspect who then began to chase after her. At the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Rolfe Street, the victim and suspect fell to the ground. The suspect ended up on top of the victim, told her not to talk and attempted to remove her pants. A witness heard the victim yelling and called out to the suspect. The suspect froze and the victim was able to run away. Responding officers established a perimeter and canvased the area with negative results.

The suspect is described as a Black male in his 20’s, approximately 6’0″, 225-250lbs with broad shoulders. He was wearing a black hoodie with the hood up, dark jeans and a navy-blue face mask at the time of the incident.

This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective J. McGrath at 703-228-4244 or [email protected] Information may also be provided to the Arlington County Police Tip Line at [email protected] or anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Map via Google Maps

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Shirlington Gateway. The new 2800 Shirlington recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center, and is adding spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village. 

Courthouse-based Storyblocks, an online platform for stock video footage, has released new video content meant to close the diversity gap in media and advertising.

The company, at 1515 N. Courthouse Road, trained eight creators to make video collections specifically depicting people of color and members of the LGBT communities doing everyday activities. These reels are part of a campaign, Re: Stock, which was launched to address the need for videos of people with different racial identities, sizes, abilities and sexual orientations.

“Sourcing from authentic places will lead to authentic footage and authentic representation,” said Sydney Carlton, Director of Brand Marketing at Storyblocks.

The first batch of videos were released starting in mid-October. Although the pandemic delayed the launch from this spring Storyblocks aims to double its diverse content by the end of 2021 and quadruple it by the end of 2022.

The push comes after years of feedback from clients asking for more diverse footage, since existing footage tends to skew towards white subjects and straight couples.

“We were receiving hundreds and hundreds of comments for more people of color and more same-sex couples,” Carlton said. “It really ran the gamut, but it was loud and a lot.”

A recent company survey found that 72% of users — who include independent filmmakers, advertisers and journalists — said diverse content is important for their projects, but people of color are represented in just 5% of Storyblocks’ current digital library.

“You can only find happy white women eating salads,” Carlton said.

The problem is primarily due to location and access, since most stock video contributors hail from Eastern Europe, where creators do not have the same access to a diverse array of subjects, she said.

The first collections were produced by Monica Singleton and Samson Binutu. They focused on Black families educating their children, Black teens and adults in romantic relationships, family dinners at home and Black women enjoying the outdoors.

“These are things people do every single day,” Carlton said. “That’s the power of the campaign.”

In a statement, Singleton said her personal experience searching footage libraries made her excited to join the project.

“In the past when I’ve looked for certain stock footage or music, it’s been really hard to find representation for people that look like me,” Singleton said.

Future Storyblocks projects will focus on people with from other racial identities, and with a range of body shapes and sizes as well as abilities. Going deeper, Carlton said the goal of Re: Stock is invert stereotypes of who plays board games, does homework with their kids, and lives together.

“That’s where you instill a sense of humanity in people,” she said.

The company has thrived during the pandemic and was acquired by a private-equity firm in Boston this summer.

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