Morning Notes

Days Inn’s Days May Be Numbered — “An aging hotel along Route 50 in Arlington could be redeveloped… Arlington’s Planning Commission will study a roughly 2-acre site at 2201 Arlington Blvd., currently the home of the Days Inn by Wyndham hotel, to understand how it could accommodate new construction in the future. Shooshan is pitching a mix of apartments over retail, and perhaps some townhomes, for the property.” [Washington Business Journal]

Police Planning Halloween Parade — “In lieu of traditional trunk-or-treat events in the neighborhoods, the Arlington County Police Department’s Community Outreach Teams are dressing up their cruisers in creative costumes for a vehicle parade through the County” on Saturday afternoon. The parade will go through: “Lyon Village, Bluemont/Westover, Buckingham, Arlington Mill/West end of Columbia Pike, Green Valley, Aurora Hills, and Shirlington/Fairlington.” [ACPD]

Halloween Health Reminders — “While Halloween is not an official holiday, and is not regulated by the County, Arlington is asking everyone to continue to practice the behaviors we know slow the spread of COVID-19: avoid close contact with people not in your household, wear a mask and practice social distancing and frequent and proper hand washing. This may mean choosing not to participate in Halloween this year.” [Arlington County, @kcristol/Twitter, ARLnow]

W-L Grad Indicted for Philly Fire — “Ayoub Tabri, 24, of Arlington, VA, has been charged by Indictment for the arson of a Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) vehicle. Both incidents occurred during violent civil unrest in Philadelphia on May 30, 2020.” [Dept. of Justice, Philadelphia Inquirer, FBI]

MCM is Woman’s Arlington Farewell — “Since COVID, my husband and I, we found out we’re moving out west to Seattle, Washington,” outgoing Arlington resident Elizabeth Sloss told WTOP, about her upcoming virtual Marine Corps Marathon run. “I’m using this race as a farewell tour of D.C. to visit all my favorite places and important locations that have a lot of significant meaning to me.” [WTOP]

Bishop’s Statement on France Attacks — “In union with people of goodwill throughout the Diocese of Arlington, the people of France and around the world, I express my deep sorrow and offer fervent prayers for those impacted by the terror attack at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France, this morning. My prayers are with the individuals killed and those injured, as well as their families and the larger community.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

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Nearly 25% of respondents to a recent ARLnow poll said they were either decorating less or not at all this Halloween season.

Around Arlington, however, there is no shortage of spooky decor. That is particularly true along the traditional haunted hotspot of N. Jackson Street in Ashton Heights, despite plans to scale back the Halloween night revelry there this year.

ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott noticed that fewer houses along N. Jackson Street were decorated this year, but those that have decorated did so with the usual ghoulish gusto.

“The ones that have decorated have certainly gone all out,” Westcott said. “Lots of ghouls and ghosts and plenty of skeletons are out and about.”

Westcott has also seen signs at some houses waving off trick-or-treaters altogether. Another ARLnow poll from a month ago suggests that just under half of respondents are planning to sit this year out in terms of distributing treats to roving bands of children. Just over 36% said they’ll be leaving treats out for trick-or-treaters to grab, and about 17% said they’ll answer the door and distribute treats as usual — something health officials discourage.

Arlington has no plans to regulate Halloween activity this year, beyond enforcement of existing state health guidelines, but the county is strongly discouraging large groups and parties.

Other than N. Jackson Street, where are you seeing particularly festive Halloween decorations this year? Let us know in the comments. Here is one honorable mention, and here is another.

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After new movie releases came to a grinding halt due to the pandemic, the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) has pivoted to older movies, alternative events, and a greater reliance on live comedy.

“The movie industry is a big black hole right now,” owner Tim Clark said. “Studios are pushing release dates farther and farther out, and dedicating more resources to direct-to-streaming.”

Since reopening in August, the Drafthouse has shown classic films and cartoons, and brought in live stand-up comedians for groups no larger than 85 people, or 30% of the space’s capacity.

“Movie attendance is down across the board with all theaters,” Clark said. “Comedy has been fairly steady and now we’re trying fun stuff.”

This week, Clark is leaning into spooky season with Halloween-themed events.

This weekend, “Spoons, Toons and Booze,” a Drafthouse special event with free cereal, cartoons and brunch-themed cocktails, will show cartoons from the 1940s to present day that feature creatures who go bump in the night. Tonight, “Witches and Wine” ticket holders get to celebrate Wine Wednesday and watch the cult classic “Hocus Pocus.”

Wednesday night’s event, with half-priced wine, has sold at least 40 tickets, “which is incredible for an old Disney film,” he said. Another cult classic, Beetlejuice, is set for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

“Witches and Wine” may bring out crowds for the novelty, but most showings of old films are not bringing people out. Half of the films to which Drafthouse has access are available on-demand or on cable, Clark noted. Comedy is now the driving force for filling seats at the Drafthouse.

“I think it’s going to be comedy-driven for a while before movies return,” Clark said.

With Christmas season seemingly coming earlier and earlier each year, Clark is already preparing creative, fun and themed holiday events. He’s hoping for something of a holiday miracle: a return to normality sooner rather than later.

“I’m not sure where we’re going to be in a couple of months as a country, but at this point, with a 30% reduced capacity, it’s not a long term sustainable model,” he said. “It helps a bit, but there’s only so much you can do.”

The schedule for the rest of the year includes weekends of stand-up comedy and a Mongolian film called “Six Feet” about what humans have done in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

More live comedy is already on the schedule for 2021, including “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Jeff Garlin on March 26 and 27.

Photo via @cinemadraft/Twitter

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Morning Notes

Coronavirus Outbreak at Marymount — A COVID-19 outbreak has been reported at Marymount University in Arlington. “Initially, cases were identified over Columbus Day weekend and we’ve seen a decline in the total number of cases since October 21,” university spokesman Nicholas Munson told Patch. “To date over the more than two-week period, 31 students have tested positive.” [Patch]

New Charges Against Arlington Resident — “Prosecutors in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, on Tuesday unveiled 15 felony charges against a pair of right-wing operatives over a recent robocall aimed at discouraging minority voters from casting their ballots by mail, similar to an indictment filed earlier this month by authorities in Michigan… The Ohio robocall claimed to be the work of the 1599 Project, an outfit that Burkman and Wohl run out of Burkman’s home in Arlington, Virginia.” [StateScoop]

Missing Middle Housing Event Tonight — “The Missing Middle Housing Study will explore how new housing types could help address Arlington’s shortfall in housing supply and gaps in housing choices. All members of the community are invited to virtually attend the study’s kick off” from 7-9 p.m. tonight. [Arlington County]

Home Sale Prices Still Going Up — “The housing market in Arlington County, Virginia, is not cooling off, with sales and prices showing among the biggest gains in the nation in September. The median price of what sold in Arlington County last month was $710,000. That’s the highest county-level median price in Northern Virginia, and up 21% from last September.” [WTOP]

Library Pumpkin Decorating Winners — “We are thrilled to have received 42 pumpkin submissions for our first virtual Pumpkin Decorating Contest! It was hard to choose the winners, as we adored so many. Thank you for submitting, attending the virtual decorating programs and carving out fun with the folks at the library!” [Arlington Public Library]

Local Lawyer Pens New Novel — “By day, Jim Irving is a sixty-something, buttoned-up attorney, a partner in a prestigious Northern Virginia law firm. By night, he is a writer tapping into his past experiences as a private eye and criminal lawyer. In his debut novel, Friends Like These: A Joth Proctor Fixer Mystery, the first in a planned trilogy, Irving draws heavily on his Arlington environs in crafting the adventures of his protagonist.” [Washington Independent Review of Books]

Rosslyn Outdoor Coworking Space Update — “Arlingtonians have about a month left to enjoy outdoor office space provided by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID). The space, dubbed O2, was created after the pandemic pushed employees out of their cubicles and into their home offices… Reservations are free of charge and can be made on the O2 website. Masks are required for entry and tables are six feet apart.” [WDVM]

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(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Arlington County is asking those planning on partying or gathering in large crowds on Halloween to reconsider their plans.

“With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, many partygoers may be looking to celebrate in popular nightlife destinations around Arlington, but events that involve large gatherings of individuals can increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission and are not recommended,” the county said in a press release on Friday.

“Partygoers are encouraged to seek alternatives ways to celebrate a physically distanced Halloween or sit this year out.”

Although there have been reports about a “sold out” Halloween bar crawl in Arlington, the county says it “has not approved any pub crawls or large events for Halloween weekend.”

The refusal to approve permits for large Halloween events is “part of the County’s effort to mitigate the evening crowds for this traditionally busy holiday and to protect the health and well-being of our community,” the press release said.

There will, however, be extra police patrols in Clarendon and Crystal City on Saturday night.

“The Arlington Police Department will have a dedicated nightlife detail of officers assigned to Clarendon and 23rd Street in Crystal City on Halloween night to ensure the safety of businesses and patrons,” the county said.

Family-friendly activities may be curtailed this year, as well. Last month Arlington’s health director cautioned against in-person trick-or-treating, though the county does not plan to regulate any such activity. Nearly half of respondents to a recent ARLnow poll said they do not plan to offer candy to trick-or-treaters this year.

The press release offered more coronavirus safety tips for Halloween revelers, as well as a reminder of safety requirements for restaurants:

To protect against COVID-19, everyone should avoid close contact with people who do not live in their household, wear a mask (cloth face covering), and practice social distancing and frequent and proper hand washing. We implore all Arlingtonians to continue to abide by this public health guidance. In general, the more closely people interact with each other and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.

The Arlington Public Health Division will continue to educate and strictly enforce Virginia’s Phase 3 Guidelines for restaurant and beverage services. Restaurants and dining establishments must comply with the Governor’s guidelines, including:

  • Post signage at the entrance and at points of sale stating that patrons must wear a cloth face covering, except while eating and drinking, in accordance with Executive Order 63.
  • Tables at which dining parties are seated must be positioned six feet apart from other tables.
  • Employees working in customer-facing areas must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times.
  • Bar seats and congregating areas of restaurants must be closed to patrons except for through-traffic, per Executive Order 67.
  • If live musicians are performing at an establishment, they must remain at least ten feet from patrons and staff. Karaoke must remain closed.
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Two residents of the Fairlington Arbor condominiums were told by the condo board to dig up their spooky gravestones that seek to lay bigotry to rest.

Katrina Reed and her husband Joe decked out their yard with six decorative gravestones, but they papered over the space for names of the deceased to bury hate, racism, religions discrimination, sexism, homophobia and white supremacy instead.

Both Reeds teach and coach high school basketball. As teachers, Katrina said they strive to create an inclusive environment in their remote and in-person classrooms.

“Our thought process was, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to be inclusive at home?'” she said.

The death-to-discrimination markers received a lot of love from neighbors, but drew the ire of the Fairlington Arbor management. The dispute centers around whether the gravestones are signs, which are not allowed unless the Board of Directors approve them, or seasonal decor, which are allowed if they are “modest and in keeping with community norms.”

A letter from management and addressed to the Reeds on behalf of the Fairlington Arbor Board of Directors asked them to “correct this matter” to “avoid further action by the Board of Directors.”

The letter treats the gravestones as decor, but the messages as signs.

“While the frames on your sign are compliant, the content is not,” the letter said. Joe disputed the application of the bylaw in an email to management.

“The signs displayed are not deemed ‘seasonal’ by the board since they display a message that does not fit the Halloween occasion,” Arbor management said in response.

The letter’s author, Fairlington Arbor’s general manager, declined to comment further. In an automated message, Matt Duncan, the President of the Board of Directors, said he is out of office and referred inquiries to management.

In a private neighborhood Facebook group, Katrina asked her neighbors for advice and to see if others had similar experiences. The response was overwhelming, with more than 175 comments on Katrina’s post so far.

“People went nuts,” she said. “They were ready to light their pitchforks and find the board members.”

One Facebook commenter said of the decorations: “We thought they were awesome. 10/10. Do not take them down.”

“These have made me very happy every time I walk by!” another said.

The couple maintains that stifling free speech causes more division than signs promoting inclusivity.

“If you can let people express First Amendment rights within a time period, I think it solves these issues,” Joe said.

The couple said the bylaws need to be clarified and they plan to speak about it during the next board meeting on Oct. 27. Joe said ironically, he was on the board and helped write the bylaws.

“I don’t envy them,” he said.

On Facebook, some theorized that the condo board was pushed to take action by a handful of complainers.

“Neighbors have been complimentary of our messages of inclusion, but I seem to have offended the racists, homophobes, etc.,” Katrina wrote in her post.

Others guessed that the current political climate might have caused an overreaction by condo management.

“It’s probable that no one is offended by your decorations but management just wants to head off something truly objectionable,” wrote one commenter, who congratulated the couple for speaking up.

This summer, the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington was the site of a showdown between those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and counter-demonstrators who replaced BLM slogans with pro-Trump messages.

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Morning Notes

County Launching Race Conversations — “Today, Arlington County launched a new effort to address racial equity and disparities in our community. Called Dialogues on Race and Equity (DRE), the effort is part of the County’s broader commitment to racial equity… DRE will include a series of virtual community conversations with individuals, nonprofit organizations, civic associations, faith organizations, and businesses.” [Arlington County]

Local Nurses Hold Food Drive — “Nurses at the Virginia [Hospital] Center are going above and beyond to give back to the local community… Nurses launched the ‘Together We Can’ campaign where they collected canned goods. All together, they collected 10,000 cans and donated them directly to the food assistance center.” [WJLA]

Virtual 5K for Local Nonprofits — “A coalition of three homeless-outreach organizations – Community Lodgings, Bridges to Independence and Homestretch – will be hosting their third annual 5K “Home Run for the Homeless” in a different format this year. Rather than running as a group on the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail this year, participants will be able to run where they choose anytime from Oct. 10 (which is designated World Homeless Day) to Oct. 31.” [InsideNova]

Penthouse Sold in New Rosslyn Tower — “The sales team for Pierce announced strong early sales for The Highlands‘ luxury condominium tower… Strong early interest in Pierce has resulted in over $18.7 million in sales by The Mayhood Company since launching sales in August, including the sale of one of two top-of-the-market penthouse residences.” [Press Release]

Theater Holding Virtual Halloween Event — “Synetic Theater will hold its annual ‘Vampire Ball’ in a ‘virtual’ setting this year, with participants enjoying the festivities ‘from the comfort of your own crypt.’ The event will be held on Friday, Oct. 30 from 8 to 10 p.m.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Trump Rallies at Eden Center — Vietnamese Americans held rallies for President Trump at the Eden Center in Falls Church over the weekend. [Twitter, YouTube, YouTube]

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Homes on N. Jackson Street in Ashton Heights may put up Halloween decorations this year, but most will not hand out treats in order to discourage trick-or-treating and follow state and national health guidelines.

The Virginia Department of Health recommends that people avoid traditional trick or treating because it is a “higher risk activity.” North Jackson Street neighbors — noted for having the most elaborate Halloween decorations in Arlington — decided that respecting this guidance would mean foregoing the usual Halloween revelry.

The street has been a popular destination for trick-or-treating for decades. Homes between Wilson Blvd and Pershing Drive deck out their houses with witches, pumpkins and skeletons galore, create a haunted house, and give out enough candy to keep pediatric dentists in business.

“Halloween is a treasured tradition in our community,” said Scott Sklar, president of the Ashton Heights Civic Association.

Some homes will be decorated on N. Jackson Street, but Sklar said he anticipated many others along the street and in Ashton Heights may avoid decorating, to discourage crowds.

“We regret seeing a scaled-back Halloween, but want to be good neighbors and do our part to keep our community safe,” he said.

Sklar said he hopes his neighborhood can bring back the ghouls, ghosts and graveyards next year.

COVID-19 is slightly dampening the spooky spirit in Arlington County. A recent ARLnow poll found that of more than 2,000 respondents, nearly half are not planning to hand out candy this year. Another poll found that more than a third of locals who usually decorate for Halloween are either skipping it or scaling it back this year.

The county’s guidance encourages people to decorate, but discourages them from going door-to-door for candy, walking through haunted houses with screaming people, and attending large, in-door parties.

“Everyone planning to celebrate Halloween this year should avoid close contact with people who do not live in their household, wear a mask, keep 6-feet distance and practice frequent and proper hand washing,” said Arlington County Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese. “There are still ways to celebrate Halloween, but it will have to be on a more limited scale.”

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(Updated at 9:45 a.m.) Halloween has not been cancelled, but the pandemic is putting a damper on the usual spooky spirit of the holiday.

The owner of a local costume store in the Crystal City Shops told the Washington Post that his sales are down 80%, amid a nationwide drop in Halloween spending. Sales of adult costumes in particular are down significantly, as parties are curtailed.

Overall Halloween spending is expected to fall 8%, according to the Post, citing the National Retail Federation.

Around Arlington, Halloween decorations can still be found, but three-and-a-half weeks out from Oct. 31 it feels like there are fewer ghouls, goblins, fake spiderwebs and pumpkins to be seen.

Are residents reluctant to decorate when trick-or-treating will be much diminished and when fake skeletons feel a bit, well, insensitive? Or is it actually business as usual for most people, despite the deadly global pandemic?

Let’s find out.

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Morning Notes

Girl’s Study Shed Featured on NBC — With the help of a local Facebook group called “Buy Nothing,” an Arlington dad built a study shed for his daughter using materials donated by neighbors. The project was featured on Saturday’s national NBC Nightly News broadcast. [YouTube, Washington Post]

APS Graduation Rate Improves — “Arlington’s public-school students posted a 93.4-percent on-time graduation rate up from 92.5 percent a year before, according to new data from the Virginia Department of Education. Rates rose among both genders and in major racial/ethnic groups compared to the Class of 2019, while the school system’s dropout rate showed improvement, declining from 5.6 percent in 2019 to 4.9 percent in 2020.” [InsideNova]

Crystal City Halloween Shop Struggles — “This was supposed to be the biggest Halloween of Lorenzo Caltagirone’s career.
For the first time in 95 years, it would fall on both a full moon and a Saturday — an equation that normally would mean big profits for his Virginia costume shop. Instead, sales are down 80 percent and he is running low on cash.” [Washington Post]

Vehicle Tampering Suspects Flee — “Police were dispatched to the report of two subjects trespassing and tampering with vehicles in a parking garage. Upon arrival, it was determined that security observed two suspects enter the garage on motorcycles and begin trying door handles. Arriving officers observed the suspects, however, when they attempted to stop them, Suspect One got on a motorcycle, then fled on foot and the Suspect Two fled on a motorcycle.” [ACPD]

Memorial Service for Erik Gutshall — A memorial service for the late County Board member Erik Gutshall was held last night at outdoor the Lubber Run Amphitheater. Some mourners attended in person, though the service was also broadcast online. [YouTube]

Beyer’s Warnings Unheeded By White House — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) “specifically and directly warned the White House and the Trump Campaign in June, July, August, and September that refusing to wear masks or social distance could create ‘super-spreader events.’ We used those words,” said Beyer’s spokesman. [Twitter]

Cross-Country Tandem Bike Ride — “Terri and Bruce Brown are finishing up a more than 3,000-mile, three-month bicycle trip from Oregon to the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, not with two bikes, but one.” [WTOP]

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) Arlington County does not regulate Halloween activity and does not appear to have any plans to do so this year.

While some communities have official trick-or-treating times, the revelry has always been unofficial in Arlington — running roughly from sunset to 8 p.m. or so.

The county has, however, just issued guidance for Halloween safety amid the pandemic. In a press release, below, officials urge anyone with COVID-like symptoms to refrain from any in-person Halloween festivities, including trick-or-treating or handing out candy.

The guidance further urges residents to not hand out candy in person, to avoid large parties and haunted houses, and to not wear costume masks as a replacement for cloth masks.

Arlington’s health director previously cautioned against trick-or-treating, but said there are ways to safely enjoy the holiday “on a more limited scale.” An ARLnow poll on Tuesday found that just under half of 2,000 respondents said they plan to skip handing out candy to trick-or-treaters this year.

More from Arlington County:

With the start of fall, many Arlingtonians begin to look forward to the season’s festivities and holidays – particularly Halloween. But this year’s celebrations will be different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While Halloween is not an official holiday, and is not regulated by the County, Arlington is asking everyone to continue to practice the behaviors we know slow the spread of COVID-19.

If you may have COVID-19, may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or are showing any COVID-19 symptoms, you should not participate in trick-or-treating or any other in-person Halloween festivities.

“Everyone planning to celebrate Halloween this year should avoid close contact with people who do not live in their household, wear a mask, keep 6-feet distance and practice frequent and proper hand washing,” said Arlington County Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese. “There are still ways to celebrate Halloween, but it will have to be on a more limited scale.”

The Virginia Department of Health recommends everyone follow the considerations from Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention to help protect individuals, families, friends, and communities from COVID-19 during Halloween.

Higher-risk activities to avoid this Halloween season include:

  • Traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Trick-or-treating at houses where individuals are not wearing a mask, and where six feet of physical distance is not maintained between individuals
  • Events with large gatherings (e.g. indoor costume parties)
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Haunted houses where people may be crowded together and screaming, which is known to increase the production of respiratory droplets

While some Halloween activities are considered a higher risk, there are many lower-risk, safe alternatives:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

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