For 375 days and counting, a group of neighbors in Arlington has gotten together for a socially-distanced happy hour.
Residents in the East Falls Church area set up lawn chairs in a ring within their cul-de-sac, with yardsticks to ensure they stay six feet apart. During the winter months, a small bonfire crackled. When it rains, they prop up umbrellas or shelter in the trunk of their cars.
The neighborly effort to combat isolation during the pandemic got the attention of the Today Show, which featured the nightly get-together on national TV earlier this week.
“This started out as a simple, spontaneous idea among neighbors who really didn’t know each other very well,” NBC correspondent Kelly O’Donnell said. “Now, they call it a lifeline. The whole group has been COVID-free and happier getting through this together.”
These neighbors turn a patch of pavement into “a happy hour getaway” far away “from the grind of a world locked inside,” O’Donnell said. The group named its gathering “Six Feet at 6:30” and even made T-shirts and sweatshirts.
One neighbor, Linda Winter, told NBC that when she joins her neighbors, her anxiety subsides.
“There’s just a sense that we’re safe out here,” Winter said.
Longtime resident Rockley Miller said he appreciates the newfound sense of camaraderie.
“I grew up out in this neighborhood and I’ve never known as many neighbors as I do now,” Miller said.
The group celebrates every milestone and birthday — celebrations that could otherwise go unmarked due to gathering limits and COVID-19 risks. They even held a screening of the movie “Hamilton,” which came out last summer.
“It’s amazing to me how just a little bit of energy can go a long way,” resident Andy Cosgrove said.
The neighbors want to keep the happy hour up after the pandemic subsides, O’Donnell said, concluding the segment.
Photos via David Martin/YouTube
Two Library Branches Are Back Open — “County officials on March 9 reopened the Shirlington and Westover branch libraries, albeit with curtailed hours and limiting the public to no more than 15 minutes inside at any one time. Where the reopening plan goes from here is anyone’s guess. ‘All other branches remain closed at this time, and a reopening date for the remaining branches has not yet been determined,’ library officials said.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Vultures Make National News — “When [Harvard University] closed because of Covid-19 in midsemester last spring, I relocated to my wife’s home in Arlington, Va… What I had not anticipated was that shortly after my arrival, my wife and I would be joined by a pair of black vultures, who thought the attic of her garage would be the ideal place to raise a family. And that’s just what they’ve done.” [Wall Street Journal]
Public Meeting on HQ2 Phase 2 Planned — “Arlington County is looking for public input on the next phase of new construction for Amazon’s second headquarters — including plans for a futuristic, spiral-shaped building called ‘The Helix.’ A virtual ‘Community Kick-off Meeting’ is now planned for March 25 at 6:30 p.m. It will be the start of a lengthy public review process that will take several months to complete.” [WJLA]
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Reopens — “Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) will reopen the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier plaza to the visiting public [on] March 9, 2021. ANC is taking this action as part of a gradual reopening under improved COVID-19 conditions. Reopening the Tomb plaza to the public, while continuing to maintain current health protection conditions, is an important element of the yearlong centennial commemoration for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which culminates on Veterans Day 2021.” [Arlington National Cemetery]
Residents Hold Nightly Pandemic Happy Hour — “They’re bundled up and socially distanced in front of a roaring fire, with drinks in hand. In this Arlington neighborhood, residents have met for a happy hour called Six Feet at 6:30 every night for nearly a year. ‘It’s been my therapy,’ Mary Stump said.” [NBC 4]
Big Metro Cuts Averted By Stimulus Bill — “Metro expects to avert service cuts and layoffs that had been proposed in its FY22 budget thanks to new federal relief approved by Congress today. ‘Congress has once again stepped up to address the needs of Metro and the regional transit systems that will be critical to our region’s economic recovery,’ said Metro Board of Directors Chair Paul C. Smedberg. ‘While it will take more time to work out all the details, including Metro’s exact share of this funding, the $1.4 billion provided by the American Recovery Plan for our region’s transit agencies will allow us to avert the painful service reductions and layoffs that were on the table.'” [WMATA]
Return of First Students Delayed — “As we have shared, we were aiming for an October 29 start for Level 1, which includes approximately 225 students with disabilities who need in-person support to access distance learning. We are now moving the start date back to Wednesday, November 4, to ensure all operational metrics are met and staff are well equipped and ready to support our students at each school.” [Arlington Public Schools]
County Crushes Census Count — “You did it, Arlington County: With the Census Count completing on October 15th, 99.98% of Arlington was officially counted. Thank you to our Complete Count Committee for your tireless, infectious enthusiasm for ensuring that everyone counts!” [@kcristol/Twitter, YouTube]
Culpepper Garden Celebrates Renovations — “It wasn’t quite the kind of celebration that had been expected when, two and a half years ago, work began on a major renovation at the Culpepper Garden senior-living facility. But it was a celebration nonetheless – albeit ‘virtually’ – that was called for, and on Oct. 13, leaders of two non-profit housing providers and their partners held an online program to mark completion of the $58 million project.” [InsideNova]
Spirits of ’76 Closing Happy Hour — Set to close on Nov. 1, Spirits of ’76 is holding a half-off happy hour from 4-6 p.m. until the closing date. “Everything must go!” the Clarendon bar said on social media. [Instagram]
Punch Bowl Social Restarting Happy Hour — “Punch Bowl Social, the ‘millennial-oriented’ adult playground in Arlington, reopened its Ballston location last week, and it plans to restart happy hour, Wednesday through Friday, beginning Wednesday, October 21. The ‘eatertainment’ chain says it will offer diversions like arcade games, bocce, darts, and more in a socially distant fashion.” [Washingtonian]
Overnight Closures Along I-66 — “Overnight ramp and lane closures are scheduled to occur this week, and possibly next week, on I-66 East in Arlington for asphalt paving and overhead sign replacement as part of the I-66 Eastbound Widening Project. Detours will be posted to direct traffic.” [VDOT]
The Crystal City Civic Association and the neighborhood’s business improvement district are co-hosting the event to engage renters in the quickly changing community.
More from Arlington County:
Co-hosted by the Crystal City Civic Association and Crystal City Business Improvement District, this happy hour is your opportunity to get engaged, get involved, and get a little refreshment in the process. Featuring special remarks from Katie Cristol, Arlington County Board member and former Crystal City resident. This event is targeted for renters in the 22202 area to promote how to get involved in civic engagement and advocacy, with the rapid changes in the neighborhood. Free drinks and light refreshments will be served. Find out more by checking out the Facebook event here.
Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol is expected to deliver remarks at the free event, which is being held at the JBG National Landing Marketing Center (241 18th Street S.) from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Attendees are asked to RSVP online.
A Sense of Place Cafe is considering catering to the happy hour crowd by serving wine and beer in the evenings.
Earlier this month, the independent coffee shop at 4807 1st Street N. in the Arlington Forest Shopping Center submitted an application to Virginia ABC to serve wine and beer on premises.
Owner Kim Seo said the cafe was still awaiting an inspection and that she doesn’t expect to receive a permit decision until early August, but that hasn’t stopped her and her sister from planning ahead.
Seo is hoping to cater to an after-work crowd, potentially staying open in the evenings (the cafe currently closes at 3 p.m.) for a happy hour and light appetizers.
“Once we get the license we will work on our actual menu,” said Seo.
Seo said she and her sister, Kay, decided to rethink the hours of operation after taking note of how many people visit the shopping center in the evening, after Sense of Place closes for the day.
For now, A Sense of Place will continue with its usual hours of operation: from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, Saturday from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Two new restaurants are planning soft openings Thursday in Ballston Quarter’s new food hall, Quarter Market, with another planning a grand opening happy hour celebration.
Local Oyster, a Baltimore-based seafood joint, is planning to launch tomorrow with a limited menu. The full menu for the eatery includes beer as well as seafood like lobsters, scallops, crab legs, and — of course — oysters.
Meanwhile, the food hall’s main bar, Ballston Service Station, has been serving drinks for a couple weeks now, but the bar’s staff said a grand opening is planned tomorrow around 4 p.m.
The new openings coincide with the “Ballston Quarter Celebration” at the mall. From 11 a.m.-2 p.m., the first 100 guests to check in at the Ballston Quarter tent will receive a voucher for a complimentary lunch at any vendor in the market.
A family-friendly happy hour is planned for 5-7 p.m. with live music, a caricature and face painter, and food and drink specials.
Other restaurants currently open in Quarter Market include Copa Kitchen and Bar, Hot Lola’s, Ice Cream Jubilee, Mi & Yu Noodle Bar, Rice Crook, Sloppy Mama’s BBQ, and Turu’s by Timber Pizza Co.
Medical Emergency at Yorktown — A student suffered a serious medical emergency at Yorktown High School this morning. Police and medics rushed to the scene, CPR was performed and the student was reportedly revived. He was taken to a local hospital.
Arlington Tourism Website Wins Award — “The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International… on Jan. 22 presented the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS) with a 2018 Adrian Award for the StayArlington tourism website.” [Arlington County]
Best Bowls of Soup in Rosslyn — A new list exhaustively details “where to go for a good bowl of soup” in Rosslyn, “because it’s everybody’s favorite cold-weather lunch.” [Rosslyn BID]
Gymnastics Competition at W-L — “The annual Barbara Reinwald Invitational girls high-school gymnastics meet was held Jan. 19 at Washington-Lee High School. The high-school meet, which has been held for decades, included 11 teams and was won by the host Washington-Lee Blue team.” [InsideNova]
Chef Geoff Winning Happy Hour Fight — Chef Geoff Tracy is poised to withdraw his lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia, which seeks to overturn restrictions on advertising happy hour specials and prices, after the state legislature overwhelmingly passed bills that would remove those and other happy hour restrictions. [Tysons Reporter]
A restaurant owner has filed a lawsuit over Virginia’s happy hour advertising laws that prohibit promoting specific discounts or prices.
Geoff Tracy of Chef Geoff’s, which has a location in Tysons, filed his lawsuit in federal court in Virginia, claiming that the law is unconstitutional as it violates his First Amendment right to free speech.
More from a press release from the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has an office in Clarendon and is representing Tracy:
The law prohibits placing prices on happy hour advertising, as well as using any terminology other than “happy hour” and “drink specials.” Nor can business owners promote “two-for-one” drinks-they must be referred to as “half-priced” drinks instead.
This means ads promoting specials such as “Wine down Wednesdays” and “$5 Margaritas” are perfectly legal at Tracy’s restaurants in Maryland and D.C. But at Chef Geoff’s Tysons Corner… the exact same ads violate state law and could lead to fines and suspension of his liquor license.
“Advertising is crucial to the restaurant business, especially in Metro D.C. where happy hours are popular and competition among eateries is fierce,” Tracy said. “But Virginia would rather punish me than encourage economic prosperity.”
Pacific Legal Foundation, which defends individual liberties nationwide, represents Tracy free of charge. PLF argues that Virginia’s happy hour law not only harms Chef Geoff’s bottom line, it’s also unconstitutional.
“The First Amendment clearly protects Americans’ ability to speak truthfully and freely about their business practices,” said PLF attorney Anastasia Boden. “This law reflects outdated notions about alcohol best left in the Prohibition days.”
Several Arlington bar owners, contacted by ARLnow, agree with Tracy’s position.
Mark Handwerger, who owns Clarendon’s The Board Room, “knew that Virginia has a whole mess of strange rules and laws” but said this specific law doesn’t make sense.
“My whole reaction to this is: why?” Handwerger said of the law. “What’s the point? Gas stations are allowed to put up their prices, so why can’t bars?”
The law isn’t just illogical for businesses, but for customers as well, according to some local bar owners.
“It’s always been the most confusing thing for customers,” said Tony Wagner, owner of Columbia Pike’s BrickHaus “Unless they call, or they’re on site, they have absolutely no idea what the specials are.”
Wagner, is in favor of amending the law, because even though “the law itself is clear but very restrictive… in such a competitive environment like Arlington, how do you stand out if you can’t stand out?”
Scott Parker, co-owner of multiple Arlington establishments like A-Town Bar & Grill and Don Tito’s, says the law puts Virginia bars, particularly those closer to competitors in D.C. and Maryland, at a disadvantage.
“Consumers these days are used to fast information,” he said. “So when they can’t get what they want from Arlington, but across the water in D.C. and they can see exactly what they are going to be getting, it’s hard to compete with that.”
Curt Large of Rosslyn’s Continental Beer Garden said he’s “100% behind Geoff Tracy’s lawsuit,” adding that “it’s absurd, confusing, and an embarrassment to Virginia that it has such a law and vigorously enforces it.”
“The restriction treats the citizens of Virginia like children,” he added.
A web page for the Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Virginia ABC) notes that “it can seem confusing” and that “you’re not alone” if “you have questions about what you can and can’t do related to happy hour.”
At least one bar owner in Arlington, however, did not believe that a lawsuit is necessary.
“It’s an outdated law but you move on and find different things to focus on when advertising,” wrote Ramesh Chopra, owner of Ballston’s First Down Sports Bar & Grill.
“You can’t get hung up on this law or that law,” Chopra said. “Your sole concentration shouldn’t be happy hour to get people in the door.”
Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.
Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.
Tuesday, Feb. 20
Optimal Physical Therapy Open House*
Optimal Physical Therapy (1700 N. Moore Street)
Time: 4-7 p.m.
Meet with physical therapists, enjoy light refreshments, and tour the new Optimal Physical Therapy location at the Rosslyn Metro Center building.
Pet Dental Care 101
Aurora Hills Library (735 18th Street S.)
Time: 5-6 p.m.
Clarendon Animal Care presents an pet oral health lesson. It’s national pet dental health month, so now is as good as ever to learn how to take care of your cat’s bad breath.
Toastmasters Open House
Asahi Restaraunt (2250 Clarendon Boulevard)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.
An evening dedicated to the organization focused on improving public speaking and leadership skills, where interested potential toastmasters can ask questions and learn more over dinner.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Introduction to Python
Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Learn the Python programming language for free with this beginner’s course aimed at introducing debugging and other software programming fundamentals. Registration is required.
Arlington Committee of 100: Opioid Crisis Conversation*
Marymount University – Phelan Hall (2807 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 7 p.m.
A dinner conversation focused on addressing the opioid crisis’ causes and effects in Arlington, and what the community and officials can do to stop the epidemic. Dinner is $28 for members, $30 otherwise.
Thursday, Feb. 22
Pups & Pints*
Latitude Apartments (3601 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 6-8 p.m.
Latitude Apartments presents a free happy hour for you and your puppies, with snacks, drinks, and socializing for all. Be sure to check out the puppy photo booth!
Right Proper Beer and Donuts Night at Sugar Shack
Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee (1014 S. Glebe Road)
Time: 4:30-9:30 p.m.
Right Proper Brewing brings several of their beers — including their cherry-aged Cheree Berliner-Weissenborn — to the donut shop for an evening of beer pairings, paninis, and pastries.
Black Music Matters
Aurora Hills Library (735 18th Street S.)
Time: 7-8 p.m.
Celebrate Black History Month with Katea Stitt, the program director at WPFW-FM 89.3, as she examines black music’s evolution and the impact it has had on social justice initiatives.
Friday, Feb. 23
Creative Coffee: Ink Washes
Connection: Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive)
Time: 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
A casual weekly creative meet-up for artists to experiment and improve their work in a social setting. Bring your own materials to this adult-friendly gathering.
St. Agnes Soup Supper*
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.
The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.
Val Kilmer: Cinema Twain
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Actor and Director Val Kilmer, of Top Gun and Batman Forever, presents a screening on his one-man show, Citizen Twain. Tickets from $30-$75. Through February 24.
Saturday, Feb. 24
Poetry Reading: Douglass & Waters
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 7-8 p.m.
Two award-winning poets — M. Scott Douglass and Jesse Waters, come to the bookstore to read from their books as well as other collections.
Urban Agriculture: Plan & Prepare Your Vegetable Garden
Westover Library (1644 N. McKinley Road)
Time: 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
Learn how to bring some gardening techniques to your balcony, roof deck, or larger urban space with the latest installment in the library’s urban agriculture series. This month’s topic will be planning and preparing a vegetable garden. Reservations requested.
Sunday, Feb. 25
A Diana Peterfreund Conversation: Omega City Trilogy
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 3-4 p.m.
Author Diana Peterfreund discusses the final installment of her tween intergalactic adventure series, Omega City. Peterfreund has penned over ten novels for adults, kids, and everyone in between.
* Denotes featured (sponsored) event
Clarendon restaurant Don Tito will host a viewing lunch and happy hour on Monday, August 21 for the solar eclipse.
The watering hole at 3165 Wilson Blvd will begin the festivities at noon, with the eclipse viewing expected to begin at approximately 1:21 p.m. The eclipse is anticipated to be at its maximum around 2:47 p.m., and the viewing and the eclipse itself will wrap us around 4 p.m.
To mark the occasion, the first total eclipse visible in the continental U.S. in decades, Don Tito will offer what it described as “eclipse-inspired refreshments” and taco specials.
This year’s eclipse is expected to be seen by more than 500 million people. The total solar eclipse will cross from Salem, Ore. to Charleston, S.C., with the rest of the country able to see a partial eclipse.
“This is truly a historic event and a wonderful opportunity to view one of nature’s stunning displays,” the Don Tito event’s organizers wrote.
So far, no other viewing events in Arlington have been widely announced, but The Connection pop-up library in Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive in the Crystal City Shops) gave out hundreds of free glasses with which to watch the eclipse, supplied by PBS. The free glasses proved to be popular and the supply quickly ran out.
A happy hour and listening session tomorrow (May 31) will look to encourage more young people to get involved in Arlington’s local government. County Board vice chair Katie Cristol is among those set to attend.
According to a brief blurb on the event, attendees can expect “an evening of lively conversation and discussion of the issues and topics of interest to millennials and young professionals in Arlington.”
The event is from 6-8 p.m. at the offices of the Ballston Business Improvement District (4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100).
The event is nonpartisan and is expected to be attended by those on both sides of the political aisle. In an email to supporters, Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans chair emeritus Matthew Hurtt said young people can play a key role in helping shape county policy. He pointed to the legalization of Airbnb last year and the AFCYRs’ role in helping beat back some proposed regulations on rentals.
“Whether you realize it or not, the AFCYRs is the largest Arlington-focused millennial political organization in Arlington — even bigger than the Arlington Young Democrats, according to club election statistics,” Hurtt wrote. “During the community conversation about legalizing Airbnb, AFCYRs made up a significant portion of the community feedback, rebuffing a number of destructive (and ridiculous) regulations. AFCYRs played a key role in the favorable outcome of that debate.”
The event is jointly sponsored by the county’s Office of Communications and Public Engagement and the Ballston Business Improvement District. Those interested in attending can register online.