Stay. Lost Dog Cafe is going to stay.
With help from the Arlington County Board, Lost Dog Cafe’s parking situation is now nearing a resolution which has prompted the restaurant to renew its lease on Columbia Pike.
Last June, ARLnow reported that confusing and high parking fees in a county-financed Columbia Pike garage, owned by Ballston-based developer AvalonBay, was potentially costing Lost Dog Cafe and fellow tenant Joule Wellness Pharmacy thousands of dollars a year in customer revenue.
Because of this, both businesses were planning on not renewing their leases on the ground floor of the Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building.
But, in January, the County Board revised an unusual 2006 agreement that essentially allows AvalonBay to stop paying back the county for contributing nearly $3 million to the construction of the privately-owned garage.
This has led the developer to agree to lower parking fees inside of the parking garage at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.
Starting as soon as the end of this month, the developer is changing the fee structure at the parking garage to allow customers to park for free for one hour, AvalonBay spokesperson Kurt Conway confirmed. It’s $2 per hour after that.
Additionally, more employee parking spots will be available to the businesses.
This change has resulted in Lost Dog Cafe signing a six-year lease extension to stay on the Pike. Added to the two years left on its current lease, the neighborhood eatery is planning on staying at its current location until at least 2030.
“We believe that the change in the parking situation will allow us to run our business more successfully,” Lost Dog franchise owner James Barnes tells ARLnow.
Joule Wellness Pharmacy director of marketing Alex Tekie also says that this change will significantly help their business. However, he notes that the pharmacy has actually not yet been informed by AvalonBay of this change.
Most of the parking woes began back in March 2020, when the pandemic hit and, incidentally, higher fees, tickets, and threats of towing began after years of lax enforcement, according to tenants.
At a time when many businesses were struggling and shifting towards more take-out, charging for even just a few minutes of parking made it even more difficult for the local businesses.
“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” Barnes said last June. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”
Joule Wellness Pharmacy ownership also told ARLnow at the time they were shelling out nearly $800 for employee parking. This prompted both businesses to threaten to leave the development and Columbia Pike.
But, at least in this instance, a change to a 16-year-old agreement appears to have solved at least a couple of tenant renewal issues, for now.
(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) A pair of Columbia Pike businesses say they’re planning to leave when their leases are up due to parking challenges at a county-financed garage.
Lost Dog Cafe and Joule Wellness Pharmacy both tell ARLnow that relatively high and confusing parking fees in the garage are costing them thousands of dollars a year in customer business. The owners of both say they will not be renewing their leases when they expire come 2023 and 2024, respectively.
“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” says Lost Dog Cafe franchise owner Jim Barnes. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”
The parking garage, located at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, is owned by Ballston-based apartment developer AvalonBay. However, it was built based as part of an unusual 2006 agreement with Arlington County.
The county contributed $2.96 million to its construction with the promise of receiving 45% of parking revenue as a form of payback every month going forward, according to the “public parking development agreement” obtained by ARLnow.
It is one of only two parking garages in the county that has an agreement of this nature, county officials confirm, with the other also along Columbia Pike, at Penrose Square.
The agreement does not specify a duration for which the county will continue to receive the parking revenue and county officials declined to provide an “interpretation” of whether that could mean into perpetuity.
They also didn’t specify how much revenue the garage generated for the county in 2020.
The parking garage is owned by AvalonBay and was acquired by the company with its $102 million purchase of the since-renamed Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building — formerly the Halstead Arlington — in 2016.
While this agreement had been in place for a decade and a half, initially signed by a different developer, a majority of the issues for the businesses started in March 2020, just days before the pandemic began to hit Arlington.
That’s when, according to Lost Dog and Joule Wellness, the parking machines were turned on and enforced for the first time in years.
Lost Dog Cafe, a franchisee of the original in Westover, moved into 2920 Columbia Pike in May 2009. At the time, Barnes said that parking was free after 5 p.m. and on weekends, which he says was an adequate compromise. A large portion of their customer-base came when parking was free anyway, with the garage able to earn revenue at other times, he says.
When AvalonBay purchased the building, notes Barnes, those restrictions went away and the parking machines were turned off. Enforcement also stopped.
Then four years later, with little notice according to the businesses, the machines were turned back on, enforcement restarted, and parking fees were being charged 24/7. The machines require drivers to pay for parking in advance, and anyone who fails to do so — or who overstays the amount of time they paid for — gets ticketed or towed.
A sign outside the garage advertises a parking rate of $1.75 per hour, which can be paid via a cash-only machine inside the garage. Barnes claims the machine “has never worked” and “steals people’s money.”
Drivers can also use the ParkMobile app, but poor cell phone reception in the garage makes that difficult, and the app charges $2.25 for the first hour.
“Customers cannot use their phones to access it infuriating them and they simply choose to no longer come to our business as a result,” Barnes said.
Paid street parking is available nearby, but is limited. Parking on surrounding neighborhood streets, meanwhile, often requires a residential decal, and nearby parking lots are restricted to other businesses and their customers.
AvalonBay, in an email to ARLnow, disputes Barnes’ version of events, writing that parking was being collected prior to March 2020.
“Equipment had been in place and parking revenue was collected prior to March 2020,” writes a company representative. “In March 2020, an updated parking system was installed with the County’s approval.”
Barnes, however, says that he received “no notice whatsoever” about the change or any updates.
The management of Joule Wellness Pharmacy, which opened its Pike location in early 2014, said they did receive notice, but it was only two to three weeks prior to the change. What’s more, they said there’s no mention of paid parking in their lease.
“There was not no mention of that in our lease,” says manager Alex Tekie. “And in fact, we’re told parking is free for us and our employees and for customers coming on the retail side.”
Tekie and pharmacy owner Winnie Tewelde tell ARLnow they now shell out nearly $800 a month in parking, mostly so employees can park in the lot.
They’ve talked a lawyer about the situation, but grew weary of paying even more money to fight the parking changes against a large, publicly-traded developer.
“We got exhausted. Drained,” says Tekie. “It’s David vs. Goliath.”
An Arlington pet rescue and a Dulles brewery have joined forces for a unique fundraiser that will help find new homes for dogs and cats in need.
The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation has partnered with Solace Brewing Company for the second year in a row to produce a special Rescue Ale that will be sold to raise money for the nonprofit, which is dedicated to rescuing homeless, abused, and neglected pets and facilitating their adoption.
This year’s Solace-produced Rescue Ale is an India Pale Ale brewed with mosaic and Amarillo hops at 7% alcohol by volume. It will be available for sale at the Solace Brewery on Oct. 8 and at all Lost Dog Café locations — including on Columbia Pike and in Westover — starting at 5 p.m. on Oct. 9.
The collaboration enables the rescue foundation to continue an annual tradition of working with local breweries despite challenges caused by the need for social distancing during the pandemic.
“Our annual fundraiser has always been an extremely important driver for engaging with the broader community, garnering resources, and ultimately gaining supporters that strengthen our important rescue mission,” Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation public relations manager Kim Williams said. “With the generosity of Solace Brewing Co., the Rescue Ale tradition is still alive, and people can enjoy a charitable beer in the comfort of their home while supporting a worthy cause.”
A portion of all Rescue Ale sales will be donated to the foundation.
The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation first started working with local breweries to develop special Rescue Ales in 2017 when the nonprofit partnered with Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company.
Owned by Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation founders Pam McAlwee and Ross Underwood, the Lost Dog Café originated in Arlington and now also has locations in McLean, Dunn Loring, and Alexandria.
In the past, the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation hosted large fundraising events like a “Paws Vegas” carnival held at Solace Brewing Company last October, but because crowds currently pose public health risks, the nonprofit has pivoted instead to an auction with tickets for a private tour of Solace Brewing Company.
On top of a guided tour, ticket winners will get to see the canning process for this year’s Rescue Ale and receive a catered lunch, a four-pack of the Rescue Ale, Lost Dog Café and Solace Brewing Co.-branded pint glasses, and a Rescue Ale 2020 T-shirt.
Bidding on the “Behind the Brew: Rescue Ale Canning Day Fundraiser” tour started on Sept. 23 and closes at 12:00 p.m. on Oct. 26.
The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation is also holding an outdoor adoption event at Solace Brewing Company on Oct. 10. Masks and adherence to social distancing rules will be required.
The foundation, which has a rescue care center facility in Falls Church, says it has rescued 2,183 pets and facilitated the adoptions of 2,015 dogs and cats in 2020 so far.
Deputy Accused of Murder Again Denied Bond — Arlington County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Patterson, who is accused of murdering Julian Dawkins, has been denied bond for a third time. Patterson’s defense attorney argued that Dawkins may have been using and dealing drugs, and Dawkins’ previous dealings with police caused his confrontational nature the night of the incident. Patterson’s trial starts on December 9. [WUSA]
Home Sales, Prices Rise — The combination of higher sales and increasing average sales prices boosted Arlington’s total sales volume for August by 29.4 percent, to $173 million, compared to last year. The average price of all residential properties rose 8.1 percent to $594,479. Homes sold last month spent an average of 29 days on the market between listing and contract, compared with 50 days a year ago. [Sun Gazette]
Lost Dog/Stray Cat Profile — A Washington Post story profiles two of Arlington’s well known restaurants that help pets find homes — Lost Dog Cafe and Stray Cat Cafe. Co-founders Pam McAlwee and Ross Underwood describe how they started rescuing strays from shelters before the age of cell phones and the internet. Each year the duo, along with their 300 volunteers, helps around 1,800 dogs and 700 cats find homes. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by maryva2
About 10,000 people participated in the online nomination and voting process, according to Arlington Economic Development, which sponsors the annual contest. That’s about twice as many nominations and votes as last year.
Among the big winners were Northside Social, voted Arlington’s Best New Business, and Lost Dog Cafe, the only business to win in two categories.
The winners, which will announced at the county board meeting that’s getting underway now, are:
- Best Boutique: ShoeFly
- Best Brunch: Carlyle
- Best Community-Based Nonprofit: AFAC
- Best Customer Service: Eventide
- Best Dessert: Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe
- Best Late Night Spot: Bob and Edith’s
- Best Performing Arts Organization: Signature Theatre
- Best Place to Care for Your Pet: Ballston Animal Hospital
- Best Place to Dance the Night Away: Clarendon Ballroom
- Best Place to Learn Something New: Arlington Public Library
- Best Happy Hour: Liberty Tavern
- Best Neighborhood Bar: Whitlow’s on Wilson
- Best “Bargain” Restaurant: Lost Dog Café
- Best Family Friendly Restaurant: Lost Dog Café
- Best New Business: Northside Social
The incumbent winners from 2009 had a particularly strong showing. Only the Best New Business, Best Happy Hour, and Best Customer Service categories changed hands this year.
What started out 25 years ago as a small neighborhood eatery in North Arlington is blossoming into a full-fledged local chain.
Lost Dog Café, which last year added a South Arlington location on Columbia Pike, is close to signing a lease for a storefront on Colshire Drive in McLean. And they’re not stopping there.
Lost Dog’s expansion is being undertaken not by the owners of the original restaurant, but by four friends who used to work there as teenagers.
Wes Clough, Mike Danner, Jim Barnes and Mike Barnes are all graduates of Yorktown High School. Their devotion to Lost Dog Café started at age 16, when they started working there as drivers.
That dedication carried over through college, office jobs and marriages, and came full circle when Lost Dog owners Pam McAlwee and Ross Underwood gave their blessing for the friends to start the restaurant’s first franchise.
The Columbia Pike location, across the street from Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse, opened in May 2009. McAlwee and Underwood donated the franchise fee to their charity, the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation.
The new venture has been a success, winning awards and gaining customers at a pace well exceeding the friends’ expectations. Even this past weekend, during the height of Snowmageddon, the restaurant was packed.
Part of the success, says co-owner Jim Barnes, can be attributed to Lost Dog’s focus on serving customers. During the snow storm, Barnes personally delivered phone-in orders in his Jeep Wrangler.