After nearly 40 years, Joe Javidara said the future of his soccer-themed bar Summers Restaurant in Courthouse (1520 N. Courthouse Road) hinges on a permit he said is being processed through Arlington County government.
The restaurant announced on Monday that it was temporarily closed until it could get a permit for outdoor seating.
Like many local restaurant owners with insufficient indoor seating to allow for social distancing, Javidara said getting one of the county’s temporary outdoor seating requests is crucial to ensuring that customers feel safe returning to local eateries.
Jessica Margarit, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development, said the county has received 110 applications for Temporary Outdoor Seating Area permits. Of those, 75 have been approved. Four were denied while 13 remain under review. The other 17 are listed as inactive — meaning they have not followed up with staff on requests for additional information — and one was withdrawn.
Asked about it by ARLnow, Margarit said the county had not received a new TOSA application from Summers yet.
Dear Summers friends,We will TEMPORARILY CLOSE until we get an outdoor seating permit from the Arlington, County. …
It’s a process the county has worked to make easier over the last few months, but Javidara faces a critical snag: his sidewalk is too narrow. An earlier application in June was denied because staff found that putting the restaurant space on the sidewalk would not allow enough space for pedestrians to safely maneuver.
“This time, I went to county and told them we’re going to close, we’ve closed already,” Javidara said. “We got the application. Hopefully we’ll see. They’re going to send the engineer to check it out… Without the outside seating we can’t pay the rent.”
Javidara’s solution had been to utilize the on-street parking area, removing four parking spaces to make way for tables with a cleared space on the sidewalk between the seating and the restaurant for pedestrians to pass through. It’s a move that’s been implemented in places like Clarendon and Shirlington, and in other jurisdictions like Alexandria, to the benefit of local restaurants.
He tried that approach in June, arguing that no one was coming to work in the nearby buildings anyway, but was rejected.
“We tried to open anyway, but we’re losing a lot of money and paying $20,000 in rent,” Javidara said. “And there’s no sports, so it feels like everything is against us.”
It isn’t the first time Summers Restaurant has been in dire straits. In 2014, Javidara expressed similar concerns about increasing rent possibly driving the restaurant out of business.
Now, he’s been told the application could be processed sometime in the next two or three weeks. Margarit said the average application reviews for TOSA permits take 5-10 days, sometimes less.
“They’re slow these days,” Javidara said. “By the time we get it, it could maybe be the end of October. There might still be a few weeks of nice weather. We’ve been here for 37 or 38 years, but if this doesn’t go through we’re going to go.”
Regardless, the building Summers calls home may not be long for this world: the entire block is set for redevelopment.
Protest Outside Westover Post Office — About 15 protesters held a “Save the U.S. Postal Service” rally outside the Post Office at 5877 Washington Blvd in Westover yesterday. The two-hour lunchtime demonstration was organized as part of the American Postal Worker Union National Day of Action. [@KalinaNewman/Twitter]
Historic Review Board Likes Shirlington Plan — “The Arlington County government’s historic-preservation advisory body seems generally satisfied that retention of historic features will be seen as an important component of the redevelopment of the Village at Shirlington. In particular, the low-slung storefronts along Campbell Avenue are expected to be protected from the wrecking ball, even as taller and more dense development likely will be allowed immediately behind them.” [InsideNova]
New BBQ Restaurant Opens Patio — “Smokecraft Modern Barbecue is excited to debut its much-anticipated patio, now open daily for outdoor dining and drinking. Arlington residents and visitors can now enjoy Smokecraft’s award-winning barbecue outside on a socially distant patio, consisting of 38 seats.” [Press Release]
TTT in Clarendon to Host Virtual DJ — Updated at 9:30 a.m. — “Beginning Friday, September 4… TTT (Tacos, Tortas & Tequila) known for its casual Mexican-influenced fare is adding an exciting bit of fun on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons with virtual DJs. Guests dining on the first floor and on the third floor TTT Rooftop, which seats 82 and offers wonderful views on the city, will enjoy watching and listening to live streaming DJ performances via large screen projection.” [Press Release]
Family Pushing for Arlington House Change — “Descendants of Charles Syphax have been courting lawmakers for the past few months to make the change, said Syphax family historian Steve Hammond, who lives in Sterling, Va. The family’s effort is motivated as much by a desire to accurately honor the full history of the property and the enslaved people who lived there as it is by any antipathy toward Lee.” [Washington Post]
Nearby: Back to School in Falls Church — Students have started the fall semester, virtually, in Falls Church. A TV news segment shows teachers conducting their virtual classes from their actual, physical classrooms. [NBC 4]
Italian restaurant Sfoglina in Rosslyn has opened an outdoor seating area on the rooftop of its high-rise building for evening dining and drinks with an expansive view of the D.C. skyline.
“We are grateful to Monday Properties for giving us this amazing opportunity to add an incredible bespoke experience to Sfoglina Rosslyn,” said Jessica Botta, a spokesperson for Fabio Trabocchi Restaurants. “The response has been outstanding, and it’s not hard to understand why. This is simply the best view in all of the D.C. area paired with a refreshing lineup of cocktails and savory tastings unique to the Rooftop Terrace.”
The restaurant opened this past October at 1100 Wilson Blvd, one of Rosslyn’s iconic twin towers.
Botta emphasized that the rooftop is not a bar, but that it does have an array of cocktails, wine and beer along with small plates. The terrace is open in the evenings and at nights, from 5-11 p.m. on Wednesday-Sunday, with the last seating at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, or 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
“Appetizer style dishes include: Chilled Shrimp or Lobster Cocktail, Crab Salad on Brioche, Heirloom Tomato Salad, and design-your-own style options from the Mozzarella Bar,” Botta said.
Whether the new rooftop access is permanent or not is still undecided, but Botta said it has helped the restaurant handle some of the pandemic-related restrictions.
“Time may be limited to how long we might extend the rooftop offering,” Botta said, “but it has been an enormous help in allowing us to continue to operate a unique experience from Sfoglina and serve our guests despite capacity restrictions during these complicated times.”
Arlington has been removing some parking spaces to facilitate the expansion of outdoor dining in two local neighborhoods.
The County Board approved a process for restaurants to apply for expanded, temporary outdoor dining areas in late May. Since then, county crews have blocked off street parking spots in six places to allow pedestrians to better get around the sidewalk cafes.
According to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, the repurposed parking spaces are located in the Shirlington and Clarendon areas, including:
- Washington Boulevard between Wilson Blvd and 13th St N, about 2 parking spaces
- Wilson Blvd between N Cleveland St and N Danville St, about 4 parking spaces
- Wilson Blvd between N Hudson St and N Irving St, about 6 parking spaces
- S Campbell St between S Arlington Mill Dr and S Quincy St, all on-street parking spaces
- West side of S Randolph St immediately south of S Campbell St, a few spaces (exact number not available at this time)
- West side of S Quincy St immediately south of S Campbell St (exact number not available at this time)
Crews were seen blocking off the Shirlington parkings areas Monday morning.
DES spokesman Peter Golkin said additional parking spaces may be repurposed as restaurants apply for Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs), though no additional, specific locations are currently planned.
“We are creating pedestrian space around outdoor seating as restaurants apply for outdoor seating,” Golkin said.
Jay Westcott contributed to this report
While Virginia’s reopening continues, not everyone wants to dine indoors at restaurants.
Just today, Texas closed bars and reduced restaurant capacity to stem a recent surge in new coronavirus cases. For those who want to get out of the house and support local restaurants, however, outdoor dining is generally considered to be safe.
ARLnow’s Turquoise Jackson compiled the following list of Arlington restaurants with outdoor dining areas over the past week. Have any additions or updates? Email her at [email protected].
Black Lives Matter Protest Held Saturday — “As protests continue around the nation following the death of George Floyd, the Black Parents of Arlington group welcomed families and neighbors on Saturday for a special gathering and vigil for the man who died in police custody in Minneapolis in May. Over 100 people gathered at Drew Model Elementary School, some bringing signs while others wore shirts and face masks showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.” [WUSA 9]
Dorsey Discusses ‘Defund’ Demands — “‘We’re getting a lot of letters with the ‘defund the police’ calls,’ says [County Board member Christian Dorsey, on the WAMU Politics Hour]. He says that over the past few years, the police budget has only risen slightly above inflation. He said he’d be open to cutting tactical weapons and gear.” [Twitter]
Pentagon Entering ‘Phase 1’ Today — “Pentagon and Pentagon Facilities Employees: This Mon., June 15, begins Phase One of re-entering the buildings. Welcome back! Don’t forget your face covering and to social distance while inside.” [Twitter]
Current COVID-19 Hospitalizations Fall — “Fewer than 1,000 Virginians are now hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19, and the number of cases continued to slow both statewide and in Northern Virginia, according to reports Saturday morning. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported only 959 coronavirus patients in state hospitals, the lowest number since the organization began providing data in early April… Only 342 of those patients were in Northern Virginia, down from a high of 818 on April 30.” [InsideNova]
County Expanding Free Wi-Fi Spots — “Arlington residents can now access free Wi-Fi in the parking lots of the Charles Drew Community Center and Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center as part of the County’s ongoing effort to help residents without reliable internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with these two new locations, public Wi-Fi is available via the ArlingtonWireless network in the parking lots at Aurora Hills, Central and Columbia Pike libraries.” [Arlington County]
PTAs to Distribute Face Masks — “County staff from a variety of departments packing up more than 4,300 cloth face covers for [Arlington Public Schools] PTAs to distribute to families. Face covering is required in Virginia public indoor spaces. ” [Twitter]
Restaurants Seek Expanded Outdoor Dining Spaces — “Arlington County has allowed 19 restaurants to add new space for outdoor dining or expand existing options, as part of the growing trend of shifting tables outside and allowing safer dining while the Covid-19 pandemic persists… Through June 9, the county has seen a total of 66 applications and approved just under a third of them.” [Washington Business Journal]
Photo courtesy Jean and James Knaack
As Arlington’s restaurants try to return to some semblance of normalcy during the first phase of reopening, some local restaurants are anxiously awaiting Arlington County approval of temporary outdoor seating permits.
Owners of two eateries along the Columbia Pike corridor, Ethiopian restaurant Dama Pastry & Cafe (1505 Columbia Pike) and Ididos Coffee and Social House (1107 S. Walter Reed Drive) said getting access to outdoor dining is a crucial part of getting business back to normal.
“We are just waiting,” said Hailu Dama, owner of Dama Pastry & Cafe, which has a small parking lot in front of the restaurant, located near the Air Force Memorial. “We applied for outside dining and are waiting for Arlington County. Once that gets approved, we’ll put up tents and have some small space on the side. So far, that’s what we’re thinking about.”
Currently, Dama said his small business needs the boost — opening up an outdoor space would expand their capacity at a critical time.
“It’s just been very slow,” Dama said. “We closed for about a month because of the employees and the whole situation. We reopened three weeks ago and it’s been picking up a little bit, but to get to the point pre-corona… it’s going to take some time.”
Mesfin Demise, a partner in Ididos Coffee and Social House said he’s similarly hoping outdoor dining can help boost slow sales.
“There’s been a little back and forth on outdoor seating,” Demise said. “That has not happened yet, it’s probably a day or two delay. Once we get that permit for temporary outdoor dining, then we should be really great.”
Ididos opened for takeout, Demise said, but as a coffee shop, business had really suffered.
“April was really bad, business-wise,” Demise said. “May picked up, but it’s not back to normal. It was about 20% down from where we used to be. It’s mainly because of the community that we were so close.”
Demise said Columbia Pike neighbors rallied to support local businesses during the pandemic, something for which he’s deeply appreciative.
“With the County approving, hopefully, we can do outdoor seating,” Demise said. “I think that will boost sales. I don’t want to say we’ll go back to normal, but right now it still hurts.”
Even with the permit, though, Demise said the state has still put limitations on outdoor seating that he said business owners should be the ones to set.
“Outdoor seating is 50% of indoor seating,” Demise said. “In our case, we have 13 seats allowed, so we can only do six seats outdoors. That limitation probably hurts, but it’s better than nothing.”
Demise said it took a lot of work, but he’s been able to keep most of his employees and adjust schedules to keep nearly everyone on payroll. He said he’s looking forward to being able to bring people to the restaurant to sit around.
“People loved to sit around the restaurant, so missing that was a big challenge,” Demise said. “Adjusting to simply pouring coffee or lattes and sending them to customers, that’s been very difficult.”
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol says she was wrong to suggest that a local beer garden should be shut down over the weekend.
“A bunch of selfish a**holes in Arlington, VA this evening,” Parkhomenko said in his tweet, which went viral and racked up thousands of likes and retweets. Many of those sharing the post decried how such crowding could exacerbate the pandemic.
“Well, this sucks,” Cristol wrote in her response to the tweet. “We’re in this together, and are going to have a hard time continuing to move forward if folks/establishments won’t do the basics of masks & distancing. All: Please help us follow up (and shut this stuff down) by reporting.”
Cristol also shared a link to a “non-compliance of social distancing practices” reporting form created by the county.
In response, however, The Lot said in a social media post on Saturday that it followed “all CDC, state, and local guidelines,” noting that it has “a large patio so naturally there will be more people, attention, and visibility.”
While The Lot posted a sign encouraging mask usage, Virginia’s new mask requirement only requires it for indoor public spaces.
A huge thank you to all our amazing patrons for the support and patience last night. We’d also like to thank the county…
On Sunday, Crisol posted an apology, acknowledging that Arlington police and fire personnel had visited The Lot and verified that it was following all of the requirements. She added, however, that “too many ppl = an administrative problem the County needs to fix.”
Folks, I owe @TheLotVA an apology; Police & Fire visited Friday & confirmed they're operating @ 50% capacity of cert. of occupancy + distancing tables. So too many ppl = an administrative problem the County needs to fix. And I was wrong to assume The Lot was acting as a scofflaw. https://t.co/WXTB0qtZXc
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) June 1, 2020
The risk of coronavirus transmission outdoors is considered to be low, though extended exposure and close proximity to someone with the virus — particularly if they’re talking and not wearing a mask — can result in infections even outdoors.
Photo via Twitter
With Arlington and Northern Virginia poised to begin a Phase 1 reopening on Friday, the Arlington County Board today took a first step towards allowing more business to be conducted outdoors during the pandemic.
A growing body of scientific evidence has found that coronavirus spreads primarily in confined, indoor settings. That’s why Virginia’s Phase 1 reopening only allows restaurants to reopen to “dine-in” customers outdoors, with physical distancing requirements between diners and other restrictions.
Outdoor dining space is limited, however, and restaurants that want to have sidewalk cafes in Arlington have to go through lengthy approval processes.
With many restaurants facing severe financial distress, after more than two months of only being able to offer takeout and delivery, the County Board took action Tuesday afternoon that may help.
The Board voted 4-0 to approve, on an emergency basis, a process that would allow restaurants to apply for a temporary, expanded outdoor seating area, on sidewalks or in parking lots.
The Temporary Outdoor Seating Area (TOSA) process for restaurants would allow rapid approval by county staff and does not have an application fee. With written permission in hand, restaurants can then apply for an additional, needed permit from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority that would allow beer, wine and cocktails to be served in the new outdoor dining areas.
(Virginia ABC is allowing alcohol to be served in TOSAs between 6 a.m.-11 p.m., though County Board Chair Libby Garvey expressed concern about the early hours and asked county staff whether the county can restrict hours of operation. Existing rooftop dining areas, meanwhile, will be allowed to reopen under Phase 1 guidelines without additional permits.)
TOSAs could be created in on-street parking lanes, county staff told the Board in a presentation, but a more common use for parking lanes would be as “pedestrian circulation” zone, allowing people to walk around expanded sidewalk cafes. On-street parking spaces could be blocked off via rubber barriers or bollards, county staff said, though they noted that that might shrink existing, temporary restaurant pick-up and delivery zones.
“Where appropriate, repurposing parking lanes may add flexibility,” the presentation said. “[The] review process will prioritize proposals where [the owner has] consulted with neighbors.”
Reuse of parking lanes will be subject to review by Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services and must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Vehicle travel lanes are currently expected to remain open.
The TOSA permits will be valid until the county decides to terminate them, either all at once as the pandemic abates or individually for restaurants “flaunting” the rules, officials said during today’s special online Board meeting. Violations could also be considered a crime — a Class 1 misdemeanor — though a representative from the police department told the Board that ACPD is “trying to educate,” not arrest violators.
County staff said that a TOSA-related page on the county’s website, including an application for restaurants, is expected to go live tomorrow (Wednesday). Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Restaurant Initiative will be holding a webinar on the Phase 1 reopening and TOSAs for businesses on Thursday, while county officials are expected to address both during Arlington’s regularly-scheduled Friday online town hall for the general public on Friday.
The TOSA web page is eventually expected to include a map of approved, temporary seating areas and a form for submitting complaints, in lieu of complaints being phoned in to the county’s Emergency Communications Center.
County staff are now working on additional guidelines for bringing more activities outdoors, including religious services, fitness classes, farmers markets, brick and mortar retail, child care, and mobile vending.
Arlington Waiving Affordable Housing Loan Payments — “The Board approved allowing borrowers of County Multifamily Revolving Loan Funds the option of waiving their 2020 loan payments if they commit to using the money to address rent and vacancy losses and emergency needs that are associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Arlington County]
County Delaying Purchase of Property Near Shirlington — “In order to keep their options open, the Arlington County Board will make another $175,000 payment to hold open the possibility of acquiring two parcels adjacent to the Arlington Cultural Affairs facility in the Four Mile Run corridor.” [InsideNova]
Masks Required at County Courthouse — “Beginning May 22, 2020, cloth facial coverings will be available for all people who do not have one as they enter the Arlington County Courthouse, Sheriff Beth Arthur announced. This comes after the Honorable Judge Newman, Arlington County Chief Judge, ordered that all patrons who enter the Courthouse will be required to wear a cloth face covering or face mask.” [Arlington County]
Chamber Supports Extra Outdoor Dining Space — “Allowing restaurants to use parking lots and street parking spaces for additional outdoor capacity, similar to how they have been allowed to reserve parking space for carryout patrons, will provide additional flexibility for socially distanced service. We also encourage the County to consider block closures where restaurants may set up tables on a pedestrianized right of way to expand overall capacity.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Pair in Stolen SUV Crash into Parked Cars — “The victim’s Ford F-150 was parked when he observed the unknown suspect enter it and and drive away. An officer en route to the call for service observed the F-150 and a Toyota Land Cruiser in the area travelling at high rates of speed. The officer attempted to effect a traffic stop on the F-150, however, it the driver refused to stop and fled onto I-395 NB. The Land Cruiser, which had previously been reported stolen out of Arlington, was later located, unoccupied, after it crashed into multiple parked vehicles.” [Arlington County]
Fund Established for Gutshall’s Kids — “A memorial fund to support the education of the late County Board member Erik Gutshall’s children has been established… The fund was established by a ‘generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous.'” [InsideNova]
Nearby: Fairfax Parks Reopening — “The Park Authority has begun reopening of parking lots and parks in the park system to be open for the Memorial Day weekend. Park Authority staff will begin the process of clearing barricades and opening parking lots at all 427 parks for our community on Wednesday, May 20 through Friday, May 22. These parks will reopen for limited use in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines.” [Fairfax County]
Today is the summer solstice — pools are open, schools are out, the Fourth of July is around the corner — but the planned 22,000 square foot beer garden outside Clarendon is still shuttered.
“The Lot,” owned by local restaurant scene veteran Mike Bramson, was originally supposed to open in the summer of 2017. Then that got pushed back to the summer of 2018. Then spring of 2019. After some additional construction, Bramson told Eater he was anticipating an opening earlier this month.
Located at 3217 10th Street N., at the busy corner of 10th Street N. and Wilson Blvd, The Lot looks mostly complete from the outside. There are new trees, a fence, picnic bench seating, string lighting, a pergola and a pair of large signs. What there is not, yet, is any sign of life.
Bramson did not respond to requests for comment from ARLnow, but a review of Arlington County permitting activity shows that his efforts to get county permitting and zoning officials to allow him to build new bathrooms and a food prep area, and to open the beer garden, have all been rejected.
The issue seems to be existential for Bramson’s would-be business. In short, there does not appear to be a legal mechanism to allow a standalone, permanent beer garden in Arlington County.
The reason for the rejection of The Lot’s zoning applications to open as an outdoor cafe, county officials say and permitting records indicate, is that under Arlington County code an outdoor cafe must be an accessory use to a physical, indoor restaurant. Furthermore, an outdoor cafe can’t have more seating than the indoor restaurant.
The Lot has no indoor seating and was planning to serve food from food trucks.
“The building permit under review is for interior alterations to the existing building; to create restrooms (required by Inspections Services Division) and a food prep area (required by the Public Health Division) in order to use the outdoor café area and beverage trucks,” Gina Wimpey, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Dept. of Community Planning, Housing & Development, told ARLnow via email.
“Since they included the outdoor café space in the permit, Zoning cannot approve the café space in the absence of a restaurant with indoor seating (required by the Zoning Ordinance),” Wimpey added.
Luckily for The Lot, there does appear to be a possible workaround. It could figuratively latch itself to a nearby restaurant — Bramson’s Social Restaurant Group owns Pamplona and Bar Bao in Clarendon — and operate on a temporary basis.
“They can open the outdoor café as a short-term use associated with other restaurants within 2,000 feet, but it must have more indoor seats than the proposed outdoor café,” Wimpey said. “This has been discussed with the applicant and they’re working towards a solution. Until the Certificate of Occupancy for the short-term use is issued, the building permit cannot be issued.”
So why can The Stand, a Social Restaurant Group-owned food kiosk in Crystal City, continue serving without indoor seating? Because it technically isn’t considered an outdoor cafe under county code.
“1601 Crystal Drive [The Stand] currently has a Certificate of Occupancy for a food service kiosk and has had one in this location since at least the late-1990s,” Wimpey said.
Beer gardens have been blossoming around the D.C. area over the past few years — including in Arlington, next to bricks-and-mortar restaurants — and are a popular warm weather destination. But Wimpey said there is no movement in Arlington County’s policy-setting ranks to allow stand-alone beer gardens.
“There isn’t anything planned in the proposed 2019-2020 work program,” she said,.