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,.
Construction is now underway at “The Lot,” a long-awaited outdoor beer garden in Clarendon.
A red, enclosed deck and pine picnic tables are being built at the site, at the corner of Wilson Blvd and 10th Street N. The Rebel Taco food truck is now parked on the site behind a fence.
The site has been in the works for two years on a former used car lot in Clarendon. Since then progress has been slow: a wooden fence erected in October last year was the first major work. In February, crews replaced the site’s old Prime Auto Group signs with two black billboard-style signs reading “The Lot: Beer Garden.”
The company behind The Lot is Social Restaurant Group, which also opened Pamplona and Bar Bao. Originally, they planned to open The Lot in March 2017 but were delayed until the summer, then the following spring, citing a lengthy permitting process.
The Lot’s permit application asked for at least 150 seats, an enclosed deck, and a kitchen.
Social Restaurant Group co-founder Mike Bramson told ARLnow last year he hoped The Lot would offer “a vast variety, from Belgian to German to local craft beers” as well as frozen drinks, food from the Rebel Taco food truck, and games like cornhole and giant Jenga.
A Spanish restaurant complete with a “sangria garden” is the latest eatery looking to set up outdoor seating at the new Ballston Quarter development.
The fast casual restaurant Copa is applying for the permits necessary to include outdoor cafe tables in the development’s yet-to-be-opened plaza area, located near Ballston Quarter’s Wilson Blvd entrance.
So long as the County Board signs off on the request at its meeting Saturday (Feb. 23), Copa will become the seventh restaurant to win permission for outdoor seating at the development in recent months. The Board approved similar plans for Bartaco, Compass Coffee, South Block, Ted’s Bulletin, True Food Kitchen and Union Kitchen in October.
Copa is backed by the creators of Bethesda restaurants Butchers Alley and Pescadeli, and is set to offer small plates, homemade sangria and Spanish flatbreads.
It looks set to be located alongside a bevy of other upscale restaurants in the development’s revamped food court, dubbed a “food hall,” which is one of the largest sections of Ballston Quarter that has yet to open since stores began slowly coming online last fall.
Signs posted around the development continue to list February as an opening date for the new “Quarter Market.”
Some new details are at last surfacing about The Lot beer garden coming to Clarendon, as its owners now say they’re on course to open up the establishment next spring.
Social Restaurant Group, the company behind Clarendon bars Pamplona and Bar Bao, first filed plans to open the beer garden at a former used car lot on the corner of Wilson Blvd and 10th Street N. last March. Since then, however, there’s been scant evidence of progress at the site — that is, until a wooden fence recently went up around the property.
Social Restaurant Group co-founder Mike Bramson now tells ARLnow that he’s secured all the permit he needs to start serving up brews at The Lot, and fully plans to open for business when the weather improves a few months from now. He’d even initially hoped to throw a Halloween bash this weekend, but with rain and blustery conditions in the forecast, he ultimately decided to put those plans on hold.
“As much as we’re eager to launch it, we wanted people to have enough time to plan another Halloween event,” Bramson said. “But even with the response we got on Facebook about the event when we put it out there, we can tell people are really excited about it.”
Bramson says he’s still hammering out the specifics about what sort of beers will be on offer at The Lot, but he expects there will be “a vast variety, from Belgian to German to local craft beers.” He also hopes to serve up frozen cocktails and some wine, with the Rebel Taco food truck parked on the property to satisfy patrons’ food cravings.
“The space is huge, so we’ll have a lot of games as well, from cornhole to giant Jenga,” Bramson said.
Bramson is well aware that people are anxious for the beer garden to officially open, and he attributes the lengthy delays to some unexpected challenges securing the necessary building permits from the county.
He’d originally hoped to transform the small, existing building at the parking lot into an indoor seating area, necessitating permits for the otherwise simple project. But Bramson says he likely won’t follow through with those plans, given just how long the whole process took, and the uncertainty surrounding his lease.
He notes that The Lot is on a month-to-month lease on the property, as the whole area — including the nearby Silver Diner and Joyce Motors car lot — is slated to be redeveloped someday into a new mixed-use building. But Bramson can’t be sure exactly when that might move ahead, so he’s simply plowing ahead to open up the beer garden in whatever time he has left.
“We figured it wasn’t worth it and it didn’t make sense to build out this huge structure when someone else could just knock it down in a year,” Bramson said. “But we’re banking on the fact that it will be a longer than a year… so we’ll just keep it simple, and if we find out in future that we can stay longer, then we already have permits to do the construction we originally planned.”
In the meantime, Bramson says he may try to bring in some tents and host some sort of other “pop-up parties” at The Lot this winter, to start introducing the neighborhood to the new space.
“But you never know in this area whether it’ll be warm or cold on any given day, so it’s tough,” Bramson said.