(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) The first thing you notice when walking into the rebuilt Ireland’s Four Courts — which is officially reopening today, at long last — is that it’s both familiar and new at the same time.
The interior is a bit brighter and more open — the crash that smashed and torched the long-time Courthouse watering hole last summer revealed to the owners that the columns near the front were decorative, not structural.
The predominant color scheme is now teal instead of red. The mugs that used to hang behind the bar are gone — the heat from the fire melted them, leaving just handles hanging from the peg board. Additionally, the back room is now more inviting for patrons and private events, with a library and an upgraded second bar.
On the other hand, the general layout is the same. And you’ll notice touches that were salvaged from the old Four Courts: the handmade-in-Ireland tables have a fresh coat of paint and varnish, the soccer jersey that miraculously survived the flames, the antique Irish fireplace that needed 30 hours or restoration work, the Men of Aran sculpture, and a few other items.
Four Courts would have probably needed an interior refresh at some point this decade, but this was not the way managing partner Dave Cahill and other owners wanted it to happen.
When the rideshare driver who was suffering an apparent medical emergency slammed into the pub on Aug. 12, 2022, a group of coworkers were marking an occasion together near the front. They never saw the car barrelling toward them.
The 14 people who were injured, including the three critically hurt from that group — who spent an extended period of time in the hospital — were honored during a private event at the pub Wednesday evening.
The Arlington first responders who rushed to the scene and — along with fellow patrons — helped to pull the injured out of the building just as the inferno started spreading were also honored at the event. Without them, according to Cahill, multiple people would have died and Four Courts would never have reopened.
That everyone survived is its own miracle. The force of the impact was such that a patron sitting at the bar, well away from where the car came to rest, with the dazed driver and rideshare passenger inside, was blown off of his barstool.
Ahead of their reopening, @irelands4courts honored ACPD, @ArlingtonVaFD and community members who provided critical assistance and care following the vehicle crash into the building on August 12, 2022. Plaques recognizing their heroism are displayed in the restaurant. pic.twitter.com/dasmvjid6g
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 7, 2023
@irelands4courts Dave Cahill paying some much deserved tribute to @ArlingtonVaPD and @ArlingtonVaFD who acted so bravely & professionally on 8/12/22. Saved lives. #heoricism #I4C is back in business! #slainte #craic pic.twitter.com/LlAemvaYFc
— Don Holmes (@DonnyHolmes) September 6, 2023
After eight months of a complete interior demolition and reconstruction — and despite some work left to be done with the exterior facade — Four Courts will reopen to the public at 4 p.m.
There will be live music today, Friday and Saturday. And as before, those hoping to catch some sports from across the pond can expect a 9 a.m. opening time on Saturday.
For Cahill and others who witnessed the crash and its aftermath, memories of the horror of that day are still fresh. But for now he’s focusing on the reopening, which is also a homecoming for Four Courts’ legion of displaced regulars.
“I am feeling a huge relief to be at the finish line and a great of excitement to open the doors and see all the familiar face again,” Cahill told ARLnow. “Four Courts is a home and away from home for so many of our customers and we are excited to welcome them back. It’s like having my birthday, St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas Day all at once. We can not wait!”
Just over a year after a car plowed into Ireland’s Four Courts, seriously injuring several people and sparking a devastating fire, the pub is set to reopen.
Four Courts is planning to reopen to the public this coming Thursday, managing partner Dave Cahill tells ARLnow. Some private reopening events are likely to take place between now and then, in part to make sure staff get up to speed.
Photos posted by Four Courts to its Instagram account over the past week or so show construction wrapping up, with a new bar, a new mural, and a new library room stocked with books.
The crash that closed the beloved Courthouse watering hole, located at 2051 Wilson Blvd, happened on Aug. 12, 2022.
In all, 14 people were injured, including eight who were taken to local hospitals. All three pub-goers who suffered serious, potentially life-threatening injuries were released from the hospital by the next month.
A number of first responders who responded to the chaotic scene were recently recognized for their heroism.
One year and three days ago, a rideshare vehicle plowed into Ireland’s Four Courts, seriously injuring several patrons and sparking a devastating fire.
Six months after the crash, the pub began to rebuild and has since targeted reopening in August. With construction still in progress as of mid-August, managing partner Dave Cahill tells ARLnow he aims to throw open the doors in early September.
Cahill says the interior is getting its final finishes. Photos he shared show a cozy interior with a large stone fireplace, dark wood paneling and brass light fixtures. A large wood fireplace and some stained glass survived the fire and are prominently featured as well.
We are working on finishes and pass our inspections towards end of month. It will be just after Labor Day hopefully . pic.twitter.com/aQEOic8rGG
— Irelands Four Courts (@irelands4courts) August 11, 2023
A greenish-blue and gold exterior will replace the old red-and-black façade. Inside, the layout of the pub will be more or less the same, though there will be some new features, including a new draft beer system.
The pub marked the anniversary of the crash in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the accident which closed the pub. In that time the level of support that we have received from our local community in Arlington and our friends across the country has been heartwarming.
We want to thank all of you. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to the pub soon. Please continue to follow our social media pages for updates on our reopening date.
The driver, who was reportedly suffering a medical emergency, was not charged. All three pub-goers who suffered serious, potentially life-threatening injuries in the August crash were released from the hospital by the next month.
A number of first responders who responded to the chaotic scene were recently recognized for their heroism.
After removing several hundred trees, the National Park Service says it’s reopening Spout Run Parkway and portions of the northern GW Parkway today.
The busy commuter routes have been closed in both direction since Saturday’s severe storms.
A northbound lane of the GW Parkway reopened at 1 p.m. and the Spout Run Parkway is expected to reopen in both directions “later today.” Southbound lanes of the GW Parkway remain closed through much of Arlington as crews work to remove “hazardous trees,” NPS said.
The remaining closures may last another day or two.
More, below, from a park service press release.
The entire northbound lane of George Washington Memorial Parkway reopened today at 1 p.m. The northbound and southbound lanes of Spout Run Parkway are expected to reopen later today.
The southbound lane of the Parkway between I-495 and Spout Run Parkway remains closed as crews continue to remove hazardous trees along more than four miles of the roadway.
“The safety of our visitors and staff is our first priority,” Charles Cuvelier, George Washington Memorial Parkway superintendent, said. “Yesterday, crews removed 250-325 hazardous trees, resulting in 100 dump-truck and 15 chipper-truck loads, and more than 500 tons of wood and debris.”
For more information and updates, please visit our website at www.nps.gov/gwmp or contact Christopher Hershey at 202-439-7323.
Tree blocking road on GW Parkway north of Spout Run exit. 2 way traffic pic.twitter.com/axkotniAx5
— Holly Joers (@hokiehol) July 29, 2023
More of the work pic.twitter.com/DEBOXuES12
— Tom Roussey (@tomroussey7news) August 1, 2023
The Courthouse pub said this morning that it expects to re-open its doors in August.
“We are looking forward to welcoming everyone back to Ireland’s Four Courts in August 2023,” the pub said via social media and on its website. The announcement included a rendering of the pub’s new exterior facade, now in green and gold rather than black and red.
Four Courts managing partner Dave Cahill tells ARLnow that work inside is progressing
“Work is on schedule,” Cahill said. “We will retain our neighborhood pub feel that we have had for 27 years… When our customers walk into the pub in August, we want them to feel they are in the old Four Courts but with a more updated, fresher look.”
“We will be adding some new elements to the pub,” he added. “The entrance will have double doors and bi-fold windows.”
Police announced in October that the Uber driver who slammed into Four Courts after suffering an apparent medical emergency would not face criminal charges. All three pub-goers who suffered serious, potentially life-threatening injuries in the August crash were released from the hospital by the next month.
Salad lovers, rejoice. At long last, the Sweetgreen in Ballston is reopening for business today (Tuesday).
A bouquet of balloons, green, white and gold, as well as a sign advertising new offerings, are greeting customers outside. The restaurant opened at 10:30 a.m.
“It took a long time, but we’re finally back open,” a store staff member told ARLnow, adding that the renovations included some new construction and interior design work.
The closure for renovations at the 4075 Wilson Blvd location seems to have taken longer than anticipated.
Back in November, a more informal poster signed “Management Team” was affixed to the window, informing customers the fast-casual eatery would close early that day and remain closed until Dec. 2, 2022, encouraging customers to instead visit the Sweetgreen in Clarendon.
“We will be undergoing some changes that will better enhance your dining experience with us,” the poster said. “[We] look forward to serving you all again soon!!!!”
But December came and went, then January and February. Over the last two months, a handful of readers and devotées of the restaurant have reached out to ARLnow asking for updates.
“We are desperate to have our Sweetgreen back!” wrote one anonymous tipster.
Some came hoping for more answers, given the sudden nature of the closure and the relative lack of publicity around the renovations.
“They’ve been closed for a couple of months with the windows covered, and there hasn’t been anything posted publicly about what is going on or when they are going to reopen,” said one tipster.
ARLnow asked the company a few weeks ago for an update. At the time, a spokeswoman told us she had no updates to share yet.
By yesterday afternoon (Monday), the brown paper concealing the interior last week had been removed. Branded signage read “Almost ready for you, Ballston!”
Employees were working in the kitchen and boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts — fuel for reopening preparations — lay on a table.
There are rising regrets about the extended closure of public schools as a result of Covid, the Associated Press reports.
A lengthy article published by the newswire this morning discusses the wide-ranging impacts of pandemic-era learning loss and the inefficacy of “Zoom school.”
From the AP:
But her daughter became depressed and stopped doing school work or paying attention to online classes. The former honor-roll student failed nearly all of her eighth grade courses.
“She’s behind,” said Kargbo, whose daughter is now in tenth grade. “It didn’t work at all. Knowing what I know now, I would say they should have put them in school.”
Preliminary test scores around the country confirm what Kargbo witnessed: The longer many students studied remotely, the less they learned. Some educators and parents are questioning decisions in cities from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles to remain online long after clear evidence emerged that schools weren’t COVID-19 super-spreaders — and months after life-saving adult vaccines became widely available.
There are fears for the futures of students who don’t catch up. They run the risk of never learning to read, long a precursor for dropping out of school. They might never master simple algebra, putting science and tech fields out of reach. The pandemic decline in college attendance could continue to accelerate, crippling the U.S. economy.
Arlington Public Schools closed in March 2020 at the outset of the pandemic and did not start to reopen, on a two-day-a-week hybrid basis, until March 2021 when mandated by the state and Gov. Ralph Northam (D). During that time, dueling Arlington parent groups formed to alternately push for and urge caution about a return to classrooms.
Most Arlington private schools resumed some degree of in-person learning in the fall of 2020. The Sun Gazette reported this week that APS enrollment is still below pre-pandemic levels; many public schools in the wealthier parts of northern Arlington in particular saw enrollment drop as parents sent students to private schools.
While APS opened classrooms sooner than many school districts in California, for instance, it took awhile to even get most students back in classrooms part time, with the School Board pushing the superintendent later in March 2021 to accelerate the return.
APS finally reverted back to full-time, in-person learning in the fall of 2021 and stuck with it through the Omicron surge that winter. A small minority of students and parents opted for a new full-time virtual learning option, which ended up being beset by problems.
Given what we know now about the health impacts of Covid and about pandemic-era learning loss, do you think — with the benefit of hindsight — APS should have resumed in-person school sooner than it did?
(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) After being shuttered for more than two years, Stray Cat Bar & Grill in Westover has finally reopened.
The neighborhood staple at 5866 Washington Blvd started serving again last week for the first time since shutting down on March 15, 2020. That was the day after Arlington County declared a local emergency as Covid started to spread locally.
The reopening after 28 months comes with a name tweak, some interior renovations, and an updated menu.
“We wanted to bring the Cat back awhile ago, but the restaurant industry was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Austin Garcia, owner/operator of the restaurant, tells ARLnow. “So, when we did, we really wanted it to knock it out of the park.”
It seems like the right time to reopen as the community appears to be much more comfortable dining indoors, Garcia said.
The Stray Cat Cafe first opened in Westover in 2005 as a sibling restaurant of Lost Dog Cafe, which has Arlington locations on Columbia Pike and in Westover. While the menus of the two restaurants differ, both have the same mission of “helping homeless dogs and cats find forever homes.”
The restaurants support the locally-based non-profit Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation.
When Stray Cat heeded the county’s request to close down dining rooms in March 2020, Garcia said ownership never anticipated it would be more than two years before the restaurant reopened.
But a number of things didn’t work in their favor, including staffing shortages, not being well set up to do take-out and delivery, and the physical layout of the space.
“It’s a really narrow spot. Even when Virginia lifted some regulations to start to allow dine-in, bar seating still wasn’t allowed. Bar seating was, and still is, a big part of the Cat,” he says.
Ownership realized that to reopen, some renovations were in order. That meant knocking out the double-doored vestibule at the front of the restaurant to add more booths. Garcia says the construction has opened the space and has made it feel “much less crowded,” as well as providing space to eventually host live music
Ownership also made the decision to tweak the name and logo, switching from “The Stray Cat Cafe” to “Stray Cat Bar & Grill.”
This change is to better reflect the updated interior and menu, which will focus on “an elevated yet still casual dining experience” that will feature “gourmet comfort foods.” That includes quesadillas, nachos, salads, soups, and burgers.
Garcia says he heard from the community that many missed the Stray Cat’s burgers. So, they’ve decided to lean into that by “elevating that burger experience” along with giving the dishes “whimsical cat-themed names” like “Cat Scratch Fever” and “The Sphinx.” Also new at the restaurant are craft cocktails, something that Garcia says was missing in Westover.
What hasn’t changed at the Stray Cat, though, is the mission to help pets find homes.
“Our dedication to the animal rescue is still our, our top priority and part of who we are in this small family,” Garcia says.
This past weekend was essentially a soft opening to work out any kinks. All went well, Garcia reports. For the moment, Stray Cat is only open for dinner except on Saturdays (when open all day) and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The hope is to gradually extend hours.
After more than two years closed, Garcia says Stray Cat Bar & Grill is ready to serve the community.
“I’m ready to see us get busy again.”
Revamped Clarendon Restaurant Reopens — “With a new menu that offers Mexican food for all, Buena Vida Gastro Lounge is reopening its newly renovated restaurant in Clarendon this week, serving lunch and dinner and brunch on weekends. Buena Vida, at 2900 Wilson Blvd., also has a new executive chef, Jaime Garciá Pelayo Bribiesca, and a new décor created by CORE architecture+design.” [Patch, Instagram]
Group Wants More from Amazon — “While Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF) welcomes a new Amazon presence at PenPlace, we urge county leaders to strike a fair deal in this site plan review. As structured now, Arlington would trade world record bonus density — more buildable space — for unequal community benefits from Amazon.” [Press Release]
Art Exhibit Opening at GMU in Va. Sq. — “A new exhibition of art commissioned by the British Council to interpret an academic and policy report by a professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government will be unveiled April 29 at Mason Square (formerly the Arlington Campus). The event is open to the public and features a keynote address from the ambassador from Tanzania and a panel discussion with representatives from international development, public diplomacy, and art agencies.” [George Mason University]
It’s 4/20 — Clear throughout the day. High of 60 and low of 39. Sunrise at 6:26 am and sunset at 7:51 pm. [Weather.gov]
Library branch hours are being extended starting January 3, with some branches set to remain open as late as 8 p.m. and Sunday service restored at the Shirlington branch.
The only branch not being reopened is Bozman — formerly known as the Plaza Branch — at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, which is undergoing an extensive 16-month renovation and expansion along with the rest of the county government’s headquarters. The library’s redesign will include modern furnishings, a new children’s book and media collection, and more space for programming like storytimes and author talks. It’s expected to reopen in a year, January 2023.
Since early summer, Arlington Public Library has been slowly expanding services. In June, several branches opened for the first time since March 2020 but only offering express service. A month later, the express service model ended but limited hours remained.
In September, the two remaining closed branches, Cherrydale and Glencarlyn, reopened to the public for the first time since March 2020. Then, the next month, Sunday service was restored at the Central and Columbia Pike branches.
The reason for the staggered and lengthy reopening process to restore library hours and service to pre-pandemic levels was due to a “high number of vacant public service jobs after an unprecedented staff shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent hiring freeze,” as was noted in a September update.
But those shortages are in the process of being resolved, according to library officials.
“The labor market continues to be challenging for everyone, including the library,” wrote library spokesperson Henrik Sundqvist, in an email to ARLnow. “We continue to steadily work through the challenges and will have staff in place to fully reopen the library system on January 3rd.”
The free makerspace opened to the public in April 2019, equipped with wood working tools, soldering irons, circuit parts, sewing machines, 3D printers, and lots of other tools.
Takohachi Japanese Restaurant is planning to reopen along Columbia Pike, albeit at a different shopping center.
The restaurant expects to open within the next month at Penrose Square, the owner tells ARLnow, provided it can secure the proper county permits in time.
The sushi restaurant was one of the last holdouts at Westmont Shopping Center prior to the development’s demolition to make way for a six-story mixed-use building. It there in early July, but it was reported at that time that Takohachi was set to move into the space formerly occupied by Josephine’s Italian Kitchen, below the Giant supermarket.
That space in the Columbia Pike development hasn’t been occupied in more than two years and has been somewhat of a revolving door in terms of tenants. Prior to Josephine’s, Marble & Rye and Red Rocks had been in the space. Both eateries closed without making it two years in that location.
The newly-renamed Columbia Pike Partnership helped Takohachi make its move down the Pike.
“Columbia Pike Partnership has been actively engaged with Takohachi, the owner, their representatives, BM Smith, and the County in effort to welcome Takohachi to its updated location on Columbia Pike,” writes CPP spokesperson Andrea Avendano to ARLnow. “We are glad to assist Takohachi in continuing to call Columbia Pike home.”
While the sushi restaurant has found a new home after exiting Westmont Shopping Center, Mom’s Pizza hasn’t. The pizza and Greek restaurant was on the Pike for more than three decades before being ousted due to the redevelopment. The owners of Mom’s are currently selling a few of their more popular dishes online, but told ARLnow back in March they had no plans to retire and wanted to revive the restaurant elsewhere.