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“The Red Room” at Barry’s in Clarendon (courtesy of Barry’s)

(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) A year after closing due to the pandemic, Clarendon gym Barry’s is preparing to reopen later this summer.

The gym, which first opened in Clarendon in January 2020, had a short run before it had to shut down operations in August because of the coronavirus. Now, the bootcamp-style gym is gearing up to reopen its doors at 2825 Wilson Blvd this summer, a company representative said.

Barry’s — formerly Barry’s Bootcamp — started in Los Angeles in 1998, and the Clarendon outpost was the international fitness chain’s first Virginia studio. The gyms are known for their difficult workouts and a club-like atmosphere, complete with playlists and dim lighting, to help gym-goers push through.

The gym has not yet determined its new hours of operation, according to the representative.

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(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) With a snip of a ribbon, the newly-renovated Columbia Pike Branch Library officially opened for the first time since March 2020.

The library on S. Walter Reed Drive, which first opened in 1975, underwent a significant makeover including new furnishings, updated carpeting, fresh coats of paint, additional meeting rooms, modernized audio-visual equipment and new lighting.

The 21,000-item collection has been consolidated to the first floor to make room for an expansion of the Arlington Tech high school program. The program is part of the Arlington Career Center, located on the second floor of the facility.

“We didn’t lose any collections, we gained a couple of meeting rooms, and we gained more discrete spaces,” Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh tells ARLnow. “[The renovation] opened up what had been a lot of wasted space. It really feels bigger.”

Renovations for the entire project, on the first and second floors, cost approximately $4.45 million, according to a spokesperson from Arlington Public Schools, which owns the building.

Kresh says APS’s ownership of the building presented a chance to make the library better.

“The library has always shared the space with schools. It’s a well-loved facility and showed a lot of wear and tear,” says Kresh. “So, when the schools planned to renovate and increase the space of the Career Center, that gave us an opportunity to consolidate down here and do a redesign.”

Kresh notes that while closing the libraries last year due to the pandemic was difficult for staff and the community, there was a “silver lining” — the renovations could get done.

The library opened to the public on Tuesday, but the celebration was held yesterday evening (Thursday).

With a vaccination rate close to 70% for adults, people packed the community library. There were donuts and cookies, and kids eating said treats while darting one way and another. A magician performed for a rapt audience. After remarks and ribbon cutting, a cover band churned out classics such as “Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy.” The entire Arlington County Board was in attendance, as was County Manager Mark Schwartz and Del. Alfonso Lopez.

Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol says celebrating the reopening of this library — her neighborhood library — after such a hard year is welcome.

“It’s a sign of restoration of things, things coming back to normal,” Cristol tells ARLnow. “It is also the first sign of the community being able to come back together, which is definitely what we see going on around here.”

Cristol said her favorite thing about coming to the library was to browse new fiction releases, but that’s changed.

“I now have a two-year old who loves books, so I think my favorite thing about the library is about to be this community room,” she said.

As of Tuesday, library services have expanded at five locations: Columbia Pike, Central Library, Aurora Hills, Shirlington and Westover. This ends the express service model that APL had implemented earlier this year.

Patrons now have full access to library collections with no time limit on browsing. Spaced seating is available to use the public Wi-Fi along with full access to restrooms and water fountains.

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Fifteen months after closing its sales floor during the pandemic, One More Page Books is set to reopen its doors next Tuesday.

Marking the opening day on June 15 will be a virtual book launch with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the global hit musical “Hamilton” as well as “In the Heights,” which was turned into a movie that’s being released this week. A new book from the musical’s three creators is called “In the Heights: Finding Home,” in which the trio tells the origin story of the bilingual musical that predated “Hamilton.”

The independent bookseller at 2200 N. Westmoreland Street in East Falls Church reopened for appointment-only shopping last Thursday, after celebrating its 10th anniversary while still closed to customers.

Masks will still be required and the number of shoppers in the store at one time will be limited to seven until more people, including young children, are able to be vaccinated.

“Arlington and Falls Church neighbors — plus shoppers from around the world — kept us in business this past year through website sales. We are thankful to have weathered the pandemic with a healthy staff and a strong customer base,” said store owner Eileen McGervey. “After shifting the way we did business several times during the last year, we were so happy when we were able to turn the store back into a welcoming place for book, wine and chocolate lovers.”

When the pandemic hit, One More Page pivoted to online sales and delivery, offering home delivery through the holiday season and curbside pickup. An employee at the time said the store had “the best problem” of being overwhelmed with orders, reaching 10,000 orders in June 2020.

“Customers greatly appreciated all the options we offered, and we will continue to offer 24/7 online sales with curbside pick-up and shipping options,” McGervey said.

The bookstore got by with help from its friends pre-pandemic, too, when it faced rising rents and held an auction to cover the bigger bills.

And COVID-19 did not halt events with authors, although it did take them online. McGervey said One More Page has a full slate of virtual activities to be streamed on Facebook and YouTube this month.

According to the bookseller, no plans have been made for in-person events.

Saturday, June 12 at 6 p.m. — Author Angelina M. Lopez will talk with bodyguard-to-the-stars, Clif Kosterman in honor of the reluctant prince bodyguard hero in her newest book, “Serving Sin.” For more than 13 years, Kosterman was a bodyguard to “Supernatural” stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, and has also protected Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake and Selena Gomez, among others.

Tuesday, June 15 at 8 p.m. — Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes and Jeremy McCarter will hold a virtual book launch of their new title, “In The Heights: Finding Home,” which tells the story of the show’s humble beginnings, from rehearsals in a bookstore basement to the Broadway smash (and soon-to-be feature film!) that created an unbreakable community and a new kind of family for everyone involved. The musical shook up Broadway with its hip-hop and salsa soundtrack and big, bilingual heart. A ticket and book bundle costs $42.40.

Thursday, June 17 at 7 p.m. — George Mason University alum Matthew Norman will celebrate the release of his latest novel, “All Together Now,” with author Jessica Anya Blau, whose latest novel, “Mary Jane,” was released in May. Both of their books, set on the east coast, will be great summer reads.

Tuesday, June 22 at 7 p.m. — One More Page Books welcomes back a NoVA TEEN Book Festival alum, Tracy Banghart, for the release of her new book, “A Season of Sinister Dreams.” She will talk with Intisar Khanani, author of the “Dauntless Path” series. Fans of young adult fantasy will definitely want to tune in.

Tuesday, June 25 at 7 p.m. — Eileen McGervey welcomes Melanie Rigney and Meg Gilroy for a discussion about middle age, menopause and Rigney’s latest: “Menopause Moments: A Journal For Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Spirit in Midlife.”

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Morning Notes

Car Chase Speeds Through Arlington — “Virginia State Police just chased a U-Haul pickup truck from Arlington into Alexandria on Mt. Vernon Ave, then back into Arlington and finally into D.C. via I-395.” [Twitter, Twitter, ALXnow]

Masks Not Required at Polling Places — “Those headed to vote in the June 8 Democratic primary in Arlington will have to make their own choices about mask-wearing. State election officials this time have not provided local elections offices with specific guidance on masks, although Arlington election officials have issued a request. ‘Several polling places are in schools with mask requirements, so we are still encouraging voters to wear masks, and will have them available for voters who forget one,’ county election chief Gretchen Reinemeyer told the Sun Gazette.” [Sun Gazette]

Chicken Restaurant Eyes Arlington — “It turns out that Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers has a bigger appetite for Greater Washington than the two Northern Virginia locations the Washington Business Journal reported about in May. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based chain aims to open around 50 locations across the region… the company is actively pursuing sites in Arlington, Ashburn and Leesburg, among others.” [Washington Business Journal]

AWLA Reopening Shelter to Public — “We are very excited to announce that starting Wednesday, June 2nd, AWLA will be open to the public! Potential adopters no longer need to make an appt to meet our in-shelter pets — just stop by!” [Twitter]

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More than one year after all Arlington Public Library branches were shuttered due to the coronavirus, five branches remain closed. 

This summer and fall, the library is looking to reopen four of these branches, which currently only allow people to drop books off.

“Based on the recently approved Arlington County FY22 Budget, the Library plans to expand open locations after July 1, as hiring and training of new staff allows,” said a recent announcement from the library system.

The Aurora Hills branch and the newly renovated Columbia Pike branch could open in July. Next up would be the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn branches, which the library announcement said could open “by fall 2021 and sooner if possible.”   

Three locations are currently open. Central Library allows people to pick up the books they have on hold, while the Shirlington and Westover branches are open for 30 minutes of in-person browsing with self-service checkout.

The library is also looking to expand services at these three locations. It aims to increase access to library collections, public computers and public space at all locations while keeping social distancing in mind. 

Remaining closed, for now, is the branch in the lobby of county government headquarters in Courthouse.

“The Plaza branch will remain closed in preparation for a long-planned expansion and renovation,” the announcement said. 

Arlington Public Library is planning for socially distanced outdoor programs this summer. Among these include outdoor storytimes, which will kick off Tuesday, May 18 at Central Library.

Its summer reading challenge will begin June 1, and Arlington Public Library’s mobile truck will “continue to hit the road and be visible at community events.”

One change of note for returning library patrons: during the pandemic, Arlington Public Library permanently eliminated late fees, a change intended to “make the library more accessible to all.”

Photo via Arlington Public Library

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Ballston games-and-drinks destination Punch Bowl Social is planning to reopen next Wednesday.

The “eatertainment” chain, which is emerging from bankruptcy, announced the news yesterday. ARLnow previously reported that the venue was in the midst of hiring for numerous positions.

“I’m excited to let you know that [on] Wednesday, April 21 Punch Bowl Social will be reopening its Arlington location,” a PR rep wrote. “Back and better than ever, Punch Bowl Social looks forward to welcoming guests again for food, drinks and entertainment!”

With vaccinations continuing at a record pace, Punch Bowl Social will be reopening its various games and activities, to let patrons “blow off steam.”

“Guests will be welcomed back to dine, drink and participate in available activities, including bowling, arcade games, ping pong, Bocce Ball and more,” the rep said. “Punch Bowl Social will host Happy Hour on Sunday and Wednesday-Friday from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. with drinks and bites for $3-$7 and brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.”

According to Punch Bowl’s website, masks will be required except when seated at tables, and patrons are discouraged from congregating at bars or in open spaces.

Punch Bowl Social is located at 4238 Wilson Blvd, along the outside of Ballston Quarter mall.

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It looks like Punch Bowl Social in Ballston will be reopening, after all.

The Arlington location of the national “eatertainment” chain recently posted hiring announcements on Facebook and on its front door, though it remains temporarily closed for now.

Located at 4238 Wilson Blvd, the three-story entertainment, dining and drinking complex — featuring bowling, shuffleboard and other beer-friendly social games — closed at the outset of the pandemic, reopened in October, then closed again just before Christmas.

The closure followed the Denver-based chain declaring bankruptcy. It said at the time that it was closing most of its locations to conserve cash, after having its once-high-flying business devastated by the pandemic.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Punch Bowl Social is poised for “a smooth Chapter 11 exit” after a court settlement with a key lender. Earlier last month, the CEO of the chain’s new owner said he was focused on reopening locations, confident that customers would return as more people get vaccinated.

On Tuesday, however, the Washington Business Journal reported that a previously-planned location in D.C. is unlikely to move forward due to the company’s financial challenges, making the Ballston location the only Punch Bowl Social in the Washington area. The next closest Punch Bowl outpost is in Cleveland.

So far, there’s no word on an opening date for the Ballston location. The company’s website only says it will be “reopening soon.”

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Morning Notes

Metro 29 Diner Back Open — After temporarily closing in late December due to “COVID-19 concerns,” Metro 29 Diner on Lee Highway reopened earlier this week. [Facebook]

Arlington Rents Going Back Up — “In what might be another sign of a return to a semblance of normalcy, average rents for Arlington apartments increased in February for the first time since the start of the COVID pandemic. The 0.7-percent month-over-month increase also mirrored the national index, which reported its biggest monthly increase since June 2019.” [InsideNova]

Alamo Drafthouse Declares Bankruptcy — A centerpiece of some of the changes in Crystal City is the planned Alamo Drafthouse movie theater. But the company just declared bankruptcy, potentially putting new theater projects in jeopardy. [CNBC, @abeaujon/Twitter]

More Edging Work Along Trail — “The morning volunteer session this Saturday has sold out but we still have 8 spots open for the afternoon session. Come help us continue to uncover the [Mt. Vernon] trail and make it a little bit wider.” [@MtVernonFriends/Twitter, Eventbrite]

Don’t Worry About Flipped Car at Fire Station — “Have you driven by one of our fire stations and noticed an overturned car? Don’t be alarmed, it’s likely a vehicle extrication training prop like the one pictured below at Fire Station 5! These vehicles provide us high fidelity training to respond to serious auto crashes.” [@ArlingtonVaFD/Twitter]

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Benjamin Banneker Park could open sometime before Christmas, about one year after work started and a few months behind schedule.

“We just have a few final items that we are working on,” said Arlington County Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish in an email. “When the park opens, you’ll find a bigger park.”

The new park is 1.8 acres larger, the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails are four feet wider, and the park’s amenities have been upgraded, she said. The $2.5 million project was given the green light in September 2019. Work started in December 2019 and was originally slated to finish in the third quarter of 2020, according to the project page.

“Due to COVID-19, the manufacture and shipping of the play equipment was delayed, necessitating the projected opening of the park to fourth quarter 2020,” said Erik Beach, a Parks and Recreation staff member, in an email.

The playground for children ages 2 to 12 got new equipment, including an obstacle balance course, rock climbing, and “soaring play towers with sky-high slides,” Kalish said.

The athletic field, meanwhile, has been expanded to the west to allow parts of the turf to rest while other parts are used, she said. Spectators will also find updated seating.

The parking lot was resurfaced and striped to improve connections between amenities and to make the dog park, fields and trail more accessible for people with disabilities. The two widened trails include a new pathway configuration around the playground, she said.

Upgrades to the picnic area include new seatings and furnishings, canopy trees and native plantings, and the dog park has new entrances and structures for dogs to explore.

While work has been ongoing, pedestrians and bicyclists using the W&OD trail had to take a detour to the busy intersection of N. Sycamore Street and 19th Street N.

After recent heavy rains, some residents have noted that part of the park tends to flood.

“Like most County parks, Benjamin Banneker Park is predominantly in a floodplain and there will always be lingering moisture due to the geographical nature of its location,” Kalish said.

But Beach said some of the drainage issues people saw during construction have been addressed as work finishes.

“Stormwater management and mitigation measures to treat pollutants include permeable pavement at the walkways and bench seating areas in the playground and a stormwater facility to treat runoff in the parking lot,” Kalish said.

These measures meet the state stormwater management requirements, and the site is graded and designed for water to flow towards Four Mile Run, she said.

Kalish said the department is still fixing a separate drainage issue in the playground’s sand pit, so the sand pit will not be available “for a bit” after the park opens.

“Once we have everything completed the park should run as smoothly as any park that in a floodplain,” she said.

Other mitigating efforts Kalish listed included planting more plant beds around the dog park, field and playground, and adding more than 600 sapling trees. A natural safety surface was installed in half of the playground area for better drainage.

“The County rejected some small areas of the safety surfacing installation, which has since been corrected,” Beach said.

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Morning Notes

A First for ACFD — “A veteran firefighter in Arlington County, Virginia, is breaking barriers as she rises through the ranks. Tiffanye Wesley is the first African American woman named deputy fire chief in all of Northern Virginia.” [NBC 4]

County Wants Feedback on Camera Policy — ” The Arlington County Police Department, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Marshals’ Office are seeking the public’s input and feedback on draft Digital Evidence Management System policies, regulating digital audio and video recordings captured by body worn cameras, in-car cameras, and interview room cameras.” [Arlington County]

Guilty Plea in Murder Case — “Jose Angel Rodriguez-Cruz, 54, pleaded guilty in Stafford County Circuit Court on Monday morning in the killing of 28-year-old Marta Haydee Rodriguez, who was last seen walking to a bus stop in Arlington, Virginia, in April 1989.” [WTOP, Washington Post]

Vehicle and Business Break-ins — Arlington County police are investigating a pair of business burglaries in the Rosslyn area, and series of vehicle break-ins in the Barcroft neighborhood, according to Monday’s crime report. [ACPD]

Gov. Backs Marijuana Legalization — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that he will introduce and support legislation to legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The announcement comes as the Northam Administration prepares to release a report on the impact of legalizing adult-use marijuana.” [Commonwealth of Virginia]

Amazon Order Boosts 23rd Street — “By early May, more than 400 meals a day were leaving the Freddie’s kitchen and reaching firefighters, police, hospitals, and area residents in low-income housing… Due to the size of Amazon’s order, he enlisted a dozen other nearby restaurants. This joint effort ‘breathed life, energy, and activity into the independent restaurants that make up the core of 23rd Street.'” [Amazon]

Reopening Groups Blast Teachers — “Our coalitions of over 5,300 parents, teachers and Northern Virginia residents unite today to express dismay and concern of the latest efforts by a group of Northern Virginia education associations pushing Governor Northam to remove the option for in-person school for all of Virginia’s children.” [Arlington Parents for Education]

Local Districts Pause Reopening — “As COVID-19 cases surge, Fairfax County Public Schools will delay bringing back early HeadStart, pre-K and kindergarten students, plus some students who receive special education services… [and] Falls Church City Public Schools announced Tuesday that they will temporarily ‘pause’ in-person learning for the week of Thanksgiving.” [NBC 4, InsideNova, Washington Post]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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A local watering hole and entertainment spot is reopening, despite the pandemic.

Punch Bowl Social had been open for just over a year at Ballston Quarter when the pandemic struck and the business — which is premised on large groups of people drinking, dining and playing games — was shuttered.

The situation for Punch Bowl Social looked bleak as Cracker Barrel, a major corporate backer, pulled its support and the Denver-based “eatertainment” company was forced to lay off a majority of its restaurant and corporate employees.

But the national chain, which had 19 locations at the outset of the pandemic, has been slowly reopening locations since July, and the Ballston location is one of the next in line.

A spokeswoman for the company confirmed to ARLnow what a newly-posted sign on the door tells passersby: Punch Bowl Social is planning to reopen on Monday, Oct. 12.

Though the appeal of a business with “social” in its name during a time of social distancing seems dubious — and that’s not to mention the shared punch bowls that constitute the other part of the brand’s identity — there is some reason for optimism.

Punch Bowl Social’s space in Ballston is massive, providing plenty of room for people to spread out, and there’s also a sizable outdoor patio. It might just be the next best cold-weather option to the outdoor beer gardens that proved very popular with young bar-goers this summer.

“This brand has always been about bringing people together and creating social connections,” CEO Robert Thompson told Restaurant Dive in June. “We need that now more than ever, and with our expansive, open floorplans we can do that in a way that will make people feel, for a moment, a renormalization of life.”

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