With plenty of turbulence in the Clarendon restaurant scene this summer — opening, closings, rumors — it’s worth noting that some long-time establishments are doing just fine, thank you very much.
Clarendon Grill, which has been in business since 1996, is still among the local winners. The cover band, trivia night and happy hour destination, at 1101 N. Highland Street, just extended its lease.
Owner Peter Pflug says Clarendon Grill is continuing to do well enough that he decided to extend its lease by five years, through March 2022.
Pflug, who has been dubbed the “one of the godfathers of Clarendon nightlife,” chalks the recent turmoil up to an “oversupply of restaurants” in the area.
He said normal supply-and-demand dynamics aren’t working in Clarendon because once there’s an oversupply of restaurants it’s hard to get back to an equilibrium.
“Once a retail space becomes restaurant space, it usually stays that way,” he said. “It’s expensive to put in ADA bathrooms, kitchens, etc.”
Additionally, with the bricks-and-mortar retail industry on the decline thanks to competition from online retail, non-restaurant retailers are not rushing to fill empty space. Who is filling empty space? In some cases it’s savvy restaurant operators who execute well and are effective at carving out their local niche; in other cases it’s owners who are new to the Clarendon market and “may not be the best at doing their homework.”
Yes, rents are high, but that’s not the most important factor at play.
“I don’t think rental rates are nearly as important as oversupply,” Pflug said.
Clarendon Grill, which was renovated in 2010, continues to have a full slate of live entertainment on tap, including the aforementioned cover bands, “hilarious” Wednesday trivia nights, karaoke nights and salsa dancing nights.
The incident happened around 10 p.m. Monday in a restaurant on the 500 block of 23rd Street S., in Crystal City. Police and medics responded, but were told that an accident caused the injury.
The next morning, police were called again and told that the injury was the result of an assault, not an accident.
Two restaurant employees “were involved in a verbal altercation that turned physical,” said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The victim was washing a knife at the time of the altercation and suffered a laceration to the hand which required medical treatment.”
From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
LATE MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 160823025, 500 block of S. 23rd Street. At approximately 10:11 a.m. on August 23, officers responded to the report of a late assault with a weapon. Upon investigation, officers determined that the incident occurred the night prior when a male victim suffered a laceration to the hand following a verbal altercation. Police and medics had previously responded to the location on August 22 at approximately 10:00 p.m. but the incident was reported as an accident requiring medical attention. The victim was transported by medics to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The investigation is ongoing.
The rest of the past week’s crime report highlights, after the jump.
Now is your chance to own a piece of the former Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon.
The restaurant closed last month after many years in business directly across from the Clarendon Metro station.
Hundreds of items from the restaurant are now being auctioned off online — just about everything you can imagine, including signs, tables, chairs, beer taps and kitchen equipment.
Most items currently have bids under $10.
APS Testing for Lead in Pipes — Arlington Public Schools has been testing systemwide for lead in pipes. Already, the school system has replaced a water fountain in Jamestown Elementary School found to have lead levels above a level considered safe by the state health department. [InsideNova]
Bayou Bakery Raising Money for Flooding Victims — Bayou Bakery in Courthouse is raising money for Louisiana flooding victims. The restaurant is offering a special Shrimp Creole appetizer for $9 this week; half the proceeds from that dish will benefit flood victims, including chef/owner David Guas’ own aunt, whose home in Abbeville, LA flooded with two feet of water. [Bayou Bakery]
Arlington Names New Communications Director — Dr. Bryna Helfer has been named Arlington County’s new Director of Communications and Public Engagement. She joins county government from the federal government. “Helfer currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Transportation and also serves as Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Accessibility and Workforce,” a press release notes. [Arlington County]
Crystal City Boxing Recap — It was a nine-bout, nine-knockout night at the Crystal City Hilton Friday night. [Fight News]
Transport Nerds ‘Playing With Traffic’ — A big group of “transportation techies” gathered recently at WeWork in Crystal City to discuss creative and tech-based solutions to transportation problems. The group is sponsored by Mobility Lab, the research arm of Arlington County Commuter Services. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub (3207 Washington Blvd) is set to host a 10th anniversary party on Sunday, Aug. 28 starting at 3 p.m. The event will feature a free buffet with chicken wings, mashed potatoes, roast beef and other pub fare from 3-6 p.m., said David Morrin, the eatery’s regional manager.
“It’s nice to have a milestone event,” Morrin said. “A lot of restaurants don’t make it very far. We’re excited to be reaching the double digits.”
The party will also have live music from three bands, $5 Guinness and the presentation of two annual awards: Customer of the Year and Employee of the Year.
“We’re going to use this as a thank you for the last 10 years,” Morrin said. “It’s our way to say thanks for keeping us here for 10 years and hopefully into the future.”
Image courtesy O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub
The Chili’s near the corner of Jefferson Davis Highway and 23rd Street S., in Crystal City, has closed.
As of this afternoon, the store’s awnings had already been taken down and a sign was posted on the door.
“After many years we are sad to say that we have closed this location,” the sign says. “Please be sure to visit one of our other local Chili’s restaurants.”
The sign lists two Chili’s locations in Alexandria and another on Route 7 in Bailey’s Crossroads.
Back in the 1970s, Clarendon was known as Little Saigon, a hotbed of Vietnamese businesses. Now, only a few holdovers remain.
Reminders of Clarendon’s Little Saigon past continues to fade. Minh’s Vietnamese Restaurant, a favorite of some foodies, closed last month. While newer Vietnamese restaurants have opened recently — Four Sisters Grill in Clarendon, Pho Deluxe in Courthouse — there’s no denying that the character of Clarendon has changed significantly over the past decade.
The original reason for the disappearance of most of the original Vietnamese businesses in Clarendon was the construction of Metro’s Orange Line up Wilson Blvd. After the Clarendon station opened in 1979, the neighborhood started to be redeveloped and rent prices skyrocketed. Before the Metro expansion, real estate rental costs were as low as $1.50-$5.00 per square foot. After its opening, prices rose as high as $25-$30 per square foot in some buildings.
The construction of Metro was another contributor. Many businesses fled Clarendon because they thought the construction would deter potential customers. By the 1990s, much of the Vietnamese community had left Clarendon en masse for Falls Church and the Eden Center.
Out of the dozens of Vietnamese businesses that once existed in Clarendon, one restaurant has remained over the past few decades: Nam-Viet. The restaurant has been family owned and operated since 1986 and it continues to attract loyal customers to its slightly off-the-beaten path location on N. Hudson Street, not far from the CVS Pharmacy and Don Tito.
The restaurant has hosted well-known public figures like Bill Clinton and for years, it hosted an annual Tet dinner honoring American prisoners of war from the Vietnam War.
The restaurant’s new manager, Richard Nguyen, has witnessed a lot of changes after growing up in the area helping to run the Nam-Viet with his parents.
“Clarendon has gone through many metamorphoses,” he said. “It used to be a general collection of small businesses to newer commercial shops opening. I remember growing up there was a flea market where Northside Social is. It’s gotten younger, but at the same time the residents have gotten older and aged with us. Regardless of the change they’ve embraced Arlington as home especially the natives of Arlington.”
Richard remains optimistic for the future Vietnamese restaurants.
“I think Vietnamese restaurants are here to stay they just have to stick to traditions and keep to culture as much as they can,” he said.
Video by Omar DeBrew. Some photos in the video were sourced from Arlington’s Echoes of Little Saigon Project.
As we’ve been reporting, this has been an active summer for local restaurants.
Here are some of the restaurants expected to open later this year:
- Matchbox in Pentagon City
- Nando’s in Ballston
- Pamplona in Clarendon
- BrickHaus on Columbia Pike
- Quinn’s in Rosslyn
- Dudley’s in Shirlington
- Spirits of 76 in Clarendon
- Ambar in Clarendon
Of those, which are you most looking forward to?
In April, we published a list of businesses offered for sale in Arlington.
Here are some of the businesses that are currently listed on the site and have either been added or updated since our last check. We are only naming the business if a name or website is provided in the listing.
- “At Luna Grill and Diner, we take pride in our passion for fresh, delicious foods that warm the soul in our restaurant’s lively and intimate setting.” The Shirlington restaurant was established in 1996. Listed at $250,000.
- A “beautiful state of the art restaurant and bar in Arlington. No expense spared in customer area or commercial kitchen… 4,200 sq ft with additional outdoor seating… Car included with sale of business!” Listed for $300,000.
- “This prestigious nail salon is located in one of the busiest street in Clarendon. It has established clientele. Established for over ten years, it consistently grosses over $600K per year and very profitable and has a lot of potential to grow even more.” Listed for $297,000.
- “Little Caesars is the fastest growing and largest carry out pizza chain in the world with locations on five continents. Prior food experience is preferred, not essential. A net worth of $150k with minimum liquidity of $50k is required.” Listed for $160,000.
- A 1,000 square foot deli in Crystal City that “used to do more than $15K per week sale. But currently, they are doing little bit more than $7K per week.” Listed for $175,000.
- A franchise restaurant in the Pentagon City mall food court that opened in 2013. “Connection with Metro and recently renovated shopping mall bring in tons of customers in this food court. 750 SF with $16,500 per month rent (HOT SPOT) 6 years and 2 X 5 years option left.” Listed at $320,000.
- “This pizza restaurant is in the perfect area of Arlington. A lot of foot traffic with offices and residential in this location.” Restaurant seats 60 in 2,000 square foot space. Listed for $399,000.
- “Very well established and profitable 5 days Deli, Hot Bar and Salad Bar business need[s] new owner. Located very busy commercial area, 1 Floor of High Rise B/D. Currently, they are doing about $100K per month in Gross Sale, due to the nearby B/D are filling up.” Listed for $599,000.
More on Randolph Principal Controversy — Some Randolph Elementary parents are still upset that the school’s well-liked principal has been removed with little explanation and demoted to assistant principal at Abingdon Elementary. [Washington Post]
Aerial View of Arlington — Arlington County has created a video of aerial footage of Arlington, shot during a recent ride on the U.S. Park Police Eagle 1 helicopter. [Facebook]
‘Dog Days of Summer’ Donations — Rosslyn eatery Bistro 360 is donating 25 percent of sales from a special “Dog Days of Summer” menu to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. [Facebook]
Late Civic Activist Celebrated — The Nauck community will hold a special celebration of the life of the late civic activist John Robinson this coming Saturday. Robinson, who died in 2010, fought against racism, against injustice and for education, and was the publisher of the Green Valley News for more than 40 years. [InsideNova]
Suspicious Package at Ballston Metro — Updated at 9:15 a.m. — Metro Transit Police investigated a suspicious package at an elevator entrance to the Ballston Metro station this morning. The entrance was blocked off with police tape for a period of time.
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Amid a turbulent period for restaurants in Clarendon, there are rumors circulating about two other prominent neighborhood eateries.
Multiple sources have told ARLnow.com that Pete’s New Haven Apizza (3017 Clarendon Blvd), which opened in 2011, has been looking for another business to take over its space. One source said a deal is in the works which would bring a new Chipotle location to the current Pete’s space.
“That’s news to me,” Pete’s co-founder Joel Mehr said, when asked about it in June. He declined further comment.
There have also been persistent rumblings that Fuego Cocina y Tequileria (2800 Clarendon Blvd), which opened in 2012, may be closing by the end of the year. A spokeswoman said the Mexican restaurant is doing well and reports about a potential closure are false.
“Those rumors are not correct,” said Simone Rathle, on behalf of Fuego owner Passion Food Restaurant Group. She said the rumors may have started after Fuego stopped serving lunch on weekdays.
Over the span of a month this summer, three prominent Clarendon restaurants — Hard Times Cafe, Boulevard Woodgrill and American Tap Room — closed their doors. Brixx Pizza in Clarendon closed earlier this year after just six months in business.
While there are more new restaurants and bars on the way — Ambar, Pamplona, Opera — some insiders question whether there might be more restaurants in Clarendon than the market can handle. That would explain why even generally well-liked spots, such as Boulevard Woodgrill, have been closing.
Insiders say middle-of-the-road restaurant concepts that branch out as small chains after finding success in the suburbs — American Tap Room would be one example — are particularly vulnerable. Drawn to Clarendon by allure of the area’s young, affluent potential customers, they find that consumers have tastes more in line with D.C. than Fairfax County.
“I think the mini-chains don’t realize this clientele is so used to D.C. and big city ideas,” said one industry insider. “In a town far out it would probably do well, but people here want something different.”
There’s also the issue of quickly-changing consumer habits — the reason why the once-hot frozen yogurt and cupcake shops have been whittled down to one survivor apiece in Clarendon.
Still, neither explanation would apply to Pete’s, which originated in D.C., or Fuego, which was launched in Clarendon by savvy, successful D.C. area restaurateurs. In the end, it might come down to supply and demand: too many restaurants in one place, not enough potential customers.
(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) Continental Pool Lounge is expanding with a new, 180-seat indoor/outdoor beer garden.
The new Continental Beer Garden will be located in what’s currently a pop-up urban park with tables, chairs, potted plants and a mural, at the corner of 19th Street and N. Moore Street. Despite being a block from the Metro station, in the bustling, bus-clogged heart of Rosslyn, the 4,000 square foot outdoor beer garden will be a relaxing place to eat, drink and have fun with friends, says Continental owner Curt Large.
“The seating will include a large communal table, picnic tables, outdoor sofas and Adirondack chairs,” Large told ARLnow.com. “Our menu will feature foods meant for sharing, including sausages, appetizers, and other light fare. The beer garden will showcase local Virginia craft beer along with a couple of German brews. Continental will also build outdoor bocce courts for beer garden patrons and will host bocce tournaments and leagues.”
The space, which is just steps away from the Continental Pool Lounge, was formerly the parking lot of a service station. It sat vacant for some two decades, Large said, before being converted to an outdoor seating area by property owner JBG and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District in 2014. The space has hosted a number of events, including a pop-up beer garden organized by the Continental two years ago.
Large says the inside of the service station will be incorporated into the beer garden.
“We will also renovate the interior service station area, located under the office building at 1901 N. Fort Myer Drive,” he said. “The approximately 1,000 foot area will have a bar and small seating area, along with a kitchen and bathrooms. The interior will embrace the industrial grit of the former service station, showcasing some great 1970s vintage garage cabinets and signs behind the bar area.”
Mary-Claire Burick, head of the Rosslyn BID, said the beer garden will be a welcome new amenity for the area, building upon the “pop-up” events that have been held there over the past two years.
“This is a big part of what we do as a BID,” she said. “We saw this underutilized, industrial open space with a ton of foot traffic and made it a priority to reclaim and activate it with our partners, Continental Pool Lounge and JBG. ”
Large has applied for building permits and a liquor permit. He hopes to open the beer garden in the spring of 2017.
Our sources were correct — American Tap Room in Clarendon closed over the weekend.
The struggling restaurant served customers Saturday, then was closed on Sunday. A sign posted on the door encouraged customers for “visit one of our other locations” and encouraged employees to “stop by Monday or Tuesday for information on other locations and pay checks.”
While its parent company didn’t return our phone calls, a manager at American Tap Room told us early last week that it was not closing. During a second call to the restaurant, on Friday, an employee said it was “hurtful” for us to suggest that the restaurant might be closing.
ARLnow.com has heard from multiple sources that a mobile phone retailer — likely a Verizon store — will be taking over at least part of the now-former American Tap Room space.
A beloved Clarendon restaurant will be closing its doors next weekend.
Boulevard Woodgrill (2901 Wilson Blvd) will close its doors at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7. It’s expected to be replaced by a new location of the well-regarded Capitol Hill eatery Ambar.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the restaurant thanked customers for their patronage over the past decade and a half.
“After nearly 15 wonderful years of business in the heart of Clarendon, we have decided to sell our business and will be closing The Boulevard,” the restaurant said. “We have thoroughly enjoyed serving you over the years (nearly 2 million meals!) and will be forever grateful both for your support as well as the amazing efforts of our employees, both current and past. We hope you will stop in and see us a time or two before we say goodbye and perhaps down the road we’ll be able to see each other again!”
“It’s a sad day for us, but we are so happy to have had the chance to be a part of a truly wonderful community!” the restaurant added. “Onward!”
Minh Vietnamese Restaurant, located at 2500 Wilson Blvd, has closed citing lease issues and other business concerns.
There is a sign posted by the owners that reads “Dear Customers, We are very sorry to inform you that due to business concerns including our lease on this space, Minh has ceased operation effective immediately. We appreciate your patronage over the years we have been here, and we are sad to be leaving.”
The restaurant has been at that location for over 10 years and it was one of the few remaining Vietnamese restaurants in the Clarendon area, a hotbed of Vietnamese businesses before the construction of the Orange Line. It was said to be “one of the original Vietnamese restaurants that put Clarendon on the map.”
There is no word yet on whether those behind the restaurant plan on reopening in another location.