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(Updated on 12/5/21) Firefighters battled a significant fire Saturday night on the 23rd Street S. restaurant row in Crystal City.

The fire was reportedly in the building that houses Andalusia Hookah Bar and Top Thai restaurant on the 500 block of 23rd Street. Those businesses are immediately adjacent to Crystal City Sports Pub and Federico Ristorante Italiano.

Firefighters from several local jurisdictions helped to finally extinguish the smoky, two-alarm blaze. The fire has caused unsafe conditions for firefighters inside the building and flames can now be seen coming from the roof, according to scanner traffic.

Smoke from the fire could be seen rising into the air throughout the Crystal City area.

The Crystal City Sports Pub was evacuated during the fire as smoke started to fill the building. But co-owner Billy Bayne said the fire department’s quick work and coordination saved his business and others on the row.

“To our knowledge there’s no major damage to the Sports Pub,” Bayne said, while noting that there may be smoke and other damage that needs to be repaired. “Thank God for the fire department and police department… they all are heroes, they did a great job.”

Shortly before midnight the Arlington County Fire Department reported that all fire had been extinguished. So far there have been no reports of significant injuries.

On Sunday afternoon, the fire department returned to the scene after a small fire flared back up.

On Sunday night, the fire department said in a press release that the fire caused nearly $1.8 million in damages. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Shortly after 10pm on Saturday December 4th, units were dispatched for a reported fire in a commercial building in the 500 block of 23rd St S. Units quickly arrived on scene and began working to extinguish the fire. Crews began operating in extremely challenging conditions with thick smoke causing zero visibility inside the structure, as well as obscuring views for crews operating on the exterior. A second alarm was requested to bringing nearly 30 fire apparatus and 100 firefighters to the scene.

As interior conditions deteriorated rapidly, crews were forced to evacuate the building and begin using ladder trucks to flow large volumes of water from an elevated position on the exterior. With the bulk of the fire extinguished crews were able to re-enter the structure to knock down any remaining fire. Just before midnight the fire was deemed extinguished, and crews began the long process of checking for fire extension and overhaul operations.

Fire Marshals remained on scene to conduct a cause and origin investigation. The preliminary findings from their investigation list the fire cause as undetermined, and cite damages as being nearly $1.8 million dollars.

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Photo (2) via Google Maps

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I-CE-NY closed in Shirlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

I-CE-NY in Shirlington appears to have closed.

The windows of the Thai rolled ice cream shop are blacked out, the awning has come down, no equipment appears to be inside, and all signage is gone.

ARLnow reached out to the business for confirmation, but has yet to hear back as of publication. Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT), which owns the Village of Shirlington (as well as Pentagon City’s Westpost), also was not able to confirm the closure.

The franchised shop appeared to be listed for sale about a year ago, but the listing is no longer available. The Arlington location is still listed on the company’s website, however.

Earlier this week, a tipster sent ARLnow a photo that showed on a sign on the door that read “Store Closed,” before the windows were blacked out.

I-CE-NY opened in Shirlington at 4150 Campbell Avenue just over three years ago. Originally from Thailand, the company specializes in rolled ice cream with mix-ins. In the United States, it first opened in New York before expanding to more than a dozen shops across eight states.

Prior to I-CE-NY, Knits Etc. was in that location in Shirlington.

Hat tip to Kiara Candelaria 

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Restaurants on the 1800 block of N. Moore Street (via Google Maps)

An opportunistic thief stole a car that was left parked and unlocked, with the key in the ignition, near the Rosslyn Metro station last night, police say.

It happened around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, on the 1800 block of N. Moore Street. The crime was initially reported as a carjacking, and a description of the vehicle was broadcast to other local police departments, but officers later determined that the car was simply driven off and not taken forcibly.

The driver of the car was reportedly inside a restaurant — the block includes a McDonald’s, Bethesda Bagels, Nando’s Peri-Peri, and Happy Eatery (recently renamed after formerly being called Happy Endings Eatery) — when the theft occurred.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

GRAND LARCENY AUTO, 2021-12010223, 1800 block of N. Moore Street. At approximately 9:43 p.m. on December 1, police were dispatched to the report of a stolen vehicle. The investigation determined that at approximately 9:40 p.m., the victim parked his vehicle and left it unlocked with the key in the ignition and entered a restaurant. While inside, a witness observed the suspect enter the vehicle and drive away. The vehicle is described as a 2003 Silver Toyota Matrix XR with Maryland license plate 1DB6405. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.

Photo via Google Maps. Hat tip to Alan Henney.

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The four-decade-old, Arlington-born Lebanese Taverna is launching a new membership service, providing customers with a “Chef’s Tasting” menu or a curated selection of Lebanese wines at home every month.

“This is a way to share our culture, like the things we do at home, the snacks that we eat, and the things that my parents used to make,” co-owner Grace Abi-Najm Shea tells ARLnow. “This is kind of deconstructing the food and the culture from the restaurant and bringing it to your home.”

The rotating offerings will highlight “some of the more authentic and under-explored parts of our menu,” the website notes. This could include stuffed rolled cabbage, shanklesh (Lebanese cheese balls), or okra and lamb stew.

“This is for the person who’s willing to be adventurous,” Shea says.

The wine membership (called “A Lebanese Wine Tour”) includes options for two, four, or six bottles a month and will have wines from “old, historic vineyards to new up-and-coming wineries.”

The first food and wine membership boxes will be available for pick-up or delivery starting later this month, Dec. 16.

Lebanese Taverna’s first location opened in 1979 in Arlington’s Westover neighborhood and remains a staple of the community’s commercial strip. The restaurant was founded by immigrants Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm, who had come to the U.S. to flee the civil war in their home country of Lebanon.

Since then the restaurant has expanded to more than a dozen locations in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., including different concepts like the fast-casual Lebtav, which has a location in Ballston. The original Westover restaurant at 5900 Washington Blvd remains at the heart of the company, which is now run by the five Abi-Najm siblings, including Grace.

She says the last 20 months, which saw dining rooms shuttered and a rise in takeout and delivery, have been a “roller coaster” and have made it clear that the family needs to adapt to a new reality for restaurants, Shea said.

“I’m sure you’ve heard the word pivot a thousand times, but restaurants have to find different ways to get their products to their customers and find new customers,” Shea says.

The membership idea was born out of the success the family has seen with the Lebanese Taverna Market at 4400 Old Dominion Road near Waverly Hills, where customers are able to take home dishes, snacks, and wines.

Throughout the pandemic Arlington has remained a stronghold for Lebanese Taverna, Shea said, noting that quick service and takeout business have remained particularly strong here. Locations outside of the county saw bigger drops in business.

“In Arlington, they have watched us grow up. They have a special place in our heart and I think we have a special place in their heart,” said Shea. While talking, she got a little choked up.

“Arlington has been our biggest cheerleader since day one,” Shea said.

Overall, Lebanese Taverna is at about 80% to 90% of pre-pandemic sales, she notes.

Despite tough times, the restaurant and the family has continued to help charitable causes they believe in. Last summer, Lebanese Taverna spearheaded a fundraising drive to support relief efforts in Lebanon after an explosion in Beirut killed hundreds and injured thousands. Over $150,000 was raised through those efforts, Shea says.

This past August, the family also helped raise money for Lebanese citizens to assist with their fuel and electricity needs. Around the same time, the restaurant worked with the World Central Kitchen to provide meals for Afghan refugees.

Shea is encouraged by the continued return to normalcy with sales returning closer to pre-pandemic levels and cooking classes at the Lebanese Taverna Market coming back in January. But she remains concerned about the future due to the newly-announced variant and the already-here cold weather limiting outdoor dining.

“As good as I feel about where we are today is as scared as I am about tomorrow,” she says.

Meanwhile, Shea and her family will keep serving Arlingtonians flavors of their home country, whether it’s inside a restaurant or at home, as they have been for more than 40 years.

“My whole family is so passionate about our culture, our food, our cuisine,” she says. “We are looking forward to giving customers something a bit different than the restaurant experience.”

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Restaurants in Crystal City (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

With a bevy of development looming, a band of residents, restaurateurs, landowners and business leaders are trying to preserve the “soul” of Crystal City: “Restaurant Row.”

For many years, a collection of small, independently owned restaurants have operated along 23rd Street S., between S. Eads and S. Fern streets, including the locally famous LGBT nightlife spot Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant.

But the people who frequent and run these business wonder where the long-term viability of this corridor fits into the flurry of development nearby: Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City, JBG Smith’s extensive development pipeline in Crystal City, and Arlington County’s Crystal House Apartments affordable housing project, among others.

As all these projects take shape, the group has reprised a rallying cry from two years ago, reiterating that Restaurant Row needs some attention — but not the kind that stamps out its unique character.

“With all this stuff happening, what about 23rd Street, the sole soul for Crystal City for decades?” said Rob Mandle, the National Landing Business Improvement District Deputy Executive Director, in a recent Crystal City Citizen Review Council meeting. “What are we going to do over the course of the next five years while the rest of National Landing transforms?”

Those are still open questions for members of the CCCRC, who earlier this month met with restaurant owners and landowners to discuss ideas for investing in Restaurant Row, which was identified in the Crystal City Sector Plan as a “major community asset with local businesses that should be preserved or protected.”

This line has puzzled county planner Matt Mattausek for two years.

“What does that mean, ‘preserve and protect?’ What are the exact mechanics of that?” Mattausek said. “I don’t think anyone on our side wants to lose any opportunities in terms of that protection element while maintaining it as a destination.”

Ultimately, he said the community needs to develop a clear set of priorities before the county can help.

Members of the CCCRC and local landowners have long- and short-term ideas for preserving and updating Restaurant Row.

Aurora Highlands resident Michael Dowell says he wants conditions that facilitate updates to the aging buildings that preserve their feel. Otherwise, worsening infrastructure will force out tenants and make the buildings ripe for redevelopment.

“The thing we want to preserve is that community feel of 23rd Street restaurants,” he said. “They’re human scale, they have a lot of local ownership, and there is a huge variety there.”

Some said the area needs more street parking, a long-time concern for residents that has resurfaced as the county embarks on its Crystal House development project. As part of the project, a parking lot between 22nd and 23rd Street S. will be turned into townhomes known as “Crystal House 5.”

An aerial view of existing Crystal House Apartments and renderings (via Arlington County)

Speeding is also a problem, said Darren Buck, an Aurora Highlands resident and Transportation Commission member. He suggested a comprehensive rezoning effort from S. Ives Street to Route 1 that would bring in a traffic signal and better lighting and create a streetscape that establishes Restaurant Row as a destination.

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Thaiphoon at Westpost in Pentagon City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Thaiphoon in Pentagon City is closing for good this weekend, we’re told, set to be replaced by a “taco temple” in spring 2022.

The Thai restaurant located in Westpost — formerly Pentagon Row — is closing on Sunday, Nov. 21, an employee confirmed to ARLnow. The owners made the decision to not renew their lease at the shopping plaza on S. Joyce Street, we’re told, and there are currently no plans to open another location at this time.

Thaiphoon has been serving customers for more than a decade at Pentagon Row.

As we previously reported, Baltimore-based Banditos Bar & Kitchen will be moving into the space. It could start serving as early as this coming April.

This is the first Virginia location of the self-described “taco temple.” The 3,000-square-foot restaurant will serve classic fare like tacos, quesadillas, and margaritas, and is planning to have outdoor seating.

Thaiphoon’s D.C. location is still open, though it’s run by separate ownership than the Arlington location, the employee noted.

A slew of new restaurants and businesses are opening in Westpost over the next year, but that also has come with a number of closings.

Namaste Everest closed earlier this year and is being replaced by the sushi restaurant Kusshi. Bed, Bath, & Beyond, Unleashed, and Champps all also closed over the last 20 months at the shopping plaza while being replaced by a Target, Road Runner Sports, and Nighthawk Pizza.

Westpost is fully leased up with tenants, as of earlier this month.

Hat tip to @CartChaos22202

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Morning Notes

The U.S. Air Force Memorial (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

YHS Wins State Field Hockey Championship — “Yorktown field hockey sticks to its routine to accomplish something it never has before… Patriots beat Western Branch, 1-0, for their first state championship.” [Washington Post]

ACPD Ramping Up Seat Belt Enforcement — “The Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the national Click It or Ticket campaign. Law enforcement agencies across the country will increase enforcement efforts from November 16 – 28, 2021, to work towards reducing the number of fatalities that occur when motorists fail to buckle up.” [ACPD]

County Has Available Kid Vax Appointments — “Arlington County Public Health is continuing vaccinations for 5-11-year-olds this week, Monday-Friday from 2-7 p.m. Over 6,000 kids ages 5-11 have already received their first dose. Schedule your appointment today.” [Twitter]

Arlington Man Charged in Fatal Crash — “A tip led to the arrest Monday of a 54-year-old Arlington man wanted on charges of DUI-related involuntary manslaughter and operating without a driver’s license in connection with a Nov. 6 crash in Montclair that killed a Dumfries man. Investigators obtained warrants Thursday for John William Harris… but attempts to locate him had been unsuccessful, police said.” [InsideNova]

Free Coffee at Taco Bamba — “To promote the breakfast menu and the free coffee program, Taco Bamba is giving away branded coffee tumblers to the first 50 guests at each store who purchase a breakfast item.” [Press Release]

Secret Santas Wanted — From Arlington County: “You can make the holiday season a little happier for some of Arlington’s most vulnerable residents by taking part in the @ArlingtonDHS’ Secret Santa/Holiday Giving Program. This program benefits Arlington’s at-risk residents.” [Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Today will feature mostly cloudy skies through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 53. Sunrise at 6:52 a.m. and sunset at 4:53 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high near 65. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Ballston at twilight (Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler)

Slight Dip in Apartment Rents — “The average rental rate for an Arlington unit over the past month was down 0.4 percent compared to the month before, according to figures reported Nov. 1 by Apartment List. Arlington’s rental rates averaged $2,032 for one-bedroom units and $2,460 for two-bedroom units. Arlington was one of 22 of the nation’s 100 largest urban areas to see pullbacks in rental rates over the month.” [Sun Gazette]

Federal Funds for Local Bridge? — From reporter Michael Lee Pope: “@RepDonBeyer #VA08 infrastructure projects requested: $9 million for renovating the bridge connecting Mount Vernon Avenue in #AlexandriaVA to Arlington Ridge Road in #ArlingtonVA” [Twitter]

Post Reviews Lyon Park Restaurant — “When not hawking food, she is a parking enforcement officer with the Arlington County Police Department… In September, she moved indoors when she took over El Fuego Peruvian Kitchen, an Arlington business that had already made the successful transition from street vendor to a bricks-and-mortar restaurant.” [Washington Post]

Wild Incident on Columbia Pike — “At approximately 9:30 a.m. on November 6, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred and fire department units were also responding to investigate the smell of smoke and natural gas. Upon arrival inside the residential building, the suspect approached responding officers and began shouting. As the officers attempted to place the suspect into custody, he actively resisted and a brief struggle ensued before he was detained without further incident. The investigation determined that the suspect was allegedly acting irate and damaged the doors to multiple residential units.” [ACPD]

Parents Group Calls Out APS Calendar — “In prior years, APS aligned its calendar with neighboring (and vast) FCPS – an effort to support staff who worked and lived in different jurisdictions. This year’s calendar has a different start date and Spring Break than FCPS, and APS is off for five holidays when FCPS is not, which makes the schedule almost impossible for staff and working families to navigate.” [Arlington Parents for Education]

Rare Opening of Tomb PlazaUpdated at 9 a.m. — “Arlington National Cemetery will open up the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza Tuesday and Wednesday to members of the public and allow visitors to lay flowers for the first time in almost 100 years. The privilege is typically reserved for members of ‘The Old Guard,’ sentinels in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment who stand watch constantly at the Arlington National Cemetery landmark, officials say.” [NBC 4]

It’s Tuesday — Today will be near perfect, with sunny skies and a high of 72. Sunrise at 6:44 a.m. and sunset at 4:59 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high near 67. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Time has expired for Spanish tapas restaurant and soccer-watching venue Copa Kitchen & Bar in Ballston.

The establishment at Ballston Quarter mall served its final brunches over the weekend after apparently failing to score with local diners. Of course, stiff opposition — in the form of the pandemic and a labor shortage — probably didn’t help.

Copa opened in March 2019, in a separate space adjacent to the Quarter Market food hall. It offered Spanish-inspired small plates, flatbreads, sangria from its “sangria garden,” outdoor seating and soccer matches on the bar’s TVs.

Late last month, however, Copa announced on its website it would soon close.

We’ve got some news to share about Copa Kitchen & Bar. We’re closing our doors and serving our last brunch on Sunday November 7th. We have had such a good time bringing you our Spanish inspired tapas and being a part of the Ballston Quarter family over the last two years. We want to thank every customer who has dined with us, watched games with us, followed our journey on social media or enjoyed a happy hour with us. We’d like to extend a special thanks to the customers who have supported us (and all restaurants) through the pandemic.

Today workers could be seen in the restaurant space, packing up items and removing some of the fixtures.

It’s the second time in just over a year that a soccer-centric restaurant has shuttered in Arlington. Summers Restaurant in Courthouse closed last fall ahead of a redevelopment project.

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Peruvian Brothers co-owner Giuseppe Lanzone with alpacas (Photo courtesy of Peruvian Brothers)

The Peruvian Brothers’ stand at the Crystal City Water Park has closed due to coming renovations at the park.

The last day for the fast casual stand known for their empanadas and peruvian coffee was Sunday, co-owner Giuseppe Lanzone tells ARLnow.

But the brothers went out in style, hosting a party on Sunday. There were Halloween costumes, free cookies, music, dancers, and alpacas.

“In Virginia, it’s much easier to bring alpacas,” says Lanzone, about the animal that’s native to the Andes and part of Peruvian culture. “Fewer regulations than D.C.”

Giuseppe and his brother Mario Lanzone are originally from Peru, but moved with their family to McLean in 1997. Before going into the food business together, Giuseppe was a two-time Olympic rower for Team USA.

The two started their first food truck in 2013. Soon, that one truck became two, then three. Next, the brothers started working with the Peruvian Embassy in D.C.

This got them enough attention to open their first outpost inside of the Latin market La Cosecha in Northeast D.C., next to Union Market. Soon, they were getting accolades from a number of local media outlets.

But then the pandemic hit.

It was at this time that Lanzone was living on Crystal Drive in Crystal City. He would often go for runs and walks “since there wasn’t much else to do” and passed the unoccupied stand (which was previously a rotating cast of pop-up eateries) at the privately-owned park.

“It was just an empty space. I kept think ‘what would be better than being able to stop outside and grab a coffee and an empanada,'” he says. “I didn’t want the space to go to waste.”

In April 2020, he and his brother partnered with National Landing Business Improvement District and made a deal with park owner JBG Smith to bring their Peruvian cuisine to Crystal City.

For the last 18 months, they’ve been serving out of the stand. But their contract is now up as renovations near.

“It was an incredible experience being part of the community,” Lanzone says. “National Landing BID and JBG were great partners to us.”

The 1.5-acre park at 1601 Crystal Drive is scheduled to undergo renovations during the winter, a spokesperson for JBG Smith confirms to ARLnow. It will reopen in the spring of 2023.

New vendor kiosks, an updated performance platform, a bar with a terrace, and restrooms will all be added. There will also be updates to the water feature, a widening of sidewalks, and improved walking and cycling connections.

What it won’t include, though, is the Peruvian Brothers — but that doesn’t mean they are disappearing from Arlington.

Lanzone said they are in discussions for opening a small brick and mortar in the neighborhood. While nothing is finalized and ready to be announced, there have been “talks” about opening up a new outpost that would be accessible to those who work at Amazon’s nearby HQ2.

“We are big fans of National Landing and Amazon and want to be part of the new development,” Lanzone says. In terms of the neighborhood, the feeling seems to be mutual.

“We have greatly enjoyed and appreciated our collaboration with Peruvian Brothers in National Landing,” said Amy Rice, Senior Vice President of Retail Leasing at JBG Smith. “We were thrilled to be able to offer them a temporary outdoor location during the height of the pandemic, and that setting proved to be a hit for National Landing residents.”

“As the transformation of National Landing continues, we are actively working with Peruvian Brothers to find a more permanent home with us in the neighborhood,” Rice added.

https://twitter.com/NationalLanding/status/1455964250996977674

Meanwhile, Peruvian Brothers fans can find them at La Cosecha in D.C. and at their catering headquarters in Alexandria headquarters. The brothers are also now offering an empanada subscription service, with frozen empanadas dropped off at doorsteps twice a month.

The brothers say they’re confident they’ll be back in Arlington soon.

“We love it here,” Lanzone said.

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Jimmy John’s in Rosslyn is now closed (Staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Jimmy John’s in Rosslyn has made its last sandwich.

The chain’s location at 1512 Clarendon Blvd in Rosslyn has permanently closed, the franchise owners tell ARLnow.

“Sales simply never recovered after the pandemic,” writes Jessica Manning, who owned the shop along with her father and her husband. “It was a difficult and incredibly emotional decision for us.”

Its last day was September 28, closing after lunch. The family also own the Jimmy John’s in Ballston on N. Quincy Street as well as a location in Woodbridge, Virginia. Both remain open.

Manning says that they were able to find all of their Rosslyn employees other jobs.

“Everyone is healthy and we were able to get all staff members another job immediately so that’s really all that matters,” she writes.

Rappaport Company, which is offering the retail space for lease, tells ARLnow that the space formerly occupied by Jimmy John’s is available and they “are actively marketing the space for lease.”

Jimmy John’s on Clarendon Blvd first opened in 2013, more than eight years ago, in what was then the new-Sedona Slate apartment complex.

That block of Clarendon Blvd has seen a number of openings and closings. Most recently, in 2020, barre fitness studio LavaBarre closed, with dog daycare Playful Pack taking its place this summer.

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