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Lee Highway Taco Bell Shuts Down Ahead of Full Renovation

The Taco Bell on Lee Highway will be out of commission for the next few months, as its owners tear down the existing store and replace it with a new one.

The fast food restaurant, located at 4923 Lee Highway near Yorktown, shut down last week and construction tape now blocks off its drive-through lane. The eatery will remain closed for the next three to four months, general contractor Steve Taylor told ARLnow.

Taylor said the exact timeline for the project will depend on the weather in the coming weeks, but current plans call for the old restaurant to be demolished and completely replaced.

County records show its owner, the Ionedes Family Corporation, received the necessary permit approvals for much of the project in April.

The records also show that the current restaurant was built back in 1993.

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Morning Notes

Remembering 9/11 — Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are planning to attend Arlington County’s Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony in Courthouse this morning. The event will feature a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m. The county’s emergency management agency, meanwhile, this morning posted audio of police radio traffic from immediately after American Airlines Flight 77 struck the west wall of the Pentagon. [Twitter]

Would HQ2 Be Good for Arlington? — Amazon could be an economic boon, or a gentrification disaster for lower-income renters — or both. Washingtonian asked a number of people, including Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins and former Arlington County Board candidate Melissa Bondi — who currently works in affordable housing policy — to weigh in. [Washingtonian]

Isabella Talks About Bankruptcy — Celebrity chef and restaurateur Mike Isabella says “bad press” — in other words, the “extraordinary” sexual harassment he and his executives are accused of — caused customers to stay away from his restaurants in droves, decimating revenue and sending his company into bankruptcy. Isabella’s trio of Ballston restaurants — Kapnos Taverna, Pepita and Yona — remain open but their long-term fate is unclear. [Washington Post]

Student Population Still Rising — “It won’t be official until the end of the month, but Arlington Public Schools is on track for another all-time high in student enrollment. School officials counted 27,522 students in seats when the school year began Sept. 4. While that is lower than a projection of 28,022 made in the spring, it represents a 2.2-percent increase from the first day of school a year ago.” [InsideNova]

Car-Free Diet in Spanish — Arlington’s long-running “Car-Free Diet” campaign is also in Spanish — “Dieta Cero-Auto.” The campaign recently produced a new video. [Twitter, YouTube]

Yorktown Rolls Over Wakefield — Yorktown scored a decisive win over Wakefield on the gridiron over the weekend, notching a score of 48-0. Both teams are now 1-1. In other high school football action over the weekend, Washington-Lee fell in double overtime against West Springfield, 28-21. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Jeff Reardon

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Morning Notes

HQ2 Odds Ever in Our Favor — Business Insider says it has “long seen the evidence pointing to the DC area” as the eventual destination for Amazon’s second headquarters. Online betting odds, meanwhile, favor Northern Virginia, and ARLnow.com hears that Crystal City is the far and away the most likely Northern Virginia locale for HQ2. [Business Insider]

High School Football Season Underway — “For the second straight season, but this year at a different venue, the Wakefield Warriors opened their high-school football campaign with a victory over the Washington-Lee Generals.” Yorktown, meanwhile, gave up a lead and lost to Wilson 37-29. [InsideNova]

McCain and Vietnam Vets Calls Nam Viet Home — A group of Vietnam War veterans, including the late Sen. John McCain, who was laid to rest over the weekend, regularly met up at Nam Viet restaurant in Clarendon. [Cronkite News]

First Day of School Reminder — Today is the first day of school for Arlington Public Schools and the school system is reminding residents that passing a school bus with its stop arm out is a traffic infraction punishable by a $250 fine. Police, meanwhile, are participating in a back-to-school safety campaign that includes extra enforcement of such traffic laws. [Twitter, Arlington County]

School Board: Don’t Go Over Building Budget — “Should Arlington Public Schools hold firm, no matter what, to budgets on upcoming construction projects? Or allow a little maneuvering room, if the opportunity arises, in an effort to get more bang for their buck? That question played out again Aug. 30, as School Board members split 3-2 in directing an advisory body to not even think about returning with a plan that exceeds the $37 million budget for turning the Arlington Education Center’s administrative offices into classroom space.” [InsideNova]

Police Prepare for Plane Pull — “The public is invited to cheer on the Arlington Police and Sheriff Team during the Plane Pull at Dulles Airport on Saturday, September 15, 2018.” [Arlington County]

New MU Prez Focuses on Real-World Experience — Irma Becerra, Marymount University’s new president and the first person of color in that role, plans “to further connect the Arlington university with its surrounding business community, making internships an equal pillar of her vision as enrollment, graduation and retention rates.” [Washington Business Journal]

Empanada Thief Caught on Camera — Arlington squirrels, apparently, are now blatantly stealing and eating empanadas in broad daylight. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Arlington Ranked as Most Dog Friendly Spot in the Nation

With its bevy of parks and outdoor eateries, Arlington ranks as the most dog friendly place in the country, according to a new analysis from Yelp.

The reviews website placed the county number one in its new set of rankings, released Friday to mark National Dog Day, ahead of cities like Tampa, Florida and West Hollywood, California.

Yelp’s analysts came up with the rankings by examining its internal traffic data on pages for parks and businesses.

“To compile this list, we scored cities based on the percentage of page views in the ‘Active’ categories that are for dog parks, percentage of page views in the ‘Pets’ categories that are for dog walkers, and the percentage of businesses in the restaurants, bars, coffee, hotels and beaches categories for which we had data on whether they indicated they allowed dogs,” Yelp’s Jordan Bantista wrote in a blog post.

Yelp specifically singled out Ambar in Clarendon, Celtic House on Columbia Pike and The Paramount Cafe in Crystal City as reviewed restaurants that might of of interest to dog owners.

The site only ranked two cities for each state to ensure geographic diversity on the list. (Arlington is, of course, technically a county, though it is often included in lists of cities as a census-designated place.)

File photo

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Cassatt’s Hasn’t Been Operating, Fueling Fears About Its Future

Just a few weeks after new owners took over, Cassatt’s Kiwi Cafe and Gallery has suddenly stopped serving customers these last few days.

As of this afternoon (Friday) a sign posted on the door of the New Zealand-themed eatery (4536 Lee Highway) informed visitors that the restaurant is closed, even though its posted hours would indicate it should be open. A tipster told ARLnow that the restaurant was similarly shuttered yesterday (Thursday), fearing its long-term future.

Longtime owner Art Hauptmann, who opened Cassatt’s 16 years ago, recently sold the restaurant to a pair of new owners: Mario and Marco Jelencovich. While the pair’s family has worked on other restaurants in the D.C. area before, Hauptmann previously said he was unsure of their plans for the eatery, though he hoped they’d keep the business going as usual.

The Jelencoviches haven’t responded to repeated requests for comment about Cassatt’s future, and no one answered the phone at the restaurant Friday.

County permit records show that Mario Jelencovich has successfully won a business license for the establishment, and had it inspected by the county recently, though they offer few other details.

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Environmentalists Kick Off New Efforts to Make Arlington Plastic-Free

A local environmental group is launching a slew of new advocacy efforts to eliminate the use of plastic products of all kinds in Arlington.

The newly re-branded EcoAction Arlington is hoping the new campaigns can convince restaurants and everyday Arlingtonians alike to abandon plastic straws, bags, bottles and more, as part of a growing national movement to keep plastic out of oceans and other waterways to protect sea life.

“We’re hoping to give people a whole spectrum of ways to reduce how much plastic they use,” Executive Director Elenor Hodges told ARLnow.

One effort involves EcoAction joining a regional campaign dubbed the “Plastic Free Challenge,” which kicked off yesterday (Monday) and will run through Oct. 19. The campaign will include a range of activities over that time period to help people think about avoiding plastic in their daily lives.

But EcoAction is also focusing on Arlington specifically with its “Straw Free Arlington” push, designed to cut back on the roughly 345,000 straws they estimate that Arlington residents use each day. While they hope the effort convinces people to rely on reusable straws instead, it’s primarily focused on pushing local restaurants to embrace paper straws or even reusable straws instead.

EcoAction is offering resources for restaurant owners looking to make the switch, and plans to list any eateries refusing plastic straws on a map on its website for plastic-free consumers. The group will also hand out window stickers for restaurants swearing off plastic, and promote the companies involved among its followers on social media and elsewhere.

But the effort won’t be solely focused on straws — Hodges notes that she also wants restaurants thinking about other one-use items, like plastic carryout containers, and her group plans to rate each restaurant based on what sort of commitment it makes to turning away from plastic.

So far, EcoAction has already convinced two Rosslyn restaurants — Ben’s Chili Bowl and the Kona Grill — to take the straw-free pledge.

Photo via EcoAction Arlington

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Progress Remains Scarce on Planned Clarendon Beer Garden

Roughly a year and a half after plans surfaced for an outdoor beer garden in Clarendon, there’s been precious little progress on the project.

Permit applications revealed last March that Social Restaurant Group, the same company that runs Clarendon establishments Bar Bao and Pamplona, was planning a beer garden at a former used car lot at 3217 10th Street N. Signs appeared for the “The Lot” this February, but the space remains empty and overgrown with weeds six months later.

SRG’s website suggests that the beer garden would open in “summer 2018.” Yet neither spokespeople for the company nor co-founder Mike Bramson replied to several requests for comment on the project’s status.

County records, however, show that the company did receive permission to start construction on the project in December. The permit application calls for 94 outdoor seats, with standing room for another 357 people.

The company has also applied for a license to serve beer and wine at the location, but that application is still pending, more than a year later.

SRG’s website also lists Rebel Taco, a food truck that serve up its wares around Arlington, as part of the The Lot. The truck’s owners also did not respond to a request for comment on the project.

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Longtime Lee Highway Restaurant Cassatt’s Changes Hands

Cassatt’s Kiwi Cafe and Gallery is now under new management, after opening 16 years ago along Lee Highway.

Longtime owner Art Hauptman told ARLnow that he sold the New Zealand-themed eatery, located at 4536 Lee Highway, about a month ago to a father-son duo.

Hauptman declined to offer many details about the sale, other than saying he felt it was “just the right time to sell to somebody that will take care of it and keep it going.”

“I thought I needed to take a break and I handed it over to people with a lot of experience in the restaurant business,” Hauptman said. “They seem committed to keeping the Cassatt’s concept going.”

Hauptman says he met the new owners, Mario and Marco Jelencovich, shortly after he closed his other restaurant in Arlington: the Bistro 360 wine bar in Rosslyn.

A third member of the Jelencovich family, Michael, approached Hauptman about setting up a “pop-up” bar at the space on Wilson Blvd in late May. “Parlay” temporarily took over the location, with the D.C. bar briefly hosting some World Cup watch parties at the location.

Though that partnership was only temporary, Hauptman says he quickly thought of the Jelencoviches when he decided to move on from Cassatt’s. He hopes that the new owners will largely “keep [Cassatt’s] the way that it’s been” over the years, and even help build up the restaurant’s dinner business a bit more, though he’s not sure of their exact plans.

The Jelencoviches didn’t respond to calls or emails seeking comment on what they plan to do with the restaurant, though it’s remained open as usual since the transition. However, it seems the new owners have cancelled all scheduled live performances, according to an email from local group “Kitchen Gorilla” to its fans that was forwarded to ARLnow.

Overall, Hauptman says it’s bittersweet to leave behind a business he cared so much about, but he has no regrets about what he accomplished at the restaurant.

“I’m very proud of what we did at Cassatt’s, proud how it became a community institution,” Hauptman said. “I hope it stays that way.”

Photo 2 via Google Maps

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Stageplate Bistro Closes Temporarily in Ballston, With Plans to Re-Open This Fall

Stageplate Bistro (900 N. Glebe Road) will be closed for the next few weeks, but has plans for a “grand reopening” Saturday, September 1.

“After almost a year of passionately pursuing our dream, we are taking a breath,” a posting to the door reads, in part. The notice is signed by proprietors Mary Marchetti and Nelly Gonzalez, the married duo who serve as the restaurant’s general manager and executive chef, respectively.

That “breath” means instead of pulling 100-hour-plus work weeks, Marchetti and Gonzalez will work from 9 a.m-5 p.m. on some updates, Marchetti said. That will include training, shaping their social media presence and updating the restaurant’s website.

Stageplate Bistro held its grand opening in October after a soft opening last August. Their menu primarily features American cuisine.

“Reflecting on the past year after opening our first restaurant has been really exciting, and one of the biggest takeaways we have is how wonderful this community has been,” Marchetti said.  “We’re so thankful to be in Ballston and we’re so thankful for the community support and our amazing guests.”

Final details about the re-opening will be available on Stageplate Bistro’s website.

“We’re going to finally get everybody together on [Sept. 1] and get our big scissors out and cut our ribbon,” Marchetti said.

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Linda’s Cafe Closes Its Doors, Clearing the Way for New Bob and Edith’s

Longtime Arlington diner Linda’s Cafe has officially closed its doors, clearing the way for work to start on a new Bob and Edith’s location at the Lee Highway site.

Linda’s, located at 5050 Lee Highway, served up its last meal yesterday (Sunday), after it spent the last two decades at the location. Staff briefly posted a banner saying “Thank You Arlington” prior to the shop’s closing.

The restaurant was known for its all-day breakfast and burgers, not to mention a colorful social media presence, but the property’s owner sold the location on May 31, prompting the closure.

https://www.facebook.com/LindasCafe/posts/1966504520028382

Greg Bolton, the owner of the Bob and Edith’s chain, hopes to eventually transform the small restaurant into his third diner in Arlington. County property records show a company he controls purchased the land for $1.1 million.

Ryan Brown, Bolton’s attorney, told ARLnow last month that the new Bob and Edith’s could open in the next “six to nine months.”

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Ballston’s SER Hoping to Reopen This Weekend, Following Severe Flooding

Spanish restaurant SER (1110 N. Glebe Road) is closed today after storms led to a partial roof collapse and flooding inside the eatery last night (July 25).

SER aims to be back open this weekend, according to a Twitter statement from restaurant proprietor Javier Candon.

“Last night, our building had a structural failure which resulted in us having to close the restaurant unexpectedly due to flooding,” the statement reads, in part. “As repairs begin, I just want to thank everyone for their support and patience.”

Candon also noted in the statement that no guests were harmed in the incident.

All of Two Ballston Plaza, the building in which SER is located, is closed today because of a power outage, according to a notice on its door. Ballston CrossFit, another tenant, posted on its Facebook page that flooding caused the outage.

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Upper Crust Pizzeria Along Lee Highway Shuts Down

The Upper Crust Pizzeria along Lee Highway has closed down, roughly three years after opening.

The store, located at 4514 Lee Highway as part of the Lee Heights Shops, shut its doors last Monday (July 16), according to a sign posted on its door.

The restaurant was the small chain’s first in Arlington, and opened for business in October 2015. Chief financial officer Ben Deb did not respond to a request for comment on what prompted the closure.

The chain is primarily based in the Boston area, though it previously operated a D.C. location until closing it 2012 amidst bankruptcy proceedings.

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Ping by Charlie Chiang’s Closed Permanently

Modern Asian restaurant Ping by Charlie Chiang’s is closed in The Village at Shirlington.

A posting to the restaurant’s 4060 Campbell Avenue door dated Monday (July 16) thanked customers for their patronage over the past three decades.

The Shirlington site remained open after Charlie Chiang’s closed in Crystal City in 2015.

As of this morning, Charlie Chiang’s website was down. There was no answer to the phone at Kwai, Charlie Chiang’s Tysons restaurant, yesterday evening (Thursday) or this morning, though its website is still active.

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Bistro 1521 Open Again in Ballston

Bistro 1521 (900 N. Glebe Road) is back open after closing earlier this month due to lease defaults.

Posts to the restaurant’s social media pages on Friday announced that Bistro 1521 would be open Saturday (July 14). Since then, business has been good, general manager Solita Wakefield said.

The property’s landlord, the Virginia Tech Real Estate Foundation, briefly closed the eatery because it owed “some back rent,” Wakefield said.

But the landlord was “so willing to work with us,” and the restaurant is now “back on track,” Wakefield added.

Wakefield also noted that Bistro 1521 will celebrate its one-year anniversary next Sunday (July 29), and the Philippines’ ambassador to the U.S., Jose Manuel del Gallego Romualdez, plans to attend.

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Bistro 1521 Closed in Ballston

Bistro 1521, at 900 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, is closed due to “lease defaults” less than a year after opening.

That’s according to a notice dated today (July 3) posted to the eatery’s door by the Virginia Tech Real Estate Foundation.

The Filipino restaurant received a positive review from the Washington Post shortly after opening last August, and its menu featured items like palabok, or Filipino noodles, and sisig, a dish that features pig head and liver.

Reached by phone, Virginia Tech Foundation Director of Real Estate Carrie Woodring declined to comment. The notice states that the premises were locked “to secure the Landlord’s possession.”

“Because of lease defaults, the Tenant has no right to possession of these premises or any furniture, fixtures or equipment… but remains liable for outstanding amounts payable,” the notice says, in part.

There was no answer to Bistro 1521’s telephone line.

Hat tip to Ian K.

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