(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) The smell of natural gas has been reported in parts of the Westover neighborhood after a major leak.
The leak in a gas transmission line was first reported around 9:30 a.m. on the 1800 block of N. Lexington Street. Initial reports suggest that Arlington’s emergency dispatch center received reports of a gas smell in the nearby Westover library, Cardinal Elementary School and other locations as a result of the leak.
“It has come to our attention that there is a leak in a gas line up the street and there have been reports of a gas smell in pockets throughout the building, the principal of Cardinal Elementary wrote in an email to families. “We were told that the students are safe and it will be fixed soon.”
Washington Gas crews are now on scene working to repair the line. Firefighters are also standing by, just in case.
Units are on the scene of large natural gas leak in the 1800 BLK of N Lexington St. Individuals in the immediate area can expect an odor of gas as @washingtongas works to control the leak. pic.twitter.com/bFPAD2vtyG
— Arlington Fire & EMS (@ArlingtonVaFD) May 30, 2023
Many adults can struggle for several minutes with a 3×3 Rubik’s Cube.
Fifth-grade student Hunter Paige at Arlington’s Cardinal Elementary School can do it in less than ten seconds.
Hunter is heading to CubingUSA this August for a national championship where “speedcubers” — people who race to solve Rubik’s Cubes — will face off against each other.
Hunter’s mother, Liz Paige, said her son become interested in cubing in February 2022.
“A few of his friends had started cubing and showed him,” Liz said. “He got curious to learn more, found some video tutorials online, and picked it up pretty quickly after that! Watched the Netflix documentary, The Speed Cubers, and was further hooked.”
Liz said early on, Hunter practiced and timed himself, then he joined an online cubing club and kept training. When local competitions started up around summer 2022, Liz said her son was eager to start competing. There, Liz said Hunter found his crowd.
“At the competitions, he meets people of all ages and skill levels,” Liz said. “One of the great things about the competitions is everyone is encouraged to not only compete but be a judge, a runner (bringing unsolved cubes to the competitors) and a scrambler (scrambling the cubes a specific way before handing off to runner). It really encourages a sense of community — it’s not just about the competition and who wins.”
The classic 3×3 cube is just the tip of the iceberg. There are quicker 2×2 cubes and more complicated 8×8 cubes, along with a variety of shapes like a pyramid or a skewb. There are competitions to solve the traditional 3×3 blindfolded or one-handed. Hunter’s done the latter with what his mom called “decent results”.
Hunter said that he likes cubing as a hobby because it’s unique and helps him stand out in a crowd. And it has paid off — in addition to the trip to nationals, Hunter is on the front page of an upcoming issue of the school’s student newspaper, The Cardinal Times.
He isn’t alone in the cubing craze: Liz said there’s a clique of students at the school that also enjoy cubing. At family gatherings, though, it’s an impressive party trick.
“I do think people are surprised to learn he’s a ‘speed cuber,'” Liz said. “There’s been many a family gathering when he’s brought his cubes and everyone’s seriously impressed by how quickly he can solve one!”
Liz said she isn’t sure how long Hunter will stick with cubing, but at the very least he’s excited for the national championship later this year.
“Beyond that… we’ll see,” Liz said.
Arlington County is working on plans to make safety and accessibility upgrades a trio of local streets.
Some of the changes could include adding sidewalks where there are none, removing obstructions from existing sidewalks, and extending curbs — — known as a “bump-out” — to make shorter pedestrian crossings.
Residents can learn more about this batch of “Neighborhood Complete Streets” projects in the Arlington Mill, Westover and Arlington Heights neighborhoods during a virtual meeting this coming Monday, May 8. t 7 p.m.
The projects were selected from more than 200 nominees by the Neighborhood Complete Streets Commission in February. The commission identifies and recommends for funding projects to improve the experience of cyclists and pedestrians — particularly those who need ramps or wider sidewalks to get around, such as people using wheelchairs or pushing strollers.
“Sidewalks free and clear of obstructions, streetlights, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible curb ramps, safe space for bikes and appropriate street widths — these are all elements of a complete street,” per a county webpage.
Next week’s meeting will cover three projects selected after a competitive ranking process that considered gaps in sidewalks, heavy pedestrian use, speeding problems and surrounding socio-economic diversity.
On 8th Road S. between S. Dickerson and S. Emerson streets, in the Arlington Mill neighborhood, the county proposes building curb ramps accessible to people with disabilities and installing pedestrian bump-outs and other relevant signage and pavement markings.
“Existing conditions include complete sidewalks on both sides of the street and large intersections, which increase crossing distances for people walking,” per a project webpage. “Curb ramps are blocked by parked vehicles.”
The commission recommended 8th Road S. because of its crash history, traffic, high residential population, proximity to transit and location within a census tract that is lower income and more diverse.
On 14th Street N., in the Westover neighborhood, the county will install an accessible sidewalk for people walking between N. McKinley Road and the intersection with N. Ohio Street.
Arlington proposes installing sidewalk, curb and gutter, accessible curb ramps and new signage and pavement markings on the north side of the street.
The street won out over others because it is close to schools, transit and bike facilities but lacks consistent sidewalks, according to a project webpage.
Lastly, S. Irving Street near Thomas Jefferson Middle School is set to get an accessible, unobstructed widewalk between 2nd and 6th Street S. The upgrades will connect to a planned new sidewalk between 6th and 7th Street S.
Currently, the sidewalk on both sides are obstructed by utility poles and streetlights, according to the county.
The street projects are in a preliminary design phase and, as such, could change. None have “undergone any detailed survey or design work” or have been approved for funding, according to the county.
More opportunities for community engagement will arise as the designs are further developed, the county says.
(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) With the weather warming up, local farmers markets are reopening for the spring season.
Arlington has eight official farmers markets. Three markets are coming back this month to sell produce, including the following.
- Ballston on Thursdays from 3-7 p.m. starting April 6
- Cherrydale on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon starting April 15
- Lubber Run on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon starting April 15
Two markets will also be reopening next month:
- Rosslyn on Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m. starting May 3
- Fairlington on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting May 7
Some markets are open year-round but are shifting hours for the new season.
- Westover on Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon starting May 7
- Arlington (in Courthouse) on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, started April 1
- Columbia Pike on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m year-round
The Courthouse farmers market is the oldest in the county, having started operations in 1979.
In recent years, two farmers markets in Arlington have closed up shop. The Marymount University market shuttered in 2020 amid the pandemic and county officials said in 2021 that it was likely for good. The Crystal City farmers market ran for over a decade, from 2010 to 2021, but didn’t sell produce last year. It’s unclear whether it will open this year.
It’s not taco time yet in Westover, but the neighborhood’s newest restaurant aims to open in late summer.
With county permits approved, construction can commence at Westover Taco, co-owner Scott Parker told ARLnow. The plan is to gut the former home of Forest Inn and make it all “brand new,” per Parker.
Construction is expected to start in the coming weeks and take about three months. The hope is to be able to open Westover Taco by mid to late August, Parker said.
It was back in August when ARLnow first reported that local serial entrepreneur Parker, along with several partners that run local establishments Cowboy Cafe and Lost Dog Cafe, was opening Westover Taco at 5849 Washington Blvd.
That address had belonged to Forest Inn, the four-decade-old restaurant that was considered one of Arlington’s last dive bars. But in June 2022, the establishment closed its doors for good.
Now, Parker and his team are turning the dive into a margarita and taco hot spot.
Plans for the space have not changed since last summer, he said. The plan includes “blow[ing] out the ceiling and really open up the space and give it a brighter vibe.”
For Forest Inn fans, there may not be much left that will be recognizable when construction wraps.
“I’m not sure if there’s anything from the new spot that would make people remember the old spot,” Parker acknowledged.
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
Two Arlington-based companies that consult for federal agencies are joining forces.
Crystal City-based cBEYONData (251 18th Street S.), which provides an array of technical and financial services to the military and the Justice Department, among other federal clients, has acquired Summit2Sea, the company recently announced.
The acquisition brings cBEYONData’s workforce to more than 350 people, as Summit2Sea has about 100 employees, a company spokeswoman told ARLnow. These employees will all be staying on after the companies merge, she said.
“The addition of Summit2Sea expands the capabilities and expertise of cBEYONData so that we are able to support the needs of customers across the federal government,” said cBEYONData CEO Dyson Richards in a statement.
In a statement on Facebook, the company added that Summit2Sea’s “services, partnerships, and culture make them the perfect fit to benefit our current clients and allow us to innovate moving forward.”
Summit2Sea CEO and cofounder Laurian Eckle praised said cBEYONData will extend her company’s reach while allowing it to continue focusing on employees and customers.
“We’re excited to combine the two companies’ product portfolios to offer a more robust solution to federal financial leaders, particularly in the area of business process automation,” Summit2Sea Chief Technology Officer and cofounder Bryan Eckle said in a statement.
The senior leadership team from Summit2Sea, the CEO, CTO and co-founder Chris Florman, will remain as senior leaders, the release says.
Summit2Sea was founded in 2003. Today it provides data analytics, automates robotic processes and updates enterprise applications across “marquee DoD programs,” per the press release. The company, which identifies as a woman-owned small business, has been recognized as a Washington Post Top Workplace for three years in a row, from 2020 to 2022.
Incorporated in 2017, cBEYONData says it has helped multiple government agencies adopt modern technology, work more efficiently, understand their finances better and comply with regulations.
“We leverage these capabilities to improve our customer’s return on investment, enabling higher success with achieving our customer’s mission,” per its website.
(Updated on 3/1/23) Arlington County police investigated a gunshot fired in the Westover neighborhood Tuesday morning.
Initial reports suggest that a resident of a garden apartment building on the 5800 block of Washington Blvd heard a gunshot and then found a bullet in their residence.
Police are now on scene and trying to sort out what happened. Officers have recovered a gun, a police spokeswoman says.
“At approximately 11:02 a.m. police were dispatched to the 5800 block of Washington Boulevard for the report of a discharge of a firearm inside a residential building which caused property damage to a wall,” ACPD’s Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “No injuries were reported. Responding officers located the subject and recovered the firearm. Police remain on scene investigating.”
Later, police said in a crime report that a 76-year-old resident is facing charges in connection to the gunfire.
RECKLESS HANDLING OF A FIREARM, 2023-02280101, 5800 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 11:02 a.m. on February 28, police were dispatched to the report of trouble unknown. Upon arrival, it was determined the suspect allegedly discharged a firearm in his residence, causing damage to the interior of his home and an adjacent unit. The suspect remained on scene and was taken into custody without incident. No injuries were reported and a firearm was recovered. [The suspect], 76, of Arlington, Va. was arrested and charged with Reckless Handling of a Firearm and Public Intoxication.
A man allegedly exposed himself to four girls near Swanson Middle School in Westover.
Police are investigating the incident, which reportedly happened around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The girls told officers they heard a banging sound then saw an older man inside a residence exposing himself through the window.
From yesterday’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:
INDECENT EXPOSURE (Late), 2022-12140164, 5800 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 3:43 p.m. on December 14, police made telephone contact with the reporting party regarding a late indecent exposure. The investigation indicates that at approximately 2:30 p.m., the four juvenile female victims were walking in the area when they heard banging and observed the male suspect in the window of a residence allegedly exposing himself. The suspect is described as an older, heavy-set, White male. The investigation is ongoing.
Around the same time on Wednesday, police say a 31-year-old Arlington man kicked and shattered an ART bus door along Columbia Pike. The man is also accused of kicking a police officer after his arrest.
More from ACPD:
ASSAULT ON POLICE, 2022-12140119, Columbia Pike at S. Dinwiddie Street. At approximately 2:15 p.m. on December 14, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that an Arlington Transit bus was slowing to a stop at this location when the suspect approached and allegedly kicked the door, causing the glass panel to shatter. Responding officers located the suspect and took him into custody. While conducting their investigation, the suspect twice kicked a police officer. Yohana Gebremeskel, 31, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Assault on Police, Destruction of Property and Public Intoxication. He was held without bond.
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) The former Forest Inn space in Westover will be switching from Budweiser and burgers to margaritas and tacos.
The Forest Inn, one of Arlington’s last dive bars, closed in June after more than 40 years in business in the neighborhood. Its general manager told ARLnow that the landlord declined to renew the lease.
But the storefront at 5849 Washington Blvd will not be vacant for long.
Westover Taco, a new Mexican restaurant and bar, is planning to open next year in the relatively small restaurant space. It’s being helmed by Sarah White, a restaurant industry veteran who runs the Cowboy Cafe on Langston Blvd, which many lovingly consider a dive bar, as well as several local Lost Dog Cafe franchise locations.
We’re told White will co-own the business with five partners: Cowboy co-owners Jim Barnes, Mike Barnes, Mike Danner and Wes Clough, plus local serial entrepreneur Scott Parker.
(White was also a 2021 candidate for House of Delegates in Falls Church and part of Fairfax County.)
Parker tells ARLnow that the plan for the dog-leg-shaped, 1,000+ square foot space is to “blow out the ceilings and really open up the space and give it a brighter vibe.” That might include roll-up windows in the back of the space, which looks out on a parking lot, to provide an open-air setting during nice weather.
“It’s definitely going to be an entire flip of the space,” Parker said. “Everything will be brand new.”
The concept for Westover Taco is simple: margaritas and tacos. While it will no longer be a dive bar, Parker hopes to attract a mix of Westover residents and other locals while establishing a solid base of regular customers.
“Everyone is welcome,” he said.
Parker noted that many of the half-dozen partners grew up near the Westover area and, given the small size of the restaurant and the number of co-owners, this is more a labor of love than a money-making opportunity for those involved. It’s also something that the partners are looking at in the long term.
“Most of the restaurants there are pretty busy, and many of them have been there for decades. So it’s a it’s a really strong, loyal market,” he said. “When you put something good there, it should do really well. So I do expect us to build a solid regular [customer] base pretty quickly. And I think the locals will love what we do.”
The partners have not yet taken possession of the space, Parker said, but the hope is to start work soon and open at some point in mid-2023.
Parker, who recently returned from a trip to Mexico City, posted photos from inside the cleared-out Forest Inn via an Instagram story on Aug. 1, as noted by ARLnow at the time.
Parker counts the Cowboy Cafe and Lost Dog co-owners as long-time friends and said they’ve been looking to partner on something local for awhile.
“We just always wanted to do a project together,” he said. “This is certainly something that borders on a passion project of sorts. None of us is going to get rich or take over the world having all these partners in one small restaurant, so it’s more of something that we just want to work as a team to put something special in a neighborhood that we think is really cool.”
As for his other business ventures, the prolific Parker told ARLnow that boxing gym Bash and pet daycare and boarding business Playful Pack are both on track to start franchising nationally in the near future. High-end barbershop Bearded Goat — currently in Ballston and Shirlington — is also eyeing an expansion to other cities, but that may take longer to play out, he said.
Asked about his ability to open so many local businesses, Parker credited his business partners for helping to make them a success while he focuses on the long-term path to growth.
(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) After being shuttered for more than two years, Stray Cat Bar & Grill in Westover has finally reopened.
The neighborhood staple at 5866 Washington Blvd started serving again last week for the first time since shutting down on March 15, 2020. That was the day after Arlington County declared a local emergency as Covid started to spread locally.
The reopening after 28 months comes with a name tweak, some interior renovations, and an updated menu.
“We wanted to bring the Cat back awhile ago, but the restaurant industry was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Austin Garcia, owner/operator of the restaurant, tells ARLnow. “So, when we did, we really wanted it to knock it out of the park.”
It seems like the right time to reopen as the community appears to be much more comfortable dining indoors, Garcia said.
The Stray Cat Cafe first opened in Westover in 2005 as a sibling restaurant of Lost Dog Cafe, which has Arlington locations on Columbia Pike and in Westover. While the menus of the two restaurants differ, both have the same mission of “helping homeless dogs and cats find forever homes.”
The restaurants support the locally-based non-profit Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation.
When Stray Cat heeded the county’s request to close down dining rooms in March 2020, Garcia said ownership never anticipated it would be more than two years before the restaurant reopened.
But a number of things didn’t work in their favor, including staffing shortages, not being well set up to do take-out and delivery, and the physical layout of the space.
“It’s a really narrow spot. Even when Virginia lifted some regulations to start to allow dine-in, bar seating still wasn’t allowed. Bar seating was, and still is, a big part of the Cat,” he says.
Ownership realized that to reopen, some renovations were in order. That meant knocking out the double-doored vestibule at the front of the restaurant to add more booths. Garcia says the construction has opened the space and has made it feel “much less crowded,” as well as providing space to eventually host live music
Ownership also made the decision to tweak the name and logo, switching from “The Stray Cat Cafe” to “Stray Cat Bar & Grill.”
This change is to better reflect the updated interior and menu, which will focus on “an elevated yet still casual dining experience” that will feature “gourmet comfort foods.” That includes quesadillas, nachos, salads, soups, and burgers.
Garcia says he heard from the community that many missed the Stray Cat’s burgers. So, they’ve decided to lean into that by “elevating that burger experience” along with giving the dishes “whimsical cat-themed names” like “Cat Scratch Fever” and “The Sphinx.” Also new at the restaurant are craft cocktails, something that Garcia says was missing in Westover.
What hasn’t changed at the Stray Cat, though, is the mission to help pets find homes.
“Our dedication to the animal rescue is still our, our top priority and part of who we are in this small family,” Garcia says.
This past weekend was essentially a soft opening to work out any kinks. All went well, Garcia reports. For the moment, Stray Cat is only open for dinner except on Saturdays (when open all day) and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The hope is to gradually extend hours.
After more than two years closed, Garcia says Stray Cat Bar & Grill is ready to serve the community.
“I’m ready to see us get busy again.”
(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) The Forest Inn in Westover, one of Arlington’s last dive bars, is closing next week, general manager Ken Choudhary confirms to ARLnow.
The long-time Westover bar and grill on Washington Blvd first opened in 1981, and initially named The Black Forest Inn, where the post office used to be. In 1994, it moved a few blocks to its current location at 5849 Washington Blvd. Now, though, the Forest Inn is closing because its landlord — Van Metre Commercial — is declining to renew their lease, Choudhary says.
“It’s not a lack of funds or anything money-wise. Everything was right on the table [from us],” he tells ARLnow sitting in a booth on a recent night with a few regulars laughing in the background. “I just think they want something new over here. Something that’s not a bar.”
They initially were told that the Forest Inn had until at least the end of July, but ownership was told late last week that they needed to be out by the end of this month because a new tenant needed time for construction.
The Forest Inn is hosting a going-away party on Sunday, June 26 with the last day of operations currently set for Wednesday, June 29, Choudhary says.
While sad and disappointing, it’s not necessarily a surprise to ownership. The bar attempted to negotiate a new lease two years ago, but Choudhary said, but the landlord decided to put them on a month-to-month lease. To Choudhary, this was a clear sign that they were looking for a new tenant.
Owner Nick Sharma — Choudhary’s cousin — told ARLnow that both the 2019 flood in Westover and the pandemic-related shut down about eight months later hit the bar hard.
For one, records were lost in the flood, including several relating to the lease. What’s more, Sharma says that Van Metre made a deal with Forest Inn that they could pay $500 in rent for the several months they were shut down in 2020 as long as they promised to pay back rent as business normalized.
It’s only been the last few months when business has gradually returned to what it was pre-pandemic and, Sharma says, they are nearly done paying off the back rent.
“I feel like they stabbed us in the back,” he said.
Choudhary also says that Van Metre has accused the bar of attracting a “rough crowd,” which he says is an unfair characterization.
“To me, our customers are real people. [The landlords] need to come in here and start a conversation with them,” Choudhary says. “[Our regulars] are all very friendly. And if you don’t introduce yourself, they’ll introduce themselves to you.”
Both the owner and general manager says the regulars are taking the news pretty hard.
Van Metre declined to specifically comment on the lease negotiations to ARLnow.
“The details about the Forest Inn’s tenancy at Westover Shopping Center are confidential business matters and consequently we can’t comment on those details,” a company representative said. “Thank you for your consideration in this regard.”
The Forest Inn has earned a reputation as one of Arlington’s last dive bars, a badge that ownership, employees, and a number of regulars wear with distinction.
“This place is real and authentic,” says Audrey, a regular who’s been coming here for more than a decade. “Everyone in the neighborhood comes here.”
Plus, it has the best burger in town, she says.
“It’s close, has Budweiser, and a jukebox,” John says, laughing. He says he remembers when The Forest Inn had green carpet, a cigarette machine, and was full of tobacco smoke.
This a place where everyone knows each other, good conversation rules the day, and isn’t politically correct, said one regular who’s been coming to the Forest Inn for three decades. But Arlington no longer values those things, another man said.
“They don’t want dive bars,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “They want everything to be bougie and foo foo.”
Henry, another regular, says he’s been coming here ever since he turned 21, about six years ago. While he attended Washington-Liberty High School, this was the bar that all the students looked forward to going to when they turned of drinking age.
“It’s really sad that this part of Arlington history is closing,” he said.