Arlington, VA

King of Koshary, La Union, Meridian Pint. These are just three of the local businesses burglarized among the 21 commercial burglaries investigated by Arlington County police so far this year.

ACPD confirmed today what was anecdotally evident: such burglaries have been on the rise.

From a police press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit is investigating an increase in overnight commercial burglaries targeting cash-based businesses. Since the start of the year, detectives have investigated 21 reports of commercial burglaries in the County with similar methods of theft. Investigators believe that some of these cases are linked but not all are committed by the same suspects. Similar cases have been reported in neighboring jurisdictions and detectives are working collaboratively with our regional law enforcement partners to identify and apprehend those responsible.

During overnight hours, suspects force entry to businesses by smashing glass doors and windows. Once inside, the suspects are in search of cash and will remove registers and safes if they are not bolted down. The entire incident takes only minutes and the suspects flee in an awaiting vehicle.

There have been 21 reported incidents with 15 of those being completed burglaries and 6 attempted burglaries.

Many of the burglaries have been along Wilson Blvd or the Columbia Pike corridor and involve already-struggling restaurants.

Among recent reported burglaries, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that the following — each involving a group of five suspects — are being investigated “as a series.”

BURGLARY, 2021-02170037, 1000 block of S. Walter Reed Drive. At approximately 8:45 a.m. on February 17, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary just discovered. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 3:33 a.m. and 3:37 a.m. on February 17, five suspects attempted to forced entry to a business, causing damage. The suspects fled in a red vehicle. Nothing was reported missing from the business. […] The investigation is ongoing.

BURGLARY (series), 2021-02190017/02190021, 5000 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 3:55 a.m. on February 19, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 2:22 a.m. on February 19, five suspects forced entry to two businesses, causing damage. The suspects stole three cash registers containing an undisclosed amount of cash from Business One, and attempted to steal cash registers from Business Two unsuccessfully, then fled in a vehicle. […] The suspect vehicle is described as a burgundy Lincoln MKZ sedan with Texas license plates. The investigation is ongoing.

Today’s police press release urged Arlington residents to report suspicious activity.

“The department’s efforts to prevent and solve crime are enhanced by the active involvement of residents,” police said. “Residents observing suspicious behavior in commercial areas, such as groups congregating outside closed businesses during overnight hours, should contact the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222. If you see a suspect entering a business, do not approach them and dial 9-1-1 immediately.”

ACPD also offered the following tips for safeguarding businesses.

  • Don’t store money overnight in your business. If you must keep cash or other valuables overnight, store them in a safe anchored to the floor
  • Leave cash drawers open, indicating there’s nothing to steal
  • Post signs in your store window that cash and valuables are removed from the premises overnight
  • Ensure your property has adequate lighting, especially at points of entry
  • Consider installing security cameras with alarms to capture suspects on video and notify police immediately if unauthorized individuals gain entry to your business

File photo courtesy Bozzelli’s

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Arlington County police are investigating a number of businesses break-ins along Wilson Blvd, west of Ballston.

Thieves broke into businesses in the Bluemont and Dominion Hills neighborhoods early Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. The first series of burglaries happened either at or near the Dominion Hills Centre shopping plaza.

From a crime report:

BURGLARY (series), 2021-02160033/02160034, 6000 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 4:12 a.m. on February 16, police were dispatched to the report of an alarm. Upon arrival, it was determined that the unknown suspect(s) attempted to force entry to a business unsuccessfully, causing damage. While investigating, police located a second business, which the suspect(s) forced entry to, causing damage. Nothing was reported stolen from either business. There is no suspect description(s). The investigation is ongoing.

A similar burglary on the same block earlier this month targeted local watering hole Meridian Pint.

On Wednesday morning, meanwhile, thieves broke into a small strip of businesses in the Bluemont neighborhood, along the 5500 block of Wilson Blvd.

Readers tell us that a restaurant, a salon and a barbershop were among the businesses burglarized.

“Yen Beauty/Don Barber and King of Koshary appeared to have had their glass front doors smashed in,” one reader told ARLnow yesterday. The Arlington County Police Department typically does not reveal the exact addresses or names of businesses that were the victims of crimes.

More from ACPD:

BURGLARY (Series), 2021-02170023/0114/0115, 5500 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 5:34 a.m. on February 17, police were dispatched to the report of a breaking and entering. Upon arrival, it was determined that unknown suspects forced entry into three businesses, causing damage. Two cash registers, electronics and an undisclosed amount of cash were stolen. The investigating is ongoing.

Photo via Google Maps

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The 57-year-old Highlander Motor Inn is now closed and will be torn down to make room for a CVS store, owner Billy Bayne tells ARLnow.

The two-story motel at 3336 Wilson Blvd, near Clarendon, has been closed since December. Bayne expects demolition to begin on the building in March and the CVS to open in the fall.

This wasn’t unexpected. Plans have been in place since at least 2016 and permit applications were filed in December 2019.

Nonetheless, it has Bayne looking back fondly on the motel that his family has owned since the early 1960s.

“We have a lifetime of memories there,” says Bayne. He remembers spending time with his father at the motel, shooting baskets in the back, and going to Mario’s Pizza next door. He also remembers when local high schoolers had keg parties in the modestly-appointed rooms.

However, he says the motel shutting down and being demolished is ultimately a good thing.

It’s been increasingly hard to make money in the lodging business over the last two decades, Bayne notes, particularly with the rise of discounted rate websites and Airbnb. Plus, given Arlington business and hotel taxes, small hotels have to charge higher rates to stay afloat, says Bayne.

“[Customers] have a choice to stay at the Highlander or a Marriott for a hundred dollars,” says Bayne. “And I can’t compete against that anymore.”

Bayne says he’s leasing the land to CVS, which will continue to provide a revenue stream for him and his children. Bayne declined to provide monetary specifics about the deal, but did say it’s long-term.

In April, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services rented out the Highlander as temporary COVID-related housing, providing a financial lifeline during an otherwise rough time for the hotel business.

The motel provided “quarantine/isolation space for low-income individuals who were living in overcrowded or congregate settings, and unable to effectively quarantine or isolate,” a department spokesperson told ARLnow this past summer.

Bayne is effusive in his praise of county officials for working with him, and the fact that they essentially kept the hotel going for another six months. While he charged Arlington a discounted rate, it helped pay the bills.

“[County] workers were all very professional and nice. The county was super,” he says.

The praise is despite years of legal wrangling with Arlington over the development of the property. The legal battles — which Bayne ultimately won after the Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the county — cost him at least $250,000, he says.

But with development finally happening, Bayne’s animosity towards local officials seems to be waning.

“Obviously, I had my differences with them but the county was very good to us,” he says.

Bayne also owns Crystal City Sports Pub and the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club, which he briefly considered renaming “National Landing Strip” after the relatively new collective term for Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

As of the moment, he says changing the business’s name is not on his priority list, while adding that “if Bezos wanted me to do it, I would do it.”

The local restaurateur is thinking about retirement but says the pandemic set him back “a few years.” He’s had to dig into savings and sell stocks to weather the storm and will reevaluate his options once his daughter gets through school.

Meanwhile, he’s remembering and expressing gratitude to those that have kept the motel going through the decades. This includes Nettie Harris, head of housekeeping for more than 30 years.

“She was the Highlander Motor Inn, the epitome of the place,” Bayne says. “When I think of [the motel], I think of my father and her. She’s family.”

When asked if he plans to watch the demolition of his family’s long-time business, he was noncommittal. But he will certainly share one last memory in front of the building before it comes down, commemorating the end of an era.

“I’m going to take pictures of it before it happens,” Bayne says. “And there will be one final picture before it gets torn down with me, my wife, and my kids.”

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YogaWorks in Arlington has permanently closed due to the pandemic, but the company is still offering online classes and workshops.

The Los Angeles-based yoga company expanded in 2017, and took over the studio at 3528 Wilson Blvd from local company Tranquil Space. YogaWorks filed for bankruptcy last month, and announced it would close all of its studios around the country.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our industry and business, including mandatory studio closures and social distancing-imposed attendance restrictions even where studios have been permitted to reopen,” YogaWorks CEO Brian Cooper said in a statement. “After considering a number of alternatives to overcome the financial challenge of the studio closures, we determined that implementing an orderly restructuring process is in the best interest of all of our key stakeholders, most notably our dedicated teachers and passionate students.”

Cooper said that the company has adapted to the pandemic by expanding its digital platform, with more than 40 live streaming yoga classes per day and upward of 1,000 hours of pre-recorded classes and yoga workshops.

“We look forward to continuing to serve our loyal students and positioning YogaWorks for long-term success,” Cooper said. “We will continue to make decisions that provide the most benefit to our team, students, and partners, and we are confident that we will emerge from this process a stronger organization.”

The former YogaWorks space — a one-story building next to the Arlington Arts Center in the Virginia Square area — is now listed for lease.

File photo

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Arlington Pharmacy, at 5513 Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont neighborhood, will close permanently later this month, owner Henry Herring tells ARLnow.

The drug store’s last day in business is set for Wednesday, September 23.

Herring said he bought the pharmacy last year from founder Won Lee, who opened it in 2001. The pharmacy was struggling when he bought it, according to Herring, and a recovery didn’t work out the way he had hoped.

All existing prescriptions will be moved to another pharmacy, likely the one inside the nearby Bluemont Safeway on Wilson Blvd. Customers can also call to move their prescriptions to the pharmacy of their choice.

Herring also owns Medical Center Speciality Pharmacy, a compounding pharmacy in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Image via Google Maps

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Update on 8/18/20 — The &pizza in Ballston is now open, but will be closed again next Monday. Darien Bates, head of technology at &pizza, explained that the location had been closed Monday and would be closed again next Monday to make changes to accommodate the store’s increased takeout demand.

Earlier: The &pizza at 3924 Wilson Blvd has been closed for more than a week, with company representatives saying the closure is temporary.

“[The Ballston location] is temporarily shut down due to operational changes,” an &pizza representative told ARLnow.

The fast-casual pizzeria opened near the intersection with N. Quincy Street in late 2017. The &pizza rep said there is no additional information on when the regional pizza chain will reopen the Ballston outpost.

The pandemic has caused financial pain for many local restaurants, including those that serve lunchtime office crowds like &pizza. A number of restaurants and local businesses in Arlington have closed permanently since the epidemic started in March.

Though an &pizza rep said the Ballston location was still closed today, a couple of readers tell us they dined there over the weekend.

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Bold posters inscribed with “Black Lives Matter” prompted a raucous symphony of honks from passing traffic at a busy Arlington intersection.

The conductor directing the clamor at Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive on a weekday evening last week was Bob Edgar, who is no stranger to advocacy.

Edgar and his son Leteane Monatsi, along with a handful of supporters, have been drawing attention for weeks — in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd — by waving flags and signs saying “Black Lives Matter,” “HONK” and “Together We Rise.” In light of the death of civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the pair also added a sign saying, “Honor John Lewis.”

The father and son duo, both in motorized wheelchairs, are committed to spreading their message and have protested at the intersection since the death of Floyd on May 25 and plan to keep coming out to the intersection for many months to come. They’ve been at it despite sweltering temperatures and the ongoing pandemic.

“We thought the best way to express our feelings was by coming to this street corner,” said Edgar. “Our whole intent in doing this is really to keep the issue of Black Lives Matter in front of people in this area.”

When the pair initially started coming out to the street corner during the evening rush hour, Edgar said they had “no idea how people would respond.” However, the most common reaction to their demonstration was to honk in support. From there, the pair added a bold “HONK” sign to encourage the response.

“We call this the Million Honk March,” said Edgar.

He said on an average day they will hear hundreds or even thousands of horn honks, ranging from a single honk to “going berserk.”

Edgar and Monatsi have gained some recognition since they began appearing at the intersection. As they go to and from their house, people will stop them on the street, eager to talk about issues, according to Edgar.

“It’s rewarding because we’re doing something that we think is a modest contribution,” said Edgar.

Edgar, a retired Howard University professor, has taken part in many movements over the years. He got his start protesting the Vietnam War, and then began working on South African issues and anti-apartheid demonstrations.

Edgar wants people who drive by to think about what their “Black Lives Matter” banner signifies at this moment in history, and what the country has gone through to get to this point in time.

“It’s not only about Black lives mattering now, but it’s about the history of our country,” said Edgar. “We’re addressing historical legacies as well as the present.”

Photo by Madeline Taylor

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(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) It seems Hair Cuttery has trimmed Courthouse from its list of locations and barbershop/salon is now closed.

The location at 2020 Wilson Blvd is now empty, with a sign in the windows saying the space is available to lease. The site is also no longer listed on the company’s index of locations.

The Hair Cuttery in Courthouse opened alongside retail shops on that block in late 2014.

The next closest Hair Cuttery is at 3307 Lee Highway, but there are still other barbershops closer in Courthouse and along Wilson Blvd.

Other Hair Cuttery locations throughout the region have closed as well while the parent company has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As pointed out in the comments, Hair Cuttery locations in Shirlington and Crystal City have also been removed from the official list. Other Arlington locations — at Penrose Square, the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center, and 3307 Lee Highway — remain.

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Pupatella is looking to leave its original location in Bluemont and move elsewhere in Arlington.

The popular Neapolitan pizza restaurant said via social media that its landlord at 5104 Wilson Blvd is trying to raise the rent by 40%, despite the pandemic hurting its business and that of other restaurants.

The eatery — which recently opened a new location on S. Walter Reed Drive — asked its followers for suggestions of where to move. As of publication time, the Facebook post along has attracted more than 200 comments in a span of a few hours.

The restaurant’s owners tell ARLnow that they have been quietly searching for a new location since March, when their lease came up for renewal, and have not found anything yet. They “definitely want to stay” in North Arlington but are “getting very desperate and hoping that someone can help us,” wrote Anastasiya Algarme.

“I believe our landlord believes that because we have opened a new location, we must be very rich now and he wants to take advantage of that,” said Algarme. “A lot of times people that have not run restaurant businesses do not understand all the expenses involved, and they believe that if a restaurant that is busy, it must be swimming in cash. It is not true at all and the profit margins are low. Our landlord refuses to see our accounting books to understand.”

The landlord, who she did not name, might have reason to think Pupatella has some extra cash beyond the Bluemont location’s acclaim and success. In 2018 it was reported that the company had raised $3.75 million for a planned eight-location expansion. So far, only the South Arlington location has opened, though other locations are planned in the District and in Reston.

As for a potential new location, “our only requirements are some parking, and preferably a place that is a restaurant already to reduce our build out costs,” Algarme said.

“We definitely want to stay in Arlington and North Arlington specifically,” she added. “We’d be foolish to give up such a loyal following.”

Asked whether the social media post was, effectively, a negotiation ploy, Algarme insisted it was not.

“We doubt the landlord will see it,” she said. “He is 90 years old and says he does not use Facebook. Our lease was typed on a typewriter.”

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(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Arlington County will be holding a virtual public meeting tonight to discuss a trio of road projects set for later this year.

The county plans to repave and re-stripe portions of Wilson Blvd in the Dominion Hills and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods, Potomac Avenue in Potomac Yard, and Clarendon Blvd in the Courthouse and Rosslyn neighborhoods. The work is expected to take place this summer and fall, following the current public engagement process.

Arlington has been using its regularly-planned street maintenance to re-stripe roads in an effort make them safer, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. It often involves the addition or enhancement of bike lanes, sharrows and crosswalks.

At an online meeting tonight from 6:30-7:30 p.m., held via Microsoft Teams, county staff will present the concept plans for its three 2020 projects while seeking public feedback.

More from the event page:

The Master Transportation Plan identifies routine street maintenance as an opportunity to provide cost-effective and easy to implement measures to improve safety and access for all people using the street. Community engagement is a core value in Arlington, and we wanted to provide opportunities for community members to share their feedback on the concept plans for the 2020 Street Maintenance season.

Please join county staff for an online meeting on Thursday, June 4 from 6:30-7:30 pm to learn about the project, ask questions and share feedback on the design concepts for the three 2020 Resurfacing Projects for Complete Streets.

Staff will present concepts for:

  • Wilson Boulevard – N Larrimore Street to McKinley Road (Dominion Hills/Boulevard Manor)
  • Potomac Avenue – S Crystal Drive to Alexandria City Line (Potomac Yard)
  • Clarendon Boulevard – N Nash to N Oak Street (Clarendon-Courthouse/Radnor/Fort Myer Heights)

The country recently repaved and re-striped portions of Lorcom Lane and Military Road. The work was done in conjunction with construction on the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School.

An online open house in April discussed all four projects.

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