Arlington, VA

The Spirits of ’76, a bar in Clarendon that opened just before the 2016 election, is closing just before the 2020 election.

The bar at 3211 Washington Blvd is just off the main drag of Clarendon, on a block in which restaurants have struggled. It opened in October 2016 with Americana decor, a robust whiskey list, and a menu of American comfort food.

Spirits of ’76 was unpretentious from the outset, seeking to be little more than a good local bar, comfortable neighborhood hangout, and occasional small event venue.

The business announced today that it will be closing in less than two weeks, after deciding against renewing its lease.

“It is a sad day at 76 to announce on our anniversary that we will be closing for good at the end of business on Sunday, November 1,” the restaurant said on social media. “Our lease is up at the end of November and it has become unsustainable to continue during these times. I have made numerous attempts to contact the landlords but they will not return our calls or letters to try to keep us going.”

0 Comments

Zinga! Frozen Yogurt has closed in Arlington’s Williamsburg Shopping Center, though it’s not immediately clear if the closure is permanent.

The froyo shop closed last week, and a “for lease” sign was placed in the window. As of Friday, the leasing sign was down, but the store remained closed and many of the furnishings appear to have been cleared out.

No information about the closure was posted on the Zinga Facebook page, which less than two weeks ago was happily posting about new fall flavors and job openings.

Zinga first opened in the shopping center, at 2914 N. Sycamore Street, in 2013. Another nearby location of the small froyo chain, in Falls Church, closed in 2018.

Hat tip to Buzz McClain

0 Comments

The future is uncertain for the boutique barre fitness studio LavaBarre in Rosslyn.

The gym at 1510 Clarendon Blvd announced on Instagram earlier this week that it would no longer be providing in-person classes at the studio. On Thursday, the studio’s storefront appeared closed and empty, with a lock on the door.

The founders of LavaBarre did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The fitness studio reopened at reduced capacity on June 26, after shutting down when the state went into lockdown in response to the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, we must again take a step back from in studio classes,” this week’s social media post said.

Although the brick-and-mortar location is empty, the post invited members to contact the gym about in-person indoor 0r outdoor classes, as well as Zoom classes, “during this closure.”

LavaBarre offers high-intensity workouts that blend ballet, interval training, cardio, pilates and the use of props.

The boutique gym opened in Clarendon in the summer of 2012. Two years later, it moved into its current location and was replaced by Barre Tech, which, according to Yelp, has closed.

In the last five years, gyms offering ballet-inspired barre classes have proliferated in Arlington. Among them are Xtend BarreNeighborhood Barre, Pure Barre, and Barre3 in Clarendon, as well as a Pure Barre in Pentagon City.

0 Comments

The Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation is asking residents if they would attend indoor programs and classes this winter.

In an email sent yesterday, the parks department announced that as staff prepare for winter, they are exploring opportunities for safe indoor classes and programs.

The survey asks whether residents are comfortable attending or sending children to indoor programming, or whether they would rather stick with virtual activities.

“It’s really to take folks’ temperature,” spokeswoman Susan Kalish said.

Whether the department hosts programs this winter is “not up to us — it’s up to the guidelines,” she said, referencing state health guidelines.

One guideline in Phase 3 of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia plan, initiated in August, tells establishments to keep 10 feet of distance between attendees when exercise activities, singing or cheering are involved. In all other settings, the minimum distance required is six feet.

Program sizes will be smaller and in some cases, due to constraints, particular classes may not be viable, Kalish said.

Community centers will have one-way entrances and exits, be reconfigured and cleaned more frequently, the email said.

Options for physical activities range from gymnastics to therapeutic adapted services, and other suggested topics for programming include history, music, science and discovery, languages and nature.

The parks department continues to offer virtual programs for people of all ages, abilities and interests. For now, the department said outdoor spaces are open and it continues to run “Programs in the Park (while the weather is good).”

0 Comments

A portion of Virginia Highlands Park, near Pentagon City, is being transformed into a vibrant display of gardening through a new agricultural initiative.

The Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture, National Landing BID, Livability 22202 and Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation collaborated to develop a project that is revitalizing a strip of land in the park for a temporary demonstration garden. The project, called the Highlands Urban Garden (HUG), is located at 1600 S. Hayes Street.

Project HUG will include a display of various irrigation systems, while showcasing how to counter challenging soil conditions and how edge spaces in parks can be converted to functioning gardens. Produce from the garden will be donated to local food pantries.

The garden — which volunteers broke ground on Sept. 27 — utilizes the space adjacent to the tennis court practice wall at the park. This fall marks the initial installation and preparation of this pilot site for a spring planting season.

“Project HUG will revitalize underused land near the park’s tennis courts and illustrate how otherwise fallow spaces can be transformed into productive land that builds a vibrant ecosystem,” said Arlington FOUA Board President Robin Broder. “The Highlands Urban Garden will serve as a model for future community-driven agriculture features throughout Arlington’s urban neighborhoods.”

A team of neighborhood volunteers will maintain and manage the garden. On-site signage will inform community members about the practices used in caring for a planned mix of edible vegetative crops, native plants and pollinators.

The rectangular strip of land HUG occupies will consist of three bays of six fabric grow bags connected to automatic irrigation systems. The garden will also feature smart sensors to track water, light, fertilizer and temperature that can be used as part of a long-term data collection effort for STEM curricula at local schools.

“We are pleased to collaborate with our partners in the community to expand natural elements throughout National Landing’s built environment by transforming land on the margins and in unexpected places,” said Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, Executive Director of National Landing BID, formerly known as the Crystal City BID. “The Highlands Urban Garden will invoke curiosity and joy in passersby, residents and park visitors alike.”

As a part of the temporary design of the garden, there will not be any below grade digging or disturbance of the grounds at the site.

Photos courtesy Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture

0 Comments

Today, 85 years after opening its first location in Connecticut, Colony Grill (2800 Clarendon Blvd) began serving Arlingtonians its famed thin-crust bar pie, sizzling with hot oil and topped with peppers known as “stingers.”

The location, three years in the making, is the first outside southern Connecticut and Port Chester, New York. Construction on the two-story establishment at Market Common Clarendon began in February and only lost a week or two to delays related to the pandemic, said co-owner Ken Martin.

He and his fellow co-owners, Paul Coniglio, Chris Drury and Cody Lee, began looking outside their home state because real estate there is limited. The childhood friends from Trumbull, Connecticut fell in love with the D.C. area “almost overnight,” he said.

“Arlington resembles Fairfield County on steroids,” Martin said, noting that it has the same energy: a dense population of smart, eclectic people who are especially social.

If the Clarendon outpost does well, more D.C. area locations may follow, according to Martin.

“We hope to open more down here once we establish ourselves and are doing well,” Martin said, mentioning Bethesda and the District as possible destinations.

Irish immigrants opened Colony Grill in Stamford, Connecticut in 1935, two years after the end of the Great Depression and the Prohibition era. The owners served many dishes, but the Italian and Eastern European chefs devised the “bar pie” to be smaller and thinner than a traditional pizza, and fit on the bar top.

Today, the chain only serves this pizza, although the name and the Irish decor pay homage to the kitchen’s original menu and the restaurant’s origins.

After World War II, the owners began collecting framed pictures of those who fought to honor Connecticut’s contributions to the war effort. Today, locals to each new location are invited to bring pictures of their friends or family members in the service to be hung on the brick walls.

Arlington patrons can submit 8×10 inch photos of friends, family members or themselves, in their branch of the military uniform, to the restaurant’s collection.

Local antique pieces will join the familiar faces in sepia tones and in color, including three prominent astronauts with roots in the area, to make patrons feel at home.

Colony Grill’s designer visited flea markets, tag sales, and frequented libraries and historical societies to get a feel for Arlington’s neighborhoods. Folks will recognize some of the antiques on display, Martin said.

“We want to give people the feel that we understand the neighborhood as they come in,” he said.

Pizzas cost up to $13, and customers can choose standard toppings or the chain’s original offerings, including the salad pie and the breakfast pie.

Colony Grill also has 12 beers on top and wine bottles by the glass or bottle.

In response to the coronavirus, the company has spent nearly $100,000 at each location on glass partitions and a streamlined check platform for employees, according to the co-owners. The restaurant has also invested in an online app for contact-less ordering and payment.

Colony Grill is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until late closing, at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Fillmore Street, for up to 170 people.

Photos courtesy Rey Lopez, as marked

0 Comments

(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) There’s a “Bachelorette” contestant from Arlington.

Jason Foster, 31, is a former pro football player who lives in the Courthouse area and works as an Account Manager for a local staffing firm. His official ABC biography says he loves animals, spending time outside, and visiting Arlington’s historical sites.

“Jason prides himself on being able to have fun everywhere he goes,” the network’s bio says. “On the weekends, Jason loves to spend his days visiting historical monuments around Arlington or kayaking on the Potomac River.”

Foster was an NFL lineman after college at the University of Rhode Island, with stints on the Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before wrapping up his pro career with a year in the Canadian Football League, according to his LinkedIn page.

“After suffering too many concussions on the field, [Jason] decided to prioritize his health and change the direction of his life,” the network bio says. “Since leaving the NFL in 2016, he has lost 120 pounds and started a career in IT staffing and solutions.”

One of two contestants from the D.C. area this season, Foster says on the show that he was born on Long Island but moved to Vermont with his family as a young kid.

Foster made an impression on Bachelorette Clare Crawley, 39, by getting out of the limo with a pillow tucked under his dress shirt — a reference to Crawley’s “pregnant” limo exit when she was a contestant on a previous ‘Bachelor’ season. There was, however, an awkward moment when Foster compared Crawley’s looks to his mom’s.

In the end, Foster was one of the lucky guys to get a rose and advance to next week. If he continues to advance he might end up courting a different lady — reports suggest that Crawley exits the show early after falling for one of the contestants, at which point previous ‘Bachelor’ contestant and fan favorite Tayshia Adams is brought on as the new lead.

Foster is not the first Arlingtonian to appear on the long-running reality franchise.

A local high school teacher failed to get a rose from Brad Womack on the first night of the 2011 Bachelor season.

Jillian Anderson, a former TV producer who currently works as a publicist, produced a memorable moment in 2015 when she slipped on a rug when accepting a rose early on, before being eliminated soon thereafter. She also appeared, briefly, on the ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ spinoff show, but found her happy ending last year after getting engaged to a work colleague, Mike King, who goes by the Twitter handle @kingofarlington.

Another Arlington connection to the show: Chris Bukowski, co-owner of the Bracket Room in Clarendon, is a repeat ‘Bachelorette’ and ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ contestant who holds the title of most appearances on the franchise.

Here’s what Foster said last night on Instagram about his five minutes (so far) of reality show fame:

0 Comments

Delhi Club (1135 N. Highland Street) is under new management, and will soon take on a new name: Spice Kraft Indian Bistro.

For now, the change is unofficial and the restaurant continues to do business as Delhi Club, said general manager and co-owner Anthony Shankar. Delhi Club’s doors will reopen as Spice Kraft Indian Bistro by the end of the month, he said.

The restaurant in Clarendon will be the second location for Spice Kraft, which first opened in August 2019 in Alexandra’s Del Ray neighborhood, but had its grand opening this January. Like its approach to Delhi Club, Spice Kraft opened in the former Bombay Curry Company space.

Shankar said the owners of Spice Kraft and Delhi Club have a business relationship. When the Delhi Club owners decided it was time to close their restaurant, they approached Spice Kraft to see if they were interested in the spot, he said.

“They saw Spice Kraft has potential in Arlington,” Shankar said.

Shankar and fellow co-owners Helen Sanjjav and Prem Durairaj were planning to open the space before the pandemic started, but COVID-19 delayed the project from March through August.

Once regulations started easing up, the three got to work.

“We didn’t want to wait too long,” said Shankar, who managed Taaza, a popular Indian restaurant in Roanoke, for seven years before relocating to Alexandria to open Spice Kraft.

The owners have aspirations of Spice Kraft becoming a local chain, and intend to open two to three more locations in Northern Virginia after expanding to Clarendon.

Another nearby Indian restaurant, Delhi Dhaba, operates a few blocks down in Courthouse, but Spice Kraft will not be in direct competition with it, Shankar said.

“We see ourselves as classical and contemporary,” he said.

The menu is mostly the same across the two locations, but about one-quarter of the options are new, including some of the lunch fare, fusion dishes and rice bowls, Shankar said.

For example, Spice Kraft is serving up burgers with proteins such as chicken tikka, and the pre-plated rice bowls come with a protein, side, bread and salad for about $10.

Delhi Club opened in the early 2000s, but closed briefly during the summer of 2011 after a fire broke out.

0 Comments

In 1900, Black people comprised more than a third of Arlington’s population and lived in 12 neighborhoods in the county.

Over the last 100 years, however, the population and the variety of places Black people can afford to live has dwindled, according to a new video from the Alliance for Housing Solutions, a local advocacy organization.

People who identify as Black currently account for 8% of the population, according to Arlington County, and the Alliance video said those who make the median income for Black residents can afford rent in only three census tracts.

The video chronicles the decisions at the local and federal level —  combined with gentrification, rising housing prices and a lack of options — that have forced out much of Arlington’s Black residents.

It ends with a message supportive of Arlington’s Missing Middle Housing Study, which is exploring options for allowing more types of small-scale multifamily housing, in more parts of the county, via zoning changes.

“It’s time to ask ourselves if we are ready to dismantle the walls of indifference once and for all and build an Arlington where people of all walks of life are welcome and can afford to live,” the video says.

The video comes a few weeks before the virtual kick-off event for the “Missing Middle” study on Wednesday, Oct. 28.

The housing patterns seen in Arlington today were set in the first half of the 20th century, the video says. Construction rates for suburban single-family homes and garden apartments boomed, but many deeds in Arlington restricted ownership to white people. In 1938, Arlington banned row houses — the primary type of housing for Black residents, and a common feature in Alexandria and Washington, D.C. — which were deemed distasteful.

Some barriers were legal, while others were physical.

In the 1930s, residents of whites-only communities around the Black neighborhood of Hall’s Hill built a 7-foot cinder block wall to separate their communities. In the 1940s, the federal government evicted Black neighborhoods to build the Pentagon and nearby roadways.

Although the Civil Rights Era ushered in school desegregation as well as open and fair housing laws, both federal and local, the video says many parts of Arlington look no different than when they were building during Jim Crow and legal segregation. Historically Black neighborhoods are characterized by aging homes that do not comply with zoning regulations that were put in place after the homes were built.

“In many ways zoning rules that govern Arlington’s low-density residential areas have become more restrictive over time, while only a small part of the county’s land was made available to meet the growing housing needs of the area,” according to the video.

Today, single-family detached homes account for nearly 75% of zoned property in Arlington, according to the Missing Middle Housing Study. The study partially links the shortage of townhomes, duplex, triplex and quadruplex options — called middle in reference to their size, not their price point — to policies with racist origins.

A reversal of some of Arlington’s restrictive zoning policies is a deliberate choice “the County could make to correct the mistakes of the past and pave a new path for Arlington’s future,” the study’s authors wrote. If Arlington chooses to do nothing, “the structural barriers and institutional racism embedded in the County’s land use policy would remain.”

Screen shots via Alliance for Housing Solutions/YouTube

0 Comments

Campbell Avenue is turning into a mini Bourbon Street — in one respect, at least.

The main Shirlington drag is one of the places you can now take an alcoholic beverage to go from a local restaurant and consume it while walking around or lounging on a park bench.

The Village at Shirlington announced today that it has been approved for a “Commercial Lifestyle Center” permit from Virginia ABC, a new designation that went into effect July 1 after being approved by the state legislature. The permit allows consumption of beer, wine and mixed drinks in certain common areas of shopping centers and commercial districts.

Pentagon Row, which like the Village at Shirlington is owned by Bethesda-based Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT), has also applied for a sip and stroll permit, as has a portion of “National Landing” near Amazon’s new HQ2. This is the first publicly-announced instance of a Commercial Lifestyle Center permit being approved in Arlington.

“The COVID-19 epidemic has been hard on retailers and restaurants,” a FRIT spokeswoman said today. “The approval of the lifestyle permit helps to boost business in neighborhoods such as Village of Shirlington.”

The restaurants from which you can now take drinks to go are Aroma, Busboys & Poets, Cheesetique, Guapo’s, Palette 22, Samuel Beckett’s, and Taco & Piña, the spokeswoman said. In addition to alcohol consumption being allowed in common areas, two Shirlington stores are also allowing patrons to walk in with drinks in hand: Illusions of Shirlington and Dogma Bakery.

FRIT released the following Q&A with more information on how the new rules work.

Can I carry an alcoholic beverage around The Village at Shirlington?
Enjoy alcoholic beverages to go from Aroma, Busboys & Poets, Cheesetique, Guapo’s, Palette 22, Samuel Beckett’s, or Taco & Piña and stroll throughout the designated common areas and participating stores at The Village. (You must be 21+). Please keep the beverage in a disposable cup provided by the restaurant where the drink was purchased.

Where to Sip & Stroll?
You can now roam with your cocktail on Campbell Avenue, S. Randolph Street and the other pedestrian walkways throughout The Village. Click here for a map of the specific designated areas. Alcohol not permitted in any parking lot or garage.

Can you bring your own alcohol to The Village at Shirlington?
No. Only alcoholic beverages purchased from Aroma, Busboys & Poets, Cheesetique, Guapo’s, Palette 22, Samuel Beckett’s, or Taco & Piña may be taken outside the restaurant and into the neighborhood. No outside alcohol is permitted.

Can I take my drink into a store while shopping?
Yes, with the exception of the stores that prohibit alcoholic beverages inside. If you see a sign on the store that reads “Sip & Shop”, you may enter that store with your alcoholic beverage. The shops you are allowed to drink and shop are Illusions of Shirlington and Dogma Bakery.

Can you take a drink purchased from Aroma, Busboys & Poets, Cheesetique, Guapo’s, Palette 22, Samuel Beckett’s, or Taco & Piña into another restaurant?
No. You are welcome to Sip & Stroll to your heart’s content, but if you want to stop for a snack or a second beverage, you cannot take that same cup back into the restaurant where it was purchased or into any other restaurants. If you order a second beverage, the restaurant will provide you with a new cup.

0 Comments

Charlene Nguyen was 18 years old when she fled communist Vietnam for Virginia.

She landed a job at Arlington’s Old Dominion Cleaners (4036 Lee Highway) in 1985, and finally lay to rest the two years she spent living in fear of communists and surviving on meager portions of rice.

In 1996, she and her husband Tien, who she sponsored when he came to the U.S., took over the dry-cleaning business. They have operated Old Dominion for the last 25 years, greeting customers by name and treating them like family.

But the new work-from-home normal has almost completely erased that quarter-century of work. Like other local dry cleaning businesses, Old Dominion Cleaners is hurting.

“It’s heartbreaking to see my business going down so fast since mid-March,” Charlene Nguyen said. “It went down 90% and hasn’t bounced back. We have to open every day, but we don’t have customers because people aren’t going to work.”

The business is on the brink of closure, and has not benefited from any local and state grants. Last week, however, devoted customers teamed up to give the family business a boost.

On Sept. 26, Alex Berger and Kelly James set up a GoFundMe page. Their team also includes Alan Wade, Maria Voultsides and Matt Mendelsohn.

Mendelsohn, a photographer with a studio in Arlington, decided to charge a minimum sitting fee of $50 for pet portrait sessions that would benefit the GoFundMe campaign. As of Monday afternoon, the group effort has raised nearly $15,000.

Few are getting their clothes dry cleaned these days, said Mendelsohn, who used to bring his suits in before photographing weddings. When he dropped off clothing last week, the racks that are normally full of customer clothing were empty, he said.

The studio photographer is known in town for his portraits of pets and their humans, which he has taken for the last 15 years, as well as his headline-grabbing, socially-distanced photos of 2020 Yorktown High School seniors.

Normally, when Mendelsohn hosts his annual Dog Day Photo Marathon, he does not charge a sitting fee, but this year he asked patrons to donate to the GoFundMe and show him the receipts.

The marathon took place on Sunday, and 25 people sat with their pets for portraits.

“It was beautiful and fun. We made gorgeous pictures and had a good time,” he said. “It takes zero effort to help people out.”

Mendelsohn said Charlene is known in the community for her cheer, work ethic and humor. For years, when the photographer brought in his suits, she would give him lollipops for his daughter. Now, his daughter is 17 years old, and they talk about Charlene and her college-aged kids.

“She’s fantastic,” he said. “She’s always cheery and never in a grumpy mood, even though I’m in a grumpy mood.”

The GoFundMe organizers spent one week fundraising, which is not a lot of effort compared to the 25 years that Charlene has spent being kind to customers, Mendelsohn said.

Charlene came through once more for her customers when the country experienced mask shortages earlier this year. She and her staff made about 400 masks a week from fabric that Charlene had from when she used to sew custom shirts.

They gave out the masks for free.

After the Nguyens helped customers protect themselves, fundraiser organizers say it is time to help them in return.

“It’s like ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,'” Mendelsohn said. “George Bailey is in trouble and people rallied. So we rallied, and hopefully that gives them some breathing room.”

The gift has left Charlene at a loss for words.

“I don’t know how to say it, but I want to thank everybody who is helping us out,” she told ARLnow. “Words can’t be enough.”

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list