Arlington, VA

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Are you able to tell how much of the appreciation in the overall Arlington housing market is from homes in the upper or lower price ranges?

Answer: I’ve often wondered if the appreciation in Arlington’s housing market is driven more by the lower, middle or upper end of the market. My theory, prior to doing an analysis, was that homes in the lower price ranges were appreciating faster than those in the upper ranges, thus affordability was suffering more than any other category of housing.

To test this theory, I split each year into a lower, middle and upper third and found the median price within each price range. (Note: The numbers for average prices looked very similar.) I split the market into single-family/townhouses and condos for a more accurate picture of actual market behavior.

As it turns out, for the single-family/townhouse and condo markets, the upper third of the market has appreciated more over the past 10 years than the lower and middle thirds. As is usually the case, single-family homes and townhouses appreciated much faster than condos during the same period, with single-family/townhouses practically doubling the rate of condo appreciation over the past 10 years.

Explanation of Charts: Appreciation and Market Speed

Below you will see charts showing the median price of the lower, middle and upper price tiers for single-family/townhouses and condos in Arlington over the past 10 years. I also included a chart showing the cumulative appreciation for each price tier to highlight when each market experienced the greatest price jumps or most price stability.

The last two charts show the same concept but applied to days on market. Specifically, looking at what percentage of homes went under contract within the first seven days on the market. I’ve always felt like this metric is one of the best ways to understand how fast the market is moving and the intensity of demand.

All three price tiers show similar speed/intensity of demand over the years, with the only noticeable difference being the upper third of single-family/townhouses, which is likely skewed by new construction. New construction often has a much higher days on market number because of how often homes are listed before they’re finished.

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) Virginia localities are set to start receiving the new Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine next week, thus helping to boost supply in the Commonwealth.

But one group that had been poised to start being vaccinated soon has been bumped further down the priority list: Arlington County employees.

The entire county workforce is being considered to be within the “Continuity of Government” category, and thus is still part of the Virginia “1b” priority group and ahead of the general public. But county employees have now been bumped down below those with pre-existing medical conditions.

“Since my last note to you on this, the Governor has made changes to the prioritization which has moved certain categories of 1B essential workers, including those in Continuity of Government, further down the list for vaccines,” County Manager Mark Schwartz wrote in a recent memo (below) to county workers. “Individuals 16 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions are now ahead of Continuity of Government workers. This means that there are now about 20,000 Arlington residents ahead of County employees in the queue.”

“The County’s Public Health Division continues only to receive approximately 3,000 first doses per week,” Schwartz continues. “We simply do not have enough vaccine to meet the demand yet. Based on current guidance on prioritization and vaccine supply, it is unlikely that we will begin any employee vaccinations until early April.”

On average, just over 1,100 COVID-19 vaccination doses per day have been administered in Arlington over the past week, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. VDH says the new J&J vaccine should help increase supply across the state.

“On Saturday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a new vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson. The EUA allows the vaccine to be distributed in the U.S. for those 18 and older,” the health department said in a press release. “Virginia is expected to receive 69,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week, which will be prioritized for mass vaccination clinics across the state.”

Those who are eligible can pre-register for vaccinations at the state’s new Vaccinate Virginia web portal.

Despite the lack of supply right now, Arlington is working to make sure as many eligible people as possible register to be vaccinated. To that end, the county is trying to recruit local organizations to partner with the health department and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.

“We’re trying to get more organizations to become Complete Vaccination Committee (CVC) partners,” county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith tells ARLnow. “Over the weekend, CVC members were out in the community at five different locations, getting people pre-registered for the vaccine.”

Organizations can sign up to become partners via this form.

Among the list of current partners is the Arlington County Democratic Committee, which is using its organizational infrastructure for getting residents registered to vote and driving them to the polls to do the same for seniors and vaccinations.

“In election cycles, we are the [Arlington Democrats] ‘Rides to the Polls’ team, but now we’ve put our operation to work to help seniors in a different way,” said Mary Byrne, a co-leader of the volunteer effort. “We are grateful that [Arlington Democrats] allowed us to use their database to access a list of both Dems and Republican seniors. Our volunteer list of more than 50 callers and drivers is growing and we’ve already called hundreds and helped dozens of seniors in the one week we’ve been in operation.”

Their list includes more than 6,000 Arlington seniors 75 years and older, Byrne said. The volunteers help with vaccination registration, scheduling and transportation.

More information on the “Ride to Vaccines” vaccine program can be found online or by calling (703) 528-8588 ext 5.

Image via Arlington County/YouTube

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Morning Notes

Reminder: In-Person School Resuming Updated at 8:55 a.m. — “@APSVirginia elementary schools re-open for preK-2nd grade on Tuesday, March 2, followed by 3rd-5th + 6th (middle school) and 9th (high school) grades on March 9, then all returning students on March 16.” [Twitter, Twitter]

County Buying Fairlington Area Apartments — “A push to redevelop the Park Shirlington apartment complex in South Arlington has fallen through, prompting county officials to take the unusual step of buying part of the aging affordable community. Arlington leaders signed off on plans in late January to purchase about half of the property, located along I-395 near the county’s border with Alexandria. The county will end up paying about $27.9 million for 105 apartments on a 6.3-acre parcel should the deal close in August.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Rosslyn Apartments Start Leasing — “Today, Penzance… announced the start of leasing and the opening of their interactive leasing center for Aubrey, the first luxury apartment tower to deliver at The Highlands, a dynamic mixed-use development project along the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor.” [Press Release]

Amazon Donates to Wakefield HS — “As part of it’s celebration of Black History Month, Amazon presented a $15,000 donation to support Wakefield High School. This is the latest in Amazon’s ongoing work to support education and racial equality initiatives in communities across the country where its employees live and work. The donation to Wakefield High School of $15,000 will include the book Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Food Stand Operators Expand into Alpacas — “What started as just a food truck eight years ago [and later a food stand in Crystal City] has now turned into an expanded business. The Peruvian Brothers are actually selling a new product — selling alpaca poop. Yes, that’s right.” [WJLA]

Jaywalking Now No Longer a Primary Offense — “Though it didn’t garner as much attention as other police reform measures during the special legislative session that ended this fall, a provision to decriminalize jaywalking in a pretextual policing bill from Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, means that come March 1, police will no longer be able to stop folks for the act of crossing the street outside of a marked crosswalk.” [Virginia Mercury, NBC 4]

Amazon Funds Affordable Housing in Falls Church — “In response to concerns about the anticipated impact of its second headquarters in Arlington on the region’s housing prices, Amazon pledged $75 million over five years to affordable housing in Northern Virginia… Falls Church will get $3.4 million for a new affordable housing homeownership program and $350,000 to extend the availability of nine committed affordable apartments at the Read Building (402 W. Broad Street).” [Tysons Reporter]

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Believe it or not, Arlington County has a working commercial farm.

The farm, which is located in a commercial building along Lee Highway, uses hydroponic technology to grow a variety of edible plants indoors. And it’s about to expand.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced this afternoon that Fresh Impact Farms will be getting a $30,000 grant — half from the state, half from the county — that will help it double production and create six jobs.

Fresh Impact, Arlington County’s only commercial farm, is banking on its restaurant customers ramping up purchases as vaccinated customers flock back to indoor dining. It also launched a direct-to-consumer Community Supported Agriculture program last year.

County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti hailed the business and its expansion.

“Governor Northam’s award to Fresh Impact Farms, Arlington’s only commercial farm, is an innovative way to celebrate unique uses of technology to help a small business pivot during the pandemic,” de Ferranti said in a statement. “I am thrilled that Fresh Impact Farms is growing and looking to the future of a sustainable food supply.”

More on the company’s expansion, below, from a press release issued by the governor’s office.

Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Fresh Impact Farms will invest $137,500, create six new jobs, and more than double production at its Arlington County indoor facility. Operating since 2018 as Arlington’s only commercial farm, Fresh Impact Farms uses proprietary hydroponic technology to grow a variety of specialty herbs, leafy greens, and edible flowers for sale to customers in the Greater Washington, D.C. metro area.

Like many companies, Fresh Impact Farms has pivoted its business model amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Seizing the opportunity created by more people cooking at home, the company initiated a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program targeting area residents. The CSA program, which focuses on leafy greens and home kitchen-friendly herbs, has grown steadily since its establishment in April 2020 and now includes smaller wholesale clients. Now, with vaccinations underway and the restaurant industry poised to rebound, Fresh Impact Farms is expanding, which will allow the company to resume supplying their restaurant customers, while also meeting new demand through their CSA program.

“Agriculture continues to be a key driver of our economic recovery in both rural and urban areas of our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Innovative, dynamic businesses like Fresh Impact Farms are demonstrating how exciting new opportunities can grow out of pandemic-related challenges. I congratulate the company on their success and am thrilled to award the first-ever AFID grant to Arlington County to support this expansion.”

This expansion by Fresh Impact Farms will include a second grow room, larger production facility, and an educational hub where, post-pandemic, customers will be able to see how their food is harvested. Over the next three years, the company expects to grow an additional 10,500 pounds of Virginia-grown leafy greens, herbs, and edible flowers for restaurant and CSA customers.

“Agriculture is Virginia’s largest private sector industry and the Commonwealth continues to be on the forefront of emerging agriculture technologies,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am inspired by Fresh Impact Farms’ commitment to not only bringing fresh, local produce to Virginians, but also for its commitment to educate our community about how local food is grown.”

“2020 was undoubtedly one of the hardest years in recent memory for many people and businesses, but I’m heartened by the strength and flexibility the entire Fresh Impact Farms team has shown in our deep pivot to consumers and a CSA model to help us get to the point where we are ready to expand our business,” said Fresh Impact Farms Founder Ryan Pierce. “The support and generosity from the Commonwealth and Arlington County will be valuable as we expand our production and move towards a hybrid model of serving both the needs of restaurants and consumers. As the owner of a local food business, nothing gets me more excited than seeing the community come together in support of local food. The future is bright for urban agriculture and this grant will help us make an even greater impact in our community.”

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A man allegedly led police on a foot chase in the Westover area after his neighbor found a bullet hole in his apartment.

The bullet hole was reported to police Friday morning, in an apartment building on the 5700 block of Washington Blvd, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

Investigating officers determined that an argument was overheard in the apartment next to that of the victim one week prior. While trying to get in touch with the residents of the adjacent apartment a man exited the building and tried to flee, according to ACPD, but he was detained and a gun recovered.

More from the crime report:

MISSILE INTO OCCUPIED DWELLING (late), 2021-02260074, 5700 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 11:15 a.m. on February 26, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances. Upon arrival, it was determined that on February 20, the victim located a bullet hole inside his residence and later found a bullet fragment. Further investigation revealed an argument was overheard in the adjoining apartment the evening prior to the bullet hole being discovered. As officers were attempting to make telephone contact with those residents, the male subject emerged from the building and fled the scene. Following a foot pursuit, he was detained by officers. A firearm was later recovered. The investigation is ongoing.

Separately, police are looking for a man who lit blankets atop a sleeping victim on fire, according to Monday’s crime report.

The victim was sleeping under an overpass in Arlington when the alleged incident occurred, on Friday, Feb. 19. It was only reported to police this past Thursday morning, when medics were called to treat the victim’s burns. He was taken to a local burn center by ambulance, according to scanner traffic.

The crime report suggests that the victim knows the suspect.

“At approximately 11:45 a.m. on February 25, police were dispatched to an EMS assist” on the 2900 block of S. Glebe Road, the crime report says. “Upon arrival, it was determined that on February 19, the victim was asleep underneath the overpass when he was approached by a known suspect who wrapped his legs in blankets and set them on fire.”

“The victim and a witness were able to extinguish the fire and the suspect left the scene,” the crime report continues. “Upon receiving the request for service on February 25, the victim was transported to an area hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.”

No arrests have been reported so far, and police say the investigation into the incident “is ongoing.”

File photo

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On Jan. 6, a group of ten or so men — at least one of whom was wearing a tactical earpiece — watched the storming of the U.S. Capitol from across the Potomac in Arlington.

Previously unpublished photos taken by ARLnow that day show the men loitering near the Marine Corps War Memorial, with the overrun Capitol in the background. Parked nearby are numerous vehicles, mostly pickup trucks and SUVs with out-of-state license plates.

One pickup truck, with large toolbox in the back, was left running.

The man with the earpiece appears to have been focused on some sort of communications device with an antenna. He was among a group standing outside, in the cold, wearing hooded sweatshirts and other inconspicuous cold weather gear. None were wearing the tactical vests and helmets that militia members who charged into the Capitol that day wore.

Still, the group was deemed suspicious enough that Arlington County police received at least one call from a passerby, concerned about what they were doing there. An officer drove by after the 4 p.m. call but didn’t see anything, according to police department spokesman Ashley Savage.

“At approximately 4:09 p.m. on January 6, the Emergency Communications Center received a report of 9-10 males acting suspiciously and looking around on the Iwo Jima War Memorial property,” Savage said in response to an inquiry from ARLnow. “The United States Park Police was notified to check the park area. ACPD patrol units checked Meade Street and Arlington property, nothing was located and the call was cleared.”

“I have no additional details to provide,” Savage added.

The photos above were taken by ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott around 3:30 p.m., just before Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he was sending the Virginia National Guard into D.C.

In recalling the moment, Westcott — a Navy veteran — said the gathering “had the feeling of a rally point.” He shot the scene from a distance with a 600mm lens, reluctant to get any closer due to potential safety concerns.

By nightfall, the men had dispersed, as ARLnow originally reported in an article about the curfew that night.

It’s unclear what the as-yet unidentified men were doing at the memorial that afternoon. Was their presence purely coincidental, or somehow connected to the pro-Trump rally and subsequent violence at the Capitol?

What is known is that somewhere outside of the District that day, according to federal prosecutors, a “quick reaction force” with a stockpile of weapons was allegedly ready to join the fight if ordered to do so by President Trump.

At a Friday court hearing for Jessica Watkins, a member of the Oath Keepers militia from Ohio who is accused of helping to plot the attack on the Capitol, prosecutors told a federal judge that “[it is] our understanding” that the quick reaction force did exist and was stationed somewhere near D.C.

A court document filed on Feb. 11, as cited by The Daily Beast, details the purpose of the quick reaction force, at least according to federal prosecutors.

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There are two pieces of good news and one notable bit of tragic news among the latest coronavirus stats for Arlington County.

As of this morning, the first of March, the Virginia Dept. of Health reported just 31 new COVID-19 cases in the county. The seven-day rate of new cases remains in a relatively tight range, around 300 new cases per week.

Arlington’s test positivity rate, meanwhile, has continued its steady fall, and currently stands at 4.5%.

Amid a rate of new cases that’s down significantly from the earlier winter peaks, Arlington’s rate of vaccinations has quickened.

The Virginia Dept. of Health reports that a total of 39,175 doses have been administered in Arlington. In all, 13,152 people in the county are fully vaccinated, after receiving both vaccine shots, according to the VDH data.

Over the weekend, the trailing seven-day average of daily vaccination doses given in Arlington rose above 1,000 for the first time. As of today, it stands at 1,164. While Arlington’s health department is only getting about 3,000 doses per week from the state, pharmacies and now grocery stores are administering vaccinations as part of a federal program.

The supply of vaccine should increase over the course of March, as shipments of the existing Pfizer and Moderna vaccines ramp up and as the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine starts to ship.

Despite the good news, the toll of the winter surge in cases is coming into sharper focus. The state health department has recently started tallying death certificates from earlier in the year, resulting in a jump in the count of reported COVID-related deaths.

“VDH is now processing 2021 death certificates related to the post-holiday surge of COVID-19 cases,” the health department website says. “As a result, a larger number of deaths is expected to be added by report date.”

Over the past two weeks, 20 new COVID-related deaths have been reported in Arlington, bringing the pandemic total to 229 — nearly one out of every 1,000 county residents.

Serious illness from COVID-19 is also still being reported. Twenty-three new hospitalizations were recorded over that same time period.

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Morning Notes

Rainy, Then Windy TodayUpdated at 8 a.m. — From the National Weather Service: “Rain will end later this morning into this afternoon from northwest to southeast. However, gusty winds will develop and river flooding is expected along portions of the Potomac River and nearby tributaries.” [Twitter]

Freddie’s Expanding to Delaware Shore — “Freddie’s Beach Bar, the gay bar that has been operating in the Crystal City section of Arlington, Va., since 2001, is planning to open a new version of itself in Rehoboth Beach in time for Memorial Day weekend, according to owner Freddie Lutz. Lutz said that similar to the Freddie’s in Arlington, the Rehoboth version will operate as a restaurant and bar with entertainment that is expected to include karaoke, drag bingo, and possibly drag shows.” [Washington Blade]

AG Candidate Wants to Intervene in Local Cases — “A candidate for state attorney general says that, if elected, he’ll press for the authority to step in when local prosecutors will not act on specific cases. ‘George Soros-backed commonwealth’s attorneys are not doing their jobs,’ Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) said in remarks to the Arlington County Republican Committee.” [InsideNova]

Local Restaurants Make New Washingtonian List — A half dozen Arlington restaurants are among a new list of “61 Neighborhood Restaurants That Make the DC Area a Better Place to Eat — and Live.” Among them: The Green Pig, Lebanese Taverna, Los Tios Grill, Medium Rare, Nam-Viet, and Pupatella. [Washingtonian]

Church Providing Food to Those in Need — “The Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington hosted its first Mobile Market Feb. 25 in conjunction with the Capital Area Food Bank to serve those dealing with food insecurity. This drive-thru food distribution provided nonperishables as well as fresh produce including fruits and vegetables. The monthly market originally was scheduled to begin Feb. 18 but was delayed due to inclement weather.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Bouncers Recognized for Spotting Fake IDs — “Tonight the Arlington Restaurant Initiative, Washington Regional Alcohol Program and Responsibility.org recognized staff from Don Tito and Whitlow’s on Wilson for their excellence in detecting false identifications and preventing underage drinking. We commend the recipients for their dedication to safe service and responsible alcohol consumption.” [Facebook]

Crystal City Company Planning IPO — “Leonardo SpA is moving forward with an initial public offering for its Arlington-based defense electronic systems subsidiary. The Italian defense and space contractor filed its plans Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The unit will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker ‘DRS.'” [Washington Business Journal]

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About two-third of the way through Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf offers Frodo some encouragement as the hobbit despairs that he lives in difficult times.

“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

It’s a line that might as well be aimed at the staff of Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike), who are starting their return to showing films with a Lord of the Rings trilogy screening as part of a tiring struggle to stay afloat amid COVID-19.

“We are hanging in there,” said Tim Clark, owner of the venue. “It’s not pretty, but we’re starting to see people coming back out.”

Events at the drafthouse are still operating at under 30% capacity to allow for social distancing which, if every show is a sell out, is financially is just treading water.

“Right now trying to go through grant process, but it’s not sustainable,” Clark said. “I don’t think many restaurant theater business operations are built to run on 30%. And that’s 30% if we sell out, and we’re not selling out every show. If you take averages and you’re at 20%, it’s really not sustainable.”

Clark said March will be the trial run for starting movies again, noting that the recent rolling back of curfews and restaurant restrictions should help smooth operations at the venue.

“We’re trying to be more creative for movies,” Clark said. “There’s limited content because studios aren’t releasing much.”

The first event will be a Lord of the Rings Trilogy festival on March 7. Tickets are $10 for all day access and the event will feature themed specials. Attendees are also encouraged to dress in costumes — with masks required — and winners of a costume contest will receive prizes.

The movies start at noon with Fellowship of the Ring, then 3:15 p.m. for Two Towers and 6:30 p.m. for Return of the King. The films will be the theatrical cuts rather than the full 11.3 hour extended editions, but Clark said that mostly came down to crunching the times.

Other movies throughout March include:

Clark said comedy acts at Arlington Drafthouse have helped carry the venue through the last few months.

“We’re starting to see a little bit more activity for some of the bigger name comics,” Clark said. “People have been following the rules and we’ve had good audiences. There are people that are excited to get back out and we’re hearing from people who aren’t ready to get back out but are excited to support us.”

Comedy acts coming up over the next month include:

The full calendar of events is available online, and Clark said he’s starting to book events into June. In the meantime, the drafthouse is going to keep applying for grants and hoping for the best with vaccinations and the COVID recovery.

“We’ve applied for an SVOG grant, which is basically for theatrical venues, live entertainment, and they haven’t quite got the application ready yet but we’re headed in that direction,” Clark said. “Hoping that carries us through, but just buying time.”

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(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) Clarendon Popup Bar, located inside the former Clarendon Ballroom space, is about to shift to its second theme.

The concept bar opened at 3185 Wilson Blvd in time to ring in the New Year with its temporary theme, “Winter Wonderland.” That theme will still be in effect this weekend, but will then be changed over the course of the following week. (An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that it would be closed this weekend.)

“Winter Wonderland was a success and more popular than anticipated,” owner Mike Bramson tells ARLnow. “The next theme is ‘Fire & Ice.’ We don’t want to give anything anyway, so you’ll have to come see it.”

Weather permitting, the rooftop will open in March, he said.

The debut of the “Fire and Ice” theme is set for Thursday, March 4, according to the calendar. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Wednesday, Clarendon Popup Bar will also have “ShamRock N’ Roll” event on Saturday, March 13.

“For St. Patrick’s Day weekend we are still working out the details, but you can most definitely expect a band and DJ lineup, and of course some green beer,” he said.

The pop-up will be showing games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, better known as March Madness, from March 18 to April 4.

“We will be opening early to show the March Madness games on our huge projector wall and TVs,” Bramson said. “Every seat in the house will be able to see a screen.”

The next round of events will end on April 3 with the Final Four games and a “Fire and Ice”-themed night.

Not everybody has been enamored with Clarendon Popup. An anonymous tipster sent ARLnow Instagram videos inside the venue, showing crowded dance areas and a number of people not wearing masks.

In response, Bramson said Clarendon Popup Bar has been working with the health department to “ensure we are following all necessary regulations and precautions.”

Since opening, he and staff have rearranged the layout “a few times” to adapt to demand. The large indoor space has allowed them to properly distance and section off tables, he said.

“We feel comfortable that we have taken the proper safety measures going into our next theme,” said Bramson. “Anyone not at their table is required to wear a mask and all staff is on top of enforcing that rule.”

The County Board approved Clarendon Popup’s request for a live entertainment and dancing permit in mid-December on the condition that the owners abide by all local, state and federal COVID-19 regulations.

Photos (2-3) via Instagram

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