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A crew putting up signage above the entrance of the new Taco Bell Cantina in Courthouse in December (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After the pandemic disrupted the restaurant business, there was something of a lull in new restaurant openings in Arlington.

But 2023 looks to be a eventful year for restaurant openings in Arlington, as Amazon opens its HQ2 and a number of long-anticipated establishments open their doors. We’re currently tracking about 25 eateries that are hoping to open this year.

So which are you, personally, most looking forward to? For the purposes of this poll, we’ll exclude two that are mostly dessert spots — Crumbl Cookies (Langston Blvd) and Jeni’s Ice Cream (Shirlington) — as well as a couple whose progress towards opening is questionable.

Here are links to more info on each of the above:

  1. Taco Bell Cantina (Courthouse)
  2. Astro Beer Hall (Shirlington)
  3. Carbonara (Virginia Square)
  4. Our Mom Eugenia (Shirlington)
  5. Westover Taco (Westover)
  6. Gyu San Japanese BBQ (Ballston)
  7. All About Burger (Langston Blvd)
  8. Chicken + Whiskey (Clarendon)
  9. Tawle (Clarendon)
  10. Hangry Joe’s (Ballston)
  11. Wagamama (Clarendon)
  12. Grill Kabob (Ballston)
  13. Haute Dogs (Williamsburg)
  14. bb.q Chicken (Virginia Square)
  15. Sabores (Columbia Pike)
  16. Peruvian Brothers (Pentagon City/HQ2)
  17. Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe (Pentagon City/HQ2)
  18. Chase the Submarine (Pentagon City)
  19. Stella Restaurant and Lounge (Columbia Pike)
  20. Eli’s Taqueria y Restaurante (Columbia Pike)
  21. Slipstream (Ballston)

Matt Blitz contributed to this post

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Arlington school bus on a snowy morning, Nov. 2018

Some potentially unwelcome news if you’re a K-12 student in Virginia: some in the legislature want to effectively end snow days.

From our Alexandria sister site ALXnow:

new bill could mean the end of snow days for Virginia public schools.

Currently, during severe weather conditions, schools have the option to switch to remote learning. House Bill 1666, pre-filed yesterday by Del. Danny Marshall (R-Danville) would change that to a requirement rather than an option: school divisions must declare unscheduled remote learning days to provide instruction and student services.

The school divisions are also not allowed to claim more than 10 unscheduled remote learning days per year without an extension granted by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

While snow days are forever popular among students and teachers, the change is likely spurred on by concerns about learning loss in Virginia students over the last few years. Before disheartened teachers and students start shaking their fists at the state legislature, it’s worth noting that Alexandria City Public Schools had already started moving in that direction.

Last January, when a snowstorm made a mess of local roads, Alexandria city schools went into virtual learning mode, while Arlington Public Schools gave students a couple of days off.

What do you think of replacing snow days with virtual learning days? Right call to boost learning or wrong call that would take away a bit of childhood tradition and provide some restorative days off?

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The ARLnow Afternoon Update email newsletter

Some 16,000 of you are big fans of our ARLnow Afternoon Update newsletter, giving us email open rates near the tippy top of industry averages.

The Afternoon Update, for the uninitiated, sends out headlines, links and article previews at 4 p.m. daily, for the past 24 hours of ARLnow content. It is the defacto local homepage for just shy of 10% of Arlington’s adult population.

Our ARLnow Press Club members, meanwhile, also receive an Early Morning Notes email at 3 a.m. daily, with the as-yet unpublished Morning Notes post and a preview of the stories we’re planning to cover that day. The open rate for the Early Morning Notes is even higher, suggesting that our members really enjoy starting their day by getting a quick look at what’s going to be in the local news that day.

Both the Afternoon Update and the Early Morning Notes are no-nonsense, with no cutesy prose or writerly musings to wade through to get the info you want.

Given the above, you might think that we’re maxed out in terms of email offerings. But, not wanting to rest on our laurels, we think there might be room for another — and wanted to get your thoughts on it.

We think some subset of readers would prefer to get their local news entirely in the email, in summary form. Think: Axios.

A possible solution would be a daily 8 a.m. email that has:

  • The entire Morning Notes post
  • AI-generated bullet point summaries of the past day’s articles

An example of the article summaries is below.

AI-generated article summaries

Would this be something you’d be interested in subscribing to if we were to launch it?

Let us know what you think in the poll and the comments.

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Crowd at Sunday’s anti-Missing Middle housing rally at Innovation Elementary (photo courtesy Esther Bowring)

Several hundred people gathered early Sunday afternoon at Innovation Elementary School for what was dubbed the “Reality Check Rally.”

As others were glued to their TVs for the last day of the NFL regular season and its playoff implications — or going about errands, children’s activities, or jobs — the attendees spent their afternoon hearing a dire picture being painted about the proposal to allow multifamily housing of up to 8 units per property in single-family home neighborhoods, also known as Missing Middle.

As outlined in a press release from organizers Arlingtonians for Upzoning Transparency and Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, plan critics are concerned that it will “accelerate gentrification, reducing Arlington’s diversity; displace moderate-and low-income households, including seniors, persons with disabilities and renters; raise property values and taxes; reduce tree canopy and greenspace; and further overload schools, infrastructure and services.”

Of course, not everyone agrees.

A handful of Missing Middle supporters also showed up at the event, according to Patch, including those representing the Arlington branch of the NAACP. Supporters have also showed up to pivotal County Board meetings, albeit not in the numbers seen at Sunday’s rally.

Meanwhile, in November’s County Board election, the two candidates supportive of Missing Middle to various degrees — incumbent Matt de Ferranti and independent Adam Theo — took about 71% of the vote to 28% for independent Audrey Clement, who based her campaign around her opposition to Missing Middle.

The Missing Middle debate in Arlington is a particularly pitched version of debates that often play out here and elsewhere across the country, particularly when it comes to proposals to build infrastructure, build new housing, or change the physical built environment in general.

It raises the question of just how local governments should handle such opposition.

Often, opponents of such projects will make the case that their numbers, their passion, and their arguments should be enough to put a stop to what they’re protesting, or at least to grant additional time for more studies and community input. (An online petition against Missing Middle in Arlington has more than 5,000 virtual signatures.)

On the other hand, those who are supportive of building — more housing, in particular — have been saying that there is a well-formed playbook for stopping things from being built and that elected officials should not be so quick to grant those with the loudest voices and largest crowds what they want. They argue that there is a mostly silent majority that’s okay with things being built —  a group that does not have the time, desire nor, in some cases, economic ability to wage a support campaign to counter the opposition.

It’s difficult to boil this very fundamental debate about the role of local government and community input — a county-specific form of which is known as the Arlington Way — into a concise poll. But today we’re going to try!

In general terms, how pivotal should community input be to county decision making, when there’s a large contingent that opposes a given proposal?

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Sunset along Columbia Pike near the construction site for the Arlington National Cemetery expansion (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Last December, we asked whether you thought 2022 would be a better year than 2021.

With over 1,300 votes, 64% of respondents predicted that yes, 2022 would be better. But was it?

After a year that started strong but then saw war in Europe, an economic downturn, devastating storms, a resurgence of flu and RSV, and — most recently — holiday travel woes — we’re wondering how you feel, personally, about the year.

Was it better for you, all things considered, or was it actually worse than 2021? Either way, here’s hoping for a better 2023!

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A box of Kleenex next to a small Christmas tree (staff photo)

We’re three days away from Christmas and in the midst of Hanukkah — and holiday travel is in full swing, storm and all.

While the winter storm is causing travel havoc, illnesses are also disrupting holiday plans. Covid is on an upswing locally while, at the same time, numerous other viruses — including but not limited to flu and RSV — are circulating.

From Axios yesterday:

“This year what you’re seeing is a true rebound of flu-like illnesses,” said Manoj Gandhi, senior medical director at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “It’s certainly bad.”

While much has been made of the so-called tripledemic of flu, RSV and COVID, but there’s actually more of a “septo-demic,” said Peter

Hotez, dean at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, in an interview posted last week with the American Medical Association.

That counts para influenza, rhinovirus, metapneumovirus and pneumococcus as part of the mix, he said.

“They’re working in different combinations and causing a lot of kids to be admitted to the hospital, as well as seniors. This is accounting for a big surge in hospitalizations,” Hotez said.

As of Wednesday, Arlington County was still within CDC’s “low” Covid level, but a flip to “medium” could be imminent. The number of weekly reported cases per 100,000 people is 170, below the “medium” threshold of 200. Weekly Covid hospital admissions per 100,000 people, meanwhile, are at 9.2, just shy of the threshold of 10.

The average daily case rate in Arlington, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data, rose to 63 yesterday amid 110 new reported cases.

Covid cases in Arlington as of 12/21/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Anecdotally, that case rate — which is based on positive cases reported to VDH and excludes at-home testing not otherwise reported to health authorities — feels low. Talk to Arlington residents, especially those with kids in school or daycare, and close Covid contacts abound.

Likewise, many seem to be in the middle of or getting over a cold, a case of the flu, a sinus infection or another ailment. Even among the nominally healthy there are coughs and runny noses.

So today we’re wondering: how many of you are currently sick? And have your holiday plans been disrupted due to illness?

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A refrigerator, post-Thanksgiving (file photo)

There’s not a whole lot going on in Arlington today, save for activity at local shopping centers, so we’re going to fast forward right to the top story countdown.

Here are the most-read local articles of the week:

  1. NPS announces plans to improve safety along Mount Vernon Trail through Arlington (4611 views)
  2. Bollards may be on the menu after Ireland’s Four Courts crash (2778 views)
  3. Arlington prosecutor Parisa Dehghani-Tafti launches reelection campaign (1534 views)
  4. Permanent Military Road roundabout still a possibility despite ‘operational confusion’ (1402 views)
  5. Most and least expensive townhouses sold in Arlington (Oct-Nov 2022) (1100 views)
  6. Morning Poll: How many times have you been sick this fall? (952 views)
  7. The lights are coming back on for Shirlington’s annual holiday event next week (930 views)

Feel free to discuss those or anything else of local interest in the comments. Have a great rest of your holiday weekend!

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“I’m pretty sure Ticketmaster is running the Arlington summer camp sign up site.”

This month’s Mike Mount cartoon takes on two hot button issues: Taylor Swift’s concert ticket debacle and Arlington’s ongoing camp registration saga.

The website crashes suffered by Ticketmaster as millions of Swifties tried to secure tickets to her latest tour are reminiscent of those caused by Arlington parents eager to get their kids in coveted county summer camp slots.

As we reported last week, Arlington parks department officials are promising further improvements in the registration process and technology, but so far the clicking fingers of local moms and dads are undefeated.

See of Mike Mount’s local ‘toons in the ARLnow Press Club weekend newsletter. Your membership supports our reporting and includes the daily Early Morning Notes newsletter, previewing the stories we’re planning to cover that day.

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Kleenex box (file photo)

(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) It’s been a rough fall for many, healthwise.

Flu and and RSV have been surging, straining hospital capacity, school staff and parental patience. Young children have been particularly hard hit, with the 0-4 age group recording the highest percentage of visits to medical offices for flu, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

Nationwide, it’s so bad that some pediatric medical organizations are seeking a federal emergency declaration.

Flu activity in Virginia and in the D.C. region is at the highest level on the CDC’s scale. In Arlington, meanwhile, Covid is still circulating, though at roughly the same level of daily cases as a month ago — 33 cases per day, as of today.

Flu activity map (via CDC)

Local hospitals are feeling the effects. From VHC Health emergency department chair (and 2022 Spirit of Community honoree) Mike Silverman’s latest public social media update:

Although our percent positivity rate is not higher than it was earlier this fall, we have seen an increase in the number of people we are diagnosing with COVID the last few weeks compared to earlier in the fall. We’re also sitting a much higher percent positivity rate then we were this time last year. We are definitely having more positive tests a week than we did a year ago.

The Tripledemic that you’re hearing about on the news is real. The combination of COVID, Flu, and RSV is bringing more people to hospital ERs and causing more hospitalizations than we’ve seen over the last few years. Every year, emergency departments face a month or so of surging volumes because of the flu. I have seen flu surges in the fall, and I have seen them in March. Prior to the pandemic, I had never had a year as an attending physician without some sort of impact by a flu surge. What has me concerned about this year is how early the flu has impacted our community and the potential for how long the ER volume surge will continue. What’s to say we will not see an increase in COVID this winter as we did last winter?

Despite many continuing to work from home, people are still socializing, going to school and traveling, arguably more so than this time last year. It’s almost as if the non-Covid diseases that had been relatively quiet during the pandemic are now “catching up.”

Given how much disease is circulating out there, today we are wondering: how many separate times have you gotten sick already this fall?

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A pedestrian with an umbrella crosses N. Lexington St. in Westover amid a wet snowfall (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

NBC 4 Chief Meteorologist Doug Kammerer revealed his annual winter forecast last night — and it was disappointing if you like snow.

Doug is calling for a measly 1-6 inches of snow during the entire winter in Arlington and D.C. He believes it will be an unusually warm and wetter than average winter, making for plenty of cold rain but very little snow.

It follows a trend: five of the six most recent winters in the D.C. area have seen below average snowfall, Kammerer said.

Long-range forecasting is far from an exact science and there are other predictions that call for more snow. The meteorologists at WUSA 9 and Fox 5 are both calling for average to above average snowfall. The Farmer’s Almanac, meanwhile, while decidedly not a scientific authority, is predicting above average snowfall and below average temperatures for the region.

Should Kammerer’s prediction come to pass and we see six or fewer inches of snow this winter, how would you feel about it?

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