It was a surprising week in Alexandria.

Our top story by far was on the venomous rattlesnake found in Old Town on Sunday. The timber snake, which also goes by the name American Viper, was discovered in the 400 block of Gibbon Street — a few blocks from the waterfront. It didn’t bite anyone, and was apprehended by the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria’s Animal Services team and later moved to a wildlife facility in Northern Virginia.

This Saturday, June 19,  is also Juneteenth, and the new federal holiday recognizes the end of slavery in the U.S. The City recognized Juneteenth on Friday, and most government offices and facilities were closed. This weekend, the Alexandria Black History Museum is partnering with Washington Revels Jubilee Voices — a group that preserves local Black traditions through a cappella music, dramatic performances and dance — for a virtual Juneteenth Celebration.

Meanwhile, in-person dramatic and musical performances are being planned for July. The Little Theatre of Alexandria is expanding capacity with their new lineup of shows, and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will resume in-person performing in a reduced program at the City’s birthday celebration on the waterfront on July 10.

In other good news, a pair of T.C. Williams High School Titans raised more than $4,800 to attend the Outdoor Nationals at the University of Oregon on July 1.

In this week’s poll, we asked readers how they think the millions of first allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds should be spent, as City Council will conduct a public hearing on how to spend it on Saturday. After a rash of flooding incidents last year, a majority of the respondents want the funds prioritized for waterway maintenance.

This Sunday is also Father’s Day, and a number of Alexandria businesses are offering unique specials.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. JUST IN: Rarity as American Viper Rattlesnake found in Old Town
  2. Captain Sean Casey wins Democratic primary and is running unopposed for Sheriff in November
  3. Woman assaulted by mob and pepper-sprayed in Old Town North
  4. Man dies of apparent overdose at coworking office in Old Town
  5. T.C. Williams High School’s final graduating class walks the stage
  6. Alexandria Fire Department rescues woman from stalled car, Flash Flood Watch in effect
  7. City launches Duke Street transit overhaul process
  8. For Taco Bamba owner, newly announced Landmark location is a homecoming
  9. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  10. Here’s what to do when you find dead birds amid recent epidemic
  11. Java Grill closed until further notice in Old Town

Have a safe weekend! 

Courtesy AWLA/Twitter 

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The pandemic has taken another Alexandria business. Java Grill at 611 King Street in Old Town has closed until further notice, according to a sign posted on its door.

Perhaps its greatest moment was on Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The place was packed with members of Congress, reporters and Democratic supporters for an election night viewing party.

The business closed up less than a month later on March 30. Their final social media post said that the action was temporary.

Java Grill opened in early 2019 in the former Bread & Chocolate, which had been at the location for decades. The street is beginning to look lonely, as neighboring storefronts La Tasca and Walgreens are also vacant.

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What a week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on President Joe Biden stopping by the Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria last Friday with First Lady Jill Biden and Governor Ralph Northam.

Seeing the president around town is getting to be a regular thing. The president, who also visited in April, discussed “the state’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic” and the celebration of “summer as Virginia lifts all COVID-19 distancing and capacity restrictions.”

This week, we also followed up on a New York Times report about the Virginia Theological Seminary making reparations payments to slavery descendants. The program was launched in 2019, and the school issued $2,100 in annual payments to 15 families in February.

On Wednesday, the Fire Department released its restructuring plan, which goes into effect June 12, and is intended to help emergency response times by shifting resources. AFD will conduct community conversations on the restructuring on Saturday, June 5, at 10 a.m.; Monday, June 7, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m.

Closing the short workweek, on Friday Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown announced that his retirement. Brown’s last day is June 25, and the City Manager is soon expected to name an acting chief to lead the department while the city’s undergoes a national search for a permanent replacement.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. UPDATED: President Biden and Gov. Northam visited Alexandria this morning
  2. JUST IN: Virginia State Police chase U-Haul pickup truck through Alexandria
  3. Bennett-Parker says Levine mailer on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead is ethics breach
  4. Goodie’s Frozen Custard & Treats opens in Old Town
  5. Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen closes for the foreseeable future in Old Town North
  6. Volunteers needed this weekend to help clear dangerous stretch of Mount Vernon Trail
  7. Wilson and Silberberg mayoral debate finale opens possibility of ‘tweaking’ Seminary Road Diet
  8. Homegrown Restaurant Group gives employees raise to $15 an hour, will ease COVID restrictions at 6 restaurants
  9. ‘Rock It Grill’ eyeing karaoke expansion, bringing back Halloween party
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Ownership of Landmark’s streets could make a big difference down the road

Photo via White House/Twitter

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After less than a year in business, Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen has closed at 600 Montgomery Street in Old Town North, the owner announced on its website and social media on Tuesday.

“Opening a restaurant in the middle of a global pandemic was not without challenges and even with dedicated staff and loyal customers we find ourselves needing to pause, regroup, and determine the best way to move forward in this space,” the business said. “Effective immediately, we are closing Hank & Mitzi’s for the foreseeable future. We thank you for your understanding: it’s been a true pleasure serving you and the North Old Town community.”

The restaurant opened last August after closing for a renovation. Before that, for three years it was Hank’s Pasta Bar, and was a part of the “Hank’s” chain of businesses owned by the Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group, including Hank’s Oyster Bar in Old Town and two other oyster bar locations in D.C.

The now-closed restaurant was named after Leeds’ parents Hank and Mitzi. The restaurant gained a bit of acclaim a month after opening, when its executive chef won the Chopped reality show.

Image via Hank & Mitzi’s/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Bob & Edith’s Diner to open at the old Ernie’s Original Crab House — “Bob & Edith’s Diner will open on King Street later this year, the company confirmed on Wednesday. The diner will take the place of Ernie’s Original Crab House, which closed in April, at 1743 King St. just a few hundred feet from the King Street Metro station. A Bob & Edith’s Diner T-shirt appeared in the window of the restaurant space sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday, hinting at the coming change. The new diner could open before the end of this year.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Old Town Art Festival taking place May 15 and 16 — “After the festival had success despite the pandemic in September 2020, a springtime festival will be held on May 15 and 16, 2021. The festival features thousands of art pieces across various mediums, including sculptures, paintings, jewelry, pottery, textiles and more. The event used to be held along King Street, but it is now held at John Carlyle Square, 300 John Carlyle Street, Alexandria. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days, and it is free and open to the public, but visitors are asked to reserve a time slot.” [Patch]

Capital Bikeshare opens station in West End — “Located on Kenmore just off Seminary Rd., we present the latest @bikeshare station installation in #alexandriava” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Sunny (during the day), along with a few afternoon clouds. High 66F. Winds NNW at 10 to 15 mph… A few clouds from time to time (in the evening). Low 47F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Children’s fun and fitness instructor — “We need Outgoing, Energetic & Fun Loving people to work with kids (2-12 years old). Responsibilities include teaching silly creative movement classes for preschoolers and leading organized games, races, and fun sport activities for older kids at area schools and daycare centers conducting on site field trips.” [Indeed]

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A year of family drama behind the scenes of a car dealership ballooned to such a point that the City Council took the incredibly uncommon step this weekend of stripping the business of its Special Use Permit.

M&B Auto Sales (26 S. Dove Street) has been in hot water with multiple neighbors over the last year, with 37 calls for service over the last year for everything from fighting and drug use to “mob activity.” The most recurring issue noted by staff was parking violations, with the business parking vehicles in the public right of way.

Land Use Division Chief Tony LaColla told the City Council that revocation of an SUP was exceedingly rare, with the revoking resulting in closure of the business and loss of jobs.

“When an SUP owner continuously fails to remedy violations and be a nuisance to the neighborhood, staff is left with little choice but to docket for review,” LaColla said.

LaColla said it is the only time in recent memory that revocation of a SUP has gone to City Council. He said when the city showed up for an inspection, there were so many vehicles parked illegally that it was impossible for the city vehicle to access the site.

Owner Hamid Yasini pled for more time from the City Council, arguing that the failures were the result of his nephew, who had since been fired from the dealership. Yasini said his nephew hid information about the violations from him and since been removed. Yasini asked for more time to fix the problems at the site with a new staff.

This argument didn’t hold up for members of the City Council. Mayor Justin Wilson noted that Yasini had indicated awareness of the problems as far back as September last year and City Council member Canek Aguirre pointed out that while the nephew had been hired, Yasini had by his own admission rehired the nephew and his cohorts in December.

The business also culminated in $700 of unpaid fines as of January and a $500 notice of violation, which Yasini said he hasn’t paid yes because the business is waiting for the result of an impending legal action on the advice of his lawyer.

Yasini also attempted to blame the calls for service on one neighbor, whom Yasini said also was guilty of parking violations, which drew a sharp rebuke from Councilwoman Del Pepper.

“For heaven’s sake, get your act together,” Pepper said. “I’m not convinced what you’re saying is getting your act together… Don’t worry about your neighbor, take care of yourself.”

The owner and the director of operations for the neighboring Fontenelle Academy spoke at the meeting. Owner Cynthia Cole said the arrests of staff at the dealership, verbal altercations, illicit drug use and repeated speeding violations on the nearby streets were creating an unsafe environment for the children at the facility.

“My primary concern is safety and care of children whose parents entrust the center with their care, development and education,” Cole said. “It is my responsibility to provide a safe environment for our children. [I am] in support of revocation.”

Carey Meushaw, another neighboring business owner, said M&B Auto Sales had been in constant parking violations and that he was accosted at his business by the manager of the business when he complained.

City Council member Mo Seifeldein attempted to create a substitute motion to give the business a little more time to fix their problem, but it was not approved by the Council.

“We got a lot of promises and a hard luck story, and their commitment to come in two or three times — this is just more of the promises and it’s not fair to the two companies that we heard from today for them to have to deal with the kind of activity that has been going on and I rather suspect would continue,” Pepper said. “It’s not that their hearts aren’t pure and they don’t want to, but that this is a group that has a long history of promising and I think that should be revoked.”

Wilson said that in his ten years on the City Council he had never had a revocation come before the Council, and Pepper said she hadn’t seen one that she could recall in her 35 years.

“If there was an opportunity for that to happen, it should have happened long before we got here,” Wilson said. “Our staff has bent over backwards to work with this applicant to come to an accommodation and that has failed to happen. The suggestions that staff should try to provide more time are way too late.”

Seifeldein said these sorts of violations are common at car dealerships across the city and approving this sort of revocation could set an unwelcome precedent. Over Seifeldein’s objection, the City Council voted to approve the revocation 6-1.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

City Applies for Grant to Reimagine King Street — “The project runs from the six-way King Street-Braddock-Road-Quaker Lane intersection west past the Bradlee Shopping Center to Menonkin Drive, which is just before the I-395 interchange on King Street — about a 0.5 mile stretch of heavily-used roadway. The City Council granted permission for city staff to apply for the grant in March 2020, along with approval to apply for grants for the Duke Street Transitway and Landmark Transit Center. The King Street project would be funded in the 2026-27 fiscal year.” [Alexandria Living]

Pandemic Forces ‘Mom Made Foods’ to Close — “Mom Made Foods, an Alexandria-based company providing children’s frozen meals and snacks in stores and online, announced its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Patch]

ALIVE! Free Food Distribution is This Saturday — “On Sat, Mar 13, 8:30-10:30am, @ALIVE4AlexVA will distribute food in Cora Kelly Elem School parking lot and parking lot B-1 of NOVA-Alexandria Campus (map at alive-inc.org, if college closes due to weather, distribution cancelled).” [Twitter]

Police Chief Giving Community Update on Thursday — “COMMUNITY MEETING:: Chief Michael Brown heads to Del Ray on Thursday, March 11 to answer questions and listen to concerns from the community. We hope you can join us.” [Twitter]

Transportation and Environmental Services Chief Speaking at Regional Meeting — “You don’t want to miss our upcoming Roundtable’s ‘Smart Future’ panel, featuring Jennifer DeBruhl, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation; Chris Henry, Virginia Railway Express; Dennis Leach, Arlington County Department of Environmental Services; and Yon Lambert, Transportation & Environmental Services, City of Alexandria, Virginia. It is sure to be a lively discussion on the future of transportation around the Commonwealth! Jordan Pascale, WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio transportation reporter, to moderate. Tune in Wednesday, March 10th.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny (during the day). High near 70F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph… Mostly cloudy skies early, then partly cloudy after midnight. Low 41F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Weekend Photographer — “Memory Makers is seeking entry level photographers to take pictures of the youth sports leagues that we service. Individuals interested in this position must be friendly, self-motivated, and dependable. This job is PERFECT for photographers that are looking to expand their professional experience.” [Indeed]

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It was a short, but news-filled week in Alexandria.

With Monday off in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we started the week running with a COVID-19 update. Cases of COVID-19 in the city now stand at 8,975 and fatalities are at 99. That’s an increase of three deaths and 165 cases since Tuesday, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Our top story this week was a story that was published before election day in November, when residents with Joe Biden for president signs in their yards received anonymous letters stating that Biden is a pedophile.

Our second most-read story was the widely reported plans to close Atlantis Pizzeria and Family Restaurant.

Wednesday, Jan. 20, brought worldwide attention to Alexandria’s neighboring jurisdiction of Washington D.C. for Biden’s inauguration, and while there were calls from members of the community for a 6 p.m. curfew, there were no reported incidents from protestors in Alexandria.

In fact, Alexandria Sheriff’s deputies and police officers helped during the inauguration by working with regional partners to shut down the 14th Street Bridge to traffic.

In case you missed them, here are a few important posts:

Here are our top stories of the week:

  1. Alexandrians with Joe Biden Yard Signs Get Anonymous Letters Saying Biden is a Pedophile
  2. Atlantis Pizzeria and Family Restaurant Closing on Jan. 24
  3. New Boarding House Planned Over Old Town Barber Shop
  4. Man Charged With DWI After Horrific Crash in West End Parking Lot
  5. Contested Parker-Gray Townhouse Returns to City Tomorrow
  6. Police Chief: Many Recent Shootings in Alexandria Are Related
  7. Curfew Not Likely for Alexandria on Inauguration Day, No Known Threats Detected
  8. BREAKING: Woman Gets Arm Amputated, Police Investigate if She Was Thrown From Car in West End
  9. Vice Mayor Bennett-Parker Asks Alexandria Hotels to Cancel ‘Proud Boy’ Reservations
  10. Local Business in Hot Water with City Architects After Unauthorized Paint Job
  11. COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Expanded, City Says Aggressive Calls to COVID-19 Hotline Not Tolerated

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via Atlantis Restaurant/Facebook

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After nearly 40 years in business, Atlantis Pizzeria and Family Restaurant will close on Jan. 24.

The restaurant’s owners said that the loss of business from the pandemic destroyed the business, and thanked loyal customers for years of support.

“It is with great regret that we will be CLOSING Atlantis Restaurant on January 24th,” owners Jim and Bill Patrianakos wrote on Facebook. “We are deeply saddened that it has come to this point, but the pandemic has proven to be too difficult for us to continue normal business.”

The Greek and Mediterranean restaurant at 3648 King Street in the Bradlee Shopping Center has been open sporadically throughout the pandemic, and has only served carryout. The company website still features daily specials, like fresh, hearty soup by the cup, bowl or gallon.

The news of the closure broke over the weekend, and a number of outlets covered the story, including WTOP, The Zebra, and Patch. Mayor Justin Wilson told Alexandria Living Magazine that Atlantis received back-to-business grants from the city last year, and that the closure is a “tragic loss.”

A number of prominent Alexandrians commented on the closure announcement, including Alexandria City Council member Amy Jackson.

“A lifetime of memories for me. Heartbreaking,” Jackson wrote. “They have been our go-to at least once a week during the pandemic. So sad!”

Del Ray’s Gayle Todson Reuter wrote that it was sad news.

“You have been such an important part of the community,” Reuter wrote.

Photo via Atlantis Restaurant/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Bilbo Baggins Now for Sale — “Longtime Alexandria restaurant and pub Bilbo Baggins has closed its doors for good. The cozy eatery, which opened in 1980, closed in the spring when COVID-19 first struck. Since then, the family-owned restaurant has not reopened and the nearly 4,000-square foot property is now for sale for $2.8 million.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Reminder: Illegal Starting Jan. 1 to Hold Cell Phone While Driving — “Starting January 1st, the ‘Hands-Free’ law will go into effect. The law makes it illegal to hold a cell phone while driving.” [Twitter]

Goodwin House Residents and Staff Receive Vaccine — “Earlier today, some residents and staff at Goodwin House Alexandria received the vaccine. Before the end of 2020, it is estimated that 125 residents and employees will be vaccinated.” [Zebra]

What’s Open and Closed on New Year’s? — “A week after Christmas, residents will get another holiday with the arrival of 2021. Some services in Alexandria will be closed or modified for the New Year’s holiday.” [Patch]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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