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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Morning Notes

Alexandria reducing COVID-19 news release updates to twice a week — “With nearly 54% of Alexandrians ages 12 and up partially vaccinated and considerable progress in the past five months toward the state’s goal of 70% and Alexandria’s target of 80% of the eligible population fully vaccinated, the frequency of this COVID-19 news release will reduce to twice per week. Going forward, this news release will be published on Tuesdays and Fridays, unless there is a major announcement to share. Daily COVID-19 case, death and vaccination data will continue to be available at alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus. The seven-day moving average of cases in Alexandria is now at its lowest point since the start of the pandemic.” [City of Alexandria]

King Street-Old Town Metro station bus loop to open — “On June 6, DASH and Metrobus will move to the new bays in the Metro station’s bus loop off Diagonal Road. Bus bays and the station entrance kiosk will feature new digital screens with real-time bus arrival information. New crosswalks and redesigned station lighting have also been added to boost pedestrian visibility.” [Patch]

Taste of Del Ray starts this Friday — “One of Virginia Living Magazine‘s top food festivals in the state, the Taste of Del Ray, will open this weekend, on Friday June 4. As events have had to adapt throughout the pandemic, the Taste of Del Ray is no exception. The new event format will look like a weekend-long event from Friday, June 4 to Sunday, June 6.” [Zebra]

Carlyle House hosting Juneteenth celebration — “The event is free to attend and will be held from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees will have a chance to speak with the three poets, Jamal Rashad, Simply Sherri and Mysfit, who will be performing a live poetry reading. In addition to the poets, the event’s live music will be performed by cellist Benjamin Gates.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy early with thunderstorms developing later in the day. Storms could contain damaging winds. High 82F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%… Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Storms may contain strong gusty winds. Low 67F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Shampoo assistant — “Salon Virage is looking for an energetic shampoo assistant. Prior experience is REQUIRED. At least 2 years experience. Must be able to work Tuesday-Sunday and some holidays. Saturdays and Sundays a must. Hours are flexible.” [Indeed]

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With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, dancing is returning to Rock It Grill in Old Town, but the pool tables likely won’t be coming back anytime soon.

Remnants of the pandemic are still visible at the hangout at 1319 King Street. Staff continue to wear face masks and a plexiglass screen separates the deejay from the audience for karaoke, which was brought back late last summer and is now held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“I’m energized,” Rock It Grill owner Laura Seiss told ALXnow. “The pandemic taught me to pay attention to the basics. It’s easy to try to cater to everyone, but you’ve got to stick with your business plan and what works, and then concentrate on doing that the best that you can. Our customers want good, friendly service.”

More good news — Rock It Grill’s annual Halloween party, which is usually a smash hit and was canceled last year, is back on. Seiss also wants to bring back karaoke to seven days a week, provided that she can hire enough servers and deejays. Seiss said that her skeleton crew of longtime staff can hire on the spot, and that anyone interested should show up in person.

Two pool tables were also moved out of a rear section of the restaurant for sanitary reasons last year, and won’t likely be back. Pool players will have to go across the street to play at O’Shaughnessy’s Pub at 1324 King Street.

“We’ve lost a lot of our pool players over the last several years, so we’re going to use that space for a party area,” manager Hana Harris told ALXnow. “We found that the space is much better for parties with 30-40 people, so it has yet to be determined what will happen to the pool tables in the future.”

The 32-year-old restaurant and bar began as the the country western-themed hangout GW’s until 1997, when it rebranded itself as Rock It Grill. It was the only place in town that offered karaoke seven days a week in the city for years.

Seiss got help from her landlord, who forgave much of her rent during the last 15 months.

“My landlord is great,” she said. “The Rock It is not going anywhere.”

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Bob and Edith’s Diner officially announced plans to open this fall inside the shell of what had been Ernie’s Original Crab House at 1743 King Street, the company said in a press release.

The new location is the sixth Bob & Edith’s Diner — a tiny franchise that started in Arlington in 1969 –and the second in Alexandria, with another one at 5918 North King’s Highway. According to the press release, the diner will be open 24/7.

“My dad became an integral part of the Arlington community when he opened our original location, and my family has continued that tradition as we’ve continued to expand the Bob & Edith’s Diner brand,” Greg Bolton, owner of Bob & Edith’s Diner, said in the press release. “My family and dedicated staff are in our restaurants every day, and we can’t wait to become a part of the Old Town Alexandria community when we open our doors later this year.”

The new location is planned to include the same diner-staples as other locations: all-day breakfast, lunch options like sandwiches, bottomless hot coffee, freshly baked pies and hand-spun milkshakes.

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For the second year in a row, the Alexandria Old Town Art Festival packed the Carlyle neighborhood on Saturday and Sunday.

Dozens of artists and exhibitors from all over the country displayed their work throughout the weekend to large numbers of gatherers and art admirers.

Another live event, the 43rd annual Alexandria Jazz Festival, will be held in Old Town on May 29.

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Morning Notes

(Update at 10:30 a.m. Blue and White Carryout is still open. The tweet from a local news outlet was incorrect.)

City Council Rescinds Vote on Braddock West Development — “The matter will be taken up again for public hearing and vote on May 15, but a pending lawsuit by an Alexandria resident may delay a final decision.” [Alexandria Living]

West End Harris Teeter opening early this summer — “The new store, 62,000 square feet in size, will be located at West Alex, the new development that also includes Array, an apartment building and the Silver Diner restaurant that opened on the corner of King and N. Beauregard streets.” [Alexandria Living]

Southbound King Street exit on Interstate 395 closed for 2 weeks — “Drivers along King Street (Route 7) in Alexandria can expect a new temporary traffic pattern at I-395 beginning Monday morning, May 3, weather permitting, for work as part of the rehabilitation of the King Street Bridge over I-395, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Showers early then scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High 73F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening. Partly cloudy skies overnight. Low around 65F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bilingual medical assistant — “Functions as a member of a program team by performing and documenting results of selected tests and measurements, maintaining adequately supplied workstations, maintaining a clean work environment, and promoting timely and efficient patient flow through the clinic. Has primary responsibility for the collection, processing, and recording of laboratory testing. Gives immunizations and other injectable medications under the supervision of the physician, nurse practitioner or registered nurse. Assists with patient treatments during clinical sessions.” [Indeed]

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was in Alexandria Wednesday, and with Mayor Justin Wilson welcomed U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School.

Northam stopped by Pacers Running at 1301 King Street before the event with Cardona, where he met Wilson and spoke with employees about raising the minimum wage. Pacers has been paying its employees $15 an hour since last year.

“The $15 an hour is definitely better for morale,” Pacers manager Victoria Sanchez said. “We want to have our employees want to stay and to want to come to work every day and be able to afford, living in the area as well.”

Starting May 1, Virginia’s minimum wage will increase to $9.50 per hour, and then to $11 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2022, to $12 in 2023 and then $15 per hour in January 2026.

Northam then met with Cardona, Wilson, National Education Association of the United States President Becky Pringle and Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School.

Cardona was at the school as part of his “Help is Here” school reopening tour. Also in attendance were Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. and School Board Chair Meagan Alderton.

“It was an honor to welcome Secretary Cardona, the Governor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the President of the NEA and more to Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School,” Wilson said. “Secretary Cardona pledged continuing support from the Administration as we continue efforts to return students to in-classroom instruction and provide supports for our kids during this time.”

As part of the tour, which launched in March, Cardona has visited schools around the country that have successfully reopened, as well as schools facing reopening challenges.

Images via Jason Taylor and ACPS/Twitter

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Morning Notes

Early voting begins for June 8 Democratic primary — “Early voting will begin on April 23 for the June 8 Democratic primary election in the City of Alexandria. The ballot includes contests for Virginia Governor;Lieutenant Governor; Attorney General; House of Delegates (45th District); Mayor and City Council.” [Zebra]

Alexandria to renovate baseball field near Mount Vernon Community School — “The project is scheduled to begin Monday, April 26  and work will occur Monday through Friday from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Work is planned for the restoration of approximately 39,600 square feet turf. This includes the installation of irrigation. The work area will be closed to the public during the installation period.” [Zebra]

Bradlee-King Street road changes could be paused for resident input — “Earlier this year, the City of Alexandria planned to apply for a grant to fund significant changes along Upper King Street, including new bike lanes, narrowed car lanes, dedicated bus lanes and fewer left turns into a popular shopping center. Now, that grant application for the 0.5-mile stretch on King Street outside Bradlee Shopping Center may be put on hold as city officials go back to get resident input and make more specific plans for the roadway to meet expectations from the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT).” [Alexandria Living]

Church donates gift cards to elementary school families in need — “On Tuesday, March 23, 2021 Lazarus Ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church informed ACPS that they will be donating $5,400 for the purchase of gift cards for families in need at William Ramsay Elementary School.” [ACPS]

Titan volleyball team going to state championship — “T.C. Williams (16-0) advanced to the first state championship game in program history, which it will host Friday or Saturday.” [Washington Post]

Today’s weather — “Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. High near 65F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph… Mainly clear (in the evening). Low 41F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Dog groomer — “Join us at A Dog’s Day Out in Van Dorn! We passionately deliver a great dog experience composed of play, affection, and socialization – all in a safe, friendly, and clean environment. We offer doggie daycare, boarding, and grooming for dogs of all shapes and sizes who play nicely and want to hang with the gang.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria Police are investigating a report that an object that was thrown at a vehicle just outside the city Courthouse.

The victim, who knows the suspect, called 911 and mistakenly reported that a gun was fired at their vehicle, according to police.

“The victim knew the person who threw something at their vehicle,” Alexandria Police Senior Public Information Officer Amanda Paga told ALXnow. “The victim called initially thinking that whatever it was was loud enough to think that there was something (gunfire).”

Alexandria police initially responded to the incident as a call for shots fired. No one was injured.

Map via Google Maps

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One of the most visible congestion points in the city is about to get revamped.

On Tuesday, the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved roadway improvements the the intersection of King Street, Russell Road and Callahan Drive, as well as a conversion to one-way for the service road leading up to the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.

I think it’ll be safer for one and all,” Alexandria City Councilwoman Del Pepper said.

Roadway improvements in the area include:

  • Signal timing optimization to reduce vehicle delay by 45 seconds
  • Upgraded crosswalks and pedestrian signals
  • A curb extension for shorter crossing and to slow turning vehicles
  • Bike facilities through the intersection

Improvements at the intersection have been in the works since 2015, when the city received a $1.2 million Federal Transit Administration grant. The next few years were spent collecting and analyzing data, and were met with delays due to “the combination of staff capacity and implementation of the King Street Metro Improvements Project and the 2019 Metro Summer Shutdown,” according to a city staff report.

The George Washington National Masonic Memorial Association wanted the access road shut down to vehicle traffic.

“Part of this project involves the access road around the traffic island, which connects the Memorial’s driveway to Callahan Drive,” the Association wrote in a letter to Council. “While the Memorial Association believes the modifications before Council for approval are a positive step, it is the viewpoint of the Memorial Association that this access road, which is used by motorists as a way to circumvent the traffic light at King and Callahan, should be permanently closed to vehicle traffic.”

Christopher Ziemann, the city’s Transportation Planning Division chief, said that the one-way conversion was a compromise.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the traffic island in the center of the intersection will not be impacted, as it is designated as a national historic landmark.

“I think this is a step forward and certainly enjoys broad-based community support, which is great,” he said. “I appreciate staff’s efforts to build consensus on the changes on this intersection. I know this has been a long time coming.”

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