Alexandria, VA

That was fast.

Pizzeria Paradiso officially closed its doors at 124 King Street on October 4, and three days later Emmy Squared Pizza submitted a special use permit (SUP) application to start business at the prime spot in Old Town.

The Detroit-style pizza and burger joint would join eight other locations around the country, including in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Howard Greenstone, a partner with Emmy Squared, told ALXnow that he jumped at the chance to rent the property from landlord Asana.

“Old Town is a great market, ” Greenstone said. “It’s a fantastic place for us to be. It has a tremendous tourist population, but it has a very neighborhood feel, and we’re not an opulent concept. We’re just a really delicious sort of square pizza and burger concept that seems like it would fit there perfectly.”

Greenstone hopes that the new restaurant will open in the spring or summer.

Photo via Emmy Squared Pizza/Facebook

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What a week it’s been in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the report that Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. sends one of his children to Bishop Ireton High School. In case you missed it, the story first broke in Theogony, the T.C. Williams High School newspaper.

Hutchings also presented his plan for a phased reopening of ACPS starting next month. The results of a survey over virtual schooling were also released, revealing that screen time and childcare were among the top concerns of students, staff and families.

On the health front, Alexandria exceeded 4,000 total cases of COVID-19 since the first case was reported on March 11.

Additionally, more than 200 people participated in our weekly poll on traveling this holiday season, and 56% reported they will not travel, 27% still plan on traveling, and 17% still haven’t decided.

Crime-wise, we reported that a woman was assaulted in Arlandria on October 11; an arrest was made after an attempted armed robbery in the West End; a West End gas station was robbed of $1,700 in tobacco products; a woman ended up not being charged after firing a warning shot at a man in the 4300 block of Duke Street; and the mother of a man whose truck was stolen in Del Ray received an unexpected phone call from the thief.

There was some good news.

The southern entrance of the Potomac Yard Metro station is really taking shape, at least on paper. This week, the final plans going to the city were made public. The Board of Architectural Review will look at them at their meeting on Wednesday, October 21.

And in recognition of Oyster Week, ALXnow on Thursday emceed the first-ever “Pearl of Alexandria Oyster Eating Contest” between rival Del Ray and Old Town business owners.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  2. Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
  3. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  4. BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
  5. ISIS ‘Beatles’ Held in Alexandria Jail, Charged with American Murders in Syria
  6. Here’s What the Potomac Yard Metro Station’s Southern Entrance Will Look Like
  7. Superintendent Proposing Phased Reopening of Alexandria City Public Schools Starting in November
  8. A Dozen Restaurants are Participating in Old Town Oyster Week
  9. VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
  10. ‘Brewski’s Barkhaus’ is Opening This Saturday
  11. Old Virginia Tobacco Co. Moves Directly Across Street from Longtime Old Town Tobacconist

Have a safe weekend!

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There’s a new tobacconist on King Street in Old Town, and it’s right across the street from another tobacconist.

Old Virginia Tobacco Company unsuccessfully tried last year to buy the The Scottish Merchant/John Crouch Tobacconist at 215 King Street. The deal was in the works for months, and ultimately fell through. Instead, Old Virginia Tobacco moved across the street to the vacant storefront at 210 King Street.

“It’s been a longtime dream of ours to have a presence in Old Town, Alexandria,” Brian Ceres, Old Virginia Tobacco’s general manager, told ALXnow. “This is the heart of commerce in colonial Virginia, which has a great, historical tobacco culture.”

The new location has a soft opening last Saturday, October 10. The company plans on conducting a grand opening before the end of the year, which will include the unveiling an upstairs cigar lounge. Due to the pandemic, though, all cigars are handled before purchase by staff wearing gloves and face masks.

Old Virginia Tobacco has also hired staff from The Scottish Merchant/John Crouch Tobacconist, although Ceres says there is room for both companies to co-exist on King Street. A representative of The Scottish Merchant/John Crouch Tobacconist could not be reached for comment.

“We’re all a big family, and there’s room for us to play in the same sandbox,” Ceres said. “This won’t be our biggest location, but it will be our most scenic.”

Old Virginia Tobacco, which has locations in Arlington’s Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall and in Seven Corners, was founded in 1971. The company is known for its lounge atmosphere, leather couches and big screen televisions. The company now has seven locations and is a member of the Tobacconists Association of America, which entitles it to special cigars from brands like Arturo Fuente and Padron.

Old Virginia Tobacco Company is now open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Photo via Old Virginia Tobacco Co./Facebook

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Morning Notes

(Updated 12:10 p.m.) Alexandria Nearing 4,000 cases of COVID-19 — “The latest update from the City on COVID-19: Positive tests up 6 to 3,938 in the City (84 in last 7 days) 7-day Positivity Rate down to 4.0% 0 new hospitalizations Still safer at home, wash hands and wear masks.” [Twitter]

The Majestic Reopens After 8-Month Hiatus — “Diners can expect an all-new menu offering seasonal dishes such as Roasted Parsnip Agnolotti with black truffle, bacon jam and parmesan ($12), vegetarian Preserved Smoked Beet Tartare ($9) with crispy capers, horseradish yogurt, shallots and almonds, and of course there’s the Majestic Burger ($17) or Rigatoni & Eggplant for $18.” [Alexandria Living]

Del Ray Halloween Parade Goes Virtual — “Kids and pets decked out in spooky costumes won’t line the streets of Mount Vernon Avenue for Del Ray’s annual Halloween Parade in 2020 due to the pandemic.” [Patch]

Fire Department Annual Wreath Laying Closed to Public — “Due to the pandemic, our annual wreath laying & memorial service at Ivy Hill Cemetery will be closed to the public and recorded for later viewing. AFD will make video of the ceremony available to the public on Oct. 10.”  [Twitter]

Friendship Firehouse to Open October 10 — “In honor of Fire Prevention Week, Friendship Firehouse Museum will be open October 10 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. The Friendship Fire Company, established in 1774, was the first fire company in Alexandria, comprised of member volunteers across the community. Today the Friendship Firehouse, built in 1855, houses buckets, hoses, axes, and Friendship’s mid-19th century elaborately decorated suction engine.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “A mainly sunny sky (during the day). High around 70F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph. Clear skies (in the evening). Low 48F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Public Relations Manager — “The ideal candidate for this position will work with our marketing manager team to identify, evaluate, select and monitor the most relevant PR for our organization, including (but not limited to): press releases, articles, blog posts, video content, web content and marketing.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria’s Black residents have lived and worked along the Alexandria waterfront years before the city was founded in 1749, and a new African American Waterfront Heritage Trail helps to tell their stories.

The self-guided tour of the trail, which is a community initiative supported by the the city’s African American Heritage Trail Committee and the Office of Historic Alexandria, should take folks about 45 minutes to complete at a leisurely pace.

“In the 1820s, Alexandria became home to the largest domestic slave trading firm, which specialized in the sale and trafficking of enslaved African Americans from the Chesapeake to the Deep South,” according to the African American Waterfront Heritage Trail website. “The Civil War revolutionized social and economic relations, and newly freed African Americans found new job opportunities as a result of the waterfront’s industrialization. The Potomac River played an important role in leisure activities too, including picnicking, boating, and fishing, much as it does for Alexandrians and visitors today.”

The trail takes visitors to the waterfront at the foot of King Street and then to the corner of North Royal and Montgomery Streets.

“An amazing committee of community historians have put this amazing history trail together!” wrote City Councilman John Taylor Chapman on Facebook. “Who’s going to check out on the next sunny day?”

Participants can check out the 11 stops with a StoryMap.

An amazing committee of community historians have put this amazing history trail together!!! Who’s going to check out on the next sunny day?

Posted by John T. Chapman on Monday, October 5, 2020

Image via African American Waterfront Heritage Trail

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The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday will consider a proposal to further ease outdoor restrictions for restaurants, retail stores and health and fitness businesses.

Participants will be allowed to set up outdoor dining in parking spaces outside of their establishments, according to a staff report that Council will review at its monthly legislative meeting.

“The Old Town Business and Professional Association (OTBA) will coordinate the designation of parking spaces for outdoor dining use and communicate that to Planning & Zoning,” notes the report. “Participants must comply with modified guidelines of the Parklet Program, including the location of parking spaces for outdoor dining away from corners or on streets with a high traffic volume.”

Live entertainment is still not permitted.

If approved, the expanded rules would be in effect until March 31, 2021.

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After a decade of serving pizza in Old Town, Pizzeria Paradiso at 124 King Street is closing its doors. But there’s still a chance to get one more pie before the pizzeria says arrivederci.

On Sunday, October 4, Pizzeria Paradiso will serve pizza and souvenirs for the last time. The “walk-by celebration” will start at 1 p.m. and will go until supplies run out.

“We are sad to be closing our doors, but will be back to visit our friends in Old Town through upcoming pizza partnerships with our friends at @portcitybrew,” Pizzeria Paradiso said on Facebook. “We are incredibly thankful for our loyal customers and will greatly miss being a permanent part of the Alexandria community.

The post continues: “After ten years in Old Town, we are saddened to announce we will permanently close our King Street location this fall. Join us for a walk by celebration on Sunday, October 4th at 1pm-we’ll be handing out pizza and Paradiso souvenirs while supplies last plus more information about Pizza Night at Port City!”

Pizza Paradiso’s other locations in Maryland and Washington, D.C. are still open.

After ten years in Old Town, we are saddened to announce we will permanently close our King Street location this fall….

Posted by Pizzeria Paradiso on Thursday, September 24, 2020

Photo via Pizzeria Paradiso/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Gov. Ralph Northam and First Lady Test Positive For COVID-19 — “Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife, Pamela, have both tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Sept. 25 news release from the governor’s office.” [Alex Times]

Beyer Says Trump is Taking Dramatic Steps Toward Abolishing Obamacare — “No Supreme Court nominee has ever been confirmed so close to the election. Why are Senate Republicans in such a hurry to break their 2016 promises? They want the Court to side with Trump, strike down the Affordable Care Act, and wreck your healthcare. The case hits in November.” [Twitter]

Mayor Says Drive-Thru Flu Vaccine Was Successful —  “Thanks to our Health Dept, @AlexandriaVAPD @AlexandriaVAFD @AlexVASheriff & our Medical Reserve Corps volunteers for administering 840 flu vaccines today in an extremely well-organized operation. [Twitter]

Local Entrepreneurs Bring Back King Street Flower Displays — “The petunias, lantana, dragon wing begonias and blue scaevola adorning King Streets lamps are all thanks to the efforts of T.C. Williams grads and local entrepreneurs Teddy Kim and Andy Reid, with backing from Alexandria Lighting and Avanti Holdings.” [Alexandria Living]

City Installs Panels Recognizing Landmark Supreme Court Case — “The law office of Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop was here at 110 N. Royal Street on June 12, 1967, the day they were notified that their Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia had been decided unanimously in their favor. The plaintiffs, Mildred and Richard Loving, had sued the Commonwealth of Virginia for its ban on interracial marriage. The day after the decision was announced, the Lovings held a press conference in the office of their attorneys in Suite 300. The ruling by the Supreme Court not only voided Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law but legalized interracial marriage throughout the country.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Partly cloudy (during the day). A few clouds from time to time (at night). Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 69F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.High 82F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Assistant City Manager for Public Private Partnerships — “The City wishes to rely less on its AAA/Aaa rated general obligation bond issuing capacity and to expand its efforts in the P3 area in a cost effective and responsible manner and requires a professional with substantial experience in P3 program design and delivery, particularly as it implements its $2.1 billion 10-year capital improvement program. Over the last decade these functions have been largely carried out by the City Manager in his current capacity, and in his prior position as a Deputy City Manager.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Co-sponsoring Legislation to Impeach U.S. Attorney General — “Accusing political opponents of “sedition” then morphing into an arch libertarian when Trump cronies are indicted. Attacking career prosecutors for doing their jobs. AG Barr is a menace to the rule of law–I’m cosponsoring legislation to begin impeachment proceedings against him.” [Twitter]

Absentee Voting Begins Today in Alexandria — “The ballot includes contests for President and Vice President of the United States, one member of the U.S. Senate, the member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the 8th Congressional District, and two amendments to the Constitution of Virginia.” [Patch]

King & Rye Opens in Alexandria — “Check out @Alexandrian_VA’s new restaurant, King & Rye. This downtown restaurant opened earlier this month, and features a large outdoor patio, intimate terrace, and full bar serving specialty cocktails. The perfect location for a private event.” [Twitter]

Douglas MacArthur Elementary School Rebuild Comes in Over Budget — “City Council approved a development special use permit on Saturday for the Douglas MacArthur Modernization Project, which is currently $5 to $7 million over budget. The project, which involves demolishing the existing Douglas MacArthur Elementary School and rebuilding a new one, will increase the school’s capacity from 558 to 850 students.” [Alex Times]

Alexandria Police Conduct Deescalation Training — “Yesterday APD’s Tactical Training and Response Unit conducted officer safety and deescalation training with the Traffic Safety Section. These training’s teach ways to stabilize situations so that more time, options, and resources can be called upon.” [Twitter]

Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub Celebrates Half-Way to St. Patrick’s Day — See Irish music on a Facebook Live performance from Thursday night. [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “During the day, partly to mostly cloudy. Slight chance of a rain shower. High 74F. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph. At night, a few clouds. Low 49F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Marketing Manager — “Develop and manage strategic, comprehensive marketing campaigns for NSBA (National School Boards Association) revenue- generating products, services and events.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

A Quarter of Alexandria Voters Have Requested Mail-In Ballots — “Over a quarter of Alexandria’s registered voters have applied for a ballot by mail for this November’s election (!!!). Ballots will be mailed out beginning next week when in-person early voting also begins. You can apply online today for a mail ballot!” [Twitter]

Seven Alexandria Students Make National Merit Scholarship List — “Students from Alexandria area high schools have been named 2021 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, taking the first step in securing a scholarship in the competitive program.” [Patch]

Beyer Criticizes Trump for Complaining Over Scandals — “You were recorded admitting you deceived the entire country about the danger of a virus that has killed more Americans than all wars since WWII combined. Can’t lie your way out of this one.” [Twitter]

ACPS Needs Donations for School Supplies — “While this year is considerably different because of the coronavirus pandemic, students still need essential supplies. ACPS is asking for community support. However, instead of donating physical items, they request that interested parties donate funds electronically.” [Zebra]

Alexandria Police Officer Appointed to State Board — “Governor Ralph Northam announced on September 4 that he has appointed Alexandria Police Officer Bennie L. Evans to the Commonwealth of Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board.” [Facebook]

Here’s Seven Things to do in Alexandria This Fall — “Enjoy a cruise aboard the tall ship Providence or set out for the new cat café or coming-soon dog bar. Contemplate new outdoor artwork like the ‘Come Together’ mural in Old Town. Mask up and visit just-opened independent businesses including the D.C. area’s first zero-waste sustainable grocer plus the national eco-conscious brand Patagonia, coming to King Street in September. Twelve new restaurants will tempt you with takeout or outdoor seating. Don your face mask and discover what’s new in Alexandria.” [Visit Alexandria]

Workforce Development Center Offers Job Counseling — “Are you recently unemployed or want to change your career and don’t know where to start? We are now offering free one-on-one Job Search Coaching to help Alexandrians who have experienced job loss during the pandemic.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Thunderstorms likely during the day. Potential for heavy rainfall. High 83F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.Thunderstorms likely in the evening. Then a chance of scattered thunderstorms later on. Low 73F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Scholarship Fund of Alexandria Assistant Director — “The qualified applicant will be eager to support the organization’s effort to help Alexandria high school students obtain college scholarships and college and financial aid advising. This position is full-time, year-round and provides an opportunity to work in a small, dynamic, mission-driven, collegial nonprofit organization.” [Indeed]

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The pool tables are gone, there’s no dancing and everything is spread out, but singing karaoke at the Rock It Grill is still going strong with some new additional safety features.

“Our regular Rock It customers are beyond wonderful,” said owner Laura Seiss. “As far as employees that are back, everybody who wanted to work is working.”

The 31-year-old restaurant and bar at 1319 King Street spent its formative years as the country western-themed hangout GW’s until 1997, when it rebranded itself as Rock It Grill in 1997. It was the only place in town that offered karaoke seven nights a week for years. It was also a popular spot for Halloween and other parties.

The changes don’t mean a thing to Roger Vasilas, the owner of The Lamplighter, which is just up the street. Nearly every day at lunchtime you’ll find him at Rock It, spending his free time eating familiar food and seeing familiar faces.

“I’ve got too many good memories of this place to pick one that stands out,” Vasilas said. “I know everybody here. I can have a conversation about anything with anybody here.”

Manager Hana Harris has worked for Seiss the last 11 years, and was temporarily laid off for two months before Rock It reopened at the end of May.

“This place is like ‘Cheers’ because everybody knows your name here,” Harris said. “Business is starting to slowly pick up bit by bit.”

Now there’s karaoke Wednesday through Saturday. The deejay stands behind a plexiglass screen and receives songs from staffers who give them written requests from customers.

“The best is that everybody cheers for everybody with the karaoke,” Seiss said. “It’s heartwarming. The thing about us is that somebody can walk in the first time, and when they come back the regulars welcome them back.”

Seiss has been unable to pay rent throughout the pandemic and has paid her landlord 25% of the government loan monies she has received, she said. The business has gone through the ALX Promise accreditation through the Alexandria Health Department, and she says her staff of nine full and part time employees are working hard to keep things clean and safe.

“We don’t want to go backwards, and we’re working really hard,” Seiss said. “We’re not a takeout kind of place, and people like to come here to hang out.”

Image via Rock It Grill/Facebook

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The new bus loop — a centerpiece of the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvement Project — was scheduled to open in March, but the city now says completion is still four to six months away.

“While delays have continued, we can provide an updated estimate for completion of the phase 1 bus loop,” Lydia Durand, a management analyst with the Department of Project Implementation, told ALXnow. “At this time, we anticipate an approximately four-six month time frame for reopening the bus loop. This accounts for construction of the bus loop, restoration of utilities, intersection signalization, and integration into the DASH, WMATA and City traffic operations systems.”

In 2012, the City Council approved a safer and larger transit area outside the Metro station, with better pedestrian-crossings through the bus loop. The project has been in-progress since November 2018 when the bus loop was closed, but has faced significant delays.

According to the city website, full completion of the project is now scheduled for Spring 2021.

“This project has experienced delays,” Durand said. “Staff continues to actively manage the contractor’s progress on this project and is taking all steps within our contractual rights to hold the contractor accountable for completion of this project in a productive and timely manner.”

Durand said cost increases for inspection and construction oversight could happen, but that they are anticipated to fall within the contingency funding allocated for the project budget.

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