Alexandria, VA

Morning Notes

Del Ray First Thursday Porch Party Today — “The Del Ray Business Association presents First Thursday Porch Party: Red, White, and Blue from 6 p.m. to dusk on Thursday, July 2. In the spirit of Del Ray’s summer street festivals, the event features a wide range of activities that promote community while maintaining social distancing standards.” [Facebook]

Major Residential Development Breaks Ground — “About 300 residences and a large parking garage are replacing an old office building in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living]

DASH Bus Mobile Tracker Launches — “The new mobile-friendly DASH Tracker is finally here with new features and improved information to make finding your next bus a snap! Where will you go with the new DASH Tracker?” [Facebook]

Al’s Steak House Won’t Have Indoor Seating — “As we enter Phase 3 Al’s will continue not to have indoor seating available. Our space is too small to accommodate customers dining in and customers picking up their orders.The social distancing would be non existent. We do offer two tables for outdoor seating. Al’s will continue to accept call in orders and Delivery.” [Facebook]

Rebuilding Together Alexandria Slowly Getting Back on Track — “Our team was looking for a socially-distant project to get us out of the office and back into the community. We mulched the grounds of local nonprofit, Friends of Guest House. Check out the before and after!” [Facebook]

Mason & Greens Grand Opening Moved Online — “When news about the coronavirus began to spread, the Marinos knew they would have to cancel their big grand opening event.” [Alexandria Living]

Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Open House Saturday — “Explore the history in your own backyard with free, self-guided tours of the Lee-Fendall House on July 4th! Face masks are required and we will be limiting the number of visitors allowed in the museum at one time to allow for social distancing.” [Facebook]

New Job: Host or Hostess — “Looking for an energetic individual to control the flow of the dining rooms, and be the first happy face guests see when entering Village Brauhaus.” [Facebook]
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It was a busy week in Alexandria, and there is plenty to talk about.

The city is moving forward with phase three of reopening its economy on July 1, and the news comes as the death toll from the coronavirus moved up to 50 and the number of cases steadily rise.

It also looks like the upcoming Alexandria City Public School school year and city services will continue to be impacted until the virus is held at bay, and school and city staff are developing plans to stagger teleworking and in-person schedules for students and staff alike.

Restaurants are reopening like never before, which is to say that customers are cautiously welcomed as Health Department restrictions are slowly lifted and many establishments have expanded their outdoor seating.

Here are the top 11 most-read articles this week in Alexandria.

  1. Del Ray Pizza Restaurant Converts Parking Deck Into Tropical Oasis Themed Bar
  2. COVID-19 Cases Steadily Increase as Alexandria Releases Phase Three Reopening Guidelines
  3. Large Residential Development in Braddock Goes to Planning Commission Tomorrow
  4. Alexandria Now Has 50 COVID-19 Deaths, Cases Climbing by Double Digits Daily
  5. East Eisenhower Avenue Project Returns With A New Senior Living Component
  6. Students Likely to Rotate School Attendance When ACPS Reopens
  7. Alexandria Preps for Phase 3 Reopening on July 1
  8. Lights On: Two Nineteen Restaurant Reopening Today in Old Town
  9. Developers Take Another Crack at Converting North Old Town Office to Housing
  10. Housing Affordability and Cost of Living Get Low Rating in Community Livability Report
  11. Inova Alexandria Hospital Now Treating 20+ Coronavirus Patients

Feel free to discuss these or other topics in the comments. Have a safe weekend!

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Get your cigar ready. After three months of being shut down, Two Nineteen Restaurant (219 King Street) is reopening its doors to the public at 4 p.m. today. The restaurant has undergone a renovation, too, thanks to receiving a Paycheck Protection Program loan back in April.

“It looks beautiful now,” Two Nineteen’s owner Patty Charoentra told ALXnow. “We’ve completely repainted the interior and repointed the brick. We also installed an air tap draft beer system, so your beer is going to be super cold.”

Live music remains on hold at the venue for now, but 80% of the restaurant’s staff have been rehired, tables have been set outside and the Basin Street Lounge is ready to accommodate cigar, cigarette and pipe smokers.

Charoentra and her husband Kelvin Eap, both immigrants from Thailand, have owned Two Nineteen since 2005. They employ 20 full and part-time employees, and their daughter Eliza is the manager.

“We missed our customers and we can’t wait to reopen,”Charoentra said. “A lot of regular customers come back to see me, and I wanted to come back strong. I can’t wait for them to see how much work we have done for Two Nineteen.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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On Monday, The Silver Parrot opened its doors after three months of being closed. The jeweler at 113 King Street is now open seven days a week, has updated its website for online sales — but the staff is a little concerned about the closing off of vehicular traffic on their block.

“It’s nice to be around people again,” store manager Megan Vail told ALXnow. “I live on my own, so it was like three months of talking to myself and my cats.”

The Silver Parrot is an Old Town staple that’s been around for nearly four decades. Vail and the company’s six full and part time staffers were temporarily laid off until late April when its Paycheck Protection Program loan went through.

In the meantime, Vail sold jewelry online for the shop with Facebook Live videos.

“I joked about it being my audition for the home shopping network,” she said.

Virtual shopping session! If you have any questions or things you’d like to see, let us know below!

Posted by Silver Parrot on Thursday, May 14, 2020

The pedestrian plaza that’s been opened by shutting down vehicular traffic on lower King Street has also been problematic so far for the small jewelry shop, which Vail said can get lost in the shuffle.

“One of the things that we discussed with the city and that we’ve expressed frustration with was that in the plan to close down the block to cars, we wanted to make sure that the available walkway for people was where the sidewalk currently is,” she said. “Now the sidewalk is in the street.”

The shop carries silver jewelry from around the world, ranging in price from $20 for silver earrings to $3,200 for intricate necklaces inlaid with colorful stones.

“We have something for every style, every age, every price, every occasion,” said shop bookkeeper Janet Cowley. “And we’re just one store. We’re not a chain and we’re not expanding into malls.”

The Silver Parrot is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For the time being, only four customers are allowed in the shop at a time, and all customers must wear face masks.

We are officially open!A few notes on our changes:-We are limited to 4 customers at a time. -Face masks ARE required…

Posted by Silver Parrot on Monday, June 15, 2020

Staff photos by James Cullum

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Employees of local coffee shop Killer E.S.P. (1012 King Street) who quit in protest of controversial tweets made on the company’s social media have raised $5,119 in a GoFundMe campaign, more than twice the campaign’s initial $2,000 goal.

“Due to the recent issues that have come to light on social media, the employees who stayed and worked through this pandemic have all officially quit (as of 6/10/20),” the campaign organizers said on the page. “We made this decision despite not having other jobs lined up because we felt it would be in our best interest for various reasons. We are currently looking for new work opportunities, but for the time being, will not be receiving any income. We created this page for any support that regulars, friends, and/or family may be able to donate to help us bridge the gap between employment during this stressful time.”

Tweets made from the Killer E.S.P. Twitter account, which has since been deleted, included calling coronavirus a “scam” and liberalism “a disease.” Posts liked by the account were even more insensitive, including jokes about George Floyd’s death and a proposal to electrify the White House fence.

Owner Rob Shelton told Washingtonian that the account was hacked, or was being abused by an employee with access, but also doubled down on many of the sentiments expressed on the social media account.

Former Killer E.S.P. employees Hannah, Nate and Kristyn said in the GoFundMe that the social media posts were reflective of views Shelton had shared with staff.

“We would also like to note that we do not condone any of the views shared via the company’s social media pages,” the former staff said. “Additionally we would like to note that these comments have been shared in person to both staff and customers.”

The employees noted that the mass quitting was also inspired by Shelton’s handling of employee safety during the pandemic.

“One of the main reasons we left was for our safety during the pandemic,” the former staff said. “Now that there are laws requiring face masks, we all finally felt comfortable enough to wear them without backlash. The owner encouraged staff to not wear a mask by stating that he would pay any fines we received. He also encouraged customers to take off their masks and encouraged customers to sit inside, even though it is currently against the law.”

The GoFundMe was shared across social media — including by City Councilman John Chapman.

In an update to the campaign, staff said they missed their interactions with customers and thanked the community for their support. Donations ranged from $5 and $10 to two anonymous donations of $200 and $250.

“We cannot thank the community enough for their support,” staff said. “We are so grateful for everyone helping us through this difficult time!”

Photo via GoFundMe

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Pines of Florence in Old Town (1300 King Street) has closed, though how permanent that close is remained unclear.

An employee of Pines of Florence said over the phone that the closure was due to redevelopment for the building approved last fall. The redevelopment is planned to turn the block into a four-story mixed-use development with 31 condominium units and 6,400 square feet of ground-floor retail

The employee said the last day the restaurant was open was last Saturday and that it is currently unclear whether the restaurant will reopen and, if so, where.

“It’s not a full good-bye,” a sign on the door of the building said, “just taking a little break.”

The sign directed the loyal patrons of Pines of Florence to the sister restaurant Rosemarino D’Italia, which has locations in Del Ray at (1905 Mount Vernon Avenue) and in D.C. (1714 Connecticut Avenue NW).

“Trust us, we’re extremely touched during [this] moment, feeling every single bit [of] happiness, sadness, shocked and pride,” the sign said. “Thank you everyone for allowing [us] to be part of your journey and we will continue to create new memories in the future.”

Staff photos by Jay Westcott

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Alexandria now has 1,974 cases of COVID-19, an increase of 14 cases since yesterday, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

No new coronavirus-related deaths have been reported and the number of fatalities remains at 44.

Few Masks in a Crowded Old Town

Sections of Old Town were packed on Saturday, as hundreds of residents and visitors gathered on lower King Street. With the city in the first phase of reopening its economy, many wore no face masks outdoors and enjoyed themselves with open containers of alcohol.

“We will continue reopening while the virus is out there,” Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “We will probably be in a situation where we continue easing restrictions and the virus is prevalent for a year or so.”

The city has temporarily closed the 100 and 200 blocks of King Street to vehicular traffic, “to allow more room for pedestrians to stay at least 6 feet apart while walking,” the city said in a press release.

Wilson said that anyone who sees crowds of 10 or more people gathering can call the Alexandria Police Department at 703-746-4444.

Old Town resident Boyd Walker said that reopening in Old Town is necessary, although risky while the governor’s stay at home order is in effect until June 10.

“Many businesses are on the brink of failing, so if we don’t re-open safely many might go bust if there is a lockdown again,” Walker said. “But if there are not reminders to wear a mask and social distance with signage or health department employees, we may have a resurgence of cases, and be in a lock down again, and won’t that be a pickle.”

Per the governor’s guidelines for phase 1, outdoor tables need to be six feet apart. This was not done in Old Town.

“If tables are not movable, seat parties at least six feet apart,” the guidelines read. “Spacing must also allow for physical distancing from areas outside of the facility’s control (i.e. provide physical distancing from persons on public sidewalks).”

May Worst Month for COVID-19 in Alexandria

There have been more than 20 deaths and 1,000 new reported cases of COVID-19 in May alone, making it the worst month for the coronavirus so far.

large percentage of deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities, and there has been one death of a person in their 20s. There are 19 reported deaths of residents in their 80s and 13 deaths of residents in their 70s.

As more testing is done and the city starts to reopen, Health Director Dr. Stephen Haering expects the number of cases to increase.

Hispanic residents make up 17% of the population and, as of yesterday, were leading with the highest number of cases in the city with six deaths, 946 cases and 83 total hospitalizations.

There have been 9,356 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests administered in Alexandria so far, and the city’s seven-day positivity rate shows a 12% infection rate of those tested. There have also been 1,296 antibody tests in Alexandria. Across Virginia, there have been 296,321 PCR tests administered with a seven-day positivity rate of 13.4% (and 36,009 antibody tests).

Statewide, there have been 1,375 reported deaths (five since yesterday), and 1,274 of those deaths are confirmed to have been COVID-19-related, according to VDH. There are now 44,607 cases (42,499 confirmed, 2,108 probable) and 4,643 hospitalizations (including 32 probable cases).

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Morning Notes

Sen. Kaine and Wife Anne Holton Test Positive for Coronavirus Antibodies — “After testing positive for the flu earlier in the year, the state’s junior senator said in a statement he experienced new symptoms in late March. He initially thought the symptoms were flu remnants and a reaction to a high pollen count. But when his wife developed fever and chills, then congestion and a cough, they went to health providers in early April.” [Patch]

Police Chase Ends With Suspect Falling 25 Feet Off Beltway — “A man behind the wheel of what Virginia State Police thought was a stolen Ford Expedition rammed two police vehicles on the Capital Beltway, lost control, slammed into a Jersey Wall and then ran across the interstate, jumped over another wall and fell 25 feet Wednesday night.” [WTOP]

Indoor Mask Mandate in Effect Today Throughout Virginia — “Effective at midnight tonight (this morning) Executive Order 63, requiring the wearing of face coverings while inside buildings, becomes effective.” ‬[Facebook]

Lower King Street to Be Closed Off Through Phase 1 — “This week, members of the Alexandria City Council adopted emergency zoning regulations, relaxing the rules as part of a new experiment to get a sense of how people can avoid dining indoors while maintaining social distancing rules. One of the most noticeable changes will be on lower King Street, where city officials are planning to close the 100 block to traffic through the duration of Phase One.” [Gazette]

ACPS Students Can Opt Out of Online Summer School — “All students will be expected to participate in summer school; however, any family who does not wish for their student to participate can opt-out.” [ACPS]

Suspect Beat Veterans’ Motorcycles With Hammer Outside Alexandria Hotel — “It was like 17 bikes and somebody come in an SUV, got out of an SUV with a hammer and decided to get down through there and start busting our bikes up.” [NBC 4]

Del Ray Cafe Prepares for Phase 1 Reopening — “Phase 1 re-opening starts tomorrow  We will open our porch with two tables beginning tomorrow at 9am. Please call 703-717-9151 for a reservation or curbside pickup. We have submitted our application to the City for temporary use of our parking lot for outdoor dining and expect approval before the end of next week.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Farmers’ Markets to Resume On-Site Sales — “Vendors will be required to use enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures, and there will continue to be no food preparation, food sampling, or on-site dining allowed.” [City of Alexandria]

New Job: Temporary Firework Stand Manager — “Location managers are paid a salary based on the number of days they work. This is a great opportunity to make between $1,600 – $2,200 in a 2 week period!” [Indeed]

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An Alexandria white male in his 80s is the latest victim of COVID-19 in the city as new cases have surpassed the 1,700 case mark.

There are now 1,703 total cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, an increase of 46 cases since yesterday. It is not clear how many residents have recovered since the first case was announced on March 11.

Meanwhile, Alexandria has widened the pedestrian areas on lower King Street in Old Town so that residents and visitors will keep their distances during what is usually a busy weekend in the Port City.

There have been more than 900 new cases and more than a dozen coronavirus-related deaths in the city this month alone. A large percentage of deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities, and there has been one death of a person in their 20s. There are now 17 reported deaths of residents in their 80s.

Hispanic residents make up 17% of the population and are leading with the highest number of cases in the city, with 800 reported cases, six deaths and 75 hospitalizations.

There have been 125 cases associated with 11 outbreaks in the city, and 108 of those cases have been health care workers. Nine of the outbreaks occurred at long-term care facilities, and 15 deaths have occurred at such facilities, although that number has not been updated since the city’s release on May 2. The other outbreaks occurred at a “congregate” setting and an educational setting.

There have been 5,758 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests administered in the city so far, and the city’s seven day average shows a 25.3% infection rate of those tested. There have also been 961 antibody tests in Alexandria.

On Monday, VDH will administer 3,000 free tests at Cora Kelly School (3600 Commonwealth Avenue) and at Landmark Mall (5801 Duke Street) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Residents are encouraged to wear face masks and walk-up participants should wear sunscreen.

Statewide, there have been 1,159 reported deaths (23 since yesterday), and 1,123 of those deaths are confirmed to have been COVID-19-related, according to VDH. There are now 35,749 cases (33,962 confirmed, 1,787 probable) and 4,181 hospitalizations (including 28 probable cases).

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Pedestrians are getting a little more room to walk down King Street this weekend, but the new changes aren’t the planned pedestrian zone that has stirred up conversations in Old Town.

“The City has temporarily widened the sidewalk on the south side of the unit, 100 and 200 blocks of King Street, to allow more room for pedestrians to stay at least 6 feet apart while walking,” the city said in a press release.

Starting at 7 p.m. tonight, traffic will be prohibited from driving east on King Street past S. Fairfax Street, Alexandria Living Magazine first reported. The City of Alexandria clarified, however, that this isn’t part of broader pedestrian zone plans, but is instead an attempt to stall the spread of coronavirus as more people take to city streets.

“We are just widening the sidewalk on one side of the street to help pedestrians observe physical distancing guidelines,” City spokesman Craig Fifer said in an email. “Vehicular traffic will be one-way instead of two-way on those two blocks to free up the space used to widen the sidewalk. This is not related to the King Street Place proposal, and is not intended to encourage anyone to come to the area.”

The change will be in effect until Tuesday, May 26, according to the city. The city will also have additional law enforcement in the area to maintain compliance with the law. Northern Virginia is still under a stay-at-home order and gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited, with only essential trips outside of home permitted.

“To accommodate the wider sidewalk, vehicles on these three blocks may travel one-way westbound only (i.e. away from the river),” the city said. “Pedestrians, motorists and cyclists should stay alert and observe all posted signage and instructions from law enforcement officers.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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An earlier plan to close a portion of King Street for pedestrian-and-bike-access-only could be making a comeback as restaurants look for ways to do outdoor dining as a social distancing measure.

In a virtual town hall, Mayor Justin Wilson addressed questions about the possibility of closing streets to promote pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The prospect has gained ground in New York City, San Francisco, and other urban localities. There has been pressure from some advocates in D.C. for the city to do the same.

In Alexandria, however, the prospect of shutting down roadways to give more room for pedestrians and cyclists has been famously tempestuous.

“We’ve gotten that question a lot over the last couple of weeks,” Wilson said. “We’re looking at alternatives to facilitate outdoor dining when that returns. We received a proposal from a number of Old Town restaurants to see what can be done.”

The City Council has already permitted some encroachment into the public right of way for takeout and delivery at local restaurants. With Alexandria’s reopening delayed but still on the horizon, part of the plan to support small businesses while maintaining social distancing includes allowing more outdoor dining.

The pedestrian zone plan was, originally, to close the block between Lee Street and Union Street on weekends. The idea was popular enough that some officials were already discussing making the change permanent before the pilot was even implemented.

Those earlier plans were altered to include car traffic and were ultimately shelved for being too costly, according to Wilson.

“The city already entertained the idea of some form of closure on King Street that would have allowed expanded outdoor dining,” Wilson said. “That idea got shelved because of budget challenges, but we are continuing to look at those. I suspect you’ll hear more over the next couple weeks.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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The Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services was repairing a water main break on King Street yesterday when a historical discovery was made.

A work crew uncovered streetcar rail lines from the city’s electric streetcar, which ended in 1932.

“In 1906, 30 daily trains between Mount Vernon and Washington carried 1.7 million passengers, a number that was likely boosted by the opening of an amusement park along Four Mile Run with its own station,” according to the city.

The streetcar was established in 1892 and went from the city to Mount Vernon, and was expanded to Washington, D.C. in 1896.

There is currently a free King Street Trolley that runs from the King St-Old Town Metro station to the waterfront, but the trolley is not running until further notice due to COVID-19.

There is a lot of history buried beneath Alexandria, like when an 18th century ship was uncovered at a construction site in 2018.

For those of you who are missing the King Street Trolley, it looks like Transportation & Environmental Services, City of…

Posted by DASHBus on Thursday, May 14, 2020

Photo via DASH/Facebook

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