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Like the waning days of summer, time is almost up for Tiki Bar Del Ray on Mount Vernon Avenue.

After a nearly nine-month run, which was longer than expected, the pop-up at 2312 Mount Vernon Avenue will officially close its doors on Saturday, September 24, and reemerge as the Halloween-themed “Nightmare On The Avenue” in the first week of October.

“Come on in now to get all your festive Tiki lays and drinks and to get your fill of the Polynesian fantasy culture that we created,” Tiki Bar Del Ray co-owner Bill Blackburn told ALXnow. “Who doesn’t love a Tiki bar? It’s sad to close it, but the whole idea was that this is a flexible space and we’re gonna keep making it fresh.”

Last year, Blackburn and his partner “Mango” Mike Anderson of the Homegrown Restaurant Group, closed the The Sushi Bar and converted it into the Christmas-themed pop-up bar Joy On The Avenue.

The pop-up is situated between their other restaurants on Mount Vernon Avenue – Pork Barrel BBQ and Holy Cow Del Ray.

Anderson said that his team is working on redecorating the space and creating a “unique and tasty” menu of spirits, cocktails and food.

“The pop-ups have been a lot of fun,” Anderson said. “They’ve been well received, but we need something that’s got a little more staying power and a little more desire for the neighborhood.”

The Christmas theme will return after Halloween, Anderson said, adding that he and Blackburn hope to iron out a final concept for the space by next spring.

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Fall is art season in Alexandria.

Two popular art festivals are on the horizon — the 20th Annual Alexandria Old Town Art Festival on September 17 and 18, followed by Art On The Avenue on October 1 in Del Ray.

Both festivals draw tens of thousands of visitors to Alexandria, with hundreds of artists selling their paintings, sculptures, jewelry and photos.

20th Annual Alexandria Old Town Art Festival

For the second straight year, the Alexandria Old Town Art Festival will be held at John Carlyle Square (300 John Carlyle Street) in the city’s Carlyle neighborhood.

More than 150 juried artists will be set up along John Carlyle Square — near the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The event lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Alexandria is recognized as one of the country’s premier artistic hubs,” the event organizer said on the festival’s website. “All artwork is juried, which provides a higher level of quality, diversity and creativity of art on display, exemplifying the gifted artists in regions from all over the country.”

Art On The Avenue

Art On The Avenue is widely regarded as the best day of the year in Del Ray, drawing tens of thousands of art lovers to Mount Vernon Avenue.

The festival, which is always held the first Saturday in October, will be held Saturday, October 1, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Celebrating in its 27th year, the festival now features live music on three stages, a kids art corner at Mount Vernon Recreation Center and a virtual charity pie auction.

While deemed a success for artists and visitors, last year’s Art On The Avenue event was marked by a day-long power outage that shuttered businesses along the main stretch of Mount Vernon Avenue.

Dozens of vendors participate, although they have not yet been publicly listed.

The music schedule is below.

City Stage (Mount Vernon and Oxford Avenues)

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Marian Hunter Band
  • 11 – 11:45 a.m. — Janna Audey Band
  • 12 – 12:45 p.m. — Irish Breakfast Band
  • 1 – 1:45 p.m. — The Rob Hornfeck Enterprise
  • 2 – 2:45 p.m. — Cast Iron Skillet
  • 3 – 3:45 p.m. — The Rand Band
  • 4 – 4:45 p.m. — The Rockits Band
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Rogue Johnsen Project

Americana Stage (1900 Mount Vernon Avenue)

  • 10 – 10:50 a.m. — Justin Shaffer Duo
  • 11 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. — Craig and Rick Duo
  • 12 – 12:50 p.m.  — Esther Haynes Duo
  • 1 – 1:50 p.m. — Mike Elosh Duo
  • 2 – 2:50 p.m. — Julia Kazdorf Duo
  • 3 – 3:50 p.m. — Elizabeth Lane Duo
  • 4 – 5 p.m. — Dire Wolves Duo

Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel Concert Band Stage (Mt. Vernon Community School basketball court)

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Whiskey Before Breakfast Band
  • 11 – 11:45 a.m. — Alexandria Singers
  • 12 – 12:45 p.m. — NOVA Concert Band
  • 1 – 1:45 p.m. — NOVA Nighthawks Jazz Band
  • 2 – 2:45 p.m. — Alexandria Choral Society
  • 3 – 3:45 p.m. — The Alexandria Citizens Band
  • 4 – 4:45 p.m. — The Alexandria Citizens SWING Band
  • 5 – 6:00 p.m. — The Academy at Metropolitan School of the Arts (Vocal Performance Ensemble)
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After years of stalls and starts with various redevelopment plans, another developer has scrapped its vision for the Del Ray North Shopping Center.

Last month, Alexandria Planning and Zoming staff got an email from MRP Realty‘s attorney indicating that that the company would not move forward with its plan to redevelop the shopping center.

“The email cited ‘worsening economic conditions’ making the project infeasible for MRP at this time,” Alexandrias Planning Director Karl Moritz told ALXnow.

MRP Realty, which did not return calls for comment, is one of several developers to abandon the shopping center in recent years. Their Mount Vernon Village project was envisioned as a mixed-use development with 593 apartments above 23,000 square feet of retail.

Actively leasing

Finmarc Management, Inc. is now actively leasing the property, which has more than 23,000 square feet of empty retail space, including a former CVS store that did not renew its lease due to redevelopment plans nearly a decade ago.

The property manager told ALXnow that the company has no plans for redevelopment and that the property is actively being marketed for leasing.

When the CVS and its pharmacy left the shopping center, it left a community need, said Alexandria City Councilman Canek Aguirre.

“I got my fingers crossed for this shopping center, because this community needs more positivity and more freshness,” Aguirre said. “When CVS went it left a big hole within the community for folks who could not just get pharmacy prescriptions, but also day-to-day items.”

Aguirre continued, “I guess at this point I’m somewhat encouraged that some of these empty retail storefronts will be filled, and hopefully soon.”

Anchored by a MOM’s Organic Market (3831 Mount Vernon Avenue), the shopping center is also home to a Subway, a Topper’s Pizza, the La Bona Nail Bar & Spa salon and a Virginia ABC store.

There are also several vacant storefronts, including:

  • 3809 Mount Vernon Avenue — The former McCormick Paints, 3,900 square feet
  • 3811 Mount Vernon Avenue — The former CVS, 11,342 square feet
  • 3813 Mount Vernon Avenue — 3,035  square feet
  • 3819 Mount Vernon Avenue — The former Neighborhood Health vaccination clinic, 3,359 square feet
  • 3823 Mount Vernon Avenue — The former Soigne Salon, 1,807 square feet

The shopping center is also near the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation‘s (AHDC) Mount Vernon and Glebe project, which promises to bring hundreds of affordable housing units in two new apartment buildings by late 2025 or early 2026.

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Who’s your hero? On Thursday (September 1) Visit Del Ray will host the annual “Show Your Spirit” celebration at Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon Avenue.

The first Thursday event runs from 6 p.m. to dusk, and includes themed activities and the band Stop Thief! Revelers are asked to wear clothing that their heroes wear, or that inspire them — from pro athlete jerseys to school colors.

“Heroes can be who ever is a hero to you — be it a police officer, be it a teacher — be it a sports person,” organizer Pat Miller told ALXnow. “Most people tend to come with sports heroes however.

The party will be held at Pat Miller Neighborhood Square at 2311 Mount Vernon Avenue. Donations at the event will support Safe Space NOVA.

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Alexandria Hyundai at 1605-1611 Mount Vernon Avenue. (Image via Google Maps)

Alexandria Hyundai’s plans to modernize its Del Ray dealership (1707 Mt Vernon Avenue) — long considered in conflict with city leaders’ vision for the neighborhood — are headed to the Planning Commission later this year.

Alexandria Hyundai, LLC is requesting an amendment to their Special Use Permit to add a 1,730 square foot addition to the building and a new 770 square foot canopy for covered drop-off and pick-up.

“These additions are associated with overall upgrades required to modernize the existing building and come into compliance with manufacturer requirements,” the application said. “The total proposed improvements amount to less than a 1/3 of the existing building’s square-footage and less than 3,000 square feet total, and therefore do not trigger a major Development Site Plan approval.”

The application says the proposed changes are part of keeping the dealership up to date with changes in the industry and bringing more electric vehicle infrastructure to the location.

“The proposed changes to the Property are a result of the evolving nature of the way dealerships operate and as such, are necessary for the Applicant’s continued operation of the Hyundai dealership,” the application said. “There is an ongoing paradigm shift within the automobile industry which affects how dealerships operate and how their use is perceived. A great deal of this paradigm shift comes from the electrification of automotive fleets.”

Hyundai Alexandria proposed new building (image via City of Alexandria)

The application said the upgrades are necessary to incorporate sales and service changes to an electric vehicle-centric environment.

In a nod to the city’s goal for a pedestrian-focused Del Ray, the application said the upgrades will also modernize the building’s exterior and create a more pedestrian-friendly space.

“Further, the improvements to the Property will modernize the existing structure by increasing the amount of glass storefront and updating the exterior building materials,” the application said. “The modernized building designs will create more visual interest and pedestrian activation along Mount Vernon Avenue.”

The dealerships have long been considered out of alignment with the city’s vision for commerce along Mount Vernon Avenue. The 2005 Mount Vernon Avenue Business Area Plan specifically calls out Alexandria Hyundai as inconsistent with the area’s zoning:

Two automobile dealerships, Alexandria Hyundai and Audi of Alexandria, currently operate in the 1600 and 1700 blocks of Mt. Vernon Avenue. These uses are inconsistent with the Potomac West Small Area Plan and with the existing zoning that does not allow automobile oriented uses such as automobile dealerships. Although it is unlikely that either dealership property will redevelop in the foreseeable future, mixed-use buildings, with ground floor retail and residences or offices above would be compatible with adjacent residences and would complement the Historic Core and the nearby retail area at Mt. Vernon and Monroe Avenues.

The application is scheduled for review at the Oct. 6 Planning Commission meeting.

Image via Google Maps

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Mars Rodeo plays at First Thursday in Del Ray, July 7, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Del Ray Music Festival isn’s happening for the third year in a row, but an upcoming bar crawl next Saturday (August 20) hopes to make up for it.

The second annual Bands & Brews: Del Ray Summer Bar Crawl is back, and will feature more than 20 local acts at Del Ray restaurants.

Del Ray Business Association President Lauren Fisher hopes that the music festival can return next year. In the meantime, she says the day will be full of activity.

“People can look forward to a fun filled day of great cocktails and live music over 18 venues,” Fisher told ALXnow. “Pat Miller Square will feature an alcohol free zone where families can listen to music, take photos, and engage in kid activities -chalk art and an instrument petting zoo.”

The bar crawl will be held from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Participants will be transported on a trolley, and musicians will perform at the restaurants and Pat Miller Neighborhood Square.

The first 250 registrants will get a swag bag, and advance tickets cost $15 per person. Tickets at the door cost $20. Participants must be 21 years of age.

The schedule is below:

  • Lena’s Wood-fired Pizza & Tap — Tobago Boy Band, 12 to 3 p.m.
  • Matt & Tony’s Restaurant — John Shreiner and Maddie Assel, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Northside 10 — Jonathan Mitchum, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Bella Napoli — Ashleigh Chevalier, 1 to 4 p.m.
  • The Garden — Buskateers (Duo), 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Barkhaus — Sally and the Mander, 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Los Tios — Ocho De Bastros (Latin pop), 1 to 4 p.m.
  • St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub — Madie Cantrell, 2 to 4 p.m.
  • Cheesetique — Kevin Pace Quartet (Jazz), 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Evening Star Cafe — Stereobouncers, 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Hops N’ Shine — Erin McDonald, 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Kaizen — The Summer of George, 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Del Ray Pizzeria — Squid Inc. (Reggae), 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Piece Out — LowBall, 3 to 5 p.m.
  • Elo’s Italian Restaurant — Janna Audey, 3 to 6 p.m.
  • Pat Miller Square — Mars Rodeo (Cover band), 3 to 6 p.m.
  • Lena’s Wood-fired Pizza & Tap — The Walkaways, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
  • Cheesetique — The DC Radiohead Jazz Project, 4 to 6 p.m.
  • St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub — Neal Learner, 4 to 6 p.m.
  • SpiceKraft — Lucas Mason, 4 to 6 p.m.

An after-party will be held at Pork Barrel BBQ from 5 to 8:30 p.m. and feature DJ BOB.

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Art On The Avenue on Saturday, October 2, 2021, was a hit, but local businesses suffered due to a power outage that lasted all day (staff photo by James Cullum)

In the run up to this fall’s 27th annual Art On The Avenue festival in Del Ray, Dominion Energy is starting off with better footing than last year.

The power company just approved a $20,000 sponsorship to embellish the festival’s Kids Art Corner, a popular activity at the festival where more than a dozen nonprofits provide art activities for kids and families.

“It’s a big deal for us,” festival founder Pat Miller told ALXnow. “Ten-to-14-year-olds wander around Art On The Avenue, but there isn’t really anything for them to do.”

Last year’s festival was disrupted by a 16-hour power outage, which ended up shuttering many businesses on Del Ray’s busiest day of the year.

“I don’t want to think about that (the outage),” Miller said. “This is about the kids.”

Subsequently, Dominion committed to millions in infrastructure upgrades in Alexandria to prevent future outages. The energy giant also gave grants this year to Runningbrooke, Rebuilding Together, the Four Mile Run Conservancy Foundation and the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium.

Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox said the company is excited to participate as an exclusive sponsor.

“In addition to family favorites, such as pumpkin painting and scarecrow making, Dominion Energy’s sponsorship will bring brand new art styles and activities such as robotic art for kids 10-13 years old,” Fox said. “We’re also hoping to see a kinetic art activity at Kids Art Corner, which is held at the Mt. Vernon Recreation Center fields.”

Art On The Avenue is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 1.

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Mangoritas will keep flowing awhile in Del Ray.

Six months have passed since Tiki Bar Del Ray opened, and co-owner Bill Blackburn says that his pop-up concept at 2312 Mount Vernon Avenue is running longer than expected. After all, he says, who doesn’t like a trip to the beach?

“Our pandemic-strength cocktails, paired with some good bartenders really fit the bill,” Blackburn told ALXnow. “It’s still not the permanent fixture in that space. I’m not calling it permanent. It’s just a pop-up that is running longer than expected.”

Late last year, Blackburn and his  Homegrown Restaurant Group partner “Mango” Mike Anderson had a case of pop-up fever, and converted the space — formerly The Sushi Bar — into the Christmas-themed pop-up bar Joy On The Avenue. The pop-up is situated between their other restaurants – Pork Barrel BBQ and Holy Cow Del Ray, and the plan was to quickly turn around a new pop-up concept every few months — with Tiki Bar Del Ray installed in January.

Up went the Easter Island heads, thatched roof and bamboo, and it wasn’t long before Blackburn and Anderson abandoned plans to turn the place into a Mardi Gras-themed bar and other concepts.

This is all familiar territory since Anderson owned Mango Mike’s for 18 years on the West End, and Blackburn tended bar there for eight years. Still, Blackburn says, that doesn’t mean visitors should confuse it as the second coming of Mango Mike’s.

“Mango Mike’s was strictly a Caribbean bar,” Blackburn said. “The Tiki Bar is a fictional Polynesian blend of the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands with mystical and exotic drinks.”

See their menu here.

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Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood celebrated red, white and blue on First Thursday (July 7).

The evening included live music at Pat Miller Neighborhood Square (at Oxford and Mount Vernon Avenues) with bands, cake pops and the annual Pork Barrel Watermelon Seed-Spitting Contest.

The event also raised funds and donations of housing supplies for New Hope Housing.

ALXnow’s James Cullum and his eight-year-old son Henry won both the adult and kids 12-and-under categories of the watermelon seed-spitting contest, making them the first-ever father-son team to win the titles.

The event was sponsored by the Del Ray Business Association and The Jen Walker Team.

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The results are in, and Bella Napoli‘s lobster ravioli has taken the top prize in this year’s Taste Of Del Ray on the Avenue.

Starting last Friday (June 1) and running through the weekend, 14 Del Ray restaurants competed for the 13th annual honor by offering three new $5 specials.

“This is the first time we’ve ever won,” Bella Napoli’s owner Oscar Bermudez said.

A team of judges awarded second place to Matt and Tony’s All-Day Kitchen + Bar for their cornflake French toast with pecan syrup; and Pork Barrel BBQ’s nachos were deemed messy but worth it enough to take third place.

“Bella Napoli is like a quiet gem on the Avenue,” said Del Ray Business Association President Lauren Fisher. “The owner, Oscar, provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere and great food. He has been a great supporter of Del Ray community events and we are thrilled that he won this year.”

The event officially kicked off at a VIP reception last Thursday at Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota.

Over the weekend, Diners were also encouraged to chime in on their favorite dishes during the three-day dining experience. The top People’s Choice Award was given to Spice Kraft Indian Bistro-Delray for their avocado banana and beet chaat, followed by Bella Napoli’s lobster ravioli taking second and Pork Barrel’s nachos bringing home another third place.

Via Bella Napoli/Facebook

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