Alexandria, VA

If your idea of paradise is a glass full of wine and a roomful of cats, then you’re in luck.

On Saturday, City Council unanimously approved a special use permit for Mount Purrnon Cat Cafe & Wine Bar, and the two-level building at 109 S. Alfred Street promises to be full of purr-sonality when it opens this spring.

The circa-1885, 2,050-square-foot property has been a commercial site since the 1970s, and dating back to 2002 was home to Fitness on the Run and Sand and Steel Fitness (now at 5418 Eisenhower Ave.). It’s next door to the Friendship Firehouse, across the street from Morrison House Hotel and around the corner from a number of local restaurants and coffee shops.

The cat cafe would allow up to 15 felines — all from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington — to hang out cage-free in lounge areas on the first and second floors, until adopted. The interior will have a tavern feel, even catering to Old Town’s colonial atmosphere with portraits of cats as presidents on the walls.

Cat cafes gained popularity in Taiwan in the 1990s. D.C.’s first cat cafe was Crumbs & Whiskers in Georgetown, which opened in 2015.

Mount Purrnon, which got seed funding by raising $25,500 in a Kickstarter campaign, will serve beer and wine for up to 20 patrons an hour. But what if a patron has one too many? Not to worry, because same-day adoptions are not allowed. There is an interview process, which includes a background check.

Pre-packaged foods like cheese and crackers, hummus and veggies, pastries and chips will also be served, and no food will be prepared on-site. There will also be no live entertainment — other than the cats, that is.

Special use permit approved!!!!! Thanks GW, happy birthday!

Posted by Mount Purrnon Cat Cafe and Wine Bar on Saturday, February 22, 2020

Photo via Mount Purrnon Cat Cafe & Wine Bar/Facebook

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It may not be as “old” as the medieval tavern that preceded it, but Village Brauhaus is celebrating one year in business this Saturday (Feb. 22).

The German beer hall will celebrate with food and beer specials all day long, according to the event post on Facebook. A keg of Austrian ale will also be tapped into during the festivities.

“Polkastar” Johnny Koenig is also scheduled to perform with his band from 3-7 p.m.

The restaurant opened early last year and features a variety of Austrian and German dishes. It’s located at 710 King Street in Old Town.

Photo via Village Brauhaus/Facebook

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After months of construction, Old Town’s newest sushi restaurant officially opened its doors on Wednesday.

The Handover and King’s Ransom — two different concepts from the owners of The People’s Drug (103 N. Alfred Street)– opened to the public at 728 King Street. The previous occupant of the space, Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper and the PX cocktail bar, closed last summer.

With just 14 seats, The Handover on the ground floor has a minimalist aesthetic, and offers temaki sushi rolls that are presented by skilled hands to diners one at a time, as soon as they’re ready. The restaurant’s menu is lean, too, with a dozen hand rolls, including spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, salmon and hamachi. Customers can wash it all down with an assortment of sake, beer and wine, in addition to super-sweet Japanese Ramune sodas.

Upstairs, King’s Ransom continues the speakeasy-style tradition of PX, with a darker interior and cocktail bar focusing on Japanese whisky. Some of the whisky drinks are chilled and served via a Toki highball machine, which the owners say is the only one of its kind in Virginia — giving the drinks “the perfect temperature while also producing a water with three times the carbonation of champagne, providing a unique effervescence to all highball cocktails.”

Specialty drinks include the foggy wasabi martini, which combines Haku vodka infused with wasabi, ginger green tea dry
vermouth blend and a pinch of sea salt.

The Handover is open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and King’s Ransom is open from 5 p.m. to midnight from Sunday to Thursday and from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The full press release about the opening is below, after the jump.

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(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) After 14 years in business, the Walgreens at 615 King Street in Old Town will shut its automatic sliding doors for good at the end of business on Monday, March 2.

“The rent went up and Walgreens is out, so we gotta go with the flow,” a store employee told ALXnow. The nine full and part time staffers at the convenience and drug store will be moved to other locations, we’re told.

Another employee said he has worked at the store for four years as a customer service associate, and will work at both the Walgreens at the Bradlee Shopping Center (3614 King Street) and the store at 4515 Duke Street going forward.

“It ain’t nothin’ but a thing,” the employee said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Charles Harris lives near Bradlee Shopping Center and remembers the store before it became a Walgreens, back when it was a McDonald’s.

“Am I sorry it’s closing? No. I guess I should say I’m sorry, but I can still go to the Walgreens over by my house,” Harris said.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Old Town Theater Sign May Be Removed — “The Board of Architectural Review is set to consider allowing the removal and relocation of the Old Town Theater sign and other exterior changes as the space is set to become a Patagonia retail store. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Council Chamber at Alexandria City Hall.” [Patch]

APD Investigates Gunshots in Landmark — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a ‘shots fired’ call for service in the 200 block of South Whiting Street. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

‘Normal Weekday’ on Seminary Road — Has the Seminary Road Diet produced a rush hour traffic nightmare, as some insist? Or is it just producing modest peak period delays, as data seems to show? Video posted by a local cycling advocate, shot shortly after 8 a.m. on a recent weekday, shows free-flowing traffic and no delays, though photos posted by road diet critics show backups at intersections. [Twitter, YouTube]

Students Write, Perform Play at Kennedy Center — “Two talented eighth grade students from George Washington Middle School had the experience of a lifetime when they wrote and performed in a play at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts earlier this month. Yahney-Marie Sangare and Sydney Payne were part of a team of young playwrights and actors who produced The Day Nothing Happened, a play about the desegregation of Stratford Middle School in Arlington.” [ACPS]

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A Republican official from Hopewell, Virginia drove to Alexandria this weekend for a small, armed protest outside Delegate Mark Levine’s home in Old Town.

Brandon Howard, chair of the Hopewell Republican Party and head of the gun group Right to Bear Arms Virginia, walked along the street outside of Levine’s house on Saturday, Richmond public broadcaster VPM first reported. He held a Virginia flag, a large gun, and a sign that said “withdraw HB 961,” referencing a bill Levine sponsored and the House of Delegates passed that would ban assault weapons in the state.

(The bill was shelved in the state Senate on Monday, in a move that made national headlines.)

In a ten minute video posted to the Right to Bear Arms Facebook page, Howard repeatedly stated that his intention was to protest peacefully, though the video also contained promises of retribution should the bill pass and guns start being confiscated.

“Mark Levine is a traitor to this nation,” Howard said in the video. “Mark Levine is a tyrant. And we know what’s on our flag. It translates very simply: Thus all tyrants, with lady liberty crushing the tyrant. We all know what that means. Mark Levine, you know what that means. All those Democrats in the House and Senate, you know what that means.”

Levine said when he found out about the protest, he called the police.

“It’s never happened [to me] before,” Levine said. “Having a man outside my house with a gun? No, that hasn’t happened.”

Levine noted that Howard had previously carried weapons through the Alexandria Farmer’s Market.

“His goal is to terrorize our community,” Levine said. “His goal is to terrorize me… I have long argued that guns have three legitimate uses: self-defense, hunting and target shooting. This guy was not hunting, except maybe me, it was not in self-defense… and he wasn’t target shooting. It’s clear that his intent is to coerce, threaten or intimidate.”

Howard said that if all else failed at the soapbox and ballot box, he and others would reach for the “cartridge box.”

“The last thing we want is to shed blood on our own soil,” Howard said. “That’s not to say that will never happen… but unfortunately the way Democrats are doing things today it’s becoming a very real reality that we may see bloodshed on our own soil because of these tyrants sitting in Richmond.”

“Mr. Mark Levine, don’t send the innocent to come do your dirty work, I want you personally to come try and take my gun,” he added. “If you are the one, or whoever you send are the one, beware. I hope you kiss your wife, I hope you kiss your husband, I hope you kiss your children goodbye before you come and try to take mine. Because that’s the last time you will ever have kissed them in your life. You’re only getting my gun one way, and that’s with the business end.”

There was no violence at the protest, but Levine said he hopes Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter will press charges.

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The sun was shining on Alexandria on Monday, Feb. 17. The annual George Washington Birthday parade was accompanied by 50+ degree weather, and went off without a hitch.

The parade, which has a nearly a one-mile route through Old Town, finished off a long weekend of activity that included the George Washington Birthnight Ball at Gadsby’s Tavern.

The Presidents Day holiday started with a scavenger hunt, the laying of wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary Soldier at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House and ended with the parade itself, which is the oldest George Washington birthday parade in the country.

The event was attended by thousands, and this year’s theme was “selfless service to country.”

The parade grand marshal was retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Robert Shumaker, who spent eight years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. The parade was dedicated to Kathleen Kelly, a longtime volunteer with the Office of Historic Alexandria, who passed away last year.

The next parade in Old Town is the 39th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Fun Dog Show on Saturday, March 7.

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It’s Valentine’s Day and if you’re stumped on what to do for a date, fret not, because several businesses in Old Town have some ideas.

ALXnow went around a few blocks of King Street to some of the city’s more romantic shops to get ideas for how to spice up an Old Town date. Here’s what we found:

Blüprint Chocolatiers

“There’s something really special about a couple going through a box of chocolates,” said Kim Gustafson, owner of Blüprint Chocolatiers at 1001 King Street. “You open that box, look at the guide, then figure it out together and share it.”

The shop has a wide variety of chocolates, from boxes to individual bars of various types, including a handful of vegan options. Gustafson said shopping for chocolate with a partner can be a memorable experience.

“Chocolate really brings people together,” she said.

Bellacara

Jennifer Smithmeyer perused the shelves of Bellacara at 1000 King Street, where she works, for a few minutes trying to think of the perfect couples’ activity. The store stocks a variety of beauty products and accessories like candles. Then as she walked back towards the register, she found the perfect choice.

La Bouche Rouge,” Smithmeyer said, indicating an array of lipsticks. “You pick which color for the case and she can pick her own lipstick for it.”

There are four colors for the case, so Smithmeyer said the gifting partner can pick which one the recipient likes most. But when it comes to picking a particular shade for the lipstick, Smithmeyer said it could be fun for a couple to come in and pick out which of the variety of color choices suits her best.

As a bonus, Smithmeyer said the cases can be monogrammed, advising gift-givers to place the recipient’s initials on either side of where the case splits apart.

Bloomers

Staff at Bloomers, a lingerie and loungewear shop at 924 King Street, said the very colorful and fluffy sets of matching lingerie in the store have been a popular item for couples.

“People really go for the hanky panky sets,” an employee said.

There are two rows of the popular lingerie sets in the store, ranging from brightly colored fabrics to more simple, traditional outfits. The items are relatively easy to shop for as well, given that the full sets for each garment are paired together on the displays.

Wine Gallery 108

The wine shop at 108 N. Patrick Street has gone all out for Valentine’s Day. Katie Surface, an employee, said there are several romantic options in the store, like bottles of Italian wine with a ceramic heart on the glass.

There are also cutting boards, painted wine glasses, and other works of art around the store put together by local artists.

The store will be hosting a wine tasting today (Friday) for Valentine’s Day from 6-8:30 p.m. Italian cookbook author Domenica Marchetti will present several different Italian dishes and desserts. The event is advertised at being aimed at “singles, couples, or even threesomes.” Tickets are $75.

For Surface, though, one of the best Valentine’s Day dates would be a simple wine sampling at home.

“It would be fun for a couple to get a few bottles they haven’t tried yet,” Surface said, “and to work their way through a little tasting together.”

If none of the dates above sparked your fancy, ALXnow also put together a list of non-restaurant and non-bar date spots around Alexandria, including an Anti-Valentine’s Party, and a list of local restaurants that as last night still had Valentine’s Day reservations available.

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Late last year there were rumblings of some activity at King Street Blues, but it’s official now: a gastropub called Old Hat is coming to 112 N St. Asaph Street in Old Town.

The awning outside the location still says King Street Blues, a former two-story barbecue and southern cuisine restaurant that’s been empty for at least two years. Inside, however, there’s work being done to renovate the space and turn it into a new pub.

Jack Caminos, locally famous for his cocktails in hip D.C. restaurants like Compass Rose and Thip Khao, is opening his own venue with his partner Tim Prosser. Caminos said he has 31 years working in the industry and Prosser has 15, but it’s the first time they’ve launched and owned something for themselves.

“We deeply love this area and it’s one of the few areas that still has true communities,” said Caminos. “Whether that’s Del Ray or historic Old Town, you’re guaranteed some community personality. Beyond that, we also wanted a place that was closer to the traditional restaurant and bar clientele.”

While the venue will have traditional American gastropub fare, Caminos said some of their favorite Asian and Eastern European-influenced dishes may be offered as well.

Too often, Caminos said D.C. bars turn into venues where most of the communication takes place on people’s phones. Caminos said his vision for Old Hat is a place that puts the “public house” feel back into the pub.

“The reason we chose this industry is it’s a great place to interact with people,” Caminos said. “There’s a common experience of going out. It’s nice knowing we can have a place where people will come together and socialize. Even though there’s a lot of anxiety — it’s physically and mentally exhausting — it’s exciting.”

While there are a number of factors out of their control, like the timing of restaurant inspections and permitting, Caminos said he believes April is a realistic timeframe for the new pub to open.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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Along with locations in Arlington, Tysons and the rest of the national chain, Papyrus in Old Town (721 King Street) is closing.

Signs in the window say everything in the shop is 40-60% off. The store remains about half stocked, with remaining cards and merchandise filling the front half of the store. Other items include journals, gift bags, and assorted stationery.

Staff at the store said the plan is to close the store at the end of the month — around Friday, Feb. 28.

There is some new life on the block, at least, with sushi restaurant The Handover opening across the street today.

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The start of spring is just over a month away, which means the arrival of Girl Scout cookies is here.

You could just hope to encounter a stand somewhere on your commute, or locate a co-worker with a kid in the Scouts, but if you want to be more strategic about it, the Girl Scouts website has a cookie tracker to find your nearest stand.

You don’t even have to go that far, though, because ALXnow put a list together for where you can expect Girl Scout cookies across Alexandria this weekend and beyond.

Old Town, Eisenhower and Braddock

  • Safeway (3526 King Street): Fridays 4-7 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • SunTrust (515 King Street): Fridays 4-7 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Giant (3131 Duke Street): Saturdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Meridian at Eisenhower (2351 Eisenhower Avenue): Saturday, Feb. 15, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Parc Meridian (750 Port Street): Saturdays 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Safeway (299 S. Van Dorn): Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Slater’s Market (1561 Potomac Greens Drive): Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Ten Thousand Villages (915 King Street): Saturday, Feb. 15, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • The UPS Store (3213 Duke Street): Saturdays 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Carlyle Mill Apartments (2201 Mill Road): Saturday, Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Carlyle Place (2251 Eisenhower Avenue): Saturday, Feb. 22, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Crate & Barrel (1700 Prince Street): Saturday, Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Del Ray and Arlandria

  • Bellies & Babies Consignment Boutique (1913 Mt Vernon Ave): Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays 12-4 p.m.
  • Department of Beer and Wine (2724 Jefferson Davis Hwy): Saturday, Feb. 29, 2-4 p.m.
  • Giant (621 E Glebe Road): Saturdays 12-5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 21, 4-7 p.m.
  • The Reserve at Potomac Yards (3700 Jefferson Davis Hwy): Saturdays 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • PetSmart (3351 Richmond Hwy): Fridays 3-7 p.m.

North Ridge, Seminary Hill and The West End

  • Robcyns (3660 King Street): Fridays 4-6 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Whistle Stop and Hobbies (1721 Centre Plaza): Friday, Feb. 14 and Feb. 28, 4-7 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Giant (2901 South Glebe Road): Fridays 4-8 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Cafe Pizzaiolo (1623 Fern Street): Saturdays 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Presto Valet of Virginia (1623 Quaker Lane): Saturdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • St Elmo’s (2300 Mt Vernon Avenue): Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • USPS (340 S. Pickett Street): Fridays 4-5:30 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe (6552-A Little River Turnpike): Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Photo via Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital/Facebook

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Sushi restaurant The Handover, which is replacing Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper at 728 King Street, is planning opening tomorrow, according to staff at the restaurant.

A sign in the window says the restaurant is focused on hand rolls called temaki.

“The most important thing to know about hand rolls is that they are best enjoyed the moment they are made [when] the nori is at its most crisp, the ingredients are at their freshest, and the rice is still fluffy,” the sign in the window to the restaurant said. “This is why The Handover is designed as it is. No matter how many rolls you order, each one is delivered to you immediately by the hand that made it.”

The interior of the restaurant is set up along a long counter, where customers can watch the rolls being prepared.

Staff said the second floor, sit-down restaurant King’s Ransom is also set to open tomorrow, though in keeping with the vague tradition of the location as a speakeasy, the menu and decor of that restaurant are still not being revealed.

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