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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Morning Notes

Rally for Rent Relief Today at Courthouse — “Join us to demand that Governor Northam stop evictions and redirect $1 billion for rent relief. Wednesday, July 1 at 11 am outside the Alexandria Courthouse.” [Facebook]

Longtime Alexandria Firefighter Retires — “AFD would like to congratulate Captain Sam Parker on his retirement after over 33 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Alexandria. We wish him all the best as he begins his next chapter!” [Twitter]

Le Refuge Restaurant Reopening — “🍴🍷BONJOUR🍷🍴!!!! We are very excited to announce that we are reopening MONDAY JULY 6TH!!! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding,We cannot wait to see everyone!!!” [Facebook]

Pedego Electric Bikes Closed Next Week — “Pedego Alexandria will be closed from July 5th through July 12th for a much needed and highly anticipated family vacation! Feel free to call and leave a message or send us an email and we will get back to you when we can.” [Facebook]

Kidcreate Studio Crafts New Approach — “Kidcreate Studio hosted its grand opening March 14 — the day after Alexandria and Fairfax County closed schools to slow the spread of coronavirus.” [Alexandria Living]

New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is looking for a Sushi Chef to join the team. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate chef. Work with a dedicated team of culinary and hospitality professionals, who are committed to providing the absolute best experience for their guests.” [Indeed]

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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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(Updated 4:50 p.m.) There isn’t a lot of space inside Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap (401 E Braddock Road) to both reopen the restaurant to the half-capacity required in the second phase of reopening and maintain the take-out service, so restaurant operator Dave Nicholas said the restaurant decided to transform

“We decided that our to-go business is really strong,” Nicholas said. “Want to still be able to service neighborhood to-go. We decided to do a pop-up tent and concept on top of the parking deck behind the restaurant.”

The new venue is Lena’s Oasis, a covered pavilion with plenty of room for social distancing amid the curtains and tropical plants that transform the environment to more closely resemble Tahiti than the pizzeria near the Braddock Metro Station. It requires a reservation to enter.

“It’s sort of a tropical theme, selling some of our specialty menu items and five new cocktail/tropical drinks,” Nicholas said.

For now, Nicholas said Lena’s Oasis is the main dine-in location while Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap stays focused on take-out.

“We figured that we didn’t have the space inside the restaurant to properly social distance,” Nicholas said. “Meanwhile, this is 4,000 feet on top of the parking deck and we’re able to socially distance properly. It’s outside and covered, very tropical.”

Nicholas said the location opened on Monday.

“It’s been going well so far,” Nicholas said. “People walk into the space and it’s stunning.”

Photo via Lena’s Wood-Fired Grill/Facebook

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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 formally moved into the second phase of its economic recovery today (Friday), and while some businesses are embracing the easing of restrictions, others are taking a slower approach.

Even though there was only one new reported case of coronavirus in the city today, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that phase 2 does not mean that the city is out of the woods just yet.

“We need our residents and visitors to continue to socially distance, wear masks and stay home when ill,” Wilson told ALXnow. “We are able to ease restrictions because everyone played their part over the past few months. We have more work to do to keep our community safe.”

Under the loosened restrictions, Alexandria restaurants can offer indoor dining at 50% capacity; fitness centers can operate at 30% capacity and pools can operate for exercise.

Bill Blackburn, co-owner of the Homegrown Restaurant Group, is opening the inside of Whiskey & Oyster and Tequila & Taco in Caryle and will continue curbside pickup at Sweet Fire Donna’s, Pork Barrel BBQ and Holy Cow Del Ray.

“Our number one priority is the safety of our employees and customers,” Blackburn told ALXnow. “Every concept is different with layout and footprint, we have to make different decisions for different properties.”

The pandemic closed about half of the city’s 860 permitted food establishments. More than 100 retail and restaurant businesses have received the new ALX Promise accreditation decal, which launched three weeks ago and requires business owners and staff to undergo a training session and sign a pledge to maintain safe and sanitary practices.

Natalie Talis, a population health manager with the Alexandria Health Department, said that 289 businesses have expressed interest in participating in the ALX Promise initiative, which is a partnership with Visit Alexandria, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

“Just because these new phases are happening and businesses are reopening, it doesn’t mean that we can be any less vigilant about washing our hands really frequently, wearing a face-covering in public settings, and also not crowding together,” she said. “We have to keep messaging about that and banging the drum that COVID hasn’t disappeared.”

As Northern Virginia moves into Phase Two today, we at Port City still do not feel that it is time to reopen our Tasting…

Posted by Port City Brewing Company on Friday, June 12, 2020

We want to THANK ALL OF YOU for sticking with us. We're celebrating our 3000th follower this June. By now offering…

Posted by Virtue Feed & Grain on Friday, June 12, 2020

Staff photo by James Cullum

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In a rare bright spot of 2020, the highly-anticipated Mount Purrnon Cat Cafe and Wine Bar (109 S. Alfred Street) announced on social media that progress is continuing slowly but surely.

“Construction at Mount Purrnon is currently ongoing and it’s starting to look great,” owners Kristin and Adam said in a Facebook post. “The work crew is small (but very talented) and all available health precautions are being taken.”

The business received approval of a special use permit from the City Council in February, almost immediately before the pandemic hit. The pair said the business is still looking to open sometime mid-summer.

“We still don’t have a firm opening date yet…that will depend on when construction ends, when all the final inspections can be done, as well as what phase of re-opening Northern Virginia is in at that point,” the Cat Cafe said. “We are also working with our vendors and our partner shelter on the best way to move forward, as they were affected as well. We are still aiming for mid-summer.”

The pair also opened up about some of the challenges of trying to open a business in the middle of a pandemic.

“Opening a business usually takes longer than one expects and then some,” Kristin and Adam said. “Then 2020 dropped and really turned the dial up to 11. There are bound to be a few more hurdles along the way both for us and the world, (we haven’t even hit the locust phase yet), but we’re actually, finally approaching the finish line. We greatly thank you for your ongoing patience and support as well.”

They said that the business is still paying rent on the building even though they haven’t been able to open and therefore don’t qualify for any disaster relief programs. Even local programs, like the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership’s grant program, requires businesses to have been open for at least a year to qualify. Mount Purrnon is accepting donations to help cover those costs on the company website.

“As terrible and bizarre as this year has been so far, we hope Mount Purrnon will bring some joy to Alexandria and the greater DMV for the second half of the year and beyond,” Kristin and Adam said. “Stay safe, stay healthy, and we look forward to seeing you soon over a few meow-mosas.”

Photo via Mount Purrnon/Facebook

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Morning Notes

ACT for Alexandria Calls COVID-19 a Racial Issue, Sends $900K to Nonprofits — “To work towards a community where all Alexandrians have an equal chance of living prosperous, fulfilling lives, we must work together to address systemic racism. That is a tall order. But together we can make a difference. Your support of the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund is an important step. That support allows our community to better respond to the needs of our neighbors facing overwhelming challenges.” [ACT for Alexandria]

Beyer Finds Fault in Indicted Fairfax County Police Officer — “This officer’s actions were unjustified, and he failed his oath to protect and serve. Body-worn camera footage clearly shows he escalated the situation with unnecessary violence against an unarmed black man.” [Twitter]

Police Disproportionately Use Force Against Black Alexandrians — ” Force is used against black males more than any other group, according to numbers compiled by the police department and acquired through a public-records request… In the most recent report, which covers 2019, 54 percent of the instances of use of force was against African Americans. That’s significantly higher than the black population in Alexandria, which is 23 percent.” [Gazette]

Alexandria Black History Museum Executive Director Makes Statement on George Floyd’s Death — “All keepers of African American heritage pledge to forever say George Floyd’s name, preserve the history he represents, and educate the public about the millions of brilliant minds lost to hate in America.” [Zebra]

Alfred Street Baptist Church Pastor Marchin in D.C. on Sunday with NAACP — “We want to personally invite ALL believers to join Pastor Wesley and the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Collaboration with the NAACP for a Prayer Walk for Peace and Justice on this Sunday, June 14 starting at 6am ET. We’re gathering at the NAAMHC and walking to the newly named Black Lives Plaza, NW in Washington, DC. Visit our website to register.” [Facebook]

Joe Theismann’s Restaurant Reopens — “The restaurant will be open for take-out and delivery via online ordering at Theismanns.com, delivery via select third-party apps, and walk-in patio dining. The restaurant will debut an adjusted menu for lunch and dinner, and will be open Sunday through Thursday from 12 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 12 – 10 p.m.” [Theismann’s]

Hundreds Sign Petition to Rename T.C. Williams High School After Petey Jones — “Additionally, we believe the name should be changed to honor one of the men who participated in giving the school that reputation, and who worked as a longtime employee at T.C. Williams High School.  Petey Jones died in 2019 of prostate cancer.  We believe that T.C. Williams should be renamed after him.  Please sign this petition if you agree.” [Change.org]

New Job: Assistant Magazine Editor — ” Content creation and coordination for national trade association magazine, including reporting, writing, editing and contributing to monthly print edition (circulation 40,000) and weekly digital newsletters.”[Facebook]

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Assisting pregnant mothers, raising money for unemployed workers and buying meals for hungry residents are just a few of the causes Alexandrians are tackling through a number of GoFundMe campaigns.

The coronavirus pandemic has created a lot of need throughout the city, and a number of individuals, businesses and nonprofits have raised tens of thousands of dollars with local fundraisers.

Here is a list of Alexandria-based GoFundMe campaigns and amounts raised:

Neighborhood Restaurant Group Family Fund — “Whether you are in for penny or a pound, just know that every bit counts, and that we would not be asking were the situation anything but dire. Our employees are the lifeblood of this company and form the backbone of this amazing industry; they are the core of our communities and the heart of our restaurant family.” (Raised $47,218 out of $150,000 goal)

Helping Alexandria’s Restaurants & Medical Workers — “We’ve set up a go-fund me page where people can donate any amount of money they feel comfortable with towards the cost of meals for front line hospital workers at Inova Alexandria Hospital.
Each week of the “stay at home” order, we will be delivering individually pre-packaged meals to Alexandria Hospital.” (Raised $21,225 of $25,000 goal)

Ramparts Tavern Employee Support Fund — “Every contribution counts – no matter how small – it will make a profound impact in the lives of our outstanding staff. Your continued support during this difficult time means more to us than you will ever know.” (Raised $18,554 out of $30,000 goal)

Support Studio Body Logic Pilates COVID-19 Relief — “We are asking your financial help to get us though this difficult and unprecedented time. It is the only way we will be able to return to normal operations once this virus has been contained.” (Raised $11,385 out of $15,000 goal)

ARP Fundraiser for Carpenter’s Shelter — “During this uncertain time, ARP will continue our partnership supporting Carpenter’s Shelter to deliver meals to those in need.” (Raised $10,900 of $10,000 goal)

Financial Assistance for HGR Employees — ” If you have the financial means to donate, every dollar helps! If you do not, another way you can help is to share this fundraiser on social media!” (Raised $10,733 of $50,000 goal)

Buying Car Seats For Mothers in Need — “Alexandria Department of Health typically provides FREE car seats to those moms who would otherwise struggle to afford them. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have not been able to provide this service.” (Raised $7,771 out of $7,500 goal)

Murphy’s Patriots Help Murphy’s STAFF — “Murphy’s staff members are our friends and neighbors.  They have given us a home base for over two decades now, supporting us and our following through thick and thin. Now it is our turn to help them through this period of forced unemployment.” (Raised $6,000 of $2,500 goal)

Free Family Meals for Hospitality Workers — “Each day, we will provide different and delicious family meals FOR FREE to hospitality workers in our community who have been financially impacted by industry cut-backs. Our generous vendor partners are donating food and Cheesetique is providing facilities and staff to make this happen.” (Raised $5,970 of $2,000 goal)

M. E. Swings Coffee Barista Virtual Tip Jar — “This Virtual Tip Jar has been created as a way to support our staff who are not working and lost a significant portion of their income.  We appreciate your donation if you are able to do so, it will be split equally between our staff that who are not working due to our stores being closed.” (Raised $4,040 of $4,000 goal)

Hot Meals From SOME (So Others Might Eat) — “Every $8 you donate will purchase a Hot Nepalese meal for a single adult or a few meals for families in need who are on their own during this period of social distancing. Royal Nepal, a top rated Nepalese restaurant in Alexandria, VA has worked with us to create a wholesome and delicious meal including servings of chicken, lentils, vegetables, and rice.” (Raised $3,143 of $5,000 goal)

Please Support Bow Wow Meow’s Dog-Walkers! — “COVID-19 has shut down our small business almost completely! We have no income but lots of time to rest up from our normal 10,000+ step days. :)” (Raised $2,780 of $3,000 goal)

Photo via Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub/Facebook

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For Alexandria restaurants, reopening is not a return to the pre-pandemic dining experience.

Across the city, restaurants that were closed or had only been open for take-out and delivery are adjusting to new standards to keep customers and staff healthy during Phase 1 of reopening.

“We’re doing everything that was recommended,” said Katie, an employee at Virtue Feed & Grain (106 S. Union Street). “All our tables are spaced six feet apart. Out front, we’re directing the traffic that wants to be seated or pick up an order.”

Katie said that’s included guidelines for employees and customers remaining six feet apart and new standards of disinfecting bathrooms between use.

Similar standards are being applied across the city. Matt Rofougaran, a managing partner for Hops N Shine (3410 Mount Vernon Avenue), said new changes at the bar include a new plexiglass sneeze guard. All payment includes a touchless option and all of the products being used are paper and disposable.

For many restaurants, new loosened restrictions on patio dining have opened up more socially distanced options. Rofougaran said Hops N Shine opened for patio dining with a strict “Patio Ten Commandments” in place for customers and staff.

Alexandria Restaurant Partners reopened three locations for patio dining: Mia’s Italian Kitchen, Vola’s Dockside Grill, and Palette 22 in Shirlington. The restaurants offered walk-in dining with no reservations.

At Virtue Feed and Grain, Katie said the patio was the popular attraction of the weekend.

“We hit the ground running,” Katie said. “Our first busy-ness was Friday evening. We had some lunch guests, but [for dinner] we had a waitlist and our first rush for patio seating.”

Frozen margaritas and beer flights were the more popular item, Katie said.

“People were eager to be outside and enjoy interacting with us,” she added.

Other locations are open, but are still waiting for outdoor dining permits. Abdel, an employee at Del Ray Cafe, said the small French restaurant at 205 E. Howell Avenue reopened on Friday but the restaurant is still waiting on a permit to use the parking lot for outdoor dining.

“It’s not crazy busy, but we have three tables,” Abdel said. “Sometimes we seat all three, sometimes just one.”

Abdel said that all of their customers have been wearing masks and distancing appropriately, while the restaurant has been using paper menus. All-in-all, Abdel said he’s happy to be back.

“It’s been great,” Abdel said. “I’ve been waiting for it.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

Sen. Kaine Features T.C. Senior Graduation Speech — “Thank you to Mathieu from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria for encouraging the Class of 2020 to be leaders and always lend a helping hand.” [Facebook]

Beyer Calls on U.S. Attorney General to Resign — “The Attorney General is the top law enforcement officer in the country, the leader of an agency meant to protect Americans’ constitutional rights. Barr betrayed that mission by ordering the violent and systematic violation of peaceful protesters’ rights. He should resign.” [Twitter]

Departmental Progressive Club Raises Funds for Community — “Members of the Departmental Progressive Club joined forces to raise more than $1,600 to donate to Carpenter’s Shelter and the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority.” [Gazette]

Tall Ship Providence Foundation Shows Solidarity — “Our social media is blacked out in solidarity with our Black colleagues, friends and the community. We believe that Black Lives Matter.” [Facebook]

Virtual Job Fair on Thursday — “Looking for a job? Register and attend a free online event for job seekers on Thursday, June 4, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Attendees will meet the Ajilon Professional Staffing team and learn more about immediate COVID-19 contact tracing employment opportunities in Virginia.” [City of Alexandria]

New Job: Sous Chef — “This position is a hands-on Sous Chef working the line with fellow team mates. The ideal candidate will be able to work independently, create specials and supervise staff when the chef is not present.” [Facebook]

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