Morning Notes

Del Ray Italian restaurant to close — “Rosemarino D’Italia will close its doors after Wednesday, July 28 at its Alexandria location in Del Ray, after serving up Italian cuisine to its customers for the past eight years there, according to manager Edward Camacho.” [Alexandria Living]

Work starts on new Athleta store in Old Town — “Construction has started on the former La Tasca restaurant on King Street as the building owners make space for a store for Gap, Inc. athletic brand Athleta.” [Alexandria Living]

Harry Potter birthday tours this Saturday at Apothecary Museum — “In honor of Harry’s birthday, the Apothecary Museum is offering a special tour for families (and adults who missed their Hogwarts’ letter) that will explore the old Apothecary and the historic muggle medicines that inspired the Herbology and Potions of Harry’s wizarding world. Tours are every 30 minutes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Recommended for fans ages 8 and older.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “A mix of clouds and sun in the morning followed by cloudy skies during the afternoon. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 91F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 71F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Temporary enrichment and fitness instructor — “In pursuit of service excellence the Enrichment and Fitness Instructor provides youth, adult, and senior leisure classes at various recreation centers through the City of Alexandria. In this role, you will have the opportunity to ensure that the goals are met to provide a safe, fun, structured and engaging atmosphere for all our customers.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Dessert collection of White House Pastry Chef up for auction in Alexandria – “Coming up soon, this fall, The Potomack Company in Alexandria will be auctioning [Roland] Mesnier’s dessert mold collection, which includes molds used to create peach sorbet for Princess Diana in 1985, as well as molds for dessert centerpieces such as a large American bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, the Queen of England’s coach and many others that honored kings and queens, prime ministers and governors.” [Alexandria Living]

City launches Unified Planning Team — “In one of the first major plan alignment efforts of the city, the leadership of [the Alexandria City Public Schools system, the Health Department and Department of Community and Human Services], with support from the Alexandria City Council and the ACPS School Board, agreed to the establishment of a Unified Planning Team to jointly develop the three plans.” [Zebra]

Centenarian celebration on July 30 — “Know an Alexandria resident who will be 100 years old or older by Dec 31? Alexandria centenarians will be honored and recognized for their lifetime experiences and achievements. The deadline for submissions is July 30.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy early with thunderstorms becoming likely during the afternoon. High 89F. Winds WSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 70%… Isolated thunderstorms during the evening, becoming fair overnight. Low 68F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Ghost tour guide — “US Ghost Adventures, a national tour operation is seeking energetic storytellers to lead 90-minute walking tour groups downtown. This part-time position is ideal for self-motivated candidates looking for a fun way to make extra income in the evenings.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria’s tourism bureau just got the most visits ever on its website, but it’s a mixed bag for businesses on the ground.

The Visit Alexandria website got 274,000 visits in May, which is 45% higher than May 2019, CEO Patricia Washington reported in a Zoom meeting last week.

“While there’s a lot of really strong signs of recovery and we’re seeing some significant signs that recovery is underway in earnest, we have to keep in mind that we still have a long way to go,” Washington said. “Our hotels still lag. We’re seeing an uptick in weekend leisure occupancy. RevPAR is still down by more than 60%. That’s just indicative of the fact that all of our sectors have a long way to go to recover and that’s why the American Rescue Plan funding is so important in ensuring that we are accelerating a full and complete recovery for all.”

It’s been more than a month since the City lifted its face mask mandate, and some businesses have thrown out COVID restrictions altogether. Many are short-staffed, like the Potomac Riverboat Waterfront Taxi, which has had to shut down multiple tours and boats in its fleet as a result.

Many businesses reported booming sales on the weekends, which has largely be dependent on the weather.

Unruly customers recently raised a ruckus at Daniel O’Connell’s Irish Restaurant and Bar on lower King Street.

“COVID is definitely over in O’Connell’s,” restaurant President Niamh O’Donovan told Visit Alexandria in a Zoom meeting last week. “Because I will say, we had probably the rudest guests come into the restaurant over the weekend. One of my extremely valued bartenders who’s been with me for over 10 years got screamed at four times just in two hours Sunday morning alone.”

O’Donovan said she had to hold her tongue with two female customers in particular, and said that customers need to be a little more delicate with staff in the hospitality industry.

“That’s just so frustrating for staff who have been working so bloody hard this past year and some, and they’ve been working for less pay, working harder,” she said.

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Mark Jinks isn’t getting any younger, and the Alexandria city manager says he is closing in on the end of his career.

“I turn 70 in 2022,” Jinks told ALXnow. “I am closer to the end than the beginning, that’s for sure.”

Jinks said that things are slowly getting back to normal, as the city’s annual birthday celebration — held virtually last year — will be a limited attendance in-person event on the waterfront this time around. Additionally, starting Monday he said that City Hall’s treasury and tax collection windows will be open five days a week, and every office in the city will have at least two staffers working in person.

While Jinks has not made it official, rumors are swirling about his impending retirement. After six years as Alexandria’s City Manager and more than 20 years since he started work as the city’s budget director in 1999, Jinks and his wife are thinking about taking some time off in the near future to see their daughter who lives in Spain.

“Whenever I decide to make a decision and give Council notice, it would be with plenty of notice,” Jinks said. “Hiring a city manager is not putting an ad in the newspaper. The process can take six to nine months.”

Mayor Justin Wilson would not comment on personnel decisions or timing, but had kind words about Jinks’ performance throughout the pandemic.

“I don’t comment on personnel decisions and timing,” Wilson said. “That being said, the Manager’s leadership has been absolutely critical over the past year as we have worked to address the human, financial and economic impacts of the pandemic. Alexandrians are well-served by his leadership during this time.”

Jinks said it will take years for the city to get back to its pre-pandemic economy.

“I think tourism and business travel were the two pieces that got hit the most, as far as tax revenues are concerned,” he said. “International tourism is practically zero nowadays. Who knows when that will come back. I’d say it’ll be several years until we’re back to where we were.”

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Trump Defense Weak During Senate Impeachment Hearing — “The House Managers established that Trump lied about the election, inspired the attackers to come to DC, directed them to the Capitol, and did nothing for hours to stop their violent attack. Senate Republicans objected, strenuously, to details of a phone call. And nothing else.” [Twitter]

CVS Starts Offering COVID-19 Vaccines in Alexandria and Fairfax County — “People interested in a vaccine are allowed to register through both the city or county health departments and through CVS at the same time, but local health department officials are pleading with people who get their vaccine through CVS to remove themselves from the health department waiting lists so others can get vaccinated faster.” [Alexandria Living]

ALIVE! Free Food Distribution Canceled — “The ALIVE! Trunk to Trunk Food Distribution scheduled for February 13 has been CANCELED due to forecasted weather conditions and the safety of residents, staff and volunteers. Instead, the distribution events will take place on February 20 at the same locations and times.” [Twitter]

Stracci Pizza Truck Brings Roman-Style Pizza to Del Ray — “Thomas Cardarelli, chef and owner of Stracci Pizza, (pronounced stráh-chee) always wanted to start something of his own — a high-tech, casual pizzeria. Then, the pandemic hit. His friend asked: ‘Why not get a food truck?'” [Alexandria Living]

Travel + Leisure Profiles Manumission Tour Company — “Explore different stories in Alexandria Virginia’s history of slaves who ran away to freedom using the underground railroad. Join us as we walk around Alexandria Virginia with John Chapman from Manumission Tours and explore some of these historical moments.” [Youtube]

Casa Chirilagua Revamps Food Pantry — “Casa Chirilagua brings access to non-perishable food items and cleaning products to the community through our pantry. With new shelving and reorganization, we can now hold hundreds of pounds of food and cleaning products. So far we’ve distributed 2,241 grocery bags of pantry items, valued at over $196,000. This could not be possible without your support!” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy with a mixture of rain and snow in the morning. Temps nearly steady in the mid to upper 30s. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precip 70%… Cloudy (in the evening). Low 26F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Real Estate Photographer — “Shoot anywhere from 2 to 4 properties per day.Deliver consistently excellent images up to company standards.Upload raw images to development services. Additional opportunities and pay are available for shooting night photography and weekends.” [Indeed]

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It might take years for Alexandria’s economy to recover from the impact of the pandemic, but there are plenty of developments down the road.

Micro weddings, new businesses and tourism expectations this year were just a few of the topics covered by Visit Alexandria in its annual membership meeting last week. While offset by positive news of business developments along the waterfront, the meeting was full of sobering statistics on drastically reduced revenues in nearly all sectors of the local economy.

“This turn of a new year, and especially the launch of the vaccine process provides new reasons to be hopeful,” said Visit Alexandria CEO Patricia Washington.They (vaccines) recharge our batteries for the important work ahead.”

Alexandria is a popular spot for weddings, but the pandemic has forced Visit Alexandria to embrace the micro wedding trend.

“While some couples have decided to postpone our wedding, others are embracing the opportunity to have an intimate ultra romantic day,” said Claire Mouledoux, Visit Alexandria’s vice president of communications. “Alexandria is full of fantastic spots which we are promoting… like secret gardens, like the ones you see here at Carlyle House and Rectory on Princess Street… and the steps of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.”

Vito Fiore, Visit Alexandria’s vice president of marketing and research, said that Alexandria’s hotels took a 72% loss in revenue per available room for the last six months of 2020. He said that while only 5% of the U.S. population plan to travel this month, 60% have a high degree of excitement about traveling later in the year, according to a study by Destination Analysts.

“The Deloitte Industry Outlook said that six-to-10 retail executives expect recovery in the next one to two years, but a quarter see a longer timeline of two to five years,” Fiore said.

While the recovery from the pandemic might take years, Mouledoux said that there are more than 30 restaurants that recently opened and are in development this year, including Ada’s On The River, Vía Volcán Coffee and Emmy Squared Pizza.

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The Virginia Tourism Bureau is going all-in on exploiting one Alexandria scene in the fairly mediocre new Wonder Woman movie.

A new display will feature a “Virginia is for Lovers” drum prop featured for a split second during one action sequence when a goon gets thrown through it.

“The recently-released Warner Bros. film Wonder Woman 1984, which shot for several weeks in Alexandria, VA in the spring and summer of 2018, features a special product placement with Virginia Tourism’s iconic Virginia is for Lovers brand featured on a large-scale prop,” the Virginia Tourism Bureau said in a press release. “The prop will be on display in Old Town Alexandria January 7 to February 28, 2021 and will be accompanied by more film-inspired experiences.”

The film was released in some theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas.

“Having a colossal film like Wonder Woman 1984 shoot in the Commonwealth was a huge financial win — the project had a total economic impact of over $45 million during their relatively brief time on the ground,” said Virginia Film Office director Andy Edmunds in a press release. “Having millions of audience members now see the iconic Virginia is for Lovers logo up on both the large and small screens provides immeasurable brand visibility that will have a positive effect for years to come.”

Several self-guided Wonder Woman themed tours are scheduled to launch in early January, along with deals at some Alexandria businesses from cocktails to tattoos.

“Alexandria really came together to support the filming of Wonder Woman 1984 with coordination from the Alexandria Film Office, which is operated by Visit Alexandria, plus incredible support from the City of Alexandria and dozens of City departments and public safety officials,” Visit Alexandria president and CEO Patricia Washington said in the press release. “We’re thrilled Warner Bros. chose Alexandria for the filming of Wonder Woman 1984 and are excited to host a display of the drum prop as we present additional film-inspired experiences.”

Other local businesses with Wonder Woman themed discounts, according to the press release, include:

  • Wonder Woman Wednesdays from Port City Brewing Co. in January 2021 with any two six-packs or a variety 12-pack available for $19.84 with pre-order for curbside pickup at the brewery.
  • Original permanent and temporary tattoo designs inspired by Wonder Woman 1984 from the artists of inq Tattoos Old Town, a woman-and-veteran-owned tattoo boutique. Available with 5% off these services in January and February 2021; masks and appointments required.
  • WW84 themed 3-flavor popcorn package from America’s Favorite Gourmet Popcorn for $19.84 featuring a red, white and blue edition of K-Street Kettle Korn plus Capital Caramel popcorn and America’s Favorite popcorn. Available January 7 through February 28, 2021; can be purchased online for shipping or pickup at the Alexandria store or purchased in-person at the Alexandria store and assembled while you wait.
  • “Truth Teller” donut from Elizabeth’s Counter, inspired by always-honest Wonder Woman and her Lasso of Truth. A vanilla glazed donut is sprinkled with a marvelous a blend of red, white, blue and gold and silver stars. Available January 7 through February 28, 2021; order online for curbside pickup or pre-ordering; limited quantity available in-store.
  • “A Deal is a Promise” cocktail from Captain Gregory’s, inspired by Diana’s iconic line in the 2017 Wonder Woman film. The cocktail features persimmon-infused pisco, Strega, Cynar and persimmon bitters. Available January 7 through February 28, 2021; offered on site at Captain Gregory’s with outdoor seating available or to-go from sister restaurant Elizabeth’s Counter with food purchase.
  • “The Invisible Plane” cocktail at Vola’s Dockside Grill and the Hi-Tide Lounge, inspired by Diana’s invisible jet from the original DC Comics, which has been teased in the Wonder Woman 1984 trailer. The cocktail is crafted with Sauza Hornitos tequila, raspberry, ginger and fresh lime juice, rimmed with raw sugar and topped with an invisible plane. Available on site only January 7 to February 28, 2021; heated outdoor seating is available.

Image via Warner Brothers

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With the approach of the yuletide season, the Lee-Fendall House (614 Oronoco Street) in Alexandria has decked out the home in full 19th century regalia for candlelight tours.

“Celebrate the holiday season with evening candlelight tours of the Lee-Fendall House decked out in Victorian splendor,” the Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden said on Facebook. “Our antique toy exhibit will also be on view.”

The home was originally built in 1785 on land purchased by Major General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee.

The tours are offered every half hour starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. The museum warned that space is limited and reservations will be required. Face masks and social distancing will also be required for tours.

Tickets for the holiday tours are $8 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-13.

Photo via Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden

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Morning Notes

Beyer Calls Trump Most Corrupt President in History — “Congress has worked to stop their misconduct; I requested some of these Hatch Act investigations myself. But this administration’s abuses are so widespread that it’s hard to keep track of it all (hence this thread). Trump is the most openly corrupt President in history.” [Twitter]

Are You Eligible for the Grocery Store Gift Card Program? — “Individuals and families whose household incomes have been impacted by the pandemic may be eligible to receive grocery store gift cards in amounts ranging from $100-$400.” [Twitter]

African American Change-Makers Highlighted in New Alexandria Tours — “Alexandria is offering new tours, markers and more to lead residents and visitors through sites and stories highlighting African American change-makers that have shaped the history of Alexandria and the United States.” [Alexandria Living]

Former Delegate and Lawyer Bernie Cohen Dies — “Cohen, along with co-counsel Philip Hirschkop, argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1967 that bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional in the famous case ‘Loving v. Virginia.’ Two months later, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Mildred and Richard Loving, striking down laws in 15 states that banned interracial marriage.” [Alex Times]

VeloCity Bike Co-op Celebrates 10th Anniversary —  “John Patterson and Christian Myers co-founded the community-based, volunteer-run bicycle shop in May 2010. The co-op is known for its community services including its Bicycle Scholarship Program, which helps low-income families obtain bicycles, and its “do it yourself” operations.” [Alex Times]

Today’s Weather— “Mostly cloudy skies early, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. Areas of patchy fog. High 76F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Mostly clear skies (in the evening). Low around 60F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Case Manager — “We are looking for a Case Manager to join our team working at a COVID-19 Isolation & Quarantine Shelter Site at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites! This is a a temporary position with the end date to be determined. The individual will work with clients who are quarantined or have the virus, though there will not be a lot of in person contact. This person will also spend some time at our shelter near Pentagon City Mall!” [Indeed]

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Alexandria will release a draft action plan for revitalizing the Torpedo Factory Art Center today (October 16), and the proposal on the table includes a front entrance on the waterfront and a more interactive experience for families.

The city took over operations of the Torpedo Factory in 2016, and the art center traditionally sees more than a half a million visitors every year. But Diane Ruggiero, the city’s deputy director for recreation, parks and cultural activities, says that it doesn’t have a family-friendly atmosphere.

“A lot of the focus of the plan is about activating the first floor, kind of changing that initial experience that people have when they come into the art center,” Ruggiero told ALXnow. “We do know that folks want a more engaging and interactive experience from an arts perspective.”

There are more than 80 studios in the building, and artist studios take up 70% of the building. The largest tenant, The Art League school, art supply store, gallery and offices takes up 12% of occupancy. Its next largest occupant is The Alexandria Archeology Museum.

“I think the liveliness of the Art Center has always been something that has come back as a criticism of the Art Center, even pre-COVID,” Ruggiero said. “Some of the feedback that we had from the community is that there’s not a lot going on there that’s family friendly.”

The draft plan was developed by two consultants and Ruggiero says it will be on the city’s website later today.

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