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Man the Torpedoes! Alexandria City Council Set to Vote on Permanent Takeover of the Torpedo Factory

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By Kelly MacConomy

On Tuesday, November 13, 2018, one day following the 100th anniversary of the renowned Torpedo Factory’s 1918 groundbreaking, and one week after Election Day, City Council is scheduled to discuss the permanent long-term management of the beloved art center, determining if it will remain under the City-controlled umbrella of the Alexandria Office of the Arts. The historic building’s construction commenced upon the Armistice, mere hours after World War I ended.

City Manager Mark Jinks set the agenda for Tuesday’s Council legislative docket. Caught by surprise were Mayor Allison Silberberg, Council members, working artists affiliated with the Torpedo Factory Artist’s Association and art center staff, who were advised of the agenda Friday, shortly before the three-day holiday weekend. Mr. Jinks considers this to be the start of a conversation versus a conclusion.

In his November 6 letter to the Torpedo Factory Artists, Tenants, and Friends organizations, Mr. Jinks said, “The City is the only organization capable of the level of investment needed that can ensure that the community’s interests are also considered in future substantial capital improvements to the building. Additionally, the City is best situated to achieve group collaboration, the goals outlined in the Arts and Culture Masterplan and the Waterfront Small Area Plan and continue to invest in the Arts Center as a model of placemaking and civic improvement.”

According to the City’s website, The Office of the Arts, the Commission for the Arts, and the City’s cultural outreach “grant management facilitates opportunities for innovation and collaboration by providing operating and program support to 25-30 area non-profit arts organizations and artists each year who provide arts access throughout the community where art organizations generate over $111 million annually in economic activity and support over 2,600 FTE jobs.”

The City, under the auspices of the Office of the Arts, assumed provisional operating control of the Torpedo Factory in 2016. The prestigious waterfront art center opened its doors 44 years ago on September 15, 1974. Artist and former Virginia Delegate for Alexandria Marian Van Landingham was instrumental in the founding of the artist mecca situated ideally at the foot of King Street along the harbor with vast panoramic views of the Potomac River. Marian continues to work and show her popular paintings and artwork in her expansive third-floor studio overlooking the scenic harbor and Maryland Shore beyond.

Prior to the City’s temporary takeover on October 1, 2016, the TFACB and the TFAA (Torpedo Factory Art Center Board and Torpedo Factory Artist’s Association) determined leasing terms, created event schedules and activities and organized fundraising programs almost exclusively. In years past the Board set the lease provisions: artists were given 12-month leases that passed through two intermediary organizations.

Now all artists receive a 36-month lease per City-established policy. However, one east side corner studio with a river view on two sides recently occupied by a working graphic and print-maker designer now houses an administrative-purposed conference table and chairs. She does not appear to have been relocated in the art center.

The TFAC Board was dissolved in August 2016. Brett John Johnson is the current Director of the Torpedo Factory. Daniel Guzman is the Programs Coordinator. Alyssa Ross is the Marketing Manager. Brett and Daniel were on site and engaged in activities Friday night for the November Late Shift theme “The Late Shift: 100” celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Torpedo Factory munitions building. Aside from a small gathering at the opening reception and artist talk for the stunning new exhibit “Art of Armistice” at the Target Gallery, all was quiet on the waterfront art center.

Reached for comment, Torpedo Factory studio artist members, visiting exhibiting artists and staff hesitated to be quoted on the record. Those who did requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. The consensus proved to be that relinquishing control these past two years has been by and large detrimental to the vivacity and morale of the art center. There have been complaints of studio space being appropriated for administrative use as well as claims of an authoritarian climate usurping programs and activities; at-work studio artists instead working for the City agenda, distracted and detracted from working on their artwork. And without input.

Visitation, community participation and sales seem to be down. Numerous studios are dark. Some are open at best infrequently. The center remains a popular choice for event, reception and party planning. These events generate a lot of support revenue but require early closures of studios and prohibit public access.

Testimony from the general public will be heard at an upcoming hearing, Saturday, November 17 at 9:30 a.m. before the Council vote regarding the disposition of control and care-taking over arguably one of the most valuable jewels in the Port City crown. Citizens, artists and interested individuals may register to testify or submit written testimony online (<a href="http://www.alexandriava.gov/participate" rel="nofollow">www.alexandriava.gov/participate</a>) at least one day ahead of the hearing date or in person at City Hall day of the hearing. In-person testimony at the hearing is limited to 3 minutes.

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birdbone
67 days ago
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Alexandria, VA
jbasirico
67 days ago
Boo
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“One Medical WILL be in-network for CareFirst” Again!!!

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To say folks were bummed about the One Medical CareFirst split would be a slight understatement. Folks were furious. Perhaps there is some light. A reader writes her benefits rep:

“Can you please confirm for me that One Medical WILL be in-network for CareFirst, and the date that will be effective?”

The replied:

“It’s my understanding, the contract with One Medical begins on January 1.”

And it’s official:

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birdbone
80 days ago
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Alexandria, VA
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Rose’s Luxury Will Serve Lychee Salad at Merriweather’s Trippy Art Festival

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Plus, EatWell DC is opening a restaurant in La Plata

Food events

Music and arts festival OPUS Merriweather is bringing in some heavy-hitters to help feed 15,000 art lovers. Rose’s Luxury will serve its beloved lychee salad while Colada Shop dishes out empanadas at the festival’s culinary village. It’s all going down on Saturday, October 13 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The festival draws 25 groundbreaking artists and musicians from across the world. Update: OPUS is now free, thanks to a sponsor.

Here’s the full slated lineup of the restaurants and businesss that will make up the culinary village:

  • Rose’s Luxury - Lychee Salad
  • Fluffness - Organic Cotton Candy
  • Colada Shop - Cuban empanadas
  • Cured - Philly cheesesteak
  • B. Doughnut - Doughnuts
  • Big Cheese Truck - Grilled cheese
  • NeatMeat - Variety of Sloppy Joes
  • Peruvian Brothers - Peruvian chicken
  • La Cuchara - Chapas roasted veggies and salsa
  • Blendabowl - Acaí and pitaya bowls and smoothies
  • Alma Cocina - Arepas
  • Dolci Gelati - Italian gelato and sorbetto
  • Farm to Charm - Burgers, sandwiches, fries, salad
  • Metzger Bar and Butchery - Sausage sandwiches, kraut slaw, beer mustard; fried oyster mushrooms, rye aioli
  • Rice Paper - Taste of Vietnam, Bún Chả Hà Nội
  • Mirai - Poke and snacks

Controversies

Chef and Fiola owner Fabio Trabocchi put out a statement yesterday responding to the Ted Cruz heckling incident, saying that the restaurant has implemented additional safety and measures going forward at all his restaurants. “We did our best Monday night to show D.C. what it means to live, love, and work in a city where all voices are welcome — and quite necessary — to make a republic work,” he writes.

Meanwhile, a few confused souls are calling Et Voila! instead of Fiola with nasty messages, and Washington City Paper reports on the case of mistaken identity.

Coming attractions

EatWell DC restaurant group, known for restaurants like The Bird, The Pig, Grillfish, Commissary, and Logan Tavern, is opening up a new venture in downtown La Plata. The Charles is opening March 1 at 417 Charles Street, La Plata, Md. This neighborhood restaurant will serve a “greatest hits” collection from the EatWell’s other restaurants, like duck meatballs from The Bird and pork buns from The Pig. The Charles will be done up like a modern farmhouse, with room for 300 diners.

In other Maryland news, Silver Diner is opening a location in Elkridge, Md. on October 1. The 5800-square-foot restaurant will have 238 seats including a full bar, serving up cocktails, spiked shakes, and local wine and beers. The retro-inspired spot serves classic diner fare and vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menu items too.

Crabwire

The Washington Post reports that the owner of Casey’s Seafood, Inc. of Newport News pleaded guilty in federal court to mislabeling recalled, old or returned foreign crabmeat as fresh Chesapeake blue crab.

The shutter

Mellow Mushroom pizzeria is now closed in Rockville Town Center, according to Bethesda magazine. The chain arrived there in May 2016.

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birdbone
110 days ago
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Alexandria, VA
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Del Ray’s Newest Beer Garden Will Open Very Soon

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Charlie’s On The Avenue is expanding into the lot next door

A new outdoor hangout is headed to a former garden store space in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. Patch reports that the newly-reopened Charlie’s On The Avenue will expand into the lot next to the restaurant, which was previously home to garden supply store Greenstreet Garden space at 1503-1505 Mount Vernon Avenue. The Alexandria City Council approved the move for the restaurant, which is now owned by the team behind nearby Live Oak. Charlie’s On The Avenue’s menu is a crowd-pleaser, with entrees like Cuban paninis, pork barbecue sliders, fish and chips, and chicken tenders.

A rep from Charlie’s On The Avenue told Eater: “While I do not have an exact timetable for its opening, we hope to have it open very soon,” adding: “We will be dog friendly and we plan on serving can beers, draft cocktails, and wine. The games section will include corn hole, Jenga, Connect Four, and others.”

The neighborhood will soon have beer gardens anchoring either side of Mount Vernon: a beer garden called Hops ’n’ Shine is coming to the former Peruvian chicken restaurant at the north end of Del Ray’s Mount Vernon Avenue by the end of this year.

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birdbone
116 days ago
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Alexandria, VA
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Essential Oktoberfest Celebrations Happening Across D.C.

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It’s finally time for all things beer

Oktoberfest is essentially a perfect concept: a festival all about drinking beer and eating glutinous snacks? Yes please. Happily, the price of admission to the celebration does not include a plane ticket to Germany. Lots (and lots) of D.C. bars and restaurants are getting in on the fun. Here, a list of all the best bets for celebrating Oktoberfest in style.

Did we miss any? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

City Tap House

901 9th St. NW; 1250 Connecticut Ave. NW

Saturday, September 22 to Sunday, October 7

Both locations of this beer-centric spot are celebrating Oktoberfest, with cheap, themed beers ($7 - $10) and food specials (like massive pretzels.) The Penn Quarter location is also transforming its patio into a biergarten for the weekend.

Roofers Union

2446 18th St. NW

Saturday, September 22 to Sunday, October 7

Adams Morgan bar Roofers Union will offer a rotating cast of Oktoberfest themed beers for the festival — both domestic brews like Port City’s Oktoberfest and suds straight from Germany’s Weihenstephaner brewery — for $7 - $10. Food options include pierogis with sauerkraut, bacon and caraway and a pork schnitzel dish with spaetzle.

Wunder Garten

1101 1st St. NE

Friday, September 28 to Sunday, September 30

German beer garden Wunder Garten is giving tribute to its name and putting on its fourth annual Oktoberfest event this last weekend of September. The official tapping of the keg — Spaten Oktoberfest — starts at 4pm on Friday. Festivities continue into midnight on Friday, starting back up again at noon on Saturday, with a performance of traditional Oktoberfest tunes. Sunday has “Dogtoberfest,” where dressed-up pets are put on parade and donations of new toys/blankets/dog food are encouraged to support shelter pups.

 Wunder Garten Official

Bar Roubaix

1400 Irving St. NW

Through October 7

Bar Roubaix has been celebrating Oktoberfest since the middle of September. The bar’s specials are all about the beer. There’s a rotating tap of local and imported Oktoberfest beers; all draft beers are just $4 on the enclosed patio biergarten.

Bluejacket

300 Tingey St. SE

Saturday, September 21

From noon to 5p.m., Bluejacket is hosting its Oktoberfest celebration, complete with four Franconian gravity kegs of the brewery’s own beer. Half- and full-liter pours are available, as are commemorative brewery logo mugs and shirts.

Sauf Haus DC

1216 18th St. NW

Saturday, September 22 to Tuesday, October 30

The biergarten is kicking off its Oktoberfest event this Saturday, September 22 and celebrating clear through the month of October. The fest’s first night sees live music and stein hoisting competitions; a brunch series stars September 29, and “Sautfoberfest” begins October 3. Finally, a costume contest with prizes is going on Saturday, October 6.

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birdbone
117 days ago
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Alexandria, VA
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Sandwich Chain Taylor Gourmet Is Shuttering Every Single D.C. Sub Shop

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Yes, this is real life.

In absolutely shocking sub shop news, Washingtonian reports that Taylor Gourmet, beloved local sandwich chain with over a dozen locations in D.C., is closing every store in its portfolio. The last day for all D.C.-area Taylor Gourmet shops is Sunday, September 23 — two days from today.

There have been rumblings about trouble with Taylor, but no expectations of a closing of this magnitude. Earlier this month Eater D.C. reported that Taylor was considering scaling back a bit, possibly closing three of their stores. Now, all their D.C. stores — plus two in Chicago — will all be closed by weekend’s end. Taylor is also very likely about to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, says Washingtonian.

There are not yet official details on the reason for the mass shutter, though Taylor is officially blaming too-fast expansion. Washingtonian says, however, that a handful of folks close to the business blame a meeting between Taylor owner Casey Patten and President Trump for a huge amount of the trouble. Taylor faced higher than expected backlash after Owner Casey Patten met with President Trump at a business roundtable; an anonymous source told the website that the company’s sales dropped a dramatic 40% the day after the meeting and haven’t improved much since. A spokesperson for the company denied that as a reason for the mass shutter, however.

Updated: A spokesperson confirmed the news to Eater but had no new information to share at this time.

Eater has learned another homegrown brand is lending a helping hand to newly jobless Taylor Gourmet employees. Fast-growing Mediterranean chain Cava is holding a job fair on Tuesday, September 25 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Cava’s Chinatown and Mosaic District locations. “They will be open interviews where any Taylor team member can walk-in and meet with a Cava manager,” spokesperson Ben Famous tells Eater.

Interested employees are encouraged to apply in advance for various Cava positions across the tri-state area.

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birdbone
117 days ago
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Alexandria, VA
jbasirico
117 days ago
I think they closed because they didn't spell the word "Tailor" correctly
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