A customer uses a handheld credit card reader (via Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash)

Fairfax County is slated to send additional funding to businesses that suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a Black nonprofit says more can be done.

The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly been neglected in the development of major business grant programs connected to Fairfax County, the nonprofit’s executive director Sheila Dixon says.

“I would have thought we would have had the opportunity to be at the table,” she said.

The county says it’s committed to working with more than 55 chambers, including minority chambers, multicultural groups, and other community and business support groups in multiple languages with its most recent financial assistance initiative.

A working group of local minority business owners is also trying to make changes and build bridges. A webinar co-hosted by the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia on June 23 seeks to address the needs of minority-owned businesses and how they can be helped.

The group has reached some conclusions and recommendations about equitable recovery across the region and is sharing data, according to the event description. Georgetown University adjunct professor Melissa Bradley, who also co-founded a business mentoring service called Ureeka, is the keynote speaker.

The county has noted these kinds of inequities. A consultant report for the county completed in January detailed how low-income and minority households faced greater difficulties in the workforce, along with women, who have been held back by affordable child care challenges.

Those findings came from working with businesses and a roundtable of minority chambers. The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce was invited to give input and was also asked to participate in a survey about impacts and recovery, according to the county.

Fairfax County’s Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program, which gave grants to small businesses and nonprofits, dedicated at least 30% of funding to businesses owned by women, minorities, or veterans. Those businesses ended up with 72% of the approximately $53 million of RISE funding, according to the county.

“We are building on and expanding those efforts,” county spokesperson Wendy Lemieux said in an email, adding that the county is committed to extensive outreach with businesses, particularly ones owned by women and people of color affected by the pandemic.

Unlike the RISE program, the county’s new PIVOT grant program didn’t include any provisions explicitly dedicating funds to often marginalized groups when the Board of Supervisors passed it last week.

Meanwhile, the Black chamber of commerce has shared the PIVOT grant information, but it’s also continuing its own initiatives to help businesses recover from the economic effects of COVID-19.

The organization recently launched an outreach called BTRNow (Build Thriving Returns Now) that provided an online workshop for kid entrepreneurs this spring, held a “Caring through COVID” panel discussion on Monday (June 14), and is currently carrying out a listening tour, among other programming.

Dixon says a lot of the chamber’s members have pivoted amid the pandemic and have been thriving.

But she also noted that there can be disparities, and various Black businesses might be reluctant to apply for resources if they’re skeptical that the support will materialize, even if race is considered as a factor in applications.

“It will be interesting to see if people feel more comfortable,” Dixon said. “We are building up and scaling up our businesses and providing them with the education and the resources that are available within the community.”

Photo via Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

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A “We’re open” sign in a business window (via Clay Banks on Unsplash)

Arts organizations, museums, and hotels are some of the key targets for Fairfax County’s new initiative to get money to those in need, and informational sessions are providing help.

Approved by the county board last week, the PIVOT program will provide financial grants to small businesses as well as other recipients, and webinars about the effort will begin at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) in English and at 2 p.m. Thursday (June 17) in Spanish.

Links to the webinars can be found on the Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives website.

“Fairfax County is committed to helping businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic,” Board of Supervisor Chairman Jeff McKay said in a news release. “Through the PIVOT grant we will help those businesses who saw the greatest financial impact regain their momentum so they will be able to thrive in the reopening marketplace.”

Federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act is supporting the program with $25 million to the county.

Applications can be submitted online through a grant portal that will be open from June 23 to July 9. The money is being administered through the nonprofit Latino Economic Development Center, said Rebecca Moudry, director of Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives.

The areas targeted will give relief to food services, lodging, retail, services, amusements, arts organizations, museums, and historical sites.

Potential monetary awards for individual businesses and nonprofits include the following:

  • $18,000 for restaurants with less than $3.5 million in annual receipts or gross revenue per establishment
  • $12,000 for retail, services, and amusements with less than $3.5 million in annual receipts or gross revenue per establishment
  • $10,000 for large arts organizations, museums, and historical sites with annual receipts or gross revenue greater than $100,000
  • $5,000 for smaller arts organizations
  • $1,500 for food trucks that don’t belong to a restaurant
  • $400 per room to hotels with a minimum of 10 rooms

The money will go to businesses that have no more than 500 employees, among other criteria. Nonprofits don’t have an eligibility restriction regarding the number of workers they have.

The new outreach comes after the county ended its Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program last year, distributing around $53 million, one of several financial outreaches by the county.

The PIVOT grants will go to hotels first, then to other organizations if demand is too great. The county could also add to the funding in the future.

Photo via Clay Banks on Unsplash

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StarKist Co. is relocating its headquarters from Pittsburgh to Fairfax County.

The food manufacturer known for its tuna is investing $3.6 million to relocate its corporate and administrative headquarters, occupying approximately 24,000 square feet at 1875 Explorer St. in Reston, according to a news release from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

“StarKist is proud to make Reston, Virginia our official global headquarters starting in April 2022,” Andrew Choe, president and CEO of StarKist, said in the release.

The 10-story property was developed by Boston Properties in 2008. It’s located in Reston Town Center and totals 253,643 square feet of space.

Northam noted Virginia is now home to 800 corporate headquarters, and Fairfax County “consistently attracts top talent and is well connected to key customer markets and major metro areas.”

Known for its brand mascot Charlie the Tuna, StarKist began as the French Sardine Co. in 1917 by Martin Bogdanovich, who immigrated from Croatia to California, and four associates. The company says it started selling products with the StarKist name in 1942.

The company announced in May it would relocate to Virginia in 2022 but did not indicate at the time where the new site would be. Its Pittsburgh headquarters will close March 31 next year.

A company spokeswoman declined to answer questions about how many employees will be at the new headquarters and the company’s hiring plans, but Northam’s office says SunKist’s arrival in Reston will create 83 jobs.

One job listing posted nine days ago confirmed the Reston location, but another posting from over a month ago listed Washington, D.C. but said the position was in Pittsburgh.

“I am so pleased to thank StarKist for choosing Fairfax County for its new headquarters,” Fairfax County Economic Development Authority President and CEO Victor Hoskins said. “This is a testament to the growing attractiveness of Northern Virginia to a wide variety of industry sectors and companies that know we have the assets and talent base to succeed here.”

StarKist comes as Volkswagen Group of America is also moving its headquarters nearby to Reston Gateway, and Metro’s Silver Line anticipates opening next year.

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Morning Notes

Taking a walk on North Shore Drive (Photo via vantagehill/Flickr)

Fairfax County Commemorates COVID-19 Losses — The Northern Virginia Regional Commission held a COVID-19 Remembrance Ceremony at the Fairfax County Government Center last night to recognize the more than 2,350 lives that have been lost to the pandemic. The ceremony streamed live on Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay’s Facebook page.

Sunset Hills Road Sidewalk Closes for Reston Station Construction — “Beginning yesterday, June 8, the sidewalk on Sunset Hills Rd. near the intersection of Wiehle Ave. will be closed long-term due to the ongoing Comstock construction projectSee the map for closure area and alternative pedestrian route.” [Hunter Mill District News]

County Board Approves PIVOT Grant Program — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday (June 8) to create a new grant program that will use $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to support businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will focus on the hotel, food service, retail, and arts and culture industries with applications scheduled to open from June 23 through July 9. [Fairfax County Government]

Democratic Primary Favors Moderates over Progressives — Three of the Virginia General Assembly’s most outspoken Democrats lost their seats on Tuesday (June 8), as voters largely opted for more moderate candidates backed by the party’s establishment. The upset incumbents included Herndon Del. Ibraheem Samirah as well as Prince William’s Del. Lee Carter and Del. Mark Levine of Alexandria. [Virginia Mercury]

Reston Chamber Offers Grants to Business — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce’s nonprofit subsidiary INCspire Education Foundation is launching a BizMaker Grant Program to “promote inclusive entrepreneurship and a diversity of economic opportunities for businesses committed to job creation and revenue generation within Fairfax County.” [Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce]

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Longtime staple Pica Deli has closed after serving the area for three-plus decades, telling customers that it is a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Started in 1987 by Frank Pica, the business was carried on by his son Tyler Pica and Tyler’s childhood friend Caleb Max, but has now shut down.

“People call every day and ask if we’re going to open up,” Max said. “It really just depends on the real estate market and what’s out there.”

A sign on the store’s entrance says that COVID-19 got the best of them, adding that “hopefully, we will be back when the pandemic is over.”

The restaurant is located at 11864 Sunrise Valley Drive, nestled next to office buildings and tucked away off Reston Parkway.

Max says the business stopped after the building changed ownership. According to a county property database, Sunrise Valley Real Estate LLC bought it April 6 for nearly $1.1 million from Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

He told Reston Now he thinks an orthodontist is putting an office there.

Max and Tyler Pica took over the eatery in early 2020 after it was run by Jung Sook Kim for over a decade. A photo even showed the business in 2004 when they were Reston neighbors on a Pica Deli-sponsored little league baseball team.

The business received Paycheck Protection Program or PPP loans for over $17,000 and other assistance, but Max says the exodus of office workers made too great of a deficit.

“The aid was good, but for the restaurants, we were hit so hard,” he said.

If Virginia’s timeline for businesses to reopen had been clearer, Max says he would have closed for much longer than the two-week shutdown that they had in early 2020.

Pica Deli could continue in the form of a food truck in the interim, Max says, but he wants to make sure they’re well past the pandemic before returning to the food industry.

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As the spread of COVID-19 abates, Fairfax County is exploring a variety of ways to help local businesses recover from the pandemic’s economic impacts.

In addition to creating a new grant program that will provide financial relief to small businesses and nonprofits, the Board of Supervisors voted today (Tuesday) to license and pursue a trademark for a new “Made in Fairfax” logo that businesses could use to indicate that their products were made in the county.

The board’s vote gives the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development authority to execute licensing agreements that would let local businesses include the logo in their marketing. The county will also apply for a trademark registration from the Commonwealth of Virginia, which would enable the county to protect its brand.

Officials say the logo will be a useful promotional tool not just for the businesses that use it, but also for the county as it seeks to build a vibrant local economy.

“This is an innovative approach,” Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “This is how we differentiate ourselves. This is how we make Fairfax County a leader in new areas as well.”

The Made in Fairfax program launched in June 2018, growing out of a Small-Scale Production Initiative that the county started to identify ways to better support and bring visibility to local manufacturers and entrepreneurs.

Initially, the program focused on revising Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan and zoning code to make them friendlier to what the county calls “maker” businesses — manufacturers that work on a small scale to produce anything from food and beer to clothing and furniture.

Drafted during the early stages of the Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project but as a separate effort, the new zoning rules permit production businesses in most commercial zones within the county, instead of restricting them to industrial areas, according to Doug Loescher, the program manager for Fairfax County’s Community Revitalization Office.

“We recognized that we probably had small-scale production businesses in Fairfax County, but they were not very visible,” he said. “…Our hope was that, by being in commercial shopping centers and retail areas, they can be more visible, and we can support them better.”

The county also created a Made in Fairfax network and directory that now consist of more than 125 businesses. About half of them provide food products, but there are also woodworking shops, candle makers, and even a blacksmith.

While Loescher says his office hopes to also work with larger Fairfax County-based businesses, Made in Fairfax primarily concentrates on small businesses that are more isolated and lack their own marketing resources. Most participants are working solo or have fewer than 10 employees.

The county developed the new logo with the help of a committee of maker businesses as part of a larger branding effort to promote the Made in Fairfax Network.

For the most part, the only criterion for businesses to be eligible to license the logo will be that they need to have a production facility located in Fairfax County. The county also reviews makers that register for the network to ensure “there’s no problems with what they’re producing, that it’s not illegal or improper in some way,” Loescher says.

Though the Made in Fairfax program was established prior to the pandemic, Loescher says the past year has illustrated why it’s necessary for the county.

“There’s a recognition by people about how important it is to actively support small, independent, local business enterprise, and this is just another way of doing it,” Loescher said. “It’s a fairly small program, but I think symbolically, we hope it communicates to the business sector and to the community that we value these businesses and that we want to support them.”

Photo courtesy Fairfax County

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Fairfax County is developing a new grant program intended to help small businesses and nonprofits recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but in a change from previous relief efforts, this program will first award money to hotels before determining recipients in other industries by lottery.

If it’s approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) as scheduled, the proposed PIVOT Business Recovery Grant program will be supported by $25 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March.

“The estimated 48,200 jobs lost in Fairfax County through December 2020 were heavily concentrated in the food service, hospitality and retail sectors,” county staff said in the agenda for today’s meeting, which starts at noon.

Staff added that approximately 50% of job losses in the county in 2020 were lodging, food services, retail, arts, entertainment, and other services.

But why hotels should get first dibs on the new money over restaurants and other affected businesses remains unclear. A county spokesperson says it’s a draft and subject to change.

The background provided in the agenda item does note that Northern Virginia’s lodging industry has been struggling in comparison to the rest of the state:

According to the global hospitality data firm STR, Virginia lodging businesses experienced a 2020 monthly average 50.5 percent decrease compared to 2019 — totaling more than $2.2 billion in lost revenue. Northern Virginia is the only region in Virginia that continues to decline and as of March 2021 has the lowest revenue per room in the Commonwealth.

The plan says hotels with at least 10 rooms will be eligible for a grant. Businesses in the program could get the money if they have 500 employees or less and their principal place of business is in the county.

Hotels are not the only industry hit hard by the pandemic. An International Monetary Fund report shows that in the U.S., the pandemic at one point led to a crash in restaurant bookings as well as steep drops in flying and driving.

Small business owner Caleb Max, who acquired Pica Deli in Reston early in 2020, says it’s good that another part of the hospitality sector would be helped. While restaurants have gotten a boost from relief funds and promotional efforts like restaurant weeks, he said hotels seem to have been left out.

Max shared his thoughts even as his own business has became a victim of COVID-19, according to a handwritten sign on the restaurant’s door announcing the business’s closure.

Max received Paycheck Protection Program money to the tune of $17,241 for his eatery as well as other assistance, saying the money helped but still left a significant deficit with office workers no longer around as consistent customers.

“The aid was good, but for restaurants, we were hit so hard,” Max said.

The new business assistance plan comes after Fairfax County distributed around $52.6 million to small businesses and nonprofits last year through the Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program. Recipients had to have less than 50 employees across all locations.

The RISE program, which helped over 4,800 recipients, dedicated at least 30% of the money to women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses, which ended up with 72% of the funding, according to the county.

That aligns with the findings of a consultant report completed in January that said the county should target further assistance to help those most affected by the pandemic. It detailed how low-income and minority households faced greater difficulties in the workforce, along with women, who have been held back by affordable child care challenges.

Photo via Febrian Zakaria/Unsplash

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m. on 5/27/2021) Beanstalk, an indoor vertical farming start-up, is putting down roots in Herndon with plans to invest more than $2 million to open a facility and farm this fall.

The Virginia-based company is expanding and opening a “scaled-up version” of their existing farm in the Lorton/Springfield area right off of Herndon Parkway and near the impending Herndon Metro station, Beanstalk co-founder Michael Ross writes Reston Now in an email.

The Herndon location will have research, growing, and package operations.

“This new facility will produce the equivalent of over 50 acres of traditional farmland and allow us to expand into more local grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and restaurants,” said Ross, who founded Beanstalk with his brother Jack.

The company grows pesticide-free leafy greens and herbs year-round using robotics and hydroponic — or soil-less — growing technology. It says it saves space by growing in layers and vertically as opposed to horizontally.

Beanstalk sells its salad mixes and herbs at grocery stores, local farmers markets, and online.

Jack Ross was selected by Virginia for a STEAM catalyst award back in 2018 for his development of an automated indoor growing production system. The technology allows Beanstalk to “produce food four times as efficiently as traditional hydroponic farming,” according to a press release from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

The brothers opened their 3,000 square-foot Springfield/Lorton facility in 2018, and the company expects to have annual sales of over $5 million in the next three years.

“We have created a new technology that produces better tasting and more nutritious vegetables, herbs, and fruits than what are available today,” Ross said. “Our farms are also sustainable as they consume 95% less water, have zero chemical run-off, and are over 100 times more productive use of land.”

The company’s co-founders are in their 20s and both were raised in Alexandria, went to high school in D.C., and played youth sports across the region.

“I particularly spent a lot of time in Herndon and Reston in high school, which is how I originally got to know the area through events like the Herndon Festival,” said Ross, who studied aerospace engineering in college.

He tells Reston Now that they evaluated “dozens of cities” in the D.C. area for their expansion but decided on Herndon because of the town’s “incredible community” and prioritzation of sustainability.

“Herndon is a very unique place within Northern Virginia in that it feels like a small, close-knit town with all the benefits of a larger city,” he said.

Beanstalk is expected to create 29 jobs in Herndon, some of which are already open for hiring.

Positions currently open in Herndon include a director of research and a senior electrical engineer. Ross notes that other jobs will be available soon in engineering, research, and operations, and the company will be looking for farmers later this year.

“We look for people from all backgrounds who want to bring locally grown food to their community and are curious, ambitious, and skilled,” Ross said.

Beanstalk is receiving financial support from both the state and Fairfax County in the form of grants that total $200,000.

As expected, local leaders say they are thrilled that Beanstalk decided Herndon is the place for them to grow.

“We are always looking for innovative investments to move our economy forward in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said in the governor’s press release. “Beanstalk’s new facility will not only bring new jobs to the community, but it also is a creative solution to using advancements in technology to increase access to fresh food options.”

Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem also welcomed the Ross brothers and Beanstalk to town.

“Theirs is exactly the kind of innovative, jobs-producing business we are looking to attract to our town’s commercial sector, and we applaud their application of technology toward provision of healthy, locally-grown produce,” she said.

Beanstalk’s mission is not only to grow fresh produce using new, more-efficient, sustainable technology, but to provide food at its freshest, Ross says.

“By growing in a farm within the community, we deliver food at peak freshness, which ensures all the taste and nutrition of the food is there when you take your first bite,” he said.

Photo courtesy Michael Ross

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A new Korean fried chicken restaurant will open in North Point Village Center this summer.

Bbq Chicken at 1432 North Point Village Center in Reston is targeting a July 4 opening, a restaurant representative tells Reston Now. Build out is currently about 75% finished.

The location was previously a Jerry’s Subs that closed in September 2019.

The restaurant is part of a national franchise with close to 2,000 locations across the country, but this is the first one in the Reston/Herndon area. There is a location in Falls Church.

Several more locations of bbq Chicken are being planned for the area, including in Herndon and Ashburn, by the end of the year, the restaurant representative says.

The franchise specializes in Korean fried chicken with menu options for spicy, honey garlic, and more traditional Korean flavors like galbi (sweet with sesame seeds) and gang-jeong (cinnamon and spicy).

The bbq Chicken spokesperson says the company is expanding the number of locations in Northern Virginia, because Korean fried chicken has traveled well and can be easily prepared for pick-up and delivery.

They chose North Point Village as the restaurant’s introduction to Reston because the shopping center provides substantial parking with good access for delivery drivers.

The shopping center also will have a sushi restaurant opening in it in November of this year. Earlier this year, Christie-Adam Salon and Spa opened, replacing another hair salon.

North Point Village Center is owned by Lerner Retail, whose portfolio includes the to-be-redeveloped Spectrum at Reston Town Center.

North Point Village Center opened in 1993 and was the last of Reston’s five village centers to be built.

Photo via bb.q Chicken US/Instagram

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Morning Notes

Former Herndon Teacher Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography — “A former Herndon High School teacher accused of taking inappropriate photos of dozens of students and possessing thousands of images of child pornography and other lewd material pleaded guilty to multiple charges in Fairfax County Circuit Court on Monday. Raphael Schklowsky, 38, of Reston admitted his guilt on nine counts as part of a deal with Fairfax County prosecutors.” [The Washington Post]

Police Still Looking for Fatal Hit-and-Run Suspect — Fairfax County police have determined that a car that left the scene of a crash that killed a pedestrian in Great Falls last week was a 2017 black Ford Fusion. Detectives believe the car model is a SE, Titanium, Platinum or V6 Sport package. [FCPD]

Electrify America Announces Agreement With Hyundai — The Reston-based electric vehicle charging network operator announced yesterday (Monday) that it will “provide all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5 drivers with two years of unlimited 30-minute complimentary charging sessions from the date of purchase at Electrify America charging stations.” [Electrify America]

Kids’ Hair Salon Opens in Sterling — The children’s hair salon company Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids has opened a franchise in the Town Center at Sterling shopping mall. Franchise owners Viral & Ami Doshi say the salon features kiddie cars, Xbox stations, and a glamour station, and each haircut includes washing, cutting, and styling as well as a balloon, lollipop, tattoo, and donation to a charity of the customer’s choice. [Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Local restaurants are getting help from DoorDash and a statewide association for the hospitality industry.

The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association gave $3,500 awards to businesses after over 690 restaurants in Virginia applied for relief. Egg Karne, Pho2000, Spice Town, and Sully’s Pour House in Herndon as well as Sprout Café in Reston were among the nine recipients in Fairfax County.

According to a county news release, Qaiser Aziz of Spice Town said the restaurant lost nearly 30% of its revenue during the pandemic, noting a big chunk of its lunchtime business decreased due to physical distancing as well as business and office closures.

“These restaurateurs are building businesses and community, and they continue to give back in spite of the hardships they have faced over the past year,” the VRLTA said in a news release. “Many have adapted and pivoted to offer online ordering, takeout, delivery and outside dining, and they are looking forward to a better year in 2021.”

The association joined forces with the online food ordering platform DoorDash to give out money to small restaurants that had operations disrupted, saw reduced revenue, or experienced financial stress between March and December 2020.

The 2021 DoorDash Restaurant Operator Relief Grant program was part of DoorDash’s Main Street Strong Pledge and did not require businesses to be a DoorDash partner to be eligible, the VRLTA said.

To be eligible for the grants, businesses had to have no more than three locations with 50 or fewer employees and annual gross revenue of $3 million or less for the specific location that was applying.

VRLTA and DoorDash allocated a total of $450,000 in grants to 128 restaurants in Virginia.

Fairfax County noted eight of the local recipients also received money from the Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers that the Board of Supervisors established last year to give financial assistance to local businesses and nonprofits.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing new mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, Virginia has eased its mask mandate, and major retailers such as Starbucks and Walmart have also lifted restrictions in stores for vaccinated customers, but businesses can still impose restrictions.

Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s current public health order, restaurants and other food service venues are limited to 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors, and different groups of patrons must be kept at least six feet apart. However, the state will end those and other capacity and distancing restrictions on May 28.

Photo via Griffin Wooldridge/Unsplash

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Willie T’s Seafood Shack, a ghost kitchen out of the Homewood Suites in Reston, is now open.

The seafood concept from Thompson Hospitality opened today (May 20) for delivery and curbside pick-up, a company spokesperson tells Reston Now.

Their hours will be from 4-10 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and 12-10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Initially expecting an April opening, Willie T’s opted to push the timing back after making a decision to expand its menu with “more robust seafood offerings” like lobster rolls, grilled lobster, and crab cakes, the spokesperson says.

The cooking is being done out of the kitchen at Homewood Suites at 1735 Business Center Drive. The hotel is also owned by Thompson Hospitality, a Reston-based restaurant, facility management, and hospitality group.

The group also owns Makers Union at Reston Town Center, which replaced American Tap Room, Big Buns Damn Good Burgers in Reston and Arlington, and Hen Quarter in Alexandria.

In 2020, the company bought out Matchbox Food Group, which owns all of the Matchbox locations.

The group is currently “actively” looking for a brick and mortar location for Willie T’s in the Reston/Herndon area as well as Silver Spring, Maryland, the spokesperson says.

To avoid a lot of construction and enable the venue to open more quickly, Thompson Hospitality is searching for a second-generation restaurant space, meaning a location that has been already built out and leased to a previous food service tenant.

Thompson Hospitality hopes that Willie T’s will stay in Reston since a number of their businesses are in the area, the spokesperson noted.

A previous iteration of Willie T’s was set up in Dupont Circle in downtown D.C. before it moved across town to Connecticut Avenue NW and later closed.

Delivery is available through Ubereats, GrubHub, and DoorDash. Patrons can also order curbside pickup.

Photo via Thompson Hospitality

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(Updated at 10:15 a.m. on 5/25/2021) A new sushi restaurant is coming to Reston’s North Point Village Center later this year.

Matsutake Sushi is expected to open to customers in November, Matsutake National Inc. President Heesook Chun confirmed to Reston Now in an email.

Matsutake Sushi will be moving into 1492 North Point Village Center, which has been vacant for the past two years. The most recent tenant was a Boston Market that closed in 2019.

There are other Matsutake Sushi locations in the D.C. region, including one at Worldgate Centre in Herndon that closed, Washington Reagan National Airport in Arlington, and Frederick, Maryland.

Chun says he no longer owns most of them, except for the Arlington venue.

The menus at those restaurants include sushi, sashimi, teriyaki, hibachi, and tempura.

North Point Village Center is owned by Lerner Retail, whose wide area portfolio includes owning the Spectrum at Reston Town Center, which is still set to be redeveloped.

North Point Village Center has had several comings and goings over the last year.

Christie-Adam Salon and Spa replaced another hair salon earlier this year. GNC shuttered last summer. Also this time last year, a fire broke out on the shopping center’s roof and swastikas were found spray painted on the sidewalk. FCPD classified it as a hate or bias incident.

North Point Village Center is one of Reston’s five village centers and the last one built. It was opened in 1993.

Photo by Laura Crielly

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Virginia is no longer requiring that people wear face masks indoors if they have been fully vaccinated, a move that reflects the COVID-19 pandemic’s waning threat in the state as vaccination rates rise and case rates fall.

However, there are some exceptions to the new rules. In addition to maintaining the state’s mask mandate for health care facilities, public transportation, and schools, the revised guidance lets businesses continue requiring masks within their establishments.

In the wake of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement, some businesses are continuing to mandate masks for all customers, while others are letting fully vaccinated customers go mask-free, depending on local and state regulations, though a few, like Trader Joe’s and Starbucks, are still requiring masks for employees.

With masks still “strongly recommended” in all settings for people who aren’t fully vaccinated, however, businesses largely seem to be relying on an honor system, raising questions for parents with children who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet and service workers who have to interact with a wide variety of customers.

Gov. Ralph Northam said earlier this month that he has not ruled out the possibility of vaccine “passports” as a means for people to prove they’ve been vaccinated before participating in certain activities, but for the time being, there are no plans to implement any such system.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told Reston Now that he is “not aware of any concerns” from businesses about enforcing the new mask guidelines.

“I’m not aware of any concerns we have heard at this point, but per state guidance, businesses can make their own decisions about masking,” McKay said. “I encourage our businesses to do what they feel is best for the health and safety of their staff and customers.”

What approach makes you most comfortable when it comes to masks right now? Would you prefer that retail stores, theaters, and other businesses keep requiring masks to minimize confusion and risk, or should they let customers and workers go without masks, trusting that they’ve been vaccinated?

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

County Board Discusses Impact of Telework on Hiring — “After companies in the county have spent more than a year with much of their workforces teleworking — and with county office vacancy rates hovering at 14.6% in 2020, the highest rate in two years — Fairfax Board Chairman Jeffrey McKay asked the Fairfax County EDA whether the number of tech vacancies could lead companies to pivot to recruiting remote workers and what the ripple effects would be.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro Waives Special Events Fee — Metro’s Board of Directors approved a temporary policy yesterday (Thursday) waiving the $100,000 per hour fee normally charged to large-scale event organizers to keep stations open past standard closing hours. The waiver will apply for professional sports games and other approved special events through Dec. 31. [WMATA]

Suffragist Memorial Dedication on Sunday — The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial will be dedicated at Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton at 2 p.m. on Sunday (May 16). It is the first memorial in the U.S. devoted to the women’s suffrage movement. The ceremony, which will be live-streamed, was originally scheduled for Aug. 26, 2020 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification but got postponed due to the pandemic. [Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association]

Colvin Run Mill and Frying Pan Recognized — The National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials named Colvin Run Mill in Great Falls and the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon among the winners of its 2021 NACPRO Awards. The Colvin Run Miller’s House Exhibit won the Historical or Cultural Facility category, and the Friends of Frying Pan won the Outstanding Support Organization category. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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