Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Cuban flavors coming to the border of Rockville this Friday

Colada Shop
has set an opening date for its newest D.C.-area location, at Cabin John Village at 7993 Tuckerman Lane in Potomac. The Cuban cafe will open this Friday, April 23, 2021. Colada Shop offers Cuban coffee (is there any other kind?), croquetas and empanadas, and a couple of new menu items that will be exclusive to this location.

Photo courtesy Colada Shop

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Athleta, Custom Ink open in Rockville

and Custom Ink have both opened at Congressional Plaza on Rockville Pike. While the former retailer was more public in its advancement toward opening day than the latter, ironically, both the activewear and custom printing shops ended up opening around the same time.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Plaza Oaxaca aiming for May opening at Rockville Town Square

Plaza Oaxaca
, the Mexican restaurant opening at 141 Gibbs Street at Rockville Town Square, is now aiming for a May debut. Their operating hours will be 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM Monday-Thursday, 11:00 AM - 2:00 AM Friday and Saturday, and 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM on Sundays. As the name indicates, the restaurant will be focused on serving authentic Oaxacan cuisine, and with mezcal being the specialty at the full bar. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Demand for movies appears strong at one of only two Montgomery County movie theaters to reopen

Continuing my coverage of movie theaters struggling to reopen in Montgomery County, I stopped by the AMC Wheaton 9 cineplex at Wheaton Plaza, one of only two theaters currently open in the county (the other being AMC's theater at Rio Lakefront in Gaithersburg). Are people ready to return to theaters? Apparently so. 

The 7:45 PM showing of the blockbuster Godzilla vs. Kong tonight was already sold out last evening. Regal Cinemas, Landmark, iPic, Cinepolis and other chain theaters remain dark across the county, due to the County ban on sales of food and drink at movie theaters.

City of Rockville reopening several facilities this month

Glenview Mansion grounds in Rockville

The City of Rockville continues the process this month of reopening facilities that have been closed due to the pandemic. Glenview Mansion and Social Hall is now available to rent for gatherings indoors of 25 or fewer people (or 50 people or fewer outdoors). 

While the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre is still not hosting performances with audiences, it can now be used for rehearsals or recording sessions. 

Croydon Creek Nature Center will reopen, by appointment in advance only, to city residents from 11:00 AM -4:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays, beginning Saturday, April 24, for no-contact, viewing-only of animals. Interactive games and the use of exhibits are prohibited under COVID-19 restrictions. Advance reservations will become available at 11:00 AM on Tuesday, April 20.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Gong Cha opening new Rockville location today

Gong Cha
already has a flagship store at 1800 Rockville Pike. Now the Taiwanese tea shop is expanding south to Pike & Rose. They will open their new location at The Block today at 967 Rose Avenue. Doors will open at 12:00 PM today, April 15, 2021. 

The first 50 people in line will receive a free Gong Cha keychain. Don' forget to try their specialty, Milk Foam tea, in several varieties. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Montgomery County ban on movie concessions keeping theaters dark

Montgomery County lifted its order shuttering movie theaters several weeks ago, allowing audiences at limited capacities, but almost all cineplexes remain dark across the county. What's going on? The major sticking point is that the County Council forbid the sales of food and drink at all movie theaters, requiring patrons to remain masked throughout the screening with no refreshments. Theaters make the majority of their profits from these lobby concessions sales, not from the movie tickets themselves.

The announcement that ArcLight Cinemas is closing permanently at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda brought fresh attention to the state of cinema countywide yesterday. Marquees and screens are still dark, with the notable exception of AMC's theaters at Rio Lakefront and Wheaton Plaza. Major chain theaters like Regal Cinemas, iPic and Landmark are not joining them. 

A spokesperson for Cinépolis USA, which opened a theater in the Kentlands area of Gaithersburg only a month before the pandemic hit America, confirmed Tuesday that the County order remains the barrier to reopening. When the ban on food and drink sales is lifted, the Kentlands theater will reopen immediately, the spokesperson said.

It's a dark time, indeed, for movies in Montgomery County. Bethesda is in the worst situation of all. Thanks to the County Council's decision nearly a decade ago to approve demolition of the Regal Cinemas Bethesda 10 without requiring a replacement cineplex, the closures of Regal, ArcLight and AMC Mazza Gallerie give Bethesda the rare distinction of being a large American town without a mainstream cineplex (Landmark Bethesda Row - which also remains closed - does not screen mainstream blockbusters). Some say the age of a night at the movies is over, but Godzilla vs. Kong box office numbers showed interest in movie theaters remains strong nationally, and worldwide.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

ArcLight Cinemas closing permanently at Westfield Montgomery Mall

ArcLight Cinemas
at Westfield Montgomery Mall, closed since the pandemic-related shutdown of movie theaters was ordered last year, will not reopen. The permanent closure was announced in a statement by the cineplex's parent company, Decurion Corporation. This is devastating news for the future of Montgomery Mall, where the third-floor luxury cineplex was the keystone of a nearly-$100 million expansion of the retail center by Westfield over the last decade.

Montgomery Mall is in new hands after a corporate merger, and the new parent company does not share Westfield's dedication to the survival of its malls. In fact, the new company plans to sell the mall and others it owns across the country next year. 

The future of the ArcLight space at the mall is unclear. Deadline reports that Decurion has "handed the keys to the landord" at all of its cineplex locations. A new theater operator could be brought in, the theater could be demolished and renovated for more retail and restaurant space, or the cineplex could sit abandoned until the mall is demolished for redevelopment in the future.

Car crashes into building in Rockville

A vehicle has crashed into a building in Rockville. The vehicle collided with the building, located at 701 King Farm Boulevard, sometime before 7:45 AM, It is part of the Ingleside at King Farm property. No one was injured, and a building inspector is en route to survey the damage, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Steve Man said.

Photos via MCFRS/Steve Mann

Monday, April 12, 2021

New Burger King restaurant design cues seen in Rockville renovation (Photos)

Rendering of new Burger King restaurant
design the chain revealed in 2020

This near-total reconstruction of the Burger King on Shady Grove Road is taking quite a while to complete. While the frame rising from the top of the front of the restaurant matches up with Burger King's new architecture expected to begin popping up across the country this year, the new raised roofline on the rear of the building does not. 

The primary focus of the redesign is to facilitate better access to pickup and drive-thru options. A covered patio is another design option many franchisees are expected to add, yet another pandemic-era concession to the new abnormal. For those energetic folks who want to order via the BK app, but don't want their food brought out to their car in a pickup space, there will be pickup lockers.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Benches proposed for Chestnut Lodge Park in Rockville

Two benches would be installed in Chestnut Lodge Park at 500 W. Montgomery Avenue in Rockville under a proposal to be reviewed by the Historic District Commission. The park is one of the few physical remnants of the world-famous Chestnut Lodge sanitarium, which burnt down under very suspicious circumstances in 2009.

Aerial view of Chestnut Lodge Park;
orange arrows indicate proposed
bench locations

The "Madison" bench model proposed for use is made out of recycled plastic bottles. Planning staff has concluded the proposal meets the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation #9, and is recommending approval of the bench plan. The HDC will take up the matter at its April 15 virtual meeting.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Outdoor dining returns at TGI Friday's in Rockville

Spring is finally here, and that means the return of outdoor dining. That includes this covered outdoor seating area for TGI Friday's at Pike Center on Rockville Pike that we saw during the warmer months last year.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Goodwill Store coming to Rockville Pike

A Goodwill Store will be opening soon in the most convenient Rockville location yet. It will be in the Marlo furniture building at 725 Rockville Pike. You may recall this space was formerly home to Italo Ceramica.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Rockville to look at comprehensive rebranding in effort to boost struggling Town Center

Rockville's Mayor and Council voted unanimously last night to pursue a comprehensive rebranding for the city, rather than focus only on developing new branding for the struggling Rockville Town Center area. After a discussion on three possible rebranding strategies, Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton expressed concern that no decisive action would be taken last night. She said many stakeholders were watching the meeting, and were expecting officials to take some substantive action to move the Town Center effort forward.

Councilmember Beryl Feinberg suggested waiting a week until the Mayor and Council take up other spending issues for the next fiscal year. Ultimately, Councilmember Mark Pierzchala made a motion to adopt both the first and third proposals - "communitywide rebranding," to replace the aging "Rockville: Get Into It" branding campaign, and "branding and promotion of Rockville's commercial districts," including but not just limited to Rockville Town Center.

After a friendly amendment by Councilmember Monique Ashton to clarify that an integrated marketing approach would link the two proposals, Pierzchala's motion passed unanimously. Following the vote, Feinberg urged her colleagues to remember that parking is the top complaint of Town Center patrons and businesses. Namely, it's not free, while competitors like Rio Lakefront, Downtown Crown and Pike & Rose offer free parking, free parking and 2 hours of free parking, respectively. 

Ashton also called for regular updates on what progress, if any, the city is making toward meeting the goals proposed by an Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel to improve the economic health of Town Center. Several officials expressed concern about appropriating funds for a separate Town Center revival effort on last night's agenda - development of a broader economic development strategy for the Town Center area - until the market recovers from the current pandemic. Pierzchala noted, however, that the Town Center's struggles long predate the pandemic.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Assault at Rockville Metro station

City of Rockville police responded to a report of an aggravated assault at the Rockville Metro station Friday night. The victim was assaulted in the parking lot of the station around 6:06 PM, according to crime data.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Rockville construction update: Ansel Apartments (Photos)

There's been a tremendous amount of progress on developer Duball, LLC's Ansel Apartments in front of the Regal Rockville cineplex in Rockville Town Center since my last update. A significant amount of glass has been installed on the lower floors. The building will offer an 18th floor clubroom with a bar and game area, a fitness center and yoga room, a 24-hour concierge, and - of particular note in the current global crisis - there will be semi-private work pods. Ansel appears to be on-schedule for its expected Fall 2021 delivery date.