Friday, April 30, 2021

Plaza Oaxaca sets opening date in Rockville

"Oaxaca has never been so close," Plaza Oaxaca promised in its long-anticipated announcement of its opening date at 141 Gibbs Street at Rockville Town Square. The grand opening is now set for Saturday, May 8, 2021, missing Cinco de Mayo by only 3 days. Plaza Oaxaca fronts onto the temporary Gibbs Street "Streetery," where the roadway has been converted into an outdoor dining area in a partnership between the City of Rockville and property owner Federal Realty. Permanent signage has just been installed on the restaurant's facade, as you can see here.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Signage installed at Taco Bamba in Rockville

The signs are up at Taco Bamba at Congressional Plaza in Rockville. Taco Bamba is in a cramped corner of the shopping center, forcing its main sign to be placed directly under Chopt's, instead of standing alone. 

A pedestrian facing sign above the sidewalk under the overhang is also unique for the shopping center, as it is in the color, shape and font of the taco chain's logo image. The windows are still covered, and the official opening date is still just "spring 2021" as of this writing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Nature by Trejok coming to Rockville Town Square

Nature by Trejok
is coming to Rockville Town Square. The tableware and accessories retailer specializes in combining past and contemporary designs into contrasting balance for tea and coffee, kitchen and home decor use. Nature by Trejok takes over the space at 130-B Gibbs Street previously occupied by IT'SUGAR. Their grand opening is scheduled for this Saturday, May 1, 2021, from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Signs of activity at iPic, Regal theaters even as MoCo ban on food, drink sales remains in place

There's no indication Montgomery County's ban on concessions sales at movie theaters will be lifted anytime soon, but a couple of theater chains are showing signs of preparing for reopening. Regal Cinemas already announced a tentative reopening date for its Montgomery County cineplexes next month, in an apparent gamble that the ban on the sale of food and drink will be lifted by then. Workers began sprucing up the exterior of the Regal Cinemas Majestic & IMAX theater in downtown Silver Spring on Monday. And iPic at Pike & Rose is now hiring servers for its in-movie food and drink service, a clear indication that the luxury theater chain believes the ban will be revoked in the coming weeks.

Tarps on the sidewalk outside the Regal Cinemas
Majestic & IMAX theater in Silver Spring, where
workers are touching up the exterior

However, a list of potential steps in loosening restrictions at County businesses released by the County Council does not specifically mention movie theaters or performance venues - nor the ban on food and drink - among the relaxed rules. Only at Phase 3, which will be reached when 50% of the county population is fully vaccinated, could theaters sell food and drink because the County will belatedly adopt the current state guidelines at that point. Under the current ban, which eliminates the most profitable revenue source for theaters, only AMC has reopened its theaters in the county.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Lao Sze Chuan coming to Rockville

NoBe Market has found a new tenant for the restaurant space vacated by Brio. Lao Sze Chuan, a Szechuan Chinese restaurant, will open in the towering high-rise on Rockville Pike. 

Tony Hu, the "Mayor of Chinatown" in Chicago, has operated Lao Sze Chuan restaurants there, and in Connecticut, Minnesota and Nevada. Many diners and critics have considered his restaurants to serve the best Chinese food in Chicago. NoBe Market is located at 11351 Woodglen Drive in the White Flint area.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Car stolen from Rockville parking garage

City of Rockville police responded to a report of a car being stolen from a parking garage on Rockville Pike early Wednesday morning. The vehicle was taken from a commercial parking garage in the 1500 block of Rockville Pike, according to crime data.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Regal Cinemas sets reopening date for Regal Rockville Center movie theater

Montgomery County movie theaters have remained almost entirely dark since the County lifted the ban on movies, primarily due to the County banning the sale of food and drink at cineplexes to ensure patrons do not remove their masks indoors. AMC has been the only chain willing to reopen its two Montgomery County locations so far, somehow affording to do so while forgoing the concessions sales where theaters make most of their profits. Now, Regal Cinemas is either going to accept that scary revenue picture, or the chain is gambling that the ban might be lifted a month from now.

Regal Cinemas Germantown
is now scheduled to reopen on May 14, 2021, the company has announced. A week later on May 21, Regal Cinemas Rockville Center in Rockville Town Center and Silver Spring Majestic & IMAX in downtown Silver Spring will reopen.

The announcement notes, however, that these dates could change depending on "unique circumstances" at each location. We will find out soon enough if a ban on food and drink concessions is a "unique circumstance," or if the chain has simply agreed to accept a low-or-no profit operating mode.

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.