Tysons, VA

Falls Church High School (FCHS) wants to set up a permanent food pantry to help students who might otherwise go hungry, but to ensure a steady, reliable supply of food, it needs the community’s help.

It is the latest school in Fairfax County to partner with the nonprofit Food for Neighbors, which collects groceries donated by community members through its Red Bag Program to feed middle and high school students.

Falls Church High School will participate in its first Red Bag collection day on Mar. 6, when volunteers will drive by donors’ houses to pick up bags of groceries. With more than 100 families at the school relying on food assistance, the FCHS PTSA is making a final push to recruit donors.

Food for Neighbors Falls Church Area Manager Paula Prettyman says that, as of yesterday afternoon, 91 new donors have signed up for the Red Bag Program since FCHS joined just a few weeks ago. She hopes to get 100 new donors in the Falls Church area before the deadline for the Mar. 6 event arrives at midnight today (Wednesday).

“We don’t know yet how much food that is going to be for the Falls Church pantry, but it will be significant,” Prettyman said.

Falls Church High School first established a food pantry back in 2017 after receiving a grant and starting a partnership with the nonprofit Britepaths, according to Gina North, who serves as a special projects officer for the FCHS PTSA.

However, organizers had to suspend the pantry’s operations when schools closed last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, since students were no longer around to stop by and pick up food.

With the pandemic contributing to increased food insecurity around the county, the FCHS PTSA reached out to Prettyman for guidance to restart their food pantry. Prettyman also serves as vice president of the Luther Jackson Middle School PTA, which has been working with Food for Neighbors to help stock its own pantry since 2018.

Partnering with Food for Neighbors allows Falls Church High School to not only relaunch its pantry, but to expand it by appealing to the community outside of school parents and taking some of the burden of collecting and distributing food off of school staff.

“This has another organization that kind of specializes in this helping us, and it’s wider reaching,” North said. “There’s people in my neighborhood who have signed up that don’t have kids in Falls Church anymore. It’s just another way to give back to the community.”

For the Mar. 6th collection, Food for Neighbors will accept all shelf-stable food with family-sized items encouraged. People can also help by donating $30 to $75 for virtual red bags, which provide enough food to feed eight students for a weekend.

While she doesn’t know by how much, North says the number of Falls Church High School students who need food assistance has definitely gone up during the pandemic, with some students working during the day on top of attending school to support their families.

Having adequate, reliable access to food is critical for students’ academic success as well as their general physical and mental well-being, North says, citing her past experience as an elementary school special education teacher.

“I’ve seen firsthand when I have kids who I know didn’t eat breakfast or didn’t eat dinner the night before, they can’t focus on what I’m trying to teach them,” North said. “I used to keep snacks in my desk just for those occasions, because they need their basic needs met in order to take advantage of the education that’s being provided.”

Photo courtesy Paula Prettyman

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has endorsed county efforts to expand food scrap drop-offs to more farmers markets and evaluate a possible curbside collection pilot program.

Such collection opportunities would mark a step toward the county’s ambitious goal of making schools and government operations zero waste by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2040.

The board asked the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services last summer to research and report options for bringing an internal compost pilot — an employee-led food scrap recycling program called the Fairfax Employees for Environmental Excellence — to the public.

Fairfax County Director of Engineering and Environment Compliance Eric Forbes told the board during its environmental committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday) that DPWES has “a number of pilot programs” and the county “has been discussing working toward organics diversion for quite a while.”

Food scraps, which can be composted and converted into nutrient-dense soil, make up 30% of what gets thrown away in the county. Diverting this potential resource represents “the next rung on the ladder for our community,” Forbes said.

The county unveiled composting drop-off sites at the I-95 Landfill Complex & I-66 Transfer Station in November. He said these sites have rescued about 4,500 pounds of food scraps so far. People can also bring food scraps to farmers’ markets or hire one of four vendors in the county that offer curbside organics collection services.

In the near future, the county is looking to expand collection opportunities at farmers’ markets run by the Fairfax County Park Authority, FRESHFARM, and Central Farm Markets. These three organizations have expressed interested in working with the county, according to Forbes.

The county is also mulling over a curbside collection program, which would let residents mingle food scraps and yard waste in their green bins. Through an inter-county agreement, the food scraps could be taken to a facility in Prince William County.

“I like the idea of regional players taking the responsibility,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “I appreciate Prince William stepping up to build their own food scrap recycling.”

Still, Braddock District Supervisor James R. Walkinshaw told Forbes the county should “aggressively” promote backyard composting. He said doing so is especially important if the county finds that a curbside collection program would increase emissions.

“I want to make sure we do that analysis before moving forward with expansion of curbside,” he said.

Likewise, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said he appreciates the pilot programs and partnerships, but there needs to be more communication with the “average Joe homeowner.”

Forbes said his staff is looking to purchase electric vehicles for trash collection. As for educational opportunities, he said the county publishes lots of educational material and presents ways to eliminate food waste at homeowners’ association meetings.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik encouraged the county to look for year-round and seasonal farmers’ markets near apartment buildings.

“I want to make sure we are looking at equity through this issue,” she said. “Families will be happy to participate as long as we look at some of the barriers that exist.”

Photo via Seth Cottle on Unsplash

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Girl Scouts troops will start selling cookies in-person at dozens of locations in Fairfax County on Friday (Feb. 5).

For those looking to stay home, Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital is also offering online cookie sales, which will be delivered through the Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital chapter. Online sales began on Monday (Feb. 1).

Here are the locations and schedules, according to the Girl Scouts’ cookie finder:

Falls Church 

  • Conte’s Bike Shop (1118 W. Broad Street): weekends through Feb. 27
  • Lazy Mike’s Deli (7049 Leesburg Pike): Feb. 6-7
  • Kids First Swim Schools (1104B W. Broad Street): Feb. 7 and Feb. 14
  • Doodlehopper 4 Kids Toy Store (234 W. Broad Street): Feb. 12-13 and March 5-7
  • State Theatre (220 N. Washington Street): Feb. 12 and 13
  • Clare & Don’s Beach Shack (130 N Washington Street): Feb. 20
  • Jason’s Deli (7505 Leesburg Pike): weekends through March 6
  • H Mart (8103 Lee Hwy): this Saturday and Saturday, March 6

McLean

  • Child’s Play Toys (1382 Chain Bridge Road): This Friday, followed by Saturdays through March 6
  • CVS (1452 Chain Bridge Road: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 7

Vienna

  • Marshalls (8353 Leesburg Pike): Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 7
  • Dollar Tree (264 Cedar Lane, SE): Feb. 5-7, Feb. 13-14, Feb. 19
  • Bards Alley (110 Church St. NW): Feb. 6 and 20
  • Lacrosse Unlimited of Vienna (209 Maple Avenue E): weekends through March 7
  • Petco (225a Maple Avenue E): weekends through March 7
  • Vienna Rexall Drug Center (150 Maple Ave, West): weekends through March 6

All cookie sales end March 14.

“This year we had a decrease [in in-person booths], but of course, Girl Scouts have found a way,” Tygerian Burke, the marketing and communications manager for Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, said.

Buying cookies online works like this:

  • Customers can type their zip code into the cookie finder and find local troops selling cookies virtually. Each time the page loads, it will feature a different virtual booth.
  • When customers click the link corresponding to the troop of their choice, the link will take them to a page with a description of what the sales will go toward and directions for buying the cookies.
  • The cookies can be shipped to the customer’s house or to someone else as a donation.

The Girl Scouts are also delivering cookies via GrubHub, a promotion that started in the D.C. area last Thursday (Jan. 28), Burke said. Drivers can deliver cookies to homes within a 25-minute radius of where a scout or troop is located, which in D.C. traffic, will mean varying distances, she noted.

She advised checking social media for Facebook Live promotions of GrubHub deliveries throughout the month-and-a-half of sales.

Burke said some troops within the council are setting up drive-through locations as well as signs with QR codes linking to their personalized virtual booth pages.

Girl Scouts are selling Thin Mints, Samoas, Trefoils, Do-si-dos and Tagalongs — as well as a new cookie called Lemon-Ups — for $5 a box. Two specialty cookies, S’mores and Toffee-tastics, go for $6 a box.

Image via Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital

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The Japanese barbecue restaurant Gyu Shige is finally ready to make its American debut at the Mosaic District (2980 District Ave.) in Merrifield after a long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Owner Edward Wong says the restaurant will open its reservation system tomorrow (Wednesday) so people can book tables ahead of a soft opening planned for the weekend of Valentine’s Day. Doors will technically open earlier in the week, but customers for the first couple of days will be limited to family and friends.

Gyu Shige has a strong presence in Japan, but this is the chain’s first venture into the U.S.

Wong was introduced to Gyu Shige — one of several brands operated by the company Food’s Style — in Japan about two years ago, and he says he has “great confidence” that it will prove just as popular on this side of the Pacific Ocean, particularly with a setting like the Mosaic District as its launching pad.

“Mosaic District definitely has [a] combination of all different people, from young kids to older people,” Wong said. “…I believe the Japanese barbeque experience is not just for any group, so it will be a great place to attract all kinds of people.”

While Fairfax County diners are no strangers to sushi restaurants and noodle shops like fellow Mosaic tenant Jinya Ramen Bar, they might be less familiar with Japanese barbecue, or yakiniku, which literally translates to “grilled meat.” Before Gyu Shige’s arrival, the closest venue specializing in this kind of cuisine was Gyu-kaku in Arlington.

Like Korean barbecue, yakiniku is cooked at the diners’ table, but it tends to come in smaller portions to encourage patrons to try a variety of dishes, and there is a greater emphasis on the quality of the meat cuts served, Wong says.

Among the options on the menu for Gyu Shige customers will be A-5 grade wagyu beef imported from Japan.

“The taste is definitely different from Korean barbeque, and we want people to take the time to enjoy the whole process,” Wong said. “…We also offer the service to cook for them if they want to, but we mostly let them cook for themselves. Let them experience it. Let them have fun with it.”

In addition to yakiniku, Gyu Shige will have a variety of appetizers and sushi, which will be prepared by a former Sushi Seki chef. The restaurant’s head chef also comes from New York City, where he previously worked for EN Brassiere.

The appetizers and sushi will be available for takeout, but the barbecue can only be served in-person and indoors, another potential challenge presented by COVID-19. Wong says the pandemic led to a three-month halt to construction. Even after work resumed, progress was slowed since fewer people could be on the site, resulting in an overall delay of about a year.

Initially, Gyu Shige customers will need to reserve tables in advance, and the restaurant will only be open during dinner hours, which will run from 4-10 p.m. The menu will also be exclusively a la carte, though set meals will be added in the future.

“When people order the set menu, they tend not to order other stuff. So, right now, we’re going to put the meat into a combo menu,” Wong said. “That way, people can experience most of the meat, but at the same time, they can get to choose their own appetizer, their own other items and try it out.”

In addition to Gyu Shige, local diners can look forward to the opening of Urban Hot Pot right next door. Tysons Reporter first reported that the Chinese restaurant was coming to the Mosaic District in September 2019.

After being delayed by the pandemic, Urban Hot Pot is now on track to open in May, according to Wong, president and CEO of IVEA International Restaurant Group, which is guiding the marketing for both restaurants.

Photo courtesy Gyu Shige/Facebook

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Fairfax County is changing up its Stuff the Bus food drive this winter to support increased demand for food while accommodating challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically held twice a year, Stuff the Bus will kick off its 10th year of existence with buses parked at select locations throughout the county from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6.

During the two-day food drive, community members can stop by the buses to donate nonperishable food that will help restock local food pantries, which have reported an uptick in the need for food and drops in volunteer rates during the pandemic.

To prevent the potential transmission of the novel coronavirus, donors should wear a mask or other face covering when at a Stuff the Bus site, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) is directing people to place their donations directly inside the buses through their rear doors, rather than approaching the front door or the bus drivers.

Fairfax County is also encouraging people to make online monetary donations to the participating nonprofits in lieu of donating food in person.

According to the county, virtual donations give food pantries more flexibility, allowing them to purchase in bulk, stock up on fresh food, and obtain “culturally appropriate foods, which better meet the needs of the diverse communities they serve.” It is also less labor-intensive.

“Nonprofits often rely on the work of volunteers to sort and shelve donations,” NCS says. “The COVID-19 virus has greatly impacted volunteers’ ability to serve, especially older adults or those with pre-existing conditions.”

Fastran buses will be located at the following sites in the Tysons area for the upcoming Stuff the Bus food drives:

  • McLean Government Center (1437 Balls Hill Road)
  • Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Avenue East)
  • Providence District Supervisor’s Office (3001 Vaden Drive)
  • James Lee Community Center (2855 Annandale Road)

Donations at the McLean Government Center will benefit LINK, which provides emergency food to people in the Herndon, Sterling, and Ashburn communities. The Patrick Henry Library drive will support Western Fairfax Christian Ministries on Jan. 30 and Cornerstones on Feb. 6.

The two Providence District locations — the supervisor’s office and James Lee Community Center — will support the Annandale Christian Community for Action on Jan. 30 and the Falls Church Community Service Council on Feb. 6.

A list of the most frequently requested food items can be found on the Stuff the Bus website.

Based on unemployment and poverty data, the Capital Area Food Bank estimates in its October 2020 Hunger Report that there has been a 48% to 60% increase in food insecurity in the D.C. region since the pandemic began.

Image via Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services

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More people in Fairfax County are facing food insecurity this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as illustrated by increased requests to the county and local pantries for groceries.

Fairfax County received 5,980 requests for emergency food from Mar. 1 to Dec. 21 of this year, a 56% increase from the same timeframe in 2019, according to Shweta Adyanthaya, a public information officer for the county’s Health and Human Services Department.

“The height of the requests came in the early months of the response — April to September — and then leveled off to average levels of requests since then,” Adyanthaya said. “Those households in need of food resources are referred to nonprofit and faith-based community partners, as well as other county resources.”

She encourages residents in need to use the county’s map application to locate food distribution groups near them.

One nonprofit in the Tysons area is Food for Others, which operates out of a warehouse in Merrifield.

Food for Others spokesperson Bridge Snydstrup told Tysons Reporter that the nonprofit is distributing food to an average of 4,000 families weekly, double the number of families it served pre-pandemic.

“The majority of people we are serving right now are unemployed due to COVID-19,” Snydstrup said. “Many of our clients work in the service industry and have either lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced due to the pandemic.”

She said that donations are also ticking up, helping the nonprofit meet the additional need.

“The Northern Virginia community has been extremely generous in helping FFO respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” Snydstrup said. “So many people have reached out asking what they can do to help and have either donated food or made monetary donations.”

However, volunteer rates are down overall, even though many in the community are interested in helping out.

“We have to limit the number of people in our warehouse to allow for social distancing and to ensure that our staff, volunteers, and clients are safe,” Snydstrup said. “We do have limited volunteer slots in our warehouse on weekdays, [and] those interested can sign up on our website.”

The best thing to do for those who want to help but are unable to volunteer is to host a food drive and drop off the donations.

Students in the area are also stepping up, Dranesville District School Board representative Elaine Tholen said in her newsletter on Monday (Dec. 21).

Last week, Cooper Middle School and Langley High School held a joint food drive for SHARE of McLean that brought in more than 6,500 non-perishable items. More than 40 students volunteered.

“We are thrilled to share it was an overwhelming success,” Tholen said. “We continue to be amazed by the generosity displayed by our school community and pyramid at large.”

The increase in demand for food assistance and drop in available volunteers are trends playing out nationally too.

Feeding America’s network of food banks have distributed nearly 57% more food in the third quarter of this year compared with 2019, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Meanwhile, NPR reported that food banks are seeing fewer volunteers, in part because the usual volunteers include older people, who are staying home to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

Food donation photo via Dranesville School Board Representative Elaine Tholen.

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(Updated on 11/12/2020) Capital One expects to unveil a 1.2-acre sky park with food trucks, a bar and beer garden, games, a dog run and an amphitheater in time for summer 2021.

Nested on top of the newly open Wegmans grocery store, The Perch is part of the second building to be completed in the 24.25-acre Capital One complex. Two more parts of the project are slated to open in the fall of 2021: the Watermark Hotel and the Capital One Hall.

From The Perch, Capital One Center Managing Director Jonathan Griffith said the public will “view Tysons from a completely different vantage point.”

For him, that perspective applies to the company’s mission to mix employees and Tysons residents.

“We are trying to separate from the notion that this is for only Capital One employees,” he said, citing The Star, a shopping and dining destination inside the Dallas Cowboys’ new training facility in Frisco, Texas, as inspiration.

The Watermark Hotel and two residential buildings will surround the Perch. The 300-room hotel will be managed by B.F. Saul Hospitality, whose flagship property is The Hay-Adams luxury hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Watermark will no longer be one of two hotels on campus, after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a request to change a planned hotel into an office building.

The Watermark Hotel is slated to open next fall, while construction on the residential towers could begin in 10 years, Griffith said.

Until the residential towers go up, semi-permanent installations will “activate the space,” including an old-school double-decker London tour bus and an Airstream converted into food trucks, Griffith said.

From the Sky Park, people can see the glassy Capital One headquarters, completed in 2018, as well as a 30-story office building with two floors of retail.

These developments fit with the trifecta of “live, work and play,” but Griffith said a fourth component, “culture,” is missing.

To fill that gap is Capital One Hall, with a 1,600-seat theater and 250-seat black box theater, as well as vaulted event spaces, large restrooms, plentiful concession areas and an expansive coat room, he said.

Capital One Hall General Manager Jamey Hines described both performance venues as “tight in feeling and room focus, but not uncomfortable.”

“People on the edges have just a good view and the audience won’t feel far away from the performer,” he said.

Having two options impacts the performer, too. “I’ve found that you have to create the room, so people achieve in the room, through seating,” Hines said.

Capital One, Fairfax County, and ARTSFAIRFAX are working together to ensure county agencies and Fairfax County Public Schools get access to 15% of the hall’s bookings at discounted rates. Already, the manager is looking to fill dates for 2022-2023.

Hines has mapped out some events and is gauging what people want to see.

The pandemic has given Capital One Hall more opportunities to be added to a multi-city tour, but he anticipates the Hall will be a bigger destination for one-time shows and productions. Hines encouraged those who are interested in dates to join the email list at capitalonehall.com.

Capital One Hall and The Perch will be open to weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, galas and functions for nonprofits, concerts and speaker series, Capital One Center marketing and community affairs manager Meghan Trossen said.

The coronavirus pandemic has sped up the building pace, now unencumbered by traffic, but the supply chain has been disrupted, impacting shipments of materials and equipment, Griffith says.

Through it all, he said Fairfax County has done “an incredible job” accommodating construction during the pandemic, implementing measures such as inspections via FaceTime to keep employees safe.

Photo courtesy Capital One

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A Stuff the Bus food drive this weekend will give Tysonians several opportunities to contribute to some of their neighbors in need.

Fairfax County has typically held Stuff the Bus food drives — where volunteers contribute food to those in need — twice a year. But the pandemic and economic downturn has left more in need than usual, so the county is holding more Stuff the Bus events than usual.

Stuff the Bus food drives in May collected 33.6 tons of food for local non-profits to distribute over two days.

This Saturday, Sept. 26, buses will be parked at 21 locations throughout the county from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. to collect donations.

Locations close to Tysons this weekend are:

  • McLean Government Center (1437 Balls Hill Road)
  • Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Avenue East)
  • Providence District Supervisor’s Office (3001 Vaden Drive)
  • James Lee Community Center (2855 Annandale Road)

The buses will be parked in less frequently used lots to avoid crowding.

The County included a list of frequently requested items from non-profits:

  • Canned Tuna, Salmon or Chicken
  • Soup
  • Canned Pasta
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Canned Fruit (in light syrup or juice)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Jelly
  • Bag (Dry) Beans
  • Rice – Brown or White
  • Instant Potatoes
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Pancake Mix
  • Pancake Syrup
  • Hot and Cold Cereal
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Beans
  • Healthy Snacks (e.g. raisins, granola bars)

Image via Fairfax County

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Where and How to Decrease Stress

Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].

Happy week 2 all your home schooling parents!

I say that with the enthusiasm of someone who’s had two cups of coffee today (and it’s not even noon yet). Regardless of your child care situation right now, everyone I know is under more stress lately than ever, myself included, and I wanted to help offer up some opportunities to combat that cortisol!

Exercise

  • I did a post a few months ago about the best hidden walking trails. Still an option, especially on Monday afternoons like today where the work at home is light.
  • Outdoor fitness classes: Orange Theory, Pure Barre and Yoga just to name a few, are all doing an outdoor fitness class if you have an interest and comfort level with being outdoor.

Food

  • I read online, reducing caffeine intake helps with reducing stress. This might be one of those do as I say, not as a I do… you could try a Viva Sol smoothie, South Block smoothie or SweetLeaf smoothie (fruit, kale or sweet mix-in).
  • The total opposite of that is a decadent treat — Crumbl, Pie Gourmet, Kiln and Co, etc.

Hang Out With Friends

  • Lots of socially distanced options right now — outdoor tables at many of the eateries, wineries/breweries, apple picking, pumpkin picking — so many options.
  • Organize an outdoor “playdate” on the grass at a school or the blacktop

As the weather begins to finally (thankfully) turn to the fall, I look forward to getting back outside when my own kids are off the screens. Happy fall!

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(Updated 10/23) –Hawk & Griffin, a new British pub coming to Vienna will offer guests the chance to enjoy British culture.

Located at 435 Maple Avenue West, the restaurant and bar will offer a place for people to hang out with friends and family, according to co-owners Michael Burgess and Thomas Kyllo.

The space will feature amenities such as a stage for live music performances and viewing parties of sports like rugby and soccer, a regular dining area, a bar, an outdoor sitting area, an area for patrons to toss around some darts and two “snugs.”

Originally intended as a “proper” place for women to hang out in British history, Kyllo said that two snugs included in the space will be meant for small group gathering places where people can host book clubs, parties or even use as a space for musical jam sessions.

The exterior of the building itself is designed after the Edwardian Era, which ranged from 1900-1915, according to Kyllo.

Menu items will include traditional British fare, according to award-winning chief Burgess, who also owns Pure Pasty in Vienna.

Along with dinner and lunch, the pub will also offer brunch on weekends, the owners said.

The inspiration for the eatery came to the owners after they felt there was a gap in the market for a mid-range, mid-price place around town that emphasizes the comfort of its guests.

“We’ve got great restaurants in Vienna, there’s no shortage of that,” Burgess said, but added that there isn’t anywhere where people can feel like they’re walking into a small British village for a pint.

Tieing the eatery back to the community, the owners said they decided to name the pub after James Madison High School and Marshall High School, where Kyllo volunteers as a coach and whose mascots are the Warhawks and Griffen.

“We want everything down to the name to reflect the community we are in,” Kyllo said.

The anticipated opening date for the pub is March 1, 2021, according to Kyllo, who said that the COVID-19 pandemic threw a curveball into their plans.

“Early next year hopefully we’ll have a better path out of this and people will be used to going back into restaurants and indoors,” said Kyllo.

Images courtesy Hawk & Griffin Pub

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