Tysons, VA

Barry Biggar, President and CEO of Visit Fairfax, has a somewhat frank assessment of the state of the hospitality industry in Fairfax: not great.

“There’s one particular industry that’s been devastated, and that’s travel and tourism,” Biggar said, “and when people aren’t travelling, there are many elements that are affected.”

Biggar isn’t alone in that assessment. In an Economic Advisory Commission meeting, local hospitality industry leaders spoke with Biggar and members of the Board of Supervisors about the impact the pandemic has had on hotels and other hospitality services.

“This has perhaps been the most heart-rending experience of my entire career,” said Mark Carrier, representing DoubleTree Hotel in Tysons. “Many hotels are paying to stay open. In Fairfax, all hotels combined had an occupancy of just 32 percent over last three months, less than half a year ago. Same period in 2019 was 76 percent. Revenue has declined by 73 percent across the entire county. Cash flow has evaporated basically, operators fighting to sustain their business. Frankly, the sustained nature of the crisis has been a source of stress.”

Biggar told Tysons Reporter that the D.C. area, including Fairfax, is one of four regions in the country seeing occupancy below 50%.

“From middle of March to end of August, hotel revenue (generated here in our county) has seen a loss of $278,987,000, just between mid-March and August,” Biggar said. “May is generally a good month. In May of 2018, the hotel revenue in Fairfax County was $70 million. This May, that figure was $9.1 million.”

Biggar noted that those figures are just based on revenue from occupancy and don’t include the total loss from related services, like food and beverage or catering.

“When you add those up, it’s significant,” Biggar said.

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Former Governor Eyeing Run for Seat — “Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe filed paperwork with the State Board of Elections Thursday to seek the governorship in 2021 but has not made a decision yet whether he will actually run for office. In the paperwork, McAuliffe listed himself as a Democratic candidate for governor.” [Patch]

Unemployment Update — “After two successive weeks of significant drops, initial claims for unemployment benefits increased slightly in Northern Virginia last week.” [Inside NoVa]

Traffic Alert for Gallows Road Over I-66 — “Installation of bridge beams for the new Gallows Road Bridge over I-66 will require reducing Gallows Road over I-66 to one travel lane in each direction from 11 a.m. Saturday, August 22, through 8 a.m. Monday, August 24.” [Virginia Department of Transportation]

Lender Could Seize Vienna Hotel — “A portfolio of 48 hotels nationwide, including one in Vienna and several others in Virginia and Maryland, could be seized in a $780 million foreclosure lawsuit.” [Washington Business Journal]

Unemployment Benefits Bump? — “Virginia is applying for federal funds made available by President Donald Trump to supplement state unemployment benefits by $300 a week, Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration said Wednesday.” [Inside NoVa]

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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Capital One can now move forward with adding more office space for its employees at the Capital One Campus in Tysons.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the proposal, which swaps a planned hotel with the office building, yesterday.

Gregory Riegle, the lawyer representing Capital One, told the supervisors that replacing the previously approved, but unbuilt, hotel with office space will increase economic development near the Metro.

Riegle said that the hotel had faced challenges prior to the pandemic, which the pandemic exacerbated. Riegle did not specify what the issues were.

While the pandemic’s impact on office use is still undetermined, Riegle said that the hotel-to-office swap will support the long-term vision for the Capital One Campus. Riegle said that Capital One intends to use the new office building just for its employees as the banking giant increases its presence in Tysons.

Riegle added that the new plans will add more retail and enhance street activation.

The campus currently has two office buildings, a conference center, a parking garage and surface-level parking, according to county documents. “Construction activity is on-going on a 31-story office building, an 8-story performing arts center, and a 28-story hotel/residential building,” the documents say.

The proposal did not receive any public comment during the public hearing yesterday.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said that the change better fits the recommended percentage of office use in the Tysons Comprehensive Plan and that the area has other planned hotels.

As for economic development, Palchik added that the office building will support jobs for construction workers.

Palchik praised the proposal for gaining “widespread community support” in a few months, noting that the Gates of McLean and McLean Citizens Association both support the proposal.

“[It] sets a high standard for future Tysons applications,” Palchik said.

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Hotels in the Tysons area laid off nearly 1,000 employees this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tysons Reporter found six hotels that filed notices under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). The WARN Act requires businesses with 100 or more employees to provide at least 60-day notice of a closing or layoffs affecting 50 or more employees, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Here are the WARN notices that hotels filed between late March and June:

  • Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center (7901 Tysons One Place): 54 late march
  • The Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner (1700 Tysons Blvd): 344
  • Tysons Corner Marriott (8028 Leesburg Pike): 120
  • Marriott Falls Church Fairview Park (3111 Fairview Park Drive): 164
  • Embassy Suites Tysons Corner (8517 Leesburg Pike): 42
  • DoubleTree Tysons (1960 Chain Bridge Road): 57
  • Crescent Hotels & Resorts (8661 Leesburg Pike): 171

In total, 952 employees were laid off.

“Employment fell in all major industry sectors, with particularly heavy job losses in leisure and hospitality. The largest job loss during April occurred in leisure and hospitality with a decline of 161,400 jobs to 240,800,” according to the Virginia Employment Commission in late May. “The largest over-the-year job loss occurred in leisure and hospitality, down 169,000 jobs (-41.2%).”

Most of the layoffs happened in March and April and were “due to COVID-19,” according to the WARN notices.

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New Park Authority Director — “Kurt Louis has been named the new Director for Park Operations for the Fairfax County Park Authority. The position has been vacant since 2019 following the departure of Todd Brown, current Director of Charlottesville Parks and Recreation.” [Fairfax County]

Input on Public Schools Reopening — Fairfax County’s School Board will meet this public hearing this afternoon at 5:30 on the proposals for returning to school this fall. [FCPS]

Summer Art Classes — “McLean Project for the Arts has announced plans to offer both in-person and online summer-camp programming for 2020. Designed for ages 3-18, the online camps are slated to run June 22 to Aug. 7, with in-person camps scheduled to run July 7 to Aug. 7 at MPA’s studio spaces.” [Inside NoVa]

Hotel for Sale — The 449-key, Sheraton in Tysons is now listed on JLL for sale. [JLL]

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Previously labeled as a “hidden gem” for travelers, Tysons also has plenty of opportunities for people who already live in the area too — without even leaving their homes.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are seeking ways to practice self-care.

People who choose to make a mini-vacation out of their self-isolation have special packages from local businesses to choose from.

Food and Drink 

In addition to many local restaurants offering delivery and curbside pick-up options, several are putting together specialty menus for date nights and other special events or working to come up with craft cocktails for delivery as well now that booze delivery is legal in Virginia.

Blackfinn Ameripub in Merrifield is hosting a “Crab Fest” April 18-19 that allows people to pick up fresh seafood for an at-home feast. The restaurant requests that people submit their orders by Thursday (April 16) by emailing the restaurant or filling out an online survey.

“The Whole Boat” order includes a dozen crabs, three sides, four drafts or a bottle of wine for $85 plus a $10 delivery fee. Customers can also add on other sides such as shareable cocktails for $12 or another side of mac and cheese for $6.

The proceeds will not only go towards helping Blackfinn Ameripub stay open, according to the Facebook page, but will also help Chesapeake Bay watermen.

The Fermented Pig in Lorton is offering special meal packages with an option between an Italian dinner box and a Friday BBQ box.

For $70, people can get a complete barbeque meal set that services up to six people and includes multiple sides and the main course, the website said. With the box, people will receive a full rack hickory smoked St. Louis cut spare ribs, a pound of our hand-pulled pork or pulled chicken, a large mac and cheese, a large bacon baked beans, a medium coleslaw and six dinner rolls, along with two sauces.

The Italian box retails for $72 and includes a a pound of herb sausage, a pound of fresh Foggy Mountain Pasta, 32 ounces of fresh marinara sauce, four ciabatta rolls from Great Harvest Bread Co., four ounces of olive tapenade from Dimitri olive oil and one-ounce herb bread dipping mix, the website said.

Beauty and Entertainment 

Mienne Beauty Supply in Vienna (1880 Howard Ave) is a locally-owned shop that is still open and helping people safely get beauty products. Though they are operating with unusual hours, they are offering curbside pickup on many products, the Facebook page said.

The shop, which carries hair dye, nail supplies and similar items, will be open every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. for people to pick up the products they ordered either online or by messaging staff on the Facebook page.

CosmoProf, which has a location in Falls Church, is offering online digital seminars through Instagram and Facebook Live for people that include tutorials and tips, the website said.

People can order supplies online and have them shipped to their homes, the website said.

Previously, Tysons Reporter also complied a list of local places that will deliver books to the doorsteps of local bibliophiles.

Exploring the Great Outdoors From Home

For people missing outdoor activities, Visit Fairfax coordinated a plan to help people enjoy activities around Fairfax County.

“Virtual reality offers everyone the opportunity to see what they have to offer from the comfort of home,” according to Visit Fairfax’s website.

There are several virtual attractions around the region including Mount Vernon, the Workhouse Arts Center and Gunston Hall.

Performing Arts

While local community centers, Wolf Trap and 1st Stage Theatre are temporarily closed, fans of the performing arts can watch artists perform online.

1st Stage has been posting performances by local artists to its social media accounts. Recently, videos have shown singing by the cast members for “A New Brain,” a show that was supposed to open this spring but then got delayed.

On Saturday (April 18), people can tune in for the “One World: Together At Home” to support healthcare workers and the World Health Organization.

The event is set to have appearances by artists, actors and comedians including Taylor Swift, Ellen Degeneres and Heidi Klum.

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The Sheraton Tysons Hotel reportedly plans to close for good on Friday (April 3).

The hotel (8661 Leesburg Pike) is a part of the Tysons West development near the Spring Hill Metro station.

Tysons Reporter obtained an email from the Townhomes at Westwood Village Owners Association, which is located behind the Tysons West development, to residents about the hotel’s planned closure:

We received notice today that the Sheraton is closing this Friday, April 3rd and will not be reopening. This came as a complete surprise to us as well as the company that operates the hotel. We’ve been told the reason they are closing is financial due to COVID-19 and the ability for the hotel to recover. At this time there isn’t any information as to what JBG Smith will do with the property.

Although parking is not permitted in their back lot, they wanted to give us a heads up that the lot will be secured and any cars in the lot will be towed.

An employee who works for the hotel and an employee at the hotel’s Budget car rental location both said they heard that the hotel is set to permanently close on Friday.

“This hotel is currently closed,” according to the hotel’s website. “Please search this site for another hotel.”

The Sheraton in Tysons ranks as the largest venue for conferences and events in Fairfax County, Barry Biggar, the CEO and president of Visit Fairfax, told Tysons Reporter earlier this year.

A spokesperson for Marriott International, which owns the Sheraton brand, declined to comment on the hotel specifically, instead sharing this statement:

As travel restrictions and social distancing efforts around the world become more widespread, we are experiencing significant drops in demand at properties globally with an uncertain duration. We are adjusting global operations accordingly.

We are working quickly to mitigate the impact to our business while also focusing on assisting our associates, our guests and our owners. While the ultimate impact is difficult to predict at this time given the fluidity of the situation, we remain confident in our long-term prospects.

In addition to the challenges from the pandemic, Marriott International announced on Tuesday (March 31) that a data breach might have compromised 5.2 million customers’ information.

Ashley Hopko contributed to this report

Image via Google Maps

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As COVID-19 continues to cause major economic disturbances across the country, Visit Fairfax has a new program to support local businesses and people impacted by the pandemic.

Fairfax County is heavily reliant on tourism and visitors for conferences. While Visit Fairfax’s president Barry Biggar told Tysons Reporter that he uncertain how much the Tysons area economy will hurt, he said the organization is working to combat some of the economic downturn.

Biggar said restrictions on non-essential businesses coupled with the economic downturn have had “devastating” consequences for local businesses, services and eateries in the last three weeks.

While many restaurants are trying to pivot by offering delivery, curbside pickup and delivery, some have temporarily closed. Biggar said that he expects many won’t reopen.

Visit Fairfax staffers are trying to help coordinate tools for the community through the “Fairfax First” program, he said.

The program is a collection of tools, lists and opportunities that residents can take advantage of to support themselves and others during this turbulent time, according to the website. It includes fun things to do while at home, virtual tours of popular attractions, mental health resources and ways to support local businesses.

Visit Fairfax is also promoting “Virginia Is for Restaurant Lovers Takeout Week,” which runs from March 30-April 5.

“Virginians are encouraged to order takeout, delivery or curbside pickup from local restaurants and to use the hashtag #VirginiaEatsLocal to spread the word,” according to Visit Fairfax’s website.

Last year around this time, hotels in the area were at or above 70% capacity, according to Biggar, who added that now they are at or below 18%.

Around Virginia, he said more than 24,000 people in the service industry have lost their jobs permanently due to staffing cuts.

Along with other resources, Visit Fairfax coordinated with local hotels to help first responders find a list of steeply discounted rooms that will put them up if they are either self-isolating away from their families or need another place to rest, according to Biggar.

Around Tysons, these include The Ritz-Carlton at Tysons CornerHilton McLean and The Westin Tysons Corner, according to Visit Fairfax. Rates vary, but first responders can call the hotels directly to inquire.

As the pandemic continues in Fairfax County without any sign of slowing, Biggar said that he can’t make a judgment yet about how this will affect the economic well being of the area going forward, but does predict an eventual rise in domestic travel around the third and fourth quarters later this year.

Though things are “changing every day,” Biggar said he wants people to “start thinking and dreaming about what you want to do when this is over” in terms of vacations and getaways to boost the economy again.

Photo courtesy James B. Crusan III

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Former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is set to make an appearance in Tysons tomorrow (Saturday) morning.

Bloomberg plans to participate in the Women for Mike get-out-the-vote event ahead of the March 3 Super Tuesday primary in Virginia.

The event is set to take place at 9 a.m. at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner (7920 Jones Branch Drive), according to a press release. Doors will open at 8 a.m.

After the event, supporters plan to knock on doors for Bloomberg’s campaign.

“This will be Mike’s seventh trip to Virginia since launching his presidential campaign,” the press release says.

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A new beer garden in a sky park plans to open next year atop Capital One Hall.

Construction is underway on the Capital One Center — the second phase of Capital One’s campus in Tysons, which is set to be completed in 2021.

Called “The Perch,” the outdoor space on top of the parking podium and Capital One Hall — 10 stories above the ground — plans to offer interactive art sculptures, a park, activities like yoga and beer at The Perch Biergarten, according to the website.

The Perch is set to open in the fall of 2021.

The “serene village green” will join Capital One’s planned additions for the Tysons East urban campus:

In addition to the upcoming beer hall, Capital One is looking to change a previously approved — yet unbuilt — hotel into a new office building, according to Fairfax County documents.

Capital One says that the change would allow for more open space, jobs and retailers:

Consistent with well settled planning and economic development objectives, this application presents an opportunity to further add employment opportunities and vitality at the headquarters campus in a location immediately adjacent to the McLean Metro station…

A lower level lobby and retail uses along Capital One Drive North and Scotts Crossing Road will wrap the parking garage. The approved drop-off area for the previously contemplated hotel use will be removed and replaced with public open space to enhance and activate these ground floor uses…

Additional retail use is proposed for Building 3 in the location of the previously approved garage entrance that will be shifting eastward.

Image via Capital One Center  

Hat tip to Chris H.

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