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Restaurants are closing due to urbanization

Freshman+Alexa+Dangel+enjoys+lunch+at+Yona%2C+a+local+restaurant.%0A
Freshman Alexa Dangel enjoys lunch at Yona, a local restaurant.

Freshman Alexa Dangel enjoys lunch at Yona, a local restaurant.

Freshman Alexa Dangel enjoys lunch at Yona, a local restaurant.

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Restaurants throughout Arlington have been closing their doors one after the other. According to ARLnow.com, this year alone residents have seen a total of 24 restaurant closures, and many people are wondering why these places are shutting down so rapidly.

According to the Economic Policy Institute northern Virginia’s 2013 cost of living was 40 percent higher than the national average, making Arlington County one of the most expensive cities in the country. Restaurants have a harder time staying in business because of this.

Arlington is growing in popularity due to its proximity from the district and the wide variety of food and recreation that is available here. Unfortunately, this means that prices in the city are skyrocketing, with only the best-managed restaurants making it by. “Stuck with high rent and fighting with similar concepts for a shrinking customer base doesn’t leave a business with a lot of runway to make it,” Nick Freshman, owner of Spider Kelly’s and founder of Mothersauce, said on his personal blog.

Those who work at the school also agree. Biology teacher and dive coach Kristen Johnston has seen a lot of turnover of businesses in the area. “I would love to see effort from the city council to work to make rents affordable for local businesses that have been in the community for years,” Johnston said.

Old buildings are being torn down and new ones are being constructed in their places on a regular basis. As a result of this new construction, many of the “cheap eats” restaurants can no longer afford to keep their businesses in Arlington. “Wiinky’s was one of my favorite fast food places to go to,” senior Soraya Garcia-Semedo said, in reference to the burger joint which closed in 2013. “It was a small place, not very expensive and the food was really good.”

According to a sign in the window of Wiinky’s a week before it was shut down, they blamed its closure to its competition with Petco, who was willing to pay more money for the space. “We’re going to keep our ears and eyes open, looking for a place in Arlington,” owner Ryan Shandel said. “If we find a place that’s affordable and makes sense, then we’ll make a move.”

New construction does not only bring higher rents to the area, but also higher prices on the menu. Those establishments which can afford to fill the new spaces often come at a cost, leaving the cheaper and more accessible restaurants packing their bags. “There’s a lot of fancy places that aren’t good for teenagers,” freshman Valeria Lopez said. “We’re all about cheap, quick and easy.”

With the construction of the new Ballston Mall area under review, students are hopeful that the redevelopment will bring more food options which appeal to teenagers. Arlington has recently added new dining which are already becoming school favorites. “I think anytime there are more choices—the better!” Johnston said. “I love cheese and [Cheesetique] has a great assortment and other choices, like sandwiches, salads, [and] pastas. Additionally, there are lots of vegetarian options.”

The places that seem to be popular among students, on the other hand, are more casual with more affordable food options. Although the more high-end restaurants are prevalent in the area, it is still possible to find something for everyone. Nando’s Peri Peri Chicken, another popular spot for local teens, opened in Ballston at the end of the summer. “I went there for my birthday and my family loves it but it was kind of a long drive to go all the way to Old Town, and I’m glad it came to Ballston,” freshman Luke Dangel said.

As Arlington continues to grow in population and popularity, it is only natural to expect some changes to incur. The turnover of restaurants in the area will likely remain high, however, students are hopeful that their favorite spots can continue to pay the bills. Freshman Jianna Ursitti said, “I think it is difficult to see some of my favorite restaurants go, but it in the end, it will make Arlington a better community.”

 

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The student newspaper of Washington-Lee High School
One door closes, another opens