Why is Arlington Losing So Many Popular Restaurants?

Turnover has become a regular occurrence in Arlington's dining landscape. What's going on?

Some 60 percent of restaurants fail in their first year, and 80 percent fall short of the five-year mark, according to an oft-cited 2005 Ohio University study. But there are those that manage to beat the odds.

Take the quartet of neighborhood spots owned by Vintage Restaurants partners Wilson Whitney, Chis Lefbom and Adam Lubar, all of which enjoy a healthy share of regulars. Rhodeside Grill opened in 1997 in Rosslyn. Next came Ragime in Courthouse; Dogwood Tavern in Falls Church City; and William Jeffrey’s Tavern on Columbia Pike.

“We try to accommodate everyone,” says Lefbom. “Whether it’s for a business lunch, dinner with friends, a private event, weekend brunch, live acoustic music, a big game on TV…we want to be a place that customers would consider seven days a week. We recently added a two-level patio at Dogwood…and some accordion-style windows at Ragtime so we can open the restaurant up on nice days.”

Pepita’s intimate 1,200-square-foot space is often packed. Photo by Greg Powers.

In April, The Liberty Tavern celebrated its 10th anniversary in Clarendon—a milestone that co-owner Stephen Fedorchak attributes, in part, to a stable and cohesive ownership group and staff. “Our general manager and our most recognized bartender have been with Liberty Tavern from the beginning,” says Fedorchak, who also owns Lyon Hall and Northside Social in partnership with brother Mark Fedorchak and local builder Brian Normile.

It helps that the group’s restaurants are housed in restored historic properties. Each enjoys a quirky, homespun vibe that would be harder to pull off on the ground floor of a generic mixed-use building. Fedorchak and his partners are now taking that model to Falls Church City, where they plan to open a coffee shop similar to Northside Social in a vintage building on Park Avenue. They’re also taking over the Famous Dave’s barbecue space on West Broad Street, just a couple blocks down from an area that’s soon to be redeveloped into a public town plaza.

Categories: Food & Drink
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