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Banditos Tacos and Tequila will open at University Mall this February (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A taco and tequila restaurant is opening later this month at University Mall in Fairfax.

Banditos Tacos and Tequila will open on Feb. 22, serving up Mexican street food and a line-up of live music and tastings throughout the day.

The 7,500-square-foot location open at 10621 Braddock Road near George Mason University. The restaurant also includes an outdoor patio with multiple TV screens.

“Every attention to detail goes into Banditos, from our restaurant design and aesthetics to the ingredients used in our cocktails and kitchens,” said Sean White, founder and CEO of Baltimore-based White Oak Hospitality. “We are super excited to be a part of the Fairfax community and extremely thrilled to be a new place for the University community to experience!”

The menu will feature 20 different flavors of tacos and over 30 brands of tequila.

This is the company’s sixth location, including one in Arlington County. The restaurant is currently hiring for all staff positions online.

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The Atrium at Worldgate office building in Herndon (via Google Maps)

A new economic development hub is officially open in the Town of Herndon.

The George Mason Enterprise Center has opened in Office Evolution, a shared office space, at 205 Van Buren Street to support small and emerging businesses in an effort to support Herndon’s economic growth.

A ribbon cutting is slated for March 16, though the center has already begun providing services, a spokesperson for the center told FFXnow.

The town is the fifth locality to partner with the George Mason University center, which offers services like business advisory sessions, educational workshops, and training on other federal and state programs.

“We are thrilled to continue the success of the Mason Enterprise Centers with this expansion by bringing Mason assets directly into the Herndon business community,” said Paula Sorrell, Mason’s associate vice president of innovation and economic development.

The center will also grow its services, including providing access to health insurance, payroll support and other business-related services. Patrons will have access to Mason classroom and research projects, as well as capstone students and interns.

“We are delighted to partner with the Mason Enterprise Center and Office Evolution in creating this space for businesses to grow and prosper,” Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said. “We look forward to welcoming many new enterprises to the town as a result of this collaboration.”

GMU’s other enterprise centers are in Leesburg, Fairfax, Warrenton, and Springfield.

Photo via Google Maps

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FCPD Lt. Dan Spital addresses a crash on Braddock Road in Fairfax that seriously injured a motorcycle officer (via FCPD/Facebook)

The Fairfax County Police Department’s motor squad encountered an emergency of its own while responding to an incident early this afternoon.

A motorcycle officer was seriously injured in a collision with a Jeep on Braddock Road that police believe was attempting to get out of the squad’s way, FCPD Public Affairs Bureau Commander Lt. Dan Spital said at a media briefing.

“Our officer had serious injuries,” Spital said. “At this point, he’s conscious and alert. We’re praying first for recovery for him, but we’re lucky it wasn’t more serious than it could’ve been.”

According to Spital, the motor officers were traveling west on Braddock near George Mason University’s Fairfax campus in response to an emergency situation elsewhere in Fairfax County.

When they passed through the Roanoke River Road intersection shortly after 12:30 p.m., a silver Jeep in the middle lane noticed the police lights and sirens and started to merge into the right lane, where two officers were riding.

“One of the officers was able to avoid the vehicle that cut in front of them. Unfortunately, one of our motor officers was unable to avoid a collision,” Spital said. “A motor officer did strike the back of a Jeep and was thrown from his motorcycle, and he hit the pavement.”

The injured officer was transported to a hospital, where police say his condition has stabilized. He is a veteran of the FCPD motor squad with at least 16 to 17 years of experience in the department, according to Spital.

Spital said the Jeep driver remained at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation. Police are also interviewing other witnesses to the crash to determine the circumstances that led up to it, though the FCPD seems to preliminarily believe that the driver wasn’t intentionally cutting off its officers.

Police haven’t determined yet whether the driver is a GMU student or why they were traveling in the area.

“Before we can make any determination on fault at this point, we do have to make sure that everybody is interviewed and we come up with a larger picture of exactly what took place,” Spital said.

Spital said he’s “not aware” of the Braddock/Roanoke River intersection being considered dangerous. Virginia data shows one other crash there this year in January and multiple crashes with injuries in previous years, but no fatalities have been reported since the interactive data report began in 2010.

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A Fairfax County police SUV with lights on (file photo)

A new report on COVID-19’s impact on policing found some dissatisfaction among officers with how the Fairfax County Police Department responded to the pandemic, along with a significant decrease in community engagement.

Made public earlier this month, the report looked into the pandemic’s impact on policing in Fairfax County. The study was a partnership between the police department and George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy (GMU-CEBCP).

Sworn officers gave FCPD “relatively lower ratings” for its overall Covid response, highlighting a “perceived unfairness” and inconsistency in how the department dealt with leave policies, remote work, and adherence to mask-wearing, vaccinations, and social distancing.

Because of those concerns and a “negative reaction to broader local and national criminal justice issues,” more than a third of sworn officers who responded to surveys expressed interest in leaving the force after the first year of the pandemic, the report says.

“This sentiment was more pronounced in non-White or Hispanic officers and those more likely to experience work-related or personal stress during the initial months of the pandemic and one year later,” the report said.

There were also initial challenges in the department with obtaining personal protective equipment and a “lack of data, data sharing, and communication,” per the report.

“One additional challenge noted in the open-ended survey responses and some interviews was that there was no communication mechanism to reach every officer in the FCPD quickly,” the report said.

FCPD’s public affairs bureau told FFXnow by email that the “law enforcement profession has been facing retention and recruitment challenges for several years, but these challenges are not isolated to Fairfax County or the pandemic.”

Under a personnel emergency since August, the department noted that the county has made some effort to correct staffing issues in recent months, approving a one-time hazard pay bonus of $2,000 and “pandemic appreciation leave” for employees who couldn’t take leave during 2020.

In general, though, the report suggests low morale over the last several years had less to do with Covid than with fallout from George Floyd’s murder and the resulting nationwide protests in the summer of 2020.

“Although not confirmed by survey data, interviewees suggested that morale was impacted much more by Floyd’s murder and the ensuing protests against the police than by COVID,” it reads.

The study found some faults with how police have dealt with the public and handled “crime and disorder,” pointing to a reduction of “in-person community-policing activities” and a shift towards handling calls remotely.

While somewhat unavoidable, the report says some of the public “felt that service provided remotely was less effective,” and the department has been “slow” to return to the normal levels of community policing activity.

When asked about this, FCPD referenced a 2021 survey that was publicly released this past August that noted “most” of those who responded to the survey “were satisfied with the Fairfax County Police Department” and that more people think FCPD does a better job communicating than in 2015.

The report says county police struggled to adapt to a well-documented increase in mental health calls, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic. FCPD said it is working to address this challenge.

“With the support of the Sharon Bulova Center for Community Health, FCPD has expanded our co-responder program, which allows for clinicians to respond with officers to mental health calls for service,” the department told FFXnow.

The report noted that changes in people’s everyday routines early on in the pandemic altered “many longstanding calls for service and crime patterns.” The county saw a “significant decline” in service calls overall as well as specific types of calls, particularly traffic crashes and deaths.

Similar service call patterns and staffing challenges have been reported in other law enforcement agencies across the country, according to the report.

The report praised the department for “quickly” implementing strategies to keep officers safe from Covid, such as using the “existing infrastructure of a health safety unit to quickly implement infectious disease control.”

“Like all professions, law enforcement was not immune to the pandemic. We value the GMU study and the recommendations they provided,” the FCPD said.

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Lake Anne Plaza’s concert commemorating jazz musician Mykle Lyons is back for a second year (courtesy Alec Berry/Roxplosion)

The Mykle Lyons Commemorative Concert will return to Reston this weekend with a new charitable component.

The Lake Anne & Washington Plaza Merchant Association (LAWPA) introduced the now-annual music festival last year to celebrate the life of Mykle Lyons, a jazz musician and longtime Reston resident who died in May 2021.

Initially set for last Saturday (Oct. 1), the concert was postponed to Oct. 8 due to the threat of inclement weather from Hurricane Ian.

Organized by LAWPA in conjunction with Kalypso’s Sports Tavern and Roxplosion, the free concert will be held from noon to 6 p.m. at Lake Anne Plaza (1609 Washington Plaza).

“This free, family-friendly event celebrates the accomplishments, generosity, and compassion demonstrated by a well-loved member of our community — featuring acclaimed artists, exquisite food, and lots of fun,” LAWPA said in a press release.

New for this year, the organizers announced that they are establishing a memorial scholarship fund in Lyons’s name. Donations will go to the Friends of Music at Mason to help a music student attend George Mason University.

LAWPA says checks can be made out to the George Mason Foundation and mailed to GMU-CVPA Development Office, Friends of Music, 4400 University Drive, MS 4C1, Fairfax, VA 22030. The association says to write “in memory of Mykle Lyons” on the check’s memo line.

The second annual Mykle Lyons Commemorative Concert line-up will feature the Dan Lamaestra Trio, the Peter Fraize Quartet, the Chris Timbers Band, and a trio from GMU’s jazz ensemble.

In addition to playing at music venues around the world and frequently performing for former vice president Al Gore, Lyons was a regular at Reston Town Center’s now-closed Market Street Bar and Grill. He founded the Lake Anne Jazz and Blues Festival, which returned to the plaza for a 15th year on Sept. 3.

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The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County has issued a call for innovators to pitch solutions that work toward carbon neutrality and clean energy.

Pitch and Pilot,” a county-led innovation challenge, aims to find and pilot new projects that improve energy efficiency, increase renewable electricity use, and encourage the use of electric vehicles.

The winning team will have the chance to pilot their proposal in the county.

The pitch competition is sponsored by the county, George Mason University, and Smart City Works, a local nonprofit organization.

“Finding answers that increase energy efficiency and shift from a carbon-based to a carbon-neutral economy is a central goal in Fairfax County’s Strategic Plan,” event organizers wrote in last week’s announcement. “The county is courting solutions because the county’s first-ever Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) calls for carbon neutrality within the community by 2050, with a 50% cut in carbon emissions by 2030.”

An orientation is slated for Sept. 15. The contest concludes with a public pitch contest on Oct. 19. The deadline to submit a two-page concept is Oct. 3.

Smart City Works aims to empower communities to solve urban challenges and improve economic growth through technological innovation.

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A popular Peruvian chicken spot — one of many in the area — is expanding with a fourth location in DMV region.

El Pollo Rico, an eatery that serves up pollo a la brasa or traditional Peruvian chicken, is celebrating its soft opening through Sept. 4. It’s located at 10801 Fairfax Blvd.

“We chose this location because of the format of the space was ideal and we felt there was a great opportunity to serve people in the Fairfax City area — especially with delivery service to the main [George Mason University]  campus,” John Lillis, a representative for the company, said.

Lillis noted that the Fairfax location is larger than its Woodbridge location with a smaller-sized kitchen and two identical ovens. The dining room and parking lot are slightly bigger.

Regular hours will begin on Labor Day (Sept. 5), running from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. El Pollo Rico has other locations in Arlington, Wheaton and Woodbridge.

The restaurant traces its beginnings to a strip mall in the 1980s on Wilson Blvd in Arlington, where Victor and Nelida Solano hoped to open a Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant.

Opened in 1988, the chain’s standalone Arlington restaurant on N. Kenmore Street was featured on the late Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” travel show in 2009 and recently got a visit from tennis great Serena Williams, who’s currently competing in her final U.S. Open.

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The space center is expected to open by 2023 (courtesy Interstellar Dreams)

In the near-future, Reston will have an educational space center to call its own.

Interstellar Dreams, a project through The Pearl Project Institute for Innovation in STEM literacy, is actively scouting for a 40,000-square-foot space center in Reston. The center, which is expected to open by next year, will include training and simulations in real-world and virtual learning environments.

The Reston center will be preceded by “a smaller prototype” set to open Sept. 10 at George Mason University’s College of Science Research Hall in Fairfax, according to a press release.

“We are looking for stars to get us to the stars,” said Robin McDougal, founder and CEO of Interstellar Dreams, a nonprofit focused on nurturing future STEM professionals. “Building a Space Center is a needed tool to help inspire, educate, and train emerging and current workers–that are reflective of our whole population — to ensure we are ready to explore the universe. We plan to start here in Northern Virginia where this industry is booming.”

The company is raising $5 million to build a mission command, space station and planetary habitat. These features will have floor to ceiling LED screens and equipments. Visitors can come for an hour or a day to be in the environment, and mission commanders will lead groups in exercised and simulations.

The project will primarily be funded by donations, sponsorships and memberships.

McDougal is a former Fairfax County Public Schools advanced academic educator and describes herself as a STEM literary advocate.

The announcement was made yesterday (Monday) in the backdrop of NASA’s moon launch of Artemis I. The launch was delayed that day.

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Morning Notes

A plane at Dulles International Airport, visible from Chantilly (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Man Arrested for Fairfax Church Thefts — “On June 28, our officers responded to the Saint Mary’s of Sorrows Catholic Church in Fairfax for a man who stole a purse from a car in the parking lot. The man used stolen credit cards from the purse at several stores nearby. On July 4, the same suspect returned to the church and stole from two donation boxes. At least one stolen check was cashed from donation box.” [FCPD]

Covid Cases Close Reston Pools — “RA is currently experiencing a lifeguard shortage due an uptick in Aquatics staff testing positive for Covid-19. As a result, the Ridge Heights and Upland pools will be closed for the next five days (Friday through Tuesday).” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Silver Line Delays Not Justified, McKay Says — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says any further delays of Metro’s Silver Line Phase 2 project “will be met with a lot of discontent.” He’s hopeful the rail extension will open this fall but wants to be certain that a $250 million budget increase approved earlier this week will be the last needed payment. [WTOP]

Vienna Lodge Seeks Funds for Repairs — “Vienna Moose Lodge, a fraternal organization that does community service work, launched a Save the Lodge fundraising campaign this week to help remain open and continue its mission…One of the major repairs needed is a new HVAC system in the banquet hall that will cost $35,000.” [Patch]

Ribbon Cut on Reston Affordable Senior Housing — “It was warm this morning but still a great turnout for the ribbon cutting for Hunters Woods Fellowship House! Much needed $26 million renovations provide modern & safer home for many older residents.” [Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Herndon Company Expands HQ — The defense and intelligence contractor Expedition Technology has signed a lease amendment for its corporate headquarters offices “that will support its current and anticipated growth.” Lasting through June 2033, the new agreement doubles its office space from approximately 32,000 to more than 64,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 170 workers. [CityBiz]

GMU Joins Gun Violence Research Effort — “Fifteen members of a consortium of local schools will pool their resources, researchers and faculty experts in areas including maternal and child health, public policy, mental health, criminology and technology, officials said. The goal is to provide lawmakers and the public with steps they can take to drive down gun violence.” [The Washington Post]

Good Pups Visit McLean Nursing Home — “Fairfax County senior residents are getting some furry visitors at their nursing homes thanks to a group of volunteers at Pets on Wheels…The non-profit is run by volunteers that say pets can be therapeutic for senior citizens.” [ABC7]

Cool Off With Dolley Madison Library — “#Fairfax teens can beat the heat Saturday at our Dolley Madison branch. We will meet at the library before heading to McLean Central Park for a sponge war! Sponges provided. Wear clothes that can get wet (minimum shorts & shirts required).” [Fairfax County Public Library/Twitter]

Cirque du Soleil Makes Tysons Return Next Week — “Cirque du Soleil has become the gold standard of 21st century circus productions…The global brand brings ‘KURIOS: Cabinet of Curiosities’ to the Under the Big Top tent at Lerner Town Square in Tysons, Virginia from July 29 to Aug. 27.” [WTOP]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:03 am and sunset at 8:30 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A hot summer day at The Boro in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

What Was Behind Tuesday’s Storms — “Hundreds of trees were toppled and hundreds of thousands of people lost power Tuesday afternoon and evening as three storm complexes roared across the Washington region. The storms were fueled by hot and humid air that surged into the region, and were powered and sustained by strong high-altitude winds along an approaching cold front.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Firefighter Charged in Fairfax County Armed Robbery — “A D.C. firefighter has been arrested and charged with robbery after police say he brandished a gun and took someone’s property in Fairfax County, Virginia. Fairfax County Police said the robbery happened in May” [WTOP]

Police Investigate Dunkin’ Donuts Burglaries — Fairfax County and Alexandria City police are investigating at least three burglaries of Dunkin’ Donuts in Springfield, Belle Haven and Potomac Yard. The incidents all occurred during the morning of July 7, but police haven’t confirmed whether they were committed by the same people. [ALXnow]

Fairfax County Top in State for Population Growth — “In the last 50 years, Fairfax County saw the largest population increase in Virginia. During that same time, Norfolk saw the largest population decline…Mark Mather at the Population Reference Bureau says the next 50 years are not going to have the same trends.” [WVTF]

Same-Day Voter Registration Coming — “Same-day voter registration is taking effect in the state in time for the congressional midterms in November, a significant shift from the way Virginia elections have worked in the past…The new law will allow voters to fill out a registration form and cast a ballot after that deadline, up to and including Election Day.” [Virginia Mercury]

Food Drive Planned in West Springfield — “@MoveInterstate will be hosting a #FillATruck food drive at their #Springfield HQ located at 5801 Rolling Road, from 07/18-07/29. All donations will be donated to Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO) and will help families in the #FairfaxCounty community.” [Supervisor Penny Gross/Twitter]

Langley HS Alum Coaches GMU Volleyball — “Years later, when receiving a second opportunity to join the George Mason University women’s volleyball team, Megan Shiffett Bachmann jumped at the chance and accepted. The 2008 Langley High School graduate recently was named the new head women’s coach of the Division I Mason program.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Park Authority Names Top Volunteers — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will honor 21 individual volunteers named 2022 Outstanding Volunteers and selected by their peers from across the park system…Approximately 4,000 volunteers give of their time and talent annually and take on a multitude of tasks.” [FCPA]

Tysons IT Consultant to Help Startups — “Booz Allen Hamilton has launched a venture capital unit that aims to help young companies speed the development of technologies used by the federal government…Booz Allen Ventures LLC will invest $100 million over five years in firms developing artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity and defense technologies, the company said.” [Washington Business Journal]

It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 72. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:35 pm. [Weather.gov]

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