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Posted at 2:33 PM ET, 06/ 8/2006

The Truth About Carpool

By Fritz Hahn

Contrary to reports in other local media outlets this week, Carpool is not being driven out of Ballston. Yes, says Curt Large, the chief operating officer of parent company Bedrock Management, Carpool has entered into a contract with Donohoe Development Company that would see the building razed to make room for a multi-story condo building. But, he adds, "We own the property. We're not being forced out."

A number of developers and groups have approached Carpool about the site over the years, Large says, but this time, "it was just a financial transaction that made too much sense."

Fears of condominiums and offices chasing out nightlife venues are understandable; Stoney's, Polly Esther's and Flanagan's Irish Pub are among the biggest names displaced in the last year, while Nation is set to be demolished this summer. That's just not the case with Carpool. "When we signed the lease in 1995, we had an option to buy the property, which we did in 1998," Large says. "At that time, we didn't know if we'd be forced out. We thought, "'We know we can be here forever.'"

A number of Ballstonians would prefer if they were. When Carpool opened a decade ago, it was the coolest place in the neighborhood, and lines stretched out the front door of the converted car dealership. Couples and singles crowded around pool tables and eyed each other across the large front patio. Name recognition was high enough that a sister bar was spun off in Herndon. While no longer as hot as it was, Carpool is a reliable place for pool and a beer after work.

Those who love the place should still have plenty of time to visit and reminisce. "[Donahoe] is in a study period to see if they'll be able to get the permits they need so they can build the condo building," Large explains. "They have until November, and at that point they can essentially back out" if the company doesn't think it will be able to complete the project.

"Even then," Large continues, "we'd still have more than a year at Carpool. We see ourselves operating into 2008, but it could be a little earlier -- maybe fall 2007."

Large also vows that Carpool will reopen in the immediate area, although he's not exactly sure where. With the closure 12 to 18 months away, the search for new real estate hasn't begun. Still, he says, "We love Arlington. We love Ballston."

Meanwhile, the company is charging ahead with plans to open three new venues. The biggest (and most controversial) is the purchase of the Source Theatre on 14th Street, which Bedrock wants to turn into an automobile-themed bar called the Standard. There's no official news yet, though company representatives are meeting with Councilmember Jim Graham and members of the community next week to discuss neighborhood concerns about the venue.

Next month, Bedrock makes its first foray into Baltimore with a bar and brick-oven pizza joint called -- surprise -- Bedrock. It's across from the old Hippodrome, about three blocks north of Camden Yards.

And later this fall, revamped Chinatown gets its first pool hall, Comet, under the Ruby Tuesday on Seventh Street. The subterranean location is a return to Bedrock's roots -- the company's first three establishments were all located below street level. "It's a little bigger than Atomic [Billiards], but it has a similar feel," Large says. If it can capture the magic of the tiny Cleveland Park space, I'll have a new favorite place to hang out before basketball games.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | June 8, 2006; 2:33 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Comments

First Dremo's and now this... will there be any interesting bars left in Arlington next year?

Posted by: Ballston | June 9, 2006 7:46 AM | Report abuse

It's a sad fact that those things which contribute most to an area's vitality and resurgence are eventually undone by an area's popularity.

The Wilson Blvd./Fairfax Dr. corridor was essentially a wasteland in the mid 1990s. Carpool and Bardo/Dr. Dremo's were the defining reasons for young people to be in Ballston, and many of them put down roots, contributing to much of the area's popularity.

Posted by: EyeonNoVA | June 9, 2006 9:06 AM | Report abuse

It's ironic that the things that made Ballston appealing are all going away. We are starting to feel that the house we bought becuase we "loved the neighborhood" is now in an ugly, over-crowded, over-developed neighborhood. I generally support growth and mixed-use, but not at the expense of the places that have made the area what it is. Or, was.

Posted by: Sean | June 9, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I've lived in the Ballston area for over 2 years now and I used to frequent Carpool quite often. Scratch that. I only went to Carpool for the occansional drink and Rocklands BBQ. Since Rocklands left I've only been to Carpool once. The beer is too expensive. It's like almost, if not, $4 for a miller lite. I'd rather drink in my own Carport. Alone. And Crying. Build another highrise.

Posted by: Mike Hyatt | June 9, 2006 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Another "luxury" highrise condo in Ballston? Take out the "ton" in Ballston and that's describes that project given the current inventory in the area.

Posted by: Justin | June 9, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse

How sad. I never liked Carpool, but at least it wasn't a chain. I miss the days when Wilson Boulevard had interesting places to hang out. High-density development may bring in the tax dollars, but it surely has snuffed the flavor out of Arlington.

Posted by: X-Ballston | June 9, 2006 1:19 PM | Report abuse

All of the constant condo construction in the neighborhood has turned the main roads into nothing but potholes and steel plating. I feel like I should apologize to my car whenever I drive in the area now.

Posted by: yarr | June 9, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

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