EXCLUSIVE: Scott Parker, owners and manager of Cowboy Cafe team up to replace Forest Inn | ARLnow

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) The former Forest Inn space in Westover will transition from Budweiser and burgers to margaritas and tacos.

The Forest Inn, one of Arlington’s last dive bars, closed in June after more than 40 years in business in the neighborhood. Its managing director told ARLnow that the landlord refused to renew the lease.

But the storefront at 5849 Washington Blvd will not remain vacant for long.

Westover Taco, a new Mexican restaurant and bar, plans to open next year in a relatively small food court. It’s run by Sarah White, a restaurant industry veteran who runs the Cowboy Cafe on Langston Blvd, which many fondly consider a dive bar, as well as several local Lost Dog Cafe locations.

We’re told White will co-own the business with five partners: Cowboy and Lost Dog co-owners Jim Barnes, Mike Barnes, Mike Danner and Wes Clough, as well as local serial entrepreneur Scott Parker.

In addition to managing those restaurants, White serves as the local president of the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association and was a 2021 candidate for the House of Delegates.

Westover Taco logo (courtesy Scott Parker)

Parker tells ARLnow that the plan for the 1,000+ square foot dog paw-shaped space is to “blow up the ceilings and really open up the space and give it a brighter vibe.” This could include roll-up windows at the back of the space, which overlook a parking lot, to provide an alfresco setting in good weather.

“It will definitely be a complete space flip,” Parker said. “Everything will be brand new.”

The Westover Taco concept is simple: margaritas and tacos. Although no longer a dive bar, Parker hopes to attract a mix of Westover residents and other locals while establishing a solid base of repeat customers.

“Everyone is welcome,” he said.

Parker noted that many of the six partners grew up near the Westover area and, given the restaurant’s small size and number of co-owners, it’s more of a labor of love than an opportunity. profitable for those involved. It’s also something the partners are looking at for the long term.

“Most of the restaurants there are quite busy, and many of them have been there for decades. So it’s a very strong and loyal market,” he said. “When you put something good out there, it should work really well. So I expect us to build a solid regular [customer] base fairly quickly. And I think the locals are going to love what we do.

The partners have yet to take possession of the space, Parker said, but the hope is to begin work soon and open sometime in mid-2023.

Parker, who recently returned from a trip to Mexico City, posted photos from inside the gutted Forest Inn via an Instagram story on Aug. 1, as noted by ARLnow at the time.

Parker considers the Cowboy Cafe and Lost Dog co-owners longtime friends and said they’ve been looking to partner up with something local for some time.

“We always wanted to do a project together,” he said. “It’s definitely something that borders on some kind of passion project. None of us are going to get rich or take over the world having all these partners in a small restaurant, so it’s more something that we just want to work as a team. to put something special in a neighborhood that we think is really cool.”

Images of the closed Forest Inn posted by Scott Parker on his Instagram story

As for his other business ventures, the prolific Parker told ARLnow that boxing gym Bash and pet daycare and boarding business Playful Pack are both on track to start the franchise there. nationwide in the near future. Upmarket hair salon Bearded Goat – currently in Ballston and Shirlington – is also considering expansion into other cities, but that could take longer, he said.

Asked about his ability to open so many local businesses, Parker thanked his business partners for contributing to their success while focusing on the path to long-term growth.

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