Culbertson were selling the business, Barnes and his partners decided to purchase the beloved Café in 2011. Because they recognized the special history of this dive bar (one of the last ones in Arlington), they didn’t change much, in fact they still have many of the same employees that worked there before they owned it.
As with the rest of Arlington businesses, Cowboy Café closed its doors in March. However, with the passing of Temporary Outdoor Seating Area (TOSA) permits, the owners have been able to welcome customers to their new outdoor seating area, formerly known as Cowboy Café’s parking lot. “Arlington’s restaurants have made huge sacrifices to protect the health and safety our community. TOSAs are a way to help our small businesses welcome back diners and patrons consistent with state directives and public health guidance." said County Board Member, Katie Cristol. "We’re grateful for their partnership and all they do to make our Arlington, and Lee Highway, a special place”
The outdoor seating has been a successful addition to Cowboy Cafe. So much so, in fact, that it has inspired Barnes to move forward with an idea he had a few years ago - to transform the area into a welcoming and visually intriguing outdoor space for the Arlington community.
said Barnes, speaking about murals in the two cities and Panama. “The art has brought business, beauty, and positivity into the communities.” A few years ago, when visiting Miami’s Wynwood Walls, Barnes had the idea to create a mural on Cowboy Café’s empty parking lot brick wall. The idea has been just an idea since then, but, ironically, the COVID-19 shutdown and subsequent TOSA have allowed him to finally move forward and turn his idea into reality.
In recent weeks, Barnes and LHA have been working to put together a team of other Lee Highway businesses - Dominion Electric, Potomac Paint, and Esoarc Architects – to take on the project of creating an outdoor space and mural at Cowboy Café (those interested in following the process can visit LHA's Placemaking Page). Soon after, artist and Arlington native, MasPaz, was commissioned to create the mural. The mural design, inspired by MasPaz’ recent work with Arlington Arts’ Words to Art program, is called “Community.”
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Next week LHA will reveal the finished mural and explore the design process with Pamela Gillen, retail architect from Esocarc Architecture, Matt Rowan, lighting expert and designer with Dominion Lighting, and design manager Beth Boggs from Potomac Paint!