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LOCAL LEADER/Brennan Reilly - Carlyle's visionary

Posted on Nov 25,2008
Filed Under Local Leaders , Community,

photo by John Arundel/Local Kicks
Brennan Reilly

Brennan Reilly has a vision for the city’s booming Carlyle section: By the end of this year or next the Eisenhower Valley off Duke Street will be teeming with tourists, restaurant-goers and night shoppers, and will become one of the region’s next hot spots, along the lines of Clarendon, Ballston or Shirlington.

And why not? It already boasts the biggest-revenue producing movie theatre in the Washington area, the AMC Hoffman 22, and new luxury condos are sprouting up like mushrooms on a wet summer day.

“I’m betting on it,” Reilly, 44, an Old Town attorney said recently, after  last year's opening of his $2.5 million Carlyle Club. “I looked at National Harbor and downtown for this investment, but I really wanted it to be here in Alexandria, my hometown.”

The Eisenhower Valley has become what Northern Virginia author and journalist Joel Garreau would characterize as an “edge city,” a suburban retail and business district suddenly rising up around a large urban core. Garreau, writing in “Edge Cities” (1991), supposed that these mini-cities represented the third wave of American lives pushing into new frontiers after World War II.

The 4.5-mile east-west corridor, which parallels the city’s southern border along Cameron Run, is being hailed by city officials as the future “economic engine of Alexandria.” With the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as its centerpiece, retail space along Eisenhower Avenue is expected to include 250 more businesses by 2020.

The old image of sidewalks rolling up at five o’clock each day in Eisenhower Valley changed dramatically in late October when Reilly opened his 1940’s styled dinner club designed in grand Art Deco style. Perched in the center of things at 411 John Carlyle Street, Reilly has booked renowned international touring acts such as the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Rat Pack Tribute Show, Glenn Miller Orchestra and Cab Calloway.

Carlyle Club took four years of planning and millions of Reilly’s own funding to create. He took great pains to make the place look like one of the elegant Chicago joints where Frank, Sammy and Dean used to play, with Art Deco wallpaper, Terrazzo floors, custom-made carpeting from England and built-in and black-leather banquettes. About 175 seats face the stage, which can hold an 18-piece orchestra, with 50 more at the bar.

“This is not a place you go to in jeans and a T-shirt,” said Reilly, who also owns Old Town’s Gadsby’s Tavern. “We wanted to be somewhere between the Birchmere and Restaurant Eve.”

Reilly’s chic new restaurant follows in the theme of Del Ray’s Birchmere, without the touring head-bangers and musical acts post-1970. No beers in pitchers; instead white-tablecloth dining, wine service and world-class big band entertainment, with the swinging orchestral music of the 40s, 50’s and 60s taking front and center.  

“I’ve always loved the music from that period,” said Reilly, the club’s founder and principal investor. “The idea is to go to one place and hang out for the night. This is something I thought Alexandria really needed.”

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