Ceiba Set to Close September 27th

Posted: September 13, 2014 in DC Bar News
Ceiba's bar

Ceiba’s bar

Ceiba, the pan-Latin restaurant & lounge located on 14th Street downtown, will shutter its doors after Saturday, September 27th. The closing, which was announced on its Twitter and Facebook pages today, comes 11 years to the month since the popular spot opened in September 2003.

The lounge was notable for its solid food & cocktail happy hour specials and having one of the first late night happy hours in DC. No word whether its operators, the Passion Food Restaurant Group (which includes DC Coast, Acadiana, District Commons, Burger Tap & Shake, and Penn Commons), will operate a new concept in the space.

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DC Beer Week yet again has a ton of awesome events that highlight what a great beer city DC has become (read how DC Beer Week got started in this OnTap story). I’ll defer mostly to the great previews highlighted by the Post, the Express, Eater DC, The Hill is Home  (and definitely be sure to pick up a copy of this week’s Washington City Paper Beer Issue too), but below I’ll list my top choice each day that is either free or close to free-the $50-65 3-5 course meals + beer are a pretty good value, but sometimes you want flexibility. (Yes, this intro is basically plagiarized from last year, sue me). I’m also listing unofficial events for bars who didn’t pony up the minimum $250 to be an official sponsor of the week, along with bars who are doing something special all week long (Adams Morgan is an underrated spot with several locations).

  • Sunday August 17th
    • Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Takeover 
      • Churchkey
      • 12 Sierra Nevada collaboration brews, Cigar City (rare in this area, incredibly popular in Florida), Bell’s, Allagash, Oskar Blues, Victory and Firestone Walker
  • Monday August 18th
    • Dogfish Head: Dazed and Infused
      • Scion
      • 30 different beers from Dogfish Head, including 10 drafts, 7 bottles, & 13 infusions
      • $3 off all Dogfish Head beer
      • free glassware until supplies last
      • 5-11p
  • Tuesday August 19th
  • Wednesday August 20th
  • Thursday August 21st
    • Radler-palooza
      • Smoke & Barrel
      • hottest new beer craze of this summer-grapefruit & beer
      • radlers from  3 Stars, Boulevard, Harpoon, Devils Backbone, Stiegl, Sixpoint, Schofferhofer, and more.
      • House-made radlers & radler cocktails
      • 20 drafts and casks from everyone’s favorite Michigan brewery
  • Friday August 22nd
  • Saturday August 23rd
    • Colorado v Delmarva Cornhole Tourney
      • City Tap House
      • Breckenridge Brewery, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, 3 Stars Brewing Company, Evolution Craft Brewing Company, Left Hand Brewing and New Belgium Brewing
      • plus cornhole tourney on patio (beers $5 for those participating in cookout)
  • Sunday August 24th
    • Not much on the schedule, but I’d stop by any of DC’s great beer bars not listed above or below such as The Big Hunt, Bier Baron, Granville Moore’s, Smith Commons, Penn Social, Iron Horse, Jackpot

Events All Week

  • Mellow Mushroom
    • 6 unique beers from Sweetwater Brewing on rooftop all week
  • The Black Squirrel
    • Pennsylvania Beer Week
    • One-off specialty brews from Troegs, Sly Fox, Victory & Stoudts
    • make Trifecta bets all week to guess most popular beers to win prizes
    • HH 5-8p Monday
  • Meridian Pint
    • all 24 drafts are local beers starting Monday
    • 3 local casks daily for $5/beer
  • Ventnor Sports Cafe
    • Sun: 8 Abita drafts on tap + po’boys
    • Tues: Yuengling trivia giving away swag & serving all beers
    • Thurs: Clambake with Narragansett Brewing
    • Fri: Texas Ho-down with Shiner ($5 Shiner beers)
    • Sat: 15-20 Colorado beers & Leopold Bros.
  • Glen’s Garden Market
    • events all week featuring $4 drafts
    • Tues: Mad Fox Tap Takeover
    • Wed: Maryland Showcase- Oliver Brewing Company, Brewer’s Art, and Union Craft Brewing
    • Thurs: Devil’s Backbone Tap Takeover and oysters
    • Fri: local craft beer


Townhouse Tavern, the most under-the-radar dive bar in town, has closed, according to its Facebook page. The Dupont bar (17th/R) has been open since April 1997. It was the site of a federal cocaine sting in 2011. Recently, it has hosted regular comedy nights. No word on what is replacing it.

UPDATE: The reaction to BiDC’s breaking news was swift and hilarious on Twitter and especially in the comments section on PoPville. Eater DC also picked up the story. My favorite tweets/comments below:

“Please do not replace with a tapas place… ” – @DCBadger

“RIP Townhouse Tavern. Ye were a savage beast” -@Mr_Robinson95

“Good. I love dive bars, but TT was disgusting  ” – @jmurray20

“Not the Townhouse Tavs! … Just push me off on an ice floe already, D.C.” – @kristoncapps (Staff Writer for CityLab, The Atlantic)

“Holy crap, I can’t believe that Townhouse Tavern – the bar that built the progressive blogosphere – is closing down.” -@Laurenm 

“Now where will I go to get cheap beer and vaguely racist comments?” -@stego_21

“RIP Townhouse Tavs … I will miss your weird smell, sort of” -@sommermathis (Editor for CityLab/The Atlantic, formerly DCist head editor)

“It was always a dump, but got worse after [the FBI coke bust”, in terms of service and crowd (or lack thereof)…. It was interesting in early 2000s, but had not been worth your time (unless you lived there) for years.”-@fritzhahn (2nd tweet)

“Yeah, it became pretty crappy. I’m down with dive bars, but there were far better than Town House.” -@BenHarris_1

On PoPville (multiple references to it being a “coke den”)

  • “..That place was such a dump, but its departure seems to harken the further decline of 17th Street.”
  • “Townhouse was my “Cheers” for many years. It was a dive, but the people who owned it, worked there, and frequented it in the early 2000s were some interesting folk…”
  • “Yeah I’m struggling to come up with one [bar] that even comes close to being as disgusting as Townhouse.”
  • “This place was basically a Coke Den.”
  • “Anyone who has witnessed the tragic mess that used to occur every Friday and Saturday nights at 3 AM after they “closed” can attest to the fact that it was a coke den. Large groups of people outside with coke dealers lingering about. It was not a secret.”
  • “As someone without a coke habit or any interest in revisiting it, but who knew plenty of people with habits in college, it’s obvious if you’ve spent even an hour or two at Townhouse on a Friday or Saturday. Anyone saying otherwise just doesn’t know what they’re talking about or what to look for. I brought my out of state cop friend there and he couldn’t stop chuckling.”
  • ” This place was dirty, smelled awful, and was filled with sketchy people. I had one of my drinks drugged once there.”

My favorite comment:

  • “Yep and they used to keep the party going until the next morning. You weren’t allowed to leave because they didn’t want to alert suspicion that they were open past hours. I remember getting trapped in there once and having some scary guy screaming at me when I finally found a way to force a locked door open at dawn.”

The Gryphon is Back…

Posted: August 4, 2014 in Dupont, Restaurant

and so is social dining experience

Guest post by J Palm, BIDC co-editor
Follow, Tweet me @charmedlivingDC

The Gryphon's Raw Bar in action

The Gryphon’s Raw Bar in action

A few weeks ago, I drank and dined with the editor-in-chief of Barred in DC at the new The Gryphon. We were invited to the newly revamped restaurant & bar to sample and share small plates and taste new cocktails. Yep, our meal and drinks were comped, as a matter of disclosure, but as has always been hallmark to BIDC, the reviews are real and can’t be bought. (Well, maybe they could be, but the price hasn’t been right yet—wink)

You may remember The Gryphon as a fledgling upscale sports bar with dozens of screens trying to make its mark as a destination to watch “the big game”. But as previously reported by BIDC, that didn’t quite work out so the owners, who also represent The Gryphon’s sister Lost Society, drew the curtain, went back to the drawing board, and came up with a toned-down yet elegant (and a bit sexy with its rich color palate and snakeskin patterned wall paper) social dining experience, featuring a raw bar with a robust selection of oysters and clams to suit your taste, along with shrimp and lobster cocktails to share, and modern twists on your favorite ceviches. And let us not forget the real reason we all rely on BIDC—it’s really all about the bar for us, and the bar is good, serving creative, delicious, and well-balanced cocktails that provide a clean and craveable canvas for The Gryphon’s social plates.

Social room/back dining area

Social room/back dining area

First, el jefe ordered the Artemis Virtue—a refreshing cocktail of gin, lime juice, cucumber, mint, and sweet vermouth, sweetened with agave and topped off with a splash of soda. Think summer in a glass. It was a dark and stormy Tuesday evening, so we really needed this. Yours truly enjoyed her own summery concoction—the signature cocktail of the joint—The Gryphon consisted of Grey Goose L’orange, strawberry puree, lime juice and sweetened further with simple syrup. Watch out, for this cocktail is clearly easily drinkable, but it’s dangerous and will sneak up on you—sip leisurely. To accompany our drinks, we started our social dining experience with a shrimp cocktail to share. Apparently, the raw bar chef is always creating new renditions of this classic, so we had to see if he could show us something new (and he did).

The shrimp cocktail special when we dined was a spicy Latin twist on your traditional shrimp cocktail. This dish felt like Cabo. Shrimp, avocado, cocktail sauce, extra horseradish and other spices all mixed together and served on ice was a nice setup for what would be coming ahead from the team at the raw bar and the Texan chef, Joseph Evans (formerly of Smith and Wollensky).

Prosciutto-wrapped monkfish

Prosciutto-wrapped monkfish

As the name of the game at The Gryphon now is surf and turf, we had to have a good smattering of each. After the cocktail, we had a hearty dish of Monkfish wrapped in prosciutto—reminding you of the more traditional bacon-wrapped scallops. Nice flavors and a good sear on the fish made this dish a star. Continuing with “surf”, we definitely over indulged in the highly touted (by the staff) lobster gnocchi. I cannot tell you what a revelation this dish was in making a gnocchi a viable dinner option for me (I usually don’t like the stuff). It’s not just gnocchi, it’s better, and there’s so much lobster that you can’t believe the price.

Star dishes here - fried brussels sprouts & lobster gnocchi

Star dishes here – brussels sprouts & lobster gnocchi

At this point in the meal, I felt good enough to indulge in an additional cocktail (it sneaked up on me), so of course I couldn’t resist a drink named Aphrodite’s Kiss, who could? I fell in love—the blend of Absolut vanilla/regular and lavender syrup was surprising. It was light and sexy and I wanted another immediately (though I didn’t have one), so I ate more delicious food instead.

Tasty cocktails

Tasty cocktails

Moving on to “turf’, we sampled a couple of dueling steak dishes. I was eager to try the hanger steak (maybe it’s the simple country girl in me), but our most kind and attentive server strongly suggested that we try the Cajun filet mignon as well, as it was his favorite. While I was certainly not disappointed by either, I have to say that my favorite was the hanger steak. Its beautiful sear (verging on char) and fresh, bright green herb sauce was simply an all-around joy for my taste buds. The filet was also delicious, but even for me, the Cajun marinade/seasoning was a bit heavy handed. I noted to our server, who came back ‘round to hear my verdict, that with the seasoning the filet lost some of its “filet-ness” and really, to me, could have been any cut of beef since I’m not sure you’d necessarily be able to taste it beyond the seasoning.

Delicious Hanger steak

Delicious Hanger steak

More good news though—the beer, wine, and spirits list is well-rounded enough to scratch any itch and prices are in line with other DC hot spots, with the exception of a higher-than-usual priced DC Brau ($9). After a couple cocktails, a Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager soothed BIDC’s chief and I took a break (despite the sparkling wine calling my name) before dessert drinks—it was a Tuesday night.

It must be noted that the side dishes were fantastic—Brussels sprouts are the new “it” veggie, but I promise, you actually do have to try these perfectly roasted, seasoned, and browned sprouts sprinkled atop with parmesan cheese. Southern girls know macaroni and cheese, and I’ve struggled with the creamy, over-truffled dishes being served all over the metro area. At The Gryphon, the mac is like what mom would make, no—grandma—but more up-to-date yet classically presented, bubbling over in a sizzling cast-iron dish.

Delicious Mac N' Cheese

Delicious Mac N’ Cheese

Bread pudding and cognac was a gluttonous end to our meal. The pudding was rich and creamy (even without the ice cream on top for there were technical issues in the kitchen). Not too sweet, but who needs all that sugar when life (and dinner) can be this good?


nightcap cognacs

Bread pudding

Bread pudding

Further disclosure: Your guest poster, J Palm, is engaged to BIDC’s chief. We will marry in October. We dine and drink together frequently at home and “on the scene”.

Front bar area at The Gryphon

Front bar area at The Gryphon

Meat locker at The Gryphon

Meat locker at The Gryphon

Folks enjoying new patio from open air front area

Folks enjoying new patio from open air front area

Previously home to an awkward back bar, now plush banquettes

Previously home to an awkward back bar, now plush banquettes

Another view of back bar

Another view of back bar

Moonshine is legal, taxed, regulated and out in the light of day.

Guest post by J Palm, co-editor BIDC
Follow & Tweet me @charmedlivingDC

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of imbibing with the co-founders of Richmond-based Belle Isle Craft Spirits and creators of Belle Isle Premium MoonshineWhat the heck is premium moonshine? According to the trio of founders: Brian Marks, Alex Wotring, and Vincent Riggi, it’s an elevation of the stuff brewed in the backwoods of the Appalachians: smoother, more versatile, perfectly sippable on its own and surprisingly blendable with a multitude of mixers. In my own words—it’s nothing like that hard, hair-on-your-chest growing concoction in the Mason jar that your grandpappy and co used to make under the light of the moon.

Belle Isle Moonshine and The Moonshine Book

Belle Isle Moonshine and The Moonshine Book

At a media-only cocktail hour at Dupont’s Circa sponsored by Belle Isle Craft Spirits and their PR agency showcasing the well-distilled moonshine, I partook of 3 out of 4 featured specialty cocktails and was pleasantly surprised to find how smooth, versatile and, at first, virtually undetectable, the spirit is.

My passage through Belle Isle commenced at the lighter end of the spectrum—a peach-basil iced tea that I couldn’t stop drinking, as the marriage of basil to sweet summer peach continually evolved as the red tea-based drink settled. I really had no intention of completing 3 drinks at 4 pm on a Wednesday, but ehh—stuff happens! My surprise at how drinkable this cocktail was (as compared to traditional moonshine) compelled me to ask Alex for a pour of the spirit straight up so I could understand where the liquor was in the mix (so, I guess I actually had 4, after all).

Afterwards, I was ready to move to the middle of the scale. The Lunar Eclipse, a take on a classic Negroni, made me wanna call back home and tell my family down on the Bayou I knew something they didn’t know (moonshine and Campari) even if that wasn’t true, so you know, you gotta try it. The pièce de résistance was the Monk on Moonshine, a barrel aged cocktail (usually for five weeks, I was told, but on this day for one week) of moonshine, sweet vermouth, maraschino liquor, and Green Chartreuse (get the cocktail name now??) that I was happy I waited and primed my palate for as it was a deliciously heavy-handed end to my journey along the Belle Isle spectrum. Manhattan-ish, but different—deeper.

Belle Isle Stocked at Home

Belle Isle Stocked at Home

My first bottle of Belle Isle was gifted, but I can restock and you can pick yours up at ABC stores throughout NoVA from Arlington (Ballston, Clarendon) to Springfield. And, of course, Circa (Dupont, Foggy Bottom, and Clarendon) is stocking the spirit and mixing these great cocktails. Some other restaurants currently serving Belle Isle include: Central-Michel Richard (DC); Lyon Hall, Liberty Tavern (Arlington); PX/Restaurant Eve (Alexandria). For a complete list and to keep up with the growing availability, visit http://www.belleislecraftspirits.com/where-to-buy/ early and often.

I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the Belle Isle distillery in Richmond and can’t wait for a tour. The owners were open about the disappointment of the delays caused by jumping through multiple federal government hoops—not a surprise to us Washingtonians.  But until that day, I’ll be referring to my copy of The Moonshine Book, a thorough compilation of cocktail recipes and moonshine history, complete with excellent photographs published by the Belle Isle team, frequently and meandering my way through the summer accompanied by nostalgic memories of the good ol’ days.

As a southern girl, I grew up sneaking sips of the harsh liquor out of Mason jars and milk jugs. Now, a towering bottle of Belle Isle sits in prime real estate in my tiny Dupont Circle kitchen’s makeshift “bar”. Before the recent rebirth of the moonshine craze, it seems fair to propose that we all used to look down on the unrefined home-brewed spirit, but not anymore. I noted to the founders of Belle Isle, thinking this was so obvious that I only said it after several cocktails, that the nearly 15” tall vessel is now the spirit looking down on all its competitors, an observation they surprisingly accepted as astute. Cheers, guys!

A spate of bar closings have hit DC recently, both the permanent and the ominous “temporary” kind. Both Veritas Wine Bar (Dupont) and Hogo (Shaw/Convention Center) have announced that they will shutter their doors after service on Saturday, August 2nd, while Old Dominion Brewhouse (Shaw/Convention) and The Mighty Pint (Dupont) have temporarily closed, with no return expected (at least for Old Dominion).

Veritas, a snug wine bar next to Russia House in north Dupont, announced it was closing on Facebook earlier this month. The bar, somewhat of a cult favorite among oenophiles in town, has been open since fall 2007. Barred in DC has exclusively reported that a new concept called McClellans Retreat (Civil War themed??), possibly from the same owners (with the same class D license that allows the sale of beer/wine only); the owners’ request for a trade name was approved June 25. Interestingly, the Washington Hilton across the street has a sports bar (likely unknown, even to neighbors) called McClellan’s Sports Bar; no word whether there is any connection.

The closing of the Tom Brown rum/tiki bar Hogo, which just opened in December 2012, has long been in the works (WaPo story from June), and the bar announced on Twitter yesterday its official closing dates, with a week of specials leading up to it say farewell. According to the Post, the neighboring bar The Passenger may close at the end of this year.

As for closings that have not been announced, PoPville and its commentariat have been all over the unannounced closing of the Old Dominion Brewhouse, filled with the yells of Roll Tide during the fall for its Alabama football watch parties but not much else. Although a sign was posted stating that the establishment was temporarily closed until further notice on July 7th, a PoPville reader reported apparently that the bar has been evicted. It does not appear that Old Dominion, which opened in January 2006, will be missed.

Less certain is the fate of the divey-popular-with-22-year-olds spot The Mighty Pint, located in the former Madhatters spot on M Street in Dupont, known for its pints of rail cocktails and Pittsburgh-skewed food and rooting interests. Yesterday, the bar wrote on Facebook: “The Mighty Pint will be CLOSED due to venue maintenance until further notice. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted!” The website was updated accordingly to inform visitors of this temporary closure, which suggests that the bar will be coming back. Will update this post as soon as we hear anything.

Second room first floor bar at The Big Hunt

The Big Hunt has a tavern license with entertainment and summer garden endorsements

In DC, bars and restaurants who want to serve booze must first obtain a liquor license from the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). This post is a primer on the different types of licenses and special endorsements that are required.

License Types

To sell alcohol for drinking on-site, a bar/restaurant can get a restaurant, tavern, or nightclub license. Although some spots get a “D” license that allows the sale of beer and wine only (Dacha Beer Garden is a notable example), the overwhelming majority have “C” licenses that allow liquor to be sold too. The differences between these kinds of licenses are explained further below.

Restaurant License

Most spots, even places that seem more a place to drink than eat (e.g. Front Page, The Ugly Mug), have a restaurant liquor license. Although this is the most common type of on-premises license, this is not necessarily the most coveted. Why? There are a host of restrictions for restaurant license holders, including:

  • Having a kitchen open until 2 hours before closing
  • Having advertising/signs emphasize food instead of booze or entertainment
  • Have annual gross food sales of $2000 per occupant (based on certificate of occupancy; $1500 for D licensees) OR 45% of gross annual receipts
  • Can’t have dancing, entertainment, or a cover without an entertainment endorsement (discussed later)

To certify their food sales, restaurant license holders must file quarterly statements detailing their sales and expenses; new bars/restaurant often get dinged and fined for failing to do so. Still, much to the chagrin of some neighbors, bars who don’t meet the food requirements rarely actually get their liquor licenses revoked; instead, there’s a grace period and ABRA routinely issues warnings and issues fines.

Restaurant liquor licenses cost $1000 (capacity 0-99), $1300 (100-199), $1950 (200-499) & $2600 (500+) annually.

Tavern License

Tavern license holders (often traditional bars, though they include places like Cava and Bistro D’oc who could easily qualify as restaurants) are hampered by much fewer restrictions. They don’t even have to serve food and they can have a dance floor of 140 square feet or smaller without getting an entertainment endorsement.

Tavern licenses are $1300 (0-99), $2080 (100-199) & $3120 (200+) annually.

Nightclub License

DC’s 40 or so nightclub license holders (which include clubs like Midtown, Ultrabar) have very few restrictions and can have entertainment, dancing, or charge a cover without getting permission. Strip clubs and big music spots like DC9 often have nightclub licenses too. New nightclubs are prohibited in many parts of DC.

A nightclub license costs $1950 (0-99), $2600 (100-199), $3250 (200-499) & $4550 (500+) annually.

Types of Endorsements

Bars/restaurants who want to offer entertainment and serve drinks outside (either on patio or rooftop/deck) must obtain additional permission in order to do so.

Entertainment Endorsement

An establishment can apply at any time to get an entertainment endorsement (which can be protested like a normal liquor license). Such an endorsement is required for any bar with a restaurant/tavern liquor license that wants to have live bands, karaoke, comedy shows, poetry readings, burlesque, DJs, dancing (taverns need an endorsement to have a dance floor bigger than 140 square feet), and/or a cover charge. A bar can operate a jukebox, ipod, TV, radio, or play other prerecorded music without an endorsement. Nightclubs don’t need entertainment endorsements.

Entertainment endorsements were recently an issue in the recently-modified Adams Morgan liquor license moratorium. The local neighborhood ANC requested that ABRA prohibit new entertainment endorsements so restaurants could not morph into nightclubs. ABRA refused to impose this prohibition, instead declaring they will continue to scrutinize requests on a case-by-case basis.

Entertainment endorsements are an extra 20% of the liquor license annual fee.

Sidewalk Cafe / Summer Garden Endorsement

To serve alcohol outside, a bar must get a $75 sidewalk cafe (for patios along the sidewalk in public space-DC actually owns many restaurant patio spaces) or summer garden (private space, like a roof deck) endorsement. These endorsements are often opposed by neighbors due to noise issues and often lead to settlement agreements limiting the hours of operation for outside space (for example, on 17th Street in Dupont, patios typically close at 11p on weekdays, and midnight on weekends).


A list of all DC liquor license holders can be found here, while ABRA has more details on the liquor licensing process. Stay tuned for another post on the application/protest process.