Earlier this month, Black Whiskey, the newish Logan Circle dive, paid a $850 fine to DC’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) after a discovery last July by two ABRA investigators who happened to be driving down 14th Street. These investigators spotted a large crowd of people (pages 4-7 of this Investigative Report contain some nice color photos by the investigators) milling about and drinking on the relatively narrow sidewalk out front; unfortunately for Black Whiskey, the bar did not (and still does not) have permission to have a sidewalk cafe (outdoor drinking on public space, including part of the sidewalk) and/or a summer garden (outdoor drinking on private property). The investigators also cited the bar, which had only been open for a couple months, for not having a copy of its liquor license visible to the public.
Romeo & Juliet (301 Massachusetts Ave. NE), the new Italian tapas restaurant set to open on Capitol Hill near Union Station, recently received its liquor license granting full liquor-serving hours (till 2a on weekdays, 3a on weekends); ABRA, keeping with previous decisions, ordered the large patio to close at 11p on weekdays and midnight on weekends. This establishment was the subject of a post last month (one of the most popular in Barred in DC history-over 1300 views and 10 comments) that detailed the entertaining hearing regarding this application. Neighbors (both distant and immediate) were concerned that it would operate at a nightclub, partly in response to the fact that owner Michael Romeo Rehman was involved with other DC nightclubs including Midtown, Dirty Martini, Tattoo Bar, Lotus and Fur.
ABRA, in its detailed decision, explained why it was granting Romeo & Juliet the full restaurant liquor license. It found the owner “intends to operate as a legitimate restaurant” and that the ANC’s “fears that the establishment will morph into a nightclub, or become a source of disorder and antisocial behavior” were not supported for a number of reasons:
- No entertainment endorsement: “This means that the establishment cannot engage in activities often associated with nightclubs, such as offering live entertainment, dancing, and collecting a cover charge.”
- Restaurant license includes minimum food sales requirements & must serve food until at least 2 hrs before closing.
- Demonstrated investment in serving food by enlarging the kitchen.
- Manager has significant experience opening and operating restaurants.
- Showed that it has built the restaurant in a “manner conducive to the service of food.”
The ABRA Board further concluded that the restaurant’s operations won’t cause trash/litter issues, specifically noting that “behavior associated with 201 Lounge, a separate establishment with no connection … cannot be fairly imputed to Romeo & Juliet’s future operations.” It also flatly dismissed the claim brought by some neighbors at the hearing that the restaurant will somehow adversely affect the children at the nearby Senate Daycare Center or the Senate Page School and Dormitory, noting that those institutions didn’t even object themselves.
Rejecting the main thrust of the neighbors’ argument, ABRA disagreed that Rehman’s record managing and owning other bars merited denial of application. Even noting that he incorrectly declared that none of his establishments had been penalized by ABRA for liquor license violations on the license application, ABRA found that the violations were not “sufficient to merit the denial of a new license” and that, despite the “large number of investigations” related to some of the bars, the Board “rejects the use of any incident … that does not lead to a violation or a formal finding.” Notably, and perhaps controversially, the Board found that Rehman’s experience with his other spots was not “useful or persuasive” because they are nightclubs while Romeo & Juliet is a restaurant.
Finally, the Board imposed the reasonable restriction that the 142-seat unenclosed patio close at 11p on weekdays and midnight on weekends (one hour earlier than what the restaurant agreed was OK in the hearing), citing its precedent in restricting the hours of Duffy’s Irish Pub last year. ABRA noted that it was “not convinced that the tree enclosure proposed by Romeo & Juliet will eliminate noise leakage from the” patio, and took note of the testimony of a neighbor who stated that noise from White Tiger, the prior restaurant, could be heard on her property: “it is reasonable to conclude that noise from the sidewalk cafe may disturb nearby restaurants; especially, given the large size of the unenclosed seating area.” The Board found that “a proper balance between the interests of Romeo & Juliet and the reasonable expectation of its neighbors require the sidewalk cafe to close” earlier. Interestingly, although Romeo & Juliet’s manager stated at the hearing that the restaurant would be okay with interior hours until 1a on weekdays and 2a on weekends, ABRA did not end up restricting the license in that manner. Stay tuned to see if the neighbors appeal.
Apologies for the delay in getting one of these eagerly awaited (yet rarely read) news round-ups. Had a somewhat important life event (got engaged!), so haven’t been able to turn to this lately. Will do better at some point, though now we need to plan for a 9 day trip to Colombia (Cartagena & Bogota) a week from now so you may hear some radio silence on this front
- Barred in DC Articles (quite a few in the last 3 weeks)
- My exclusive look/recap at a new Capitol Hill restaurant (Romeo & Juliet) and its effort to obtain a new liquor license that would allow it serve booze after midnight. Some fun quotes and lively discussion in the comments. Thanks to Eater and Reddit for spreading the word (over 1300 hits, one of Barred in DC’s most popular posts ever)
- Published my “legendary” DC restaurant spreadsheet containing nearly 500 DC area restaurants
- Reviewed the Dupont cocktail bar- Bar Charley
- Hosted another fun bar crawl, this time a tour of 4 new spots in the Shaw neighborhood around 7th Street
- Bar Openings
- Den of Thieves (U Street/Logan Circle) – 2005 14th St. NW (at U) (Facebook, Twitter) – opened Fri. Jan. 17th – yet another Hilton Bros. spot replaced Hanoi House (and the short-lived Blackbyrd). Lower key (not a dive) spot focus on DJs and some street food (BYT, WaPo, Urbandaddy, PoPville, WCP)
- Pinstripes (Georgetown) – 3222 M St. NW (in Georgetown Mall) (website, Facebook, Twitter) – opened Fri. Feb. 7th – enormous bowling/bocce/bistro opened in Georgetown mall, 5th in national chain. Can fit nearly 1000 people with a small summer garden (The Georgetowner, WaPo, InTheCapital, WBJ, DCist, BYT, Washingtonian
- Bistro Bar at Menu MBK (Penn Quarter) – 405 8th St. NW (at D) (Facebook, website, Twitter)- opened Thu. Jan. 30 – chill spot in the former Azur space; many different concepts in one location, bar is on 3rd/4th floor (BYT, Washingtonian)
- Bar Announcements
- Dacha 2 (Mt. Vernon Triangle/Square) – 923-25 5th St. NW (at K) –ETA Summer 2014 – huge news as Dacha hopes to open 2nd location in open-air space (historic facade currently in place). Will seek entertainment license and accommodate 300 patrons. 10 year lease signed for property. Local ANC voted to support liquor license (The Triangle, PoPville, WCP, BadwolfDC)
- Red Light (Logan Circle/U Street) – 1401 R St. NW – ETA April 2014 – replacing the little-visited Bar de Bari, this dessert/champagne bordello/hooker-themed bar will have lots of sweets, champagne on tap, and other sweet cocktails (WCP, Washingtonian)
- Sin Bin Sports Bar & Restaurant (H Street) – 1336 H St. NE – ETA June 2014 – new H Street spot will be Caps/hockey-themed bar, hopes to open in June (WaPo)
- Halftime Sports Bar (H Street) – 1427 H St. NE – ETA TBD – The owners of the Elroy opening up a nearby sports bar (PoPville)
- The Alibi (Capitol Hill) – 237 2nd St. NE – ETA mid-March 2014 – Brit-themed bar to open in old My Brother’s Place by St. Paddy’s Day (PoPville)
- Nomad Hookah Bar (H Street) – 1200 H St. NE – Sahra Hookah Lounge is now Nomad Hookah Bar (Frozen Tropics)
- Hilltop Bar & Restaurant (ColHi) – 2737 Sherman Ave. NW (at Girard) – ETA March/April 2014 – applies for tavern liquor license, from owner of The Saloon (PoPville)
- Other News
- Must-read Jessica Sidman/Y&H piece about jackass yuppies you steal stuff from DC bars/restaurants
- Solid overview and look forward at the several liquor license moratoriums in DC (Glover Park, Georgetown, AdMo, Dupont (2 zones) (WaPo)
- Duke’s Grocery adds a new low-cost beer to the line-up-$3 Natty Boh’s
- Lots of Olympic-themed specials next few weeks in DC. My best bet is the hidden Topaz Bar on the 1700 block of N Street in Dupont-happy hour from 5-8p, with $1 reduced off every happy hour tab (there’s gotta be a catch?) for each US gold medal one. Also check out Mari Vanna, Loews Madison Hotel bar, Redline, Bar Rouge, MXDC, Penn Social, A.G.B. Restaurant & Lounge at The Graham, Capitol City Brewing Company, Nellie’s, Lincoln, Teddy Bully Bar (WaPo, Examiner, WCP, Washingtonian)
- Where to go for Valentine’s Day. The Anti-Valentine’s Day HH at BlackJack from 5-8p sounds like the best (WaPo, Washingtonian)
- New drink menu at Logan Tavern
- Entertaining story (and comments) about owners/residents (mostly coming from the residential island in an otherwise commercial neighborhood that is the Palladium condo on 18th/N Street) creating a vigilante noise patrol group for all the clubs/bars around 18th/M (WCP)
- Ghana Cafe (Logan Circle) is not getting an entertainment to have live music (SALM)
- More progress on Brookland’s Finest (PoPville)
- Idiot asks PoPville whether RedRocks ColHi was in the wrong for not allowing him to order food for take out and get happy hour pricing (PoPville)
- Best bars without TV in DC, per BYT: A&D, Black Cat, Eat The Rich, El Centro, El Rey, The Gibson, Mockingbird Hill, 1905, The Passenger, Pharmacy Bar, P.O.V., Room 11, The Saloon, Southern Efficiency, Wonderland Ballroom (BYT)
- Bluejacket’s head brewer parts ways (WaPo)
- Where to Get $3 beers in DC. Take-away, goto Red Derby or ask for a Natty Boh. The Tombs later tweeted that they serve $2.05 Coors Light drafts everyday (WCP)
- Were DC’s Gay Bars Always Gay Bars? Short answer: yes (WCP)
- Best Wings/Pub Grub in DC include Smoke & Barrel, Petworth Citizen, Duffy’s, Nanny O’Briens, Boundary Stone, DC9, Looking Glass Lounge, Comet Ping Pong (DCist)
- Budget-friendly bars: Bier Baron, The Big Hunt, Glen’s Garden Market, JR’s Bar & Grill, Petworth Citizen, Raven Grill, Red Derby, Right Proper, Shake Shack, Vendetta, We The Pizza (Eater)
- Southern Living listed its top 100 best bars in the South. Putting aside the controversial notion that DC is part of the South, it picked some good spots: 2 birds 1 stone, The Arsenel/Bluejacket, Mockingbird Hill, The Passenger, The Rye Bar at Capella Hotel (Southern Living)
- Barred in DC Activity
- The Big Hunt (Dupont) – stopped by a mid-evening Friday for a few beers, pleasantly surprised with the selection of $6 craft beers I’ve never had before (other places in town would charge a buck more); not as pleased with the Fri 8-10p $1 tacos (you get what you pay for)
- Cafe Citron (Dupont) – downed a few $5 mojitos at this underrated happy hour (til 7:30 most days)
- Redline Gastrolounge (Penn Quarter/Chinatown) – More on this soon, but had a blast as invited guests of this sports bar/lounge overlooking the Verizon Center. Terrific food, drinks and poured my own beer from the tableside tap
- RedRocks H Street (H Street) – first trip to this huge spot, low-key first floor, clubby dance floor on the second, and a great (covered roof deck) where you can order from a bar that also serves a lower level. Need to check out again soon.
- H Street Country Club (H Street) – played a lot of drunk/jumbo Jenga here
- El Rey (U Street) – first trip to a surprisingly uncrowded El Rey. The retractable roof was of course closed, but the patio area was a nice spot to chill. Decent $8 margs and standard Mexican beer.
- Velvet Lounge (U Street) – took in a friend’s band (Railsplitter) at the second floor at this divey spot. Raging dance party going on first floor when we left after midnight.
- GBD (Dupont) – took some friends from out of town to my go-to happy hour spot ($3-5 beers/punch/wine/bites till 8pm)
- Chadwick’s (Georgetown) – under-the-radar spot under-the-Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown. Neighborhood old-school vibe.
- Malmaison (Georgetown) – French lounge almost under Key Bridge, kind of isolated. Very minimalist and very French. Solid sparkling wine cocktail menu (1/2 for happy hour till 7:30p on weekdays). Not the best spot on weekdays after work
- Duke’s Grocery (Dupont) – treated to some great Scotch to celebrate our engagement and enjoyed a snow-day beer on another occasion
- Piola (U Street/Logan Circle) – sampled the solid HH (goes till 7:30p), free food passed around, $4 beer, $5 wine & $6 cocktails
- Meridian Pint (ColHi) – rare trip to this beer mecca, though it was slightly marred by several beer choices that were not actually in existence. Made up for it by the old school 90s Outkast.
- Iron Gate (Dupont) – had some drinks at this romantic spot. Was hoping to try some draft beers, but taps had an issue and since it was near last call (11pmish), they decided not to fix them
- Darlington House-Cantina Pub (Dupont)
- The Fainting Goat (U Street) – first trip to this new U Street spot, nice space, good-looking crowd. Will be back soon.
- Taqueria Nacional (U Street/Logan Circle) – enjoyed some tacos and boozy fruit drinks here. Good spot for cheap, no-fuss eats/drinks
- Bar Pilar (U Street/Logan Circle) – checked out new happy hour-$5 rum daiquiris, draft slow n low, all draft beer, wine & some eats
- Ghibellina (U Street/Logan Circle – one of best HHs in town in terms of food/drink. $5-6 fancy cocktails, $4 20 oz. beers, $5 wine, and $6.50-9 pizzas from 4:30-6:30p EVERYDAY
- Boundary Stone (Bloomingdale) – stopped by during an impromptu Bikeshare ride during a holiday for a day beer. Really cool space, exposed, hope to come back soon to try the extensive whiskey list
Although this is a bar blog and website, some of you may know that I originally set out to document and visit the DC metro area’s best restaurants. To that end, I’ve compiled and regularly updated a now-massive spreadsheet that contains nearly 500 restaurants around the DMV. I’ve shared this with my address book the past several years; a few folks suggested that I create a blog and Barred in DC was eventually born. The Top 100 and Cheap Eats columns refer to the latest Washingtonian magazine publications, while the others refer to Tom Sietsma’s Fall 2014 guide, restaurants I’ve frequented, places I like the best (“Mony’s Picks”), and where I would go next. Tips and suggestions are always welcome. Hope you might find this useful. Cheers!