Barred in DC’s Top Travel Destinations of 2016

Thanks to sites like The Flight Deal and a pretty flexible job in taking vacation with little notice, 2016 was actually pretty great for me. I traveled to a bunch of places (and didn’t go broke, kind of) that I’ve ranked in terms of my 2016 experience below. All places were great in one way or another-I’d gladly travel back to #19. Tweet @barredindc or email barredindc@gmail.com if you’d like any traveling tricks for these spot or in general.

  1. Ireland (Galway, Kinsale, Dublin)
  2. Paris
  3. Asheville (twice)
  4. Nantucket
  5. Chicago
  6. New York City (hit all 5 boroughs in 8 hours)
  7. South Florida (Ft. Lauderdale, Miami Beach, Wynwood)
  8. Tahoe
  9. San Francisco
  10. Austin
  11. Nashville
  12. Denver (twice)
  13. Breckenridge
  14. Durham (twice)
  15. Elkins, West Virginia
  16. Boston (only here 20 hours on a Tuesday, so skewed)
  17. Baltimore
  18. Cleveland
  19. Montgomery, AL
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Quick Update on Bardo River Brewery

ABRA clarified this week the status of the new Bardo River Brewery’s liquor license. As folks from Bardo contended here on the blog, ABRA realized in fact that it did not into a consent order with Bardo after reviewing the hearing transcript. Instead, ABRA issued a manufacturer’s license to Bardo subject to basically the same conditions of the now-vacated consent order and quoted Bardo’s lawyer to show that Bardo made these commitments to do exactly what ABRA included as conditions to the license.

ABRA also explained why it granted Bardo a license but previous applicants (including Bardo) were not successful:

  • Based on the representations and commitments made by the Bardo during the November 16th hearing;
  • It was satisfied that the security plan, camera plan, and restriction on entertainment are sufficient to address ABRA’s concerns
  • It was satisfied that the representations and commitments made by Bardo, as well as the conditions imposed, sufficiently distinguished it from the prior applicants

I doubt this will end Bardo’s court fight, but I plan on being there in March to have a pint of the Marion Berry Lambic myself.

Barred in Ireland (No-Car Version)

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

We recently spent a week in the amazing country of Ireland (thanks to a $316 roundtrip flight deal). Unlike most people who travel to the Emerald Isle, Mrs. Barred in DC and I decided not to rent a car, instead taking public transportation to travel to the west of Ireland (Galway and the nearby Burren and the Cliffs of Moher), Kinsale in the south, and back to Dublin. Amazing it didn’t rain the whole time we were there until the morning we left Ireland. We’ll be back, soon. Here’s an overview of bar culture in Ireland, a recommended itinerary for a weeklong car-free Ireland adventure, and a ranking of the pubs we visited.

Ireland Pub Culture

Tremendous Irish Coffees at Bulman Bar in Kinsale
Tremendous Irish Coffees at Bulman Bar in Kinsale

 

For many, Irish pubs are the best part about the beautiful country. It certainly was for us. We spent 7 nights and 8 days in Ireland, imbibing at 34 pubs along the way. Pubs in Ireland are incredibly warm and friendly places; we made new friends-both locals and visitors from around the world. Acoustic music (a guy on a guitar or larger groups playing together) was heard in most spots we visited, with musicians playing a mix of popular “Irish” folk songs (favorite: Dirty Old Town) as well as covers you would hear at any frat party in America. Pubgoers would frequently join in the action to sing and sometimes even play an instrument. Most bars had steady crowds all day, but only a handful really went full tilt late night. Sometimes we could start a tab if you sat at the bar when it was not that busy (chatting with the uniformly friendly bartenders), but we usually paid for drinks  as you ordered them (even those covered by credit card). Tips weren’t standard; sometimes we left a few coins if we paid in cash.

Beer was the drink of choice most of the time. If you order a “beer” in Ireland, you’ll typically get a full pint (570 mL, about 19 oz.) of Guinness. A “glass” (which Barred in DC unabashedly ordered; glasses were supposedly originally devised so women could drink at pubs) is a half pint. Pints ran about 4-5 euros usually. Beer taps were adorned with brightly lit tap handle facades, much larger than here in the U.S. Unsurprisingly, nearly every single pub we went to had Guinness on tap, and most patrons would drink that. Other beers on tap in most spots included Irish products like Smithwick’s (Irish red ale), Murphy’s Irish Stout, and Bulman’s Irish Cider (if you can find Beamish on tap, get that, so good), and terrible European macro-like beers like Carlsberg and Heineken. Surprisingly, most bars we had served Budweiser and Coors Light (bartender said that pubs were required to serve them to get the other more desired beers) though I rarely saw anyone drank that. Beer is quite sessionable in Ireland-hoppy high ABV IPAs are fairly rare-you could down pint after pint and still be in decent shape.

Aside from beer, bars offered lots and lots of Irish whiskey. The more common varieties of whiskey and other types of liquor are hung upside down behind most bars, with a spout so the bartender can precisely measure out the 35.5 mL (1.2 oz.) standard pour for a single liquor drink. We consumed a ton of Jameson, easily the most common variety of Irish whiskey, and saw plenty of promotional signs encouraging mixing with ginger ale. pubs rarely have the drink guns behind the bar; mixers for drinks are usually an extra cost (couple euro), and come in mini-glass bottles that can cover 2-3 mixed drinks (There were some mixers (“white lemonade”) that were poured out of plastic liter bottles to top off liquor).

Suggested Car-Free Itinerary

Galway (The Burren/Cliffs of Moher)
We flew into Dublin’s International Airport after taking an overnight United redeye from Dulles, and, after picking up our bags, grabbed a seat on the Irish Citylink bus (around 20 euros; allow about an hour to get through security and baggage) for a comfortable 3 hour ride across the country to Galway. Staying at the affordable (though a nearby loud club kept us up later than ideal) Skeffington Arms Hotel right on Eyre Square (JFK gave a speech here while president) in the center of Galway, we spent 2 nights in the youthful city. Galway itself is worth just strolling around and enjoying the pubs and medieval atmosphere-there’s not much in the way of sights. Instead, we took a well-organized 8-hour bus tour from Galway Tour Company (25 euro), taking us south through the Country Clare and many cool sites including The Burren (desolate landscape with unique flora and fauna), a lunch/pub stop in the wonderful village of Doolin, and the dramatic and beautiful Cliffs of Moher. Back in Galway, we joined the cheap Shamrock Pub Crawl with a group of Brazilian guys (learning English on a student visa-not the only Brazilians we ran into on the trip) with a fun American-Irish student tour guide. Our stay in Galway included incredible fish & chips (and some enormous local oysters) at McDonagh’s, right on the main drag. It would have been nice to have another night in Galway (taking a bus tour to the wild region of Connemara); we’ll do it again someday.

The Burren
The Burren

Kinsale
Our journey took us on yet another Citylink bus (22 euro), cutting south and east just over 3 hours to Cork Airport; from there, instead of flying out of the modern airport, we waited about 40 minutes until the local Bus Eireann (#226; 7 euros, bring exact change0) came by to take us the final 30 minutes to the beautiful harbor/coastal town of Kinsale. Colorful and charming Kinsale (the buildings are all painted different colors) treated us to incredible food, particularly fresh and inventive seafood (have a traditional meal at Jim Edwards , and although it’s a bit over-priced and touristy, definitely go to the famous Fishy Fish by the habro). We stayed at the highly-recommended Old Bank House. The elegant rooms (with chandelier) overlooked the town and the harbor; an amazing breakfast (incredible omelets made with farm fresh eggs, Irish cheddar, and Irish ham) awaited us each morning. As guests, we were also able to get a night cap after closing time at the affiliated Blue Haven hotel down the street.

Sightseeing in Kinsale includes strolling around at atmospheric streets, hopping into boutiques and other cute shops,  and walking by the harbor, but no trip would be complete without heading to the 350-year old star-shaped Charles Fort (4 euro). We were rewarded with stunning views of the Kinsale harbor, as well as the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. Although we took a 9 euro taxi to the fort, on the way back to Kinsale town, we stopped by the famous Bulman Bar and leisurely walked along the harbor on the famous Scilly Walk (about 2 miles one way). We grabbed nosh and fluids at our favorite Kinsale pub, The Spaniard, (with some colorful characters0 before heading back to town.

Colorful Kinsale
Colorful Kinsale
View from Charles Fort, Atlantic Ocean in background
View from Charles Fort, Atlantic Ocean in background

Dublin

Although we could have spent many more days in Kinsale, alas, after 2 nights, we got back on the #226 bus, this time (around 7 euro again) taking it to Cork Bus Station about 50 minutes away. A couple hours later, we were on the incredibly comfortable Irish Rail for a 3 hour train ride to Dublin (40 euro). In the Dublin, Ireland’s largest city and capital, we stayed at the uber-stylish The Morgan (get a cheap rate anywhere in area using Hotwire secret rate hotels). The Temple Bar is the main nightlife area of Dublin, full of men and women on stag and hen parties. Although local Dubliners seem to despise the neighborhood’s high prices (pint’s were one euro more than other areas) and crowds, this is basically the main area for late night drinking. Pubs, though not particularly Irish/authentic, in Temple Bar are fun, lively, and often crowded, and most feature live music. We recommend the 13 euro Irish Musical Pub Crawl, which takes listeners to 3 different pubs (both in Temple Bar and near O’Connell Street across the river); it features a superb overview of Irish music offered by 2 funny Irish musicians (Mrs. Barred in DC even played a country music song to the 50 other people that joined the crawl).

Worthwhile tourist activities in Dublin include touring the pretentious Trinity College grounds (the Book of Kells-an ancient illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament-and the college’s library are a must) strolling through Merion Square and St. Stephen’s Green (beautiful examples of Dublin’s famous doors are nearby), walking down the shop-filled Grafton Street area, and visting the atmospheric and historic Kilanmain Gaol (make sure you buy tickets in advance). This jail housed prisoners, including many key figures in the rebellion against the U.K. and others in the tragic Irish Civil War that followed. The emotional tour is a must for any visitor to Ireland; the Gaol is best paired with a walk by/through the courtyard of the Royal Hospital (now the Irish Museum of Modern Art) down to the Guinness Brewery.

The Guinness Storehouse is worth a visit if you like Guinness at all, even accounting for its steep 20 euro cost (14 euro for certain advance purchases). The Storehouse is like a beer amusement park devoted to the history and production of Guinness (it’s actually made elsewhere on the sprawling grounds), and includes a fun Guinness Academy where you learn how to pour a proper pint from a tap after learning how to drink the beer in a Victorian library-type room. The tour concludes with a visit to the Gravity Bar high above the storehouse; spectacular 360 degree views of Dublin and the surrounding area abound.

Trinity College and the Book of Kells
Trinity College and the Book of Kells
Guinness Brewery
Guinness Brewery

Pub Ranking

Galway

  1. Barr An Chaladh – tiny pub with great live music
  2. The Quays – sprawling spot with great live music, rocking late
  3. The Salt House – craft beer from around the world across the river from downtown
  4. Tig Coili – cozy, great “trad spot” for traditional Irish music
  5. Monroe’s Live – popular live music spot
  6. Taafe’s Bar – another great “trad spot”
  7. McSwiggans – straight-up pub with solid food
  8. The Kings Head – solid spot
  9. Murty Rabbitt’s – good spot near bus station
  10. The Skeff Bar – party scene, big spot right on Eyre Square
  11. Fibber Maggees – college spot, beer pong upstairs
Dunguaire Castle
Dunguaire Castle south of Galway in County Clare

Doolin

  1. Gus O’Connors – atmospheric spot with solid pub food

    Gus O'Connors
    Gus O’Connors

Kinsale (last call is 11:30 on weekdays, 12:30 on weekends)

  1. The Spaniard – Quaint 350+ year pub around the bend from town. Great food
  2. The Folk House – Great spot for live music, lively crowd. Great whiskey and beer.
  3. Bulman Bar – gastropub near waterfront and Charles Castle. Best Irish coffees ever
  4. Tap Tavern – sorta divey spot on outskirts of downtown. Awesome husband/wife owners
  5. Kitty O’ses – good live music
  6. Silent Banjo – another cozy spot
  7. Blue Haven Bar – can drink here after hours if you’re a guest of hotel or Old Bank Townhouse
  8. Armada Bar – very central
Bulman Bar
Bulman Bar
The Spaniard
The Spaniard

Dublin

  1. Whelan’s – legendary sprawling live music spot sort of off beaten path
  2. The Palace Bar – Victorian bar
  3. The Brazen Head – oldest pub in Ireland, west of Temple Bar area. Lots of cool rooms
  4. Oliver St. John Gogarty – live music on both floors, huge spot, lively late
  5. The Norseman – nice spot with good live music
  6. The Stag’s Head – south of Temple Bar area, quite atmospheric and dark
  7. Guinness Gravity Bar – best view of Dublin high above Guinness Brewery. Requires 20 euro to get into brewery
  8. Porterhouse Central – popular Irish brewpub, makes own beer
  9. Temple Bar – the eponymous bar, usually crowded
  10. Brannigan’s – nice spot off O’Connnell Street north of the River Liffey
  11. Ha’Penny Bridge Inn – good spot for live music
  12. Madigan’s Earl Street – old school spot with old school people off O’Connell north of the river
  13. The Quays Irish – a little bit sloppier spot right in heart of Temple Bar
  14. Lafayette – punk rock vibe
Oliver St. John Gogarty
Oliver St. John Gogarty

dsc_0647

Guinness Storehouse advertising
Guinness Storehouse advertising
Guinness Academy
Guinness Academy
View from the Guinness Brewery Gravity Bar
View from the Guinness Brewery Gravity Bar
The Brazen Head
The Brazen Head

 

See the #FOIACakes Documents; Court Hearing Set for Wednesday

[Note: My earlier post in May 2016 on this topic engendered indifference and/or hostility from the few who cared, though it led to one Capitol Hill-area ANC commissioner to refer to me as a jackass, which is now part of my Twitter bio. Krepp, the only ANC commissioner to be opposed in ANC 6B, easily won re-election 59%-24%. Also, this has nothing really to do with DC bars. Even in light of all this, I’m writing this post anyways.]
[12/13 Note: This article has been updated to include responses from Krepp]

The #FOIACakes lawsuit finally has its day in court: Wednesday, December 14th, although it’s unclear exactly why. Since at least mid-August (if not earlier), Capitol Hill East ANC commissioner Denise Rucker Krepp has possessed the very DC prosecution data she originally sought and sued to get, but her lawsuit against the Department of Justice still continues. Barred in DC has obtained (this sounds dramatic but I just signed up for a PACER account and paid $15 or so to download the documents) this data and is posting it here for the public (including Krepp’s neighbors and local businesses who contributed nearly $1900 to cover FOIA fees that never existed in the first place). The data includes prosecution statistics (including convictions and guilty pleas) for various crimes from 2010-2015, overall and sorted by the seven DC police districts (maps of DC police districts can be found here). Analyze yourself to draw your own conclusions about DC’s prosecutions (or lack of). Krepp apparently received the data after DOJ provided it to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 15th (The Committee requested it in May and June after the lawsuit was filed). Krepp says she’s still in court because DOJ has yet to give documents directly to her, and that Barred in DC could have asked for the statistics directly from her.

Krepp sued DOJ in May when DOJ failed to release detailed statistics about arrests and prosecutions in DC in response to Krepp’s FOIA request and appeal. Because Krepp asked for the data by ward, and DOJ only maintains the info by police service area or district, DOJ said it didn’t have the data she asked for, but suggested that she file another request for data it actually had. Wednesday’s hearing is regarding DOJ’s motion for summary judgment (essentially that the facts aren’t in dispute and the judge just needs to make a legal ruling); most, if not all, FOIA lawsuits are settled by motions for summary judgment, not a full blown trial. DOJ filed this motion on August 4th, Krepp’s attorneys opposed on August 17th, and DOJ responded on October 3rd.

Documents filed as part of the case do show that DOJ acted like jerks in responding to Krepp’s FOIA request. Last December, the DOJ employee tasked to search for the data suggested that DOJ ask Krepp if she wanted data by the way it was actually organized (district/service area) rather than ward (see below). DOJ never did, waiting until the appeal was adjudicated months later and telling her she could file a new request then. (Barred in DC filed his own request as suggested by DOJ in May and has not heard back himself.)

kreppopposition-7
usao-email-2

Indeed, Krepp’s lawyer, Jay Williams (chair of the ANC alcohol subcommittee covering most H Street bars-see there is a connection to DC bars after all,) forcefully argues (and rightfully, in my opinion) that DOJ failed to reasonably interpret Krepp’s request in the first place, contrary to judicial precedent, DOJ FOIA policy, and President’s own proclamations.
kreppopposition-4

DOJ argues that Krepp clearly only wanted information about wards so it reasonably interpreted the request. I don’t buy it.

doj-reply-to-opposition

Less convincing is Williams’ contentions that DOJ treated the request from the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the “powerful” Senator Grassley, differently than an average citizen (Krepp), primarily to ingratiate itself with Congress to push through the confirmation of the nominee for DC US Attorney, Channing D. Phillips.

kreppopposition-2

Although DOJ for some reason did not argue this in its filings, the requests from Committee and the replies from DOJ aren’t even covered by FOIA. Although individual Congressmen must be treated like any other FOIA requester, FOIA doesn’t apply to requests made by Congressional committees acting through its chairman, as was done here. Federal agencies provide information to Congress (but not necessarily individual Congressmen) all the time outside FOIA, and it’s totally legal.

Again, given that Krepp now has the information she’s asked for and DOJ might get a judicial opinion restricting its ability to narrowly construe requests, it’s not clear why the lawsuit continues (perhaps attorney’s fees, the principle of the whole case-how to interpret FOIA requests, and/or the optics of being able to say that you fought the law and you won are all reasons). Barred in DC will keep you updated, whether you like it or care or not.

Filings (mostly linked already)

In the interests of some disclosure, a significant part of my job at the federal agency I work at involves FOIA, so the results of any litigation could theoretically affect the work I do. The views stated above are, of course, my own personal views and do not constitute the views of the U.S. Government. I’m also a resident member of the ANC6B alcohol subcommittee.

Bardo Officially Moving Permanently Out of Trinidad to Nationals Park Location

Bardo Brewpub officially announced today that it will be permanently closing its Trinidad location, moving to the new Bardo River Brewery just south of Nationals Park in the Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. This move, which was first reported months ago by Barred in DC, is required by DC law (specifically section 25-303 of the DC Code). Holders of manufacturer licenses are prohibited from possessing other types of liquor licenses, so Bardo’s owners can’t own a brewery and a brewpub at the same time. Bardo hopes to reopen the two-acre Anacostia River site in March 2017 ,just in time for baseball season. [Note: if you’re wondering, Right Proper, which has a production brewery in Brookland and a brewpub in Shaw, is technically owned by two couples, with half of each couple jointly owning each location, as discussed in this April 2015 ABRA hearing.]

The full message from Bardo’s Facebook page is below:

A Real Life Footloose Situation Averted and ABRA Defines “Dance Floor”

Image Credit- http://mentalfloss.com/article/73151/18-catchy-facts-about-footloose
Image Credit- http://mentalfloss.com/article/73151/18-catchy-facts-about-footloose

In an illuminating decision, ABRA ruled this week that Policy’s 2nd floor Liberty lounge does not improperly offer a “permanent space for dancing.” Instead the 14th Street bar, according to ABRA, “merely operates a cocktail lounge with a large standing area.”

Under DC law, bars with restaurant liquor licenses cannot “offer facilities for dancing” without first getting permission (through an entertainment endorsement) from ABRA. Someone complained that Policy, which did not have permission at the time, that people were **gasps** ***clutches pearls*** dancing at Policy. To investigate the complaint, an ABRA investigator visited four times, eventually counting the number of people dancing on the second floor (12 out of 30 people on a Friday, 8 out of 22 later the same weekend); Policy’s co-owners admitted that folks danced at the bar.

In the end, ABRA said that Policy didn’t create an illegal dance floor, and that “sporadic and isolated incidents of dancing” by itself, isn’t improper. ABRA outlined a list of factors considered to determine whether a dance floor exists:

  • Wood/vinyl flooring (e.g. wood paneling, floor LED light panels or interactive floor panels)
  • Open area distinguished from other areas (by barriers, elevated/depressed floors, furniture, lighting)
  • Advertising a dance party
  • Providing music and encouraging people to dance
  • No tables/chairs for dining or
  • Large standing crowds engaged in dancing.

ABRA said that while it “was possible” Policy had created a 2nd floor dance floor, it was “just as likely” the “dance floor” was just a “large standing area” because sporadic dancing isn’t enough and ABRA failed to show the layout on the 2nd floor showed that a dance floor existed.

Policy's Alleged Dance Floor is in the Background
Policy’s Alleged Dance Floor is in the Background

Bardo River Brewery Gets Approval – Can Stay Open til Midnight

[This story has been updated on 12/3 & 12/6 based on comments to the post below, which you should definitely read]
The long saga for the Bardo River Brewery appears to be over. On Wednesday, ABRA and Bardo entered into a consent order, resolving the issues with Bardo’s manufacturer liquor license application for its new Anacostia River location just south of Nationals Park. Bardo had filed a lawsuit against ABRA for not issuing a liquor license, and complained that ABRA didn’t follow the law and had improper contacts with the Nationals and the ANC. In mid-October, following an entertaining fact-finding hearing, ABRA essentially told Bardo that it would grant the license but make it close at 10p everyday.

The consent order, to the chagrin of the sole dissenting member, makes no such restrictions on hours. And, according to commenters (including a rep from Bardo), ABRA may have issued a manufacturer’s license without any restrictions after Bardo supposedly rejected the consent order. If the order does apply, Bardo is required to create a security plan and maintain a comprehensive security camera system and cannot seek permission to have entertainment, such as live music or DJs. The new brewery, which will reportedly replace the Trinidad location, can be open till 7a-midnight. Check Bardo’s Facebook page for updates. According to Bardo, it is  “still pursuing legal measures due to the delays ABRA’s illegal actions caused” and “fuck the ABRA board.”

On December 6th, Bardo sniped at the local ANC on Twitter, warning Bluejacket and other bars to watch out that ANC was now requiring bars to close at 10p. ANC commissioner responded that this was false (which is accurate, they only wanted Bardo to close at 10p); Bardo then tweeted out a copy of the ANC’s letter to ABRA that Bardo is claiming is illegal ex parte communication. Bardo concluded the volley by complaining that the ANC had a policy of protesting liquor licenses if the licensee doesn’t enter into a settlement agreement with the ANC, which is a widespread practice in DC.