Up in Smoke – Smoking Persists at DC Bar Patios and Roofdecks

Barred in DC Wishes This Sign Was Ubiquitous in DC

Jack Rose is Barred in DC’s favorite non-dive bar in DC. Or, should I say, was my favorite. Since I made this pronouncement in 2013 (and repeated it to countless friends and readers who asked for opinions), I’ve made many trips to Jack Rose’s second floor terrace and come away annoyed much of the time, reeking of smoke. The smell of cigars and cigarettes being smoked is most acute when the ostensibly open-air terrace is enclosed by a retractable roof and window panels for cold or wet weather. Others have made this complaint, including one of DC’s most notable Twitter-lebrities, and around 35 or so Yelp reviewers.

Jack Rose is certainly not the only offender; several other popular bars, including Barred in DC picks Red Derby and Rock and Roll Hotel, as well as Hilton brothers’ spots El Rey, The Brixton, and Marvin, are singled out by many for lessening the experience with second-hand smoke exposure, particularly when the outdoor space is enclosed or mostly covered. Based on Barred in DC’s quick-and-dirty analysis, the majority of DC’s rooftops, decks, and beer gardens allow smoking, though Sauf Haus, Dacha Beer Garden, and Bar Deco are notable smoke-free zones. The H Street Country Club has a happy medium, reserving the majority of its outdoor deck for non-smokers with a separate uncovered space well away from most of the deck allowing smoking.

To the surprise of many, although smoking has been prohibited in “enclosed areas” at bars since January 2007, outdoor areas are specifically exempted from the ban by DC law and regulation if permitted by the bar’s lease or contract.  The law defines “enclosed area” as

all the space between a floor and ceiling that is enclosed on all sides by solid walls or windows or doors, exclusive of doorways, that extend from the floor to the ceiling.

DC regulations further clarify that a space counts as an enclosed area “regardless of whether windows or doors are open.”

DC is not alone in permitting smoking on patios and roofdecks. Earlier this week, Rockville became only the second jurisdiction in the DC area to ban this practice (followed by the exurb/rural town in Southern Maryland, La Plata). Nationwide, most permit this but notable jurisdictions that ban outdoor smoking include Hawaii (since 2006), Maine (2009), Michigan (2010), and Washington state (2005), and the cities of Boston (2008) and Philadelphia (2007). Many of these jurisdictions allow smoking on patio/bars when no food/beer is being served by the establishment on them if they’re more than a certain # of feet from any window/door.

Bars like Jack Rose and El Rey have continued to permit smoking even when the space is fully or essentially enclosed, which exacerbates the second-hand smoke danger and makes a mockery of DC’s laws designed to protect the public and employees. However, this definition of “enclosed area” does not squarely exclude enclosed rooftops/patios, and besides, since neither the law nor regulation contains a definition of “outdoor area,” DC’s Department of Health should still have the wiggle room to clearly establish that these loophole rooftop smoke boxes are not OK. Better still would be DC Council to follow Rockville’s lead and ban smoking on outdoor patios. This would be a popular move; a strong majority of Barred in DC poll respondents stated smoking on patios was terrible and 80% said allowing smoking on patios/decks lessened the likelihood they would visit a spot. Despite some claims to the contrary, it seems that second-hand smoke is a problem outdoors.

Aside from outdoor areas, so-called tobacco bars, which generate 10% of its onsite sales from tobacco products, are exempt from the indoor smoking ban. Tobacco bars must apply for an exemption from DC; in 2013 DC announced for second time that the ban applied to hookah shisha.  Currently only cigar bars Civil Lounge LLC, Ozio, and Shelly’s and hookah spots Gazuza, Chi Cha Lounge, Queens Café, and Soussi are officially exempt (yup, you’re welcome to narc on your local hated hookah spot that is not on this list). Interestingly, Ozio, which has a rooftop bar, allows cigar smoking in its cigar lounge but prohibits smoking on its deck.

I understand why a spot like Jack Rose would want to permit smoking; cigar smoking traditionally goes hand in hand with bourbon tasting, and the bar is one of the world’s best-stocked bourbon bars. But the expansive terrace isn’t the only outdoor space in Jack Rose; the small balcony fronting 18th Street or the Tiki Bar in the back would be better (Jack Rose did not return a request for comment through its PR representative). It’s also not hard to figure out why so many DC bars keep letting folks light up outside, many of these spots literally have lines of people waiting to get in every weekend night and are at capacity inside. Allowing smoking on premises allows a bar’s employees to monitor/patrol its patrons better and bargoers can continue drinking and purchasing beverages; neighbors might be more pleased that cigarette butts are not being discarded on the sidewalk or on their front step. Still, people always adapt (remember the naysayers back in 2006 when the ban was imposed indoors) and second-hand smoke is terrible. Do we really want to be behind Boston and Philadelphia (and Rockville?)

Characteristically Crappy Photo of H Street Country Club’s No Smoking Sign
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DC Harvest Introduces New Spring Cocktails and Friday Lunch

DC Harvest bar


DC Harvest
(517 H St. NE, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, website), the family-owned H Street restaurant, recently introduced its fresh new spring cocktail menu. The spot focuses both its constantly-changing food and drink menus locally and regionally, with emphasis on local, as it partners with urban farms across the District. Barred in DC was invited by Jared Ringel, who opened DC Harvest with brother Arthur in September 2014, to sample these new cocktails at the cheery yet cozy bar and they didn’t disappoint.

Spring Cocktail Menu at DC Harvest

Many, if not all, of the $12-14 cocktails make heavy use of local spirits as well as herbs, fruit, and vegetables. Two cocktails use a “boosted” Kentucky Gentleman bourbon- the only mainstay on the menu, the Kentucky Windage (the bar’s smooth version of an Old Fashioned) as well as the most popular drink on the menu, the Smokey Robinson made with mexcal, 5 spice syrup, lemon juice, and smoked lemon. By “boosted,” Jared told us, means that the bar has put the bourbon through a charcoal filter, added tinctures, herbal extract, homemade bitters, and other secret flavors. It’s a creative way of creating a “local” bourbon from a cheap bourbon when most whiskey is made elsewhere anyways.

Strawberry Field
BWB Blood Ornage Fizz

Many of the cocktails were bright and colorful. Particularly gorgeous were the Strawberry Field, made with Ivy City Gin, fennel liquor, lemon juice, and roasted(!) strawberry puree, and incredibly tasty; the refreshing BWB Blood Orange Fizz, mixed with Peychaud aperitivo (think Aperol but lighter), blood orange juice, rosemary syrup, and cava sparkling wine (made in conjunction with the Bitches Who Brunch blog; Barred in DC is waiting for a bar to create something terrible and nonsensical in his honor-hint hint); and the 517 Blossom.

Step 1 – 517 Blossom
Step 2 – 517 Blossom (Roasted Beet Puree)
517 Blossom

The latter drink is a popular holdover from Cherry Blossom season but is well worth it as one of the more inventive but delicious (possibly healthy, but who cares) drinks had in recent memory. A rare cocktail on a menu made with scotch whiskey (specifically, McCelland’s Highland scotch) that is not a Rob Roy, the rest of the drink is made with Leopold Brothers Cherry whiskey, Lyon Distilling (out of St. Michael’s, MD) Curacao (orange peel liquor made from its rum), sweet vermouth (house-made from rose), and the kicker, roasted beet puree. This drink is incredibly light, herbaceous, and beautiful. If you’re not a beet fan, don’t worry, it’s not overpowering.

What goes into a Chesapeake Storm
Chesapeake Storm Draft Cocktail

Also well worth your while is DC Harvest’s version of a Dark & Stormy, the Chesapeake Storm, which is kegged with Lyon Aged Rum & Lyon Curacao, with ginger syrup, lime juice, salt, and candied ginger lime added after it comes out of the Darth Vader draft tap. Incredibly refreshing is the incredible riff on a margarita, the Agave Dream, made with tequila, cucumber water (not just cucumber-infused water), lemon jam, salt, and cucumbers. As Mrs. Barred in DC remarked, it  is a “Lady’s Version of College in a Glass.”

Agave Dream, a.k.a “Ladies Version of College”

These cocktails can be had for 30% off (so, about $8-10) all night Sundays; drink specials also include 30% off select draft beer on Tuesdays, 30% off bottle of wine on Thursday, and daily HH specials (5:30-7p) including a selection of cocktails for $8, $6 beer and wine, as well as appetizers and cheese plates. Jared is also a big proponent of the DC Passport Program, which launches Friday May 26th, and will provide passholders (cost-$20 for passport) a visit to the bar with 2 cocktails for the price of one. The well curated draft beer list include a lot of local beers (think 3 Stars, Hellbender), though refreshingly the options are often more unique than you’d expect.

Mussels

DC Harvest is known for its popular brunch (it expands its hours starting May 26th, serving Friday lunch) and great food (from chef Arthur), so the appetizers/sides we sampled, including the mussels and asparagus, were characteristically tasty. Daily specials include 30% off vegetarian entrees/sides on Mondays and 30% off all fresh pasta on Wednesdays. With a Whole Foods just a few feet away and large apartment buildings sprouting across the next block over (Jared told us of some cool partnerships DC Harvest has made with these spots, including creating a garden/herb plot on the rooftop of the nearby Apollo), DC Harvest is perched to be a solid anchor on mid H (Barred in DC just coined this phrase, deal with it) as it quickly bridges to the bar district on the east side.

Co-owner Arthur Ringel Makes Barred in DC Cocktails

Dacha Aims to Expand to Two Massive Locations

Current Dacha in Shaw

Dacha Beer Garden, the uber-popular Shaw beer garden, has applied for new liquor licenses in Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront and on 14th Street. One spot will be across the street from the southern side of Nationals Park and along the Anacostia River at 79 Potomac Ave. NW (essentially 1st and P SW) in the Dock79 Building, and the other will be in what is currently a parking lot catty-corner from Garden District at 1740 14th St. NW (14th and S). The plans are for massive spaces – a maximum combined capacity of 1,500 people, as follows:

  • Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront
    • 350 inside
    • 700 outside
    • 900 total (numbers probably don’t add up on purpose)
  • 14th Street
    • 600 all outside

The huge occupancy numbers requested have everything to do with the long lines and difficulties Dacha had with in Shaw with its size (currently the outdoors is limited to 250 people there).

As for hours, the license applications seek to close outside at 11p Sun-Tues, midnight Wed-Thurs, and 2a Fri-Sat. The hours may not be an issue for the 14th Street location (Garden District currently is open til 1a on weekdays, and 2a on weekends), but expect a big fight near Nats Park. The Bardo River Brewery opened after a couple years fight from the local ANC, DC Police, and the Nationals with similar closing hours and capacity issues.

News of  the Navy Yard location was reported by Rebecca Cooper of the Washington Business Journal and PoPville in early March and the scuttlebutt on the 14th Street location was reported by UrbanTurf in mid-April. Today, Jessica Sidman confirmed the news of the liquor license applications for Washingtonian.