Bardo’s Beer Garden Just South of Nationals Park Gets the ABRA Treatment

[This post has been edited since publication.] Bardo Big River (25 Potomac Ave. SE), the second beer garden/brewpub from longtime area brewer Bill Stewart, is planning to open its gates to up to 750 patrons sometime in April or early May. An advertisement for servers and other support staff was posted on Craigslist earlier this week. This open-air seasonal (March through November) spot will be located in a empty lot across Potomac Ave. SE south of Nationals Stadium.   Sporting an 80 foot long bar, no structures aside from stacked shipping containers to store beer and other equipment, a dog park open to the public (no booze allowed), the same “rustic” atmosphere/tables as the much smaller Bladensburg Rd./Trinidad location, Bardo Big River, however, still does not have a liquor license.

Barred in DC has exclusively obtained the transcript of the protest hearing held in front of the ABRA Board on February 10th (you can read the 315 pages here). After a fairly contentious and bumpy hearing (neither the local ANC nor Bill Stewart hired attorneys for the hearing, leading to lots of coaching from the Board), ABRA seems poised to grant the liquor license (it has said it will issue a decision either way by May 10th); a previous concept (Riverfront at the Ballpark) from a different operator that was rejected by ABRA in late 2013. Bardo and the ANC were apparently close at some point on the broad terms of a settlement agreement that would have resolved issues much sooner, but Stewart rejected it because it would limit hours to 11p; instead he wanted the full hours (2a/3a), repeatedly citing neighboring establishments such as Bluejacket and Justin’s Cafe and explaining that he thought it would spread out departures from Nationals games, relieving stress on the Metro system (never mind that Bardo would be the opposite way from the Metro for Nationals fans).

Testimony by witnesses expressing noise, parking, pedestrian safety, and crime concerns included an ABRA investigator, an ANC commissioner, the police, and notably, the VP for Community Engagement for the Nationals. Although the focus on burdening parking was a bit much (can’t expect that many drivers, though the Nats expect to lose 3000+ parking spaces in upcoming years as development eliminates temporary lots), witnesses seemed to express legitimate gripes about safety issues for patrons crossing the road from the ballpark to Bardo and the fact that the open riverfront bar could cause noise issues for neighboring residents.

Stewart repeatedly mentioned the operations of the Bullpen (which will no longer be an option for Nats fans, my “shoddy reporting” was apparently wrong ) to contrast his operation while arguing for longer hours that the Bullpen also had:


The first Bardo was also a topic of discussion, including an interesting statement (see pages 89-90 of transcript) that will surely endear Bardo to its Trinidad neighbors:



In the end, despite some fairly strong testimony against the bar by the ANC’s witnesses, ABRA will seems likely (in my unprofessional opinion) to grant Bardo a liquor license to serve beer and wine, but with significant conditions, including a detailed security plan, minimum staffing levels, and a 11p closing time. If it does open, expect it to be there for some time; the lot will not be developed until and when the South Capitol Bridge is demolished and replaced.