Category Archives: Capitol Hill

Guest Post – Tony T Remembers Capitol Lounge

   

[This is a guest post from Tony Tomelden. You may know him by Tony T, who owns (solo or w/ others) The Pug, Union Trust, and Brookland’s Finest. Before these joints opened, he managed Capitol Hill’s Capitol Lounge for years, which announced yesterday on social media (Twitter (post went viral), Facebook, and Instagram) that it was closing after Sunday, September 20th, saddening former and current customers and staff all over DC and beyond. The current owner Jimmy Silk explained to Jessica Sidman of Washingtonian that its revenues of about 10% of average normal revenues weren’t sustainable but he was keeping the decor/memorabilia for future possible reopening at a different location in the future.]

By Tony T

I dated the server in this pic above while I was at the Lounge. More on that later.

The Lounge opened mid April 1996 I think (someone will look it up and give the correct date; Editor’s Note: appears to be May 15, 1996). Like that first U2 show in the states, everybody was there. Not me. I wasn’t even there the first fucking night. I was still at 15 Min Club and Planet Fred.  I was gonna be a shift manager at the Lounge. As often happens, there were pretty quick shake ups and Little Joe and I ended up managers. Big Joe Englert was hoping for a cocktail/martini friendly bar with a cigar lounge in the basement.  Little Joe and I were probably not the best choices in that regard. Unlike his other spots, Big Joe was pretty hands on at the Lounge. Pretty quickly though he ceded control of the jukebox to me. (pre-internet jukebox you heathens).

It was pretty touch and go, summer is never busy and on the Hill, campaign years are tough. Easter weekend that first year we did $0.25 drafts Good Friday and maybe 20 people came through (Way less than opening night).  Joe and I worked for tips alone. At one point Austin Grill expressed an interest in taking over, and Big Joe was stoked, but it fell through and we kept at it.

The $2 Cap Amber was Dominion. We offered Guinness, Newcastle, Sierra, and the usual fare for the mid 90s. We finally started getting crowds. I worked Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday. Happy Hour on Fridays was really getting to be a thing. For whatever reason, one of our beer deliveries was every Friday. They were always late. After the 3rd or 4th happy hour delivery in a row, I told the driver if he came during happy hour again, I would drop Miller Lite. “No you won’t.” So now you know that bit.

The MLS started in 96 as well. Big Joe hired Old Town Trolley to run back and forth between the lounge and RFK. We sold tickets to section 232 at the bar. The Capitol Lounge Choir. Along with Summers and Lucky Bar, we were it for soccer. The DC Belfast supporters club spent a season there arguing with Lavo. Joe worked on the odd hour waivers for the World Cups.

Big Joe was from some dusty ass suburb of dusty ass Pittsburgh. As soon as it was available, he had the NFL package going. I had to listen to polka every time the Stillers scored. For two awful years before Politiki, we were the Steelers bar. Bunch of the Steelers regulars brought Jerome Bettis in one night for drinks. Course I had no idea who he was.  After the fire, DirecTV gave us no break on fees, so yeah, they can go fuck.

The MPD first district substation is around the corner. A lot of LEO [ed. note: law enforcement officers] regulars. The IMF World bank demonstrations/disturbances from so long ago were organised by some folks working in an office above the Chinese restaurant a few doors down.  On a walk through one night all of the anarchists were shooting pool with the MPD bomb squad. No one ever knew. No Politics. Tough in DC, but we did alright. Those last couple Sundays in an NFL season, after a campaign cycle, there were more often than not opposing campaigns drinking together.

Yep, I DJed Saturday nights. It was good fun.

I met a huge crowd of people at the Lounge who have meant an awful lot to me over the years. When my kids started school, there were three types of parents, 1. “hey, why do i recognize you?” 2.  “TonyT!!! What’s up?!” and inevitably, 3. the ones who looked away. Mostly, I had chucked them out one night or another

Yes, Big Joe made me fire the server I started dating. Stephanie and I have been married 17 years.

Never saw lobbyists pick up big tabs, even after the rules changed. Never got prominent politicians drunk. I always made kamikazes, cosmos and appletinis when asked. Was never treated like shit by an elected official. We did not consume a case of Jamesons my final shift.

I hated that place and I will miss it terribly. For a bit, it was the best bar on the planet, and DC will be worse off after all this shit is over and all the little places are fucking gone.

Emilie, New Restaurant from Himitsu Chef, Coming to Capitol Hill

Kevin Tien (chef of Himitsu)

In a massive development for Capitol Hill, Kevin Tien, the executive chef/co-owner of the critically-acclaimed Petworth restaurant Himitsu, is opening up a new restaurant, Emilie, at the corner of 11th and Pennsylvania SE (just a few blocks from the Barracks Row corridor/Eastern Market Metro) in the Penn Eleven condo building. Penn Eleven is the future site of the beloved Fragers Hardware, which was situated at the location before a cigarette butt burnt it down in 2013.

This, according to Twitter user Mark Sussman, who tweeted a copy of a sheet providing details about Penn Eleven it handed out at a public event. According to the sheet [9/14 Update: Note, a reliable source has informed me that some of the details are incorrect so I’ve removed the photo from the post and Mark has deleted his tweet, but I have not been asked to remove this quote. Multiple sources have confirmed that this restaurant is coming.], Emilie

will focus on seasonally inspired and local cuisine that will change daily. There will be two ways to dine: one is off the menu where you can order small plates, pasta, larger entrees, and desserts. As you dine, 10 or smaller plates will circulate through the dining room on carts. These nightly specials will be served tableside and be focused on the freshest ingredients served in the purest way possible.

In other words, seems like a very upscale dim sum-style a la State Bird Provisions in San Francisco. No word if Carlie Steiner, who also is a co-owner of Himitsu and is behind the beverage program behind Himitsu, will contribute to the drinks at Emilie, but wouldn’t be surprised. Tien has worked on the Hill before; he used to be at Pineapple & Pearls (the sister wine bar, Little Pearl, is just two blocks away) and did a pop-up in May at ChiKo on Barracks Row. No exact details on when this spot will be opening, but 2019 is a safe bet.

 

The 201 Bar on Capitol Hill Closes June 15th

The 201 Bar Closes June 15th (Credit: The 201 Twitter account)

The 201 Bar closes its doors on Friday, June 15th. Originally opened in 2003 as “Lounge 201” (before a summer 2012 make-over), the subterranean watering hole on Capitol Hill near Union Station has long welcomed Senate staffers and lobbyists for after-work happy hours as well as many private events over the years. An appreciation party will be held Thursday, June 14th.

For several years, the spot has hosted Nebraska Husker college football watch parties, though otherwise has been most recently closed on Saturdays and Sundays except for private events. The folks behind the 201 Bar also run the nearby Union Pub, as well as Barrel near Eastern Market, McClellan’s Retreat in Dupont, and Truxton Inn in Bloomingdale.

Multi-Concept Establishment From Neighborhood Restaurant Group Coming to Hill East

1401 Pennsylvania Concept Drawing (Source: DC Office of Zoning)

[Note: The headline and post have been revised on 6/26]
[8/23 Note: I’ve updated the headline to note that this project has been confirmed to open in 2019 and 2020. See if this story warranted retraction by reading the Washington City Paper, Washingtonian, and Eater. Clearly, NRG doesn’t want people to think it’s “like Union Market,” but tough, people are going to anyways.]

Tentative plans have emerged in which the Neighborhood Restaurant Group would develop an ambitious multi-concept establishment in Hill East across the street from the Potomac Avenue Metro Station, Barred in DC has learned, although no deal has been officially signed. Described by one source familiar with the tentative plans as akin to a “smaller scale Union Market,” if it comes to fruition, it would occupy 13,000 square feet on the first floor of the soon-to-be-under-construction 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. SE residential building (7 floors with around 170 apartments) being constructed by CAS Riegler.

The tentative plans reportedly include the following concepts in the space (I told you it was ambitious):

  • Coffee/sweets shop
  • Beer hall
  • Cocktail/Wine bar
  • Food Market
    • Possible concepts include tacos, pizza, burgers, Asian fusion stalls/stands
  • Sit-down restaurant

For comparison, the possible space is a little more than half the size of Union Market, which is around 25,000 square feet. As the building just recently held its official groundbreaking, don’t expect any new establishment to open until late 2019 or early 2020 and obviously, plans may change drastically from now until then. Currently, the location is a NY Pizza and parking lot, and about 300 feet from the Potomac Ave. Metro entrance and a Harris Teeter.

NRG has almost 20 different businesses under its umbrella throughout the DMV region, most notably Churchkey and the Bluejacket Brewery, as well as Birch & Barley, The Partisan, Red Apron Butcher, Iron Gate, Eatbar, Red Apron Burger Bar, The Sovereign, and Hazel in DC.

NRG representatives, including beer director Greg Engert, were present at the groundbreaking on Saturday, June 24th, but NRG and CAS Riegler representatives took pains to not confirm the nature of the project or that NRG is even involved.

NRG’s PR rep sent Barred in DC a statement the morning of 6/26 asking for a retraction, stating:

I wanted to let you know that NRG has no deal with Cas Riegler and no plans to open a “mini Union Market.” As such, I would like a retraction on the post that ran this weekend.

You are welcome to reach out to me in the future should you ever get a tip about NRG that you’d like to confirm, but in the meantime, if you’d like to reach out to Kevin Riegler to confirm that NRG has in fact not finalized a deal to work on this project, you can reach him [at his email address]
 
We’re happy to keep you updated if something does come to fruition. Thank you in advance for your understanding.
Notably, as part of the building developer’s agreement with the neighborhood and DC, CAS Riegler has agreed to spend around $50,000 to beautify the metro entrance plaza, $95,000 to improve 2 local playgrounds, and $20,000 for improved security for nearby Potomac Gardens housing project as well as $5,000 for neighborhood trees.

Sushi Hachi Set to Open on Barracks Row in June

Sushi Hachi is set to open on Barracks Row in June, according to the owner’s remarks at a recent ANC 6B meeting. The Japanese restaurant from Steve Yoon, who also has owned Sushi Rock in Courthouse/Rosslyn in Arlington since late 2012, will be moving into the space at 735 8th St SE most recently occupied by Zest Bistro from 2010 through 2015. Yoon said the mid-sized spot (around 85-100 seats) will focus much more on sushi (curated list of 9 or so popular types of fish) as well as seasonal dishes compared to more sushi/Asian fusion theme of Sushi Rock’s menu. A soft opening of a month or so will precede a full-blown opening.

The news of the Sushi Hachi opening was first reported by EatDC (a must-follow, low-key Twitter account with less clutter than Barred in DC) on March 14th.

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:

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.

Shake-Up on Barracks Row – Say Hello to Finn McCool’s (Again) & Tio Javier

Molly Malone's has been renamed Finn McCool's

Molly Malone’s has been renamed Finn McCool’s

Pacifico Cantina is now Tio Javier

Pacifico Cantina is now Tio Javier

Visitors to Barracks Row will see some changes to a few of the eateries/bars on the 8th Street SE strip owned by Xavier Cervera’s group.  Molly Malone’s is now called Finn McCool’s, which was the name of the bar that previously occupied the space before Molly’s opened in 2009. Pacifico Cantina is now Tio Javier.

In addition, Chesapeake Room closed for renovations (a similar fate befell Lola’s earlier this year) [UPDATE-This reopened with name Ophelia’s Fish House]. Even Senart’s Oyster House changed its last part of its name to Grille Room (from Chop House). So far, these name changes, which are not surprising after Cervera recently took back control of these restaurants, have included new menus and more changes are forthcoming. However, Barred in DC has not seen any recent trade name change applications approved by the ABRA Board for these spots, so stay tuned on that issue [UPDATE-ABRA approved the bar name changes on 11/30]

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New menu at Finn McCool’s

Joselito Set to Bring Andalusia to Eastern Market in November

Joselito, a Spanish restaurant focusing on dishes from the southern area of Spain, Andalusia, is set to open in November in Capitol Hill, just steps away from Eastern Market. The eatery, located in the shuttered Sona Creamery space at 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, comes from the folks behind the acclaimed SER Restaurant in Ballston. News of SER’s involvement with the space was first reported by the Washington Business Journal and the Capitol Hill Corner blog in early August. Javier Condon, co-owner of Joselito (as well as SER) provided details about the restaurant at Thursday night’s ANC 6B Alcohol Beverage Control Committee meeting.

The menu is still being finalized, but due to the size of the small kitchen, expect a fairly small menu- about 10 hot and 10 cold dishes (meat, seafood, veggie). Each dish will be offered in 3 sizes-tapas (small), media racion (main course size), and racion (family style). For drinks, the owners plan to offer about 6 of each of the following: cocktails, sherries, sangrias/vermouths, Spanish draft beer, and white & red wines (along with 3 sparkling wines). All wine (and perhaps other drinks) will be offered in 3 sizes (by glass, half portion, or bottle). The restaurant will have the same menu for lunch and dinner (perhaps with some sandwich options for lunch), and brunch may be on tap at a later day. Pricing for happy hour will be rather unique for DC-everything on the menu will be discounted by a certain percentage (perhaps 10-30%).

Josalito is taking over Sona’s liquor license, so it will initially have about 60-70 seats, with some outdoor seating, and be open till around 11p on weekdays and midnight on weekends. The old cheesemaking area for Sona will be transformed into additional seating (the glass partition will remain for most part). Construction on the space begins soon.

The Brig Beer Garden Opens on Barracks Row

The Brig DC Public Beergarden, website, FacebookTwitter, 1007 8th St. SE (at L St.) opens at 4p (weekdays) 11a (weekends), HH 4-7p weekdays, est. 2006.

The Brig

The Brig

The long-awaited beer garden The Brig finally opened its doors last Friday, June 17th. The open air spot in lower Barracks Row/Navy Yard (about 10 minutes walk from the Eastern Market and Navy Yard Metro stations) first got its liquor license in January 2011 and has been under construction since November 2014 (JDLand has all the background).

The bar area at the Brig

The bar area at the Brig

Barred in DC made an early visit midweek and found a quite relaxed, chill crowd. Sporting 40 taps (a mix of both German standbys and local drafts), the Brig seats up to 210 people and can fit up to 400 people. About 15 long communal tables are shaded from the sun under huge sturdy German beer-branded umbrellas, while 25 seats front the long bar in the service building.

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Prices are fair and uniform and posted on a flat screen in the middle of the bar – all drafts are priced at $8 (for half-liters for German beers, 16 oz. for the rest) and $15 or $16 for the liter. Happy hour specials include $5 select half-liters-not too shabby. As a plus, taxes are included, a departure from most new bars in the city. Food options are limited at this time, though $5 pretzels with beer cheese looked tempting (brats were on the grill to the side). Looking forward to stopping by happy hour and seeing how the crowd evolves as the night goes on or on weekends.

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