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
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Sudhouse Set to Open at 14th and U on May 31st (UPDATED)

Sudhouse (credit: Sudhouse Facebook page)

Sudhouse (1340 U St. NW, Facebook, Twitter, website), a new “beer hall and social club,” announced today that it will open Friday, May 22nd  that it will open Sunday, May 31st (with all day happy hour) in the space previously occupied by Bistro La Bonne (which closed in mid-April) near the intersection of 14th and U Streets. The bar will feature domestic and craft beers, billiards, and Big Buck Hunter along with classic American fare and hopes to be a “mom-and-pop style bar and grill.”

The three-floor spot features 2 bars in a 2,000-square-feet space. Co-owners/managers Simo and Ally Farouidi appear to have connections in the past with other current/former spots like Soussi in Adams Morgan, Dunya in Shaw, and the dearly departed  Tabaq on U Street. PoPville first reported that Sudhouse was replacing Bistro La Bonne last week.

[This post has been updated since it was originally posted.]

 

Local 16

Local 16, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1602 U St. NW, opens at 5p (weekdays) 11a (weekends), HH 5-8p weekdays, est. 2002 [Yelp, Tripadvisor, Washingtonian]

Local 16 and its great roof deck from the other side of U Street
Local 16 and its great roof deck from the other side of U Street

From the Hilton Brothers, Local 16 sort of helped kickstart the transformation of the U Street Corridor to full-blown yuppie-dom when it opened in fall 2002 at 16th (hence the name, though it actually really borders New Hampshire Ave., not 16th Street) and U.  Even a decade later, this dimly-lit (my photos are worse than the terrible quality they usually are) scarlet-hued spot still packs the crowds and you’ll often find a fast-moving line out front to get in on Saturday nights.  The folks who frequent this spot skew a bit younger and certainly preppier than the other Hilton Brothers spots I’ve been to ((18th Street Lounge, Marvin, The Brixton).

Local 16
Local 16

Local 16, like 18th Street Lounge, has several rooms, spaces, and stairs and feels sort of like someone’s mansion.  On the first floor-to the right of the entrance-are two rooms, the first of which contains a bar (beer selection is usually better here than the rest of the spot) and the other with ample loungey seating.  These areas are usually the least crowded in the bar. Upstairs up a long double staircase is the rest of the bar. To the right upstairs is the dark, dance floor that gives Local 16 its meat market reputation.  Usually you’ll find lots of folks dancing in here to the loud music.  There’s a small bar in this space; you can choose from the standard boring Heineken/Amstel/Miller bottled fare but not much else.

Rooftop at happy hour
Rooftop at happy hour

To the left of the stairs is easily the best feature Local 16: the huge partially covered rooftop that overlooks U Street.  Packed in nice weather, the roof is basically partitioned in two; the side closest to the bar is usually much more crowded. One nice touch is that there is bench seating along the fence on U Street which means you usually can grab a seat if you want (not that many folks do).  Again, nothing special with drinks and beers (you’ll pay $7 for a beer and a rail drink here), but the roof is a nice place to catch up in a more relaxed and better lit atmosphere than the rest of the place.  One large downside of the rooftop is that (likely owing to a settlement/voluntary agreement) it closes at 1 AM so you can stay out all night drinking al fresco.  Aside from the roof, taking the back set of stairs that take you back to the 1st floor bar (Full House style) is always strangely cool.

7/27/13 Update: Local 16 has a great happy hour Monday-Friday. Not only are nearly all items $5 (including specialty cocktails and 8″ pizzas), it goes (from 5p) to 8p, which is a rarity in DC.

Downstairs bar at happy hour
Downstairs bar at happy hour

Although it definitely has a meat market loungey/sorta-clubby vibe and skews a bit younger than most spots on U Street, Local 16 is a fun place to stop by every once in a while that still feels grown-up compared to most bars in Dupont/Adams Morgan on a weekend night.

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5


Garden District

Garden District (formerly Standard), website, Twitter, 1801 14th St. NW (14th & S), opens at 5p (weekdays) noon (weekends), closes at 2a (Fri-Sat), 1a (rest of week), closed Mondays except during summer months, est. 2011 [Yelp, WaPo, Tripadvisor]
Standard

Previously an open lot to pick up plants and little trees, the incredibly popular Garden District (formerly Standard) is, since spring 2011, an open lot to drink large $7 German beers and eat barbecue sandwiches and assorted sides.  Aside from a small building at the back of this lot, which includes the small bar, a couple bathrooms and a few bar stools, this spot is nearly entirely outside, so count on crowds anytime the weather is pleasant (and even if it’s not, as long as it’s not raining or snowing, when the place is closed).  There are a number of communal picnic tables (with a few outside the tall fence that surrounds the lot), but the space is spruced up with some hanging lights, heat lamps, shades from the sun, and the lively crowd.

View of Standard with back to small building
View of Standard with back to small building

Expect a crowd every day after 6pm and on weekend afternoons, though it tends to thin out a bit later in the evening and usually if you can’t find a spot on a picnic table, it’s fine to stand and drink while ordering from the bar in the back.  The pulled pork is great, and consider getting the grilled corn when it’s available; sometimes Garden District fries up some donuts, which are reportedly tremendous.  The prices on the menu seem bizarre ($6.36 for a beer), until you realize that adding the 10% DC tax makes everything a round number.

Small bar area inside
Small bar area inside

Aside from the wait/crowd, this bar also unfortunately (but understandably) is closed for the winter (from mid-November to end of February) and serves only 6-7 draft beers, somewhat bottled sodas, and water (so you cocktail or wine lovers are SOL), but all in all, a good spot to drink and eat outside on the 14th Street corridor.

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5

Chi-Cha Lounge

Chi-Cha Lounge, web site, Facebook, Twitter1624 U St. NW, 202-234-8400, opens at 5p everyday, HH 5-7p M-F, est. 1997 [Yelp, WaPo]

Small hookah bar/lounge with lots of couches, $8 beers, and a dress code.  If you like that sort of thing, you might like it. I don’t. Have been here twice as it was a block away from my old home, but not since 2008. Latin-themed, opened in 1997. Right next to a Barred in DC favorite, Stetson’s-these two bars could not be more different.

Barred in DC Rating: 1.5/5

 

ChurchKey

ChurchKey, web siteFacebookTwitter1337 14th St. NW (14th & Rhode Island b/t N & P), 202-567-2576, opens at 4p (weekdays) noon (weekends), closes at 1a except Fri-Sat (2a), est. 2009 [YelpWaPo, Tripadvisor, Urbanspoon, D.C. Foodies, Frommer’s, Fodor’s]

This is probably the best beer bar and the most popular bar for non-tourist adults (25+) in DC.  Massive beer list with ton on draft and some on cask.  Always crowded (except when old people go to bed after midnight), fairly narrow, and impossible to get a bar stool or one of their cozy booths during most hours, so I actually don’t go here that often even though it’s only a few blocks away from where I live.  Once you get in (always a line between 9pm-midnight on weekends), surprisingly not that hard to get a beer, but I always ask to see the beer list so I can try something new. Solid bar food, and the restaurant downstairs (Birch & Barley) is terrific. Although it doesn’t have a happy hour, lots of special beer events are hosted here and a lot of the beers aren’t as expensive (though some definitely are, so you always want to check the menu before acting fake fancy) as you might think. Opened in late 2009 after what felt like years of anticipation.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5