Update, July 13: at the July 13th meeting of ANC 6B, 6B01 Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk told attendees that the landlord for 319 Pennsylvania Ave SE had decided to offer the lease to another party besides As You Are Bar. The property owner did not respond to a request for comment. Update: July 14– The Hill is Home has copies of a lawsuit from former tenant Handle19 that is pending, but As You Are Bar reps said they had not heard any reasoning behind termination of discussions as of that morning.
Two Capitol Hill residents are preparing to open a queer lounge/cafe/bar on Pennsylvania Avenue.
As You Are is slated for 319 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, the former site of Stanton Greene.
“The mission is to provide a safe space for queer people –which we are,” said Jo McDaniel, who will co-found the bar with partner in life and in business Rach Pike. “But more so, to provide a space where communities can connect, on all levels; and that’s the neighborhood.”
DC’s LGBT night scene, already dwindling, was further decimated during the pandemic when the DC Eagle, the city’s longest continuously operating gay bar, announced it was permanently closing. Buzzard Point LGBTQ nightclub Ziegfeld’s-Secrets also closed its doors indefinitely in 2020.
As You Are would bring the queer night scene back to the Hill, a torch now carried solely by the friendly space at Mr. Henry’s (601 Pennsylvania Ave. SE).
In August 2019 LGBT bar the Orchid (520 Eighth St. SE) closed. Phase One (525 Eighth St. SE) shuttered in February 2016, then the oldest continuously operating lesbian bar in DC and in the US (McDaniel was an employee). Pennsylvania Avenue gay bar Remington’s closed in 2014 after 34 years.
“There aren’t enough safe spaces in night life,” said McDaniel, who together with Pike hopes the three floors on Pennsylvania Avenue will become that space. “We are aware that the two of us won’t be building this space –so we’re open to feedback.”
To that end, Pike and McDaniel will attend a virtual meeting with the community, hosted by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) Jennifer Samolyk (6B01).
That meeting is online at 7 p.m. Monday, July 12.
Pike and McDaniel won’t just have a business on the Hill. They live right behind the proposed location and want the community to know they are all in.
“We want to introduce ourselves to the community; we want to be good neighbors,” said McDaniel. “We want feedback from the neighborhood so we know what any qualms might be before they’re qualms.”
They’re well aware of the issues on the 300 block of Penn (“Rach is very averse to rats,” said McDaniel.) They are already looking at Settlement Agreements (SA) previously made with ANC 6B, and have plans for indoor trash storage at As You Are, and for beautifying the 300 block of Pennsylvania.
They will also be the active managers on-site. “In order to do this right, we’ve got to be willing to be there, show up and make sure that the promises we make to the neighborhood come to fruition,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel brings 16 years of experience in DC nightlife, most recently at A League of Her Own in Adam’s Morgan, which she opened before serving as General Manager alongside Pike, who was head of security.
The main floor will be modelled after Tryst (2459 18th St. NW), a cafe, late-night diner and meeting space with full coffee service. Upstairs, there will be a dance floor with noise-attrition blinds on the back wall. Downstairs, it will be a chill, lounging atmosphere, with space for games and interactive activities.
That could include daytime programming for groups such as SMYAL, or activities such as brunches to unite people in marginalized communities or unique demographics.
The building has a capacity of 199 across the three floors, and Pike and McDaniel are hoping to close midnight on weekdays and at 2 or 3 a.m. on weekends.
While the two are open to a live entertainment endorsement, McDaniel said they need to talk about it with the neighborhood first. They’d like to start as a good neighbor, and a good space.
“We don’t want to be a blight on the neighborhood,” McDaniel said. “We want people to be stoked that we’re here.”
A fall opening is the goal, and the two are already in conversation with potential vendors. They aren’t planning any structural changes, although they’d like to add additional washroom facilities and make the space ADA accessible.
Pike is modeling the safety-management (as opposed to “security”) team around the enthusiastic model of consent, said McDaniel. “So, we don’t let people touch people, we don’t over-serve; we are constantly thinking “safety”,” McDaniel said. Closing will be staggered across the three floors to avoid a rush onto the sidewalk, and the safety team will help people into ubers or to the metro station.
McDaniel and Pike said that they want to preserve the Hill’s “chill” residential atmosphere.
“We want to preserve that, we want that to continue, because that’s part of what we love –it is a neighborhood,” said McDaniel. “It might not be chill inside, but you won’t be able to tell from the outside –that is the plan.”
Learn more about As You Are by visiting asyouarebar.com
Meeting ID: 832 3566 5453
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