LGBTQ bars reimagine dining and drinking as D.C. coronavirus restrictions lessen


Pitchers patrons drink outdoors last weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As Washington moves forward with reopening parks, retailers and restaurants, LGBTQ bars have started to bring back their staff and reimagine dining spaces to welcome customers in their establishments for the first time since March.

Restaurants have started expanding traditional indoor accommodations to outdoor patio seating and increased takeout options. Patrons are required to wear masks when not eating or drinking and encouraged to call ahead of arriving. 

Pitchers Bar D.C. and its sister bar A League of Her Own in Adams Morgan re-opened on May 29 and are now serving food and drinks in three different patio seating areas holding about 50 seats total, as well as offering carryout options. 

Both bars are open Thursday through Sunday at 3 or 5 p.m. depending on staffing (updates on hours are posted on Pitchers’ Facebook page). Customers can email to make reservations. 

Rachel Pike, a bartender at A League of Her Own and head of security for Pitchers said it was “initially nervewracking” to begin serving customers at the bar again. But, once the first night was over, Pike said her fears began to ease. 

“[Opening] was 100 percent worth it to the community. Everyone was ecstatic to be back, drinking the drinks from their bartender and seeing their friends come in and out,” Pike says. 

Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington has also reopened, utilizing the parking lot to expand outdoor seating as well as offering takeout options. 

Northern Virginia has been put under separate restrictions from the rest of the state and continues to be in phase one of Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Forward Virginia” plan, while the rest of the state has moved forward in allowing restaurants to have indoor seating at 50 percent capacity. Customers are only able to dine at restaurants with outdoor seating in Northern Virginia, similar to Washington’s current phase of reopening. 

Freddie’s is only serving takeout Tuesday-Thursday. On the weekend, the bar patio opens seating to serve brunch from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. on Sunday. Brunch was served buffet-style prior to coronavirus restrictions, but will now be served individually. 

“I am trying to remain very optimistic and I do think things are slowly getting back to some semblance of normal,” owner Freddie Lutz says. 

The staff at Freddie’s Beach Bar told Lutz that they plan to dress in rainbow Pride gear on June 13, when the Capital Pride parade would have taken place. Lutz also said he is brainstorming other ideas to celebrate Pride. 

Nellie’s Sports Bar, located on U Street, is currently offering takeout options for patrons without outdoor seating options. Customers can either order on takeout services such as UberEats or Postmates, or directly pick up orders from the restaurant at the two “to-go windows.” 

Nellie’s owner Doug Shantz says he hopes to offer indoor seating for customers in the next reopening phases. Takeout windows have been successful, he says. 

“We’re just chugging along, taking it … day by day,” Shantz says. 

Shantz is planning to serve Pride-themed alcoholic drinks during June, partnering with the vendor Red Bull to create a special “Nellie’s Drink Pouch.” 

Number Nine, in Logan Circle, is offering limited patio seating, with two four-person tables available. The restaurant opens at 4 p.m. during the week and 2 p.m. on weekends. Carryout options are also available.

Ed Bailey, part owner of Number Nine, says he and his team are having trouble planning Pride-related events for the bar because of restrictions and the unpredictable nature of the last months.

“One of the things that have helped us be successful is our ability to plan and be very strategic. And currently, the world that we are kind of disallows us from being able to plan anything,” he says. 

Despite the limitations, Bailey is planning to create Pride digital campaigns on Number Nine’s social media. 

Each LGBTQ owner said the limitations that come with Phase 1 of reopening is making it hard to turn a profit. But owners say they will do everything in their power to keep their doors open.

“I’m a fighter, I’ll make work,” says Dave Perruzza, Pitchers owner.

Published at Fri, 12 Jun 2020 13:55:17 +0000