Drinkers tend to visit Ivy and Coney for a shot of Jeppson's Malört or $3 Old Style...ish, but when it comes to alcohol variety, the bar doesn’t really have much to offer.
That’s sort of the point, says co-owner Chris Powers. Ivy and Coney’s menu is no-fuss and simple, he says. There are eight types of liquor and four varieties of beer, and it’s not really the place for a fancy cocktail, either.
But with an Ivy and Coney locker membership, drink options become almost unlimited. The lockers are hard to miss. They’re decorated in chotchkies and graffiti and have been behind the bar since Ivy and Coney opened almost a year ago.
Usually lockers are found in fancier places, like steak houses and restaurants. In D.C., The Capital Grille maintains a house account system for wine, and Daikaya recently started a bottle keep for high-end Japanese whiskies. The now-shuttered Againn restaurant downtown was known for its whiskey lockers way back in 2009.
"Basically, this is the democratization of the locker system," Powers says. "This is our way of tackling the variety problem, without getting in the way of the bar’s concept, which is neighborhood friendly and straightforward."
There’s everything from the very cheap (Fireball) to the very expensive (Midleton Barry Crockett Irish Whiskey, which retails for more than $200 a bottle) stored in the lockers.
So who rents these lockers? And, what’s really inside?
Turns out a lot of the restaurant industry folks keep house accounts with some pretty interesting labels. In general, whiskey is the most popular request, Powers says. Inside the Boundary Stone locker, there’s a half-empty bottle of High West whiskey.
But there’s more peculiar stuff, too. The Bar Pilar locker is a collection of herbal and bitter liqueurs, like Fernet Leopold and Becherovka. Dacha owner Dmitri Chekaldin prefers a fine Scotch. He keeps Macallan 18 and has gone through about four bottles in the last year, Powers says.
For Lukas Smith, formerly a bartender at The Passenger, the locker is also safekeeping for cocktail trophies. Next to a bottle of Fernet are two trophies from wins at the DC Craft Bartender Guild’s Rickey Competition and Bloody Mary Bash.
Other restaurant accounts include DC Reynolds, Eat The Rich, El Chucho and Thally. Each of the Ivy and Coney owners get locker space, too. Powers keeps mostly Scotch and at the current moment gin — Jenever and Nolet’s Dry Gin.
The rules to a membership are pretty simple.
- Maintain a monthly alcohol expense of at least $100. Ivy and Coney has a drinks catalog of more than 300 spirits, and special requests can be made, Powers says, so long as it’s not rare stuff, like Pappy Van Winkle.
- Whatever fits in the locker can stay in the locker. A quick look inside and there’s everything from packs of cigarettes and cigars to beer steins and crystal stemware.
- Individuals or groups can share a locker. But Ivy and Coney does not take responsibility for how the alcohol gets divvied up. Bartenders also have the right to refuse service.
- And, wait patiently. Right now about 20 people are on a waiting list for locker space. There are 48 lockers total. Interested customers can email Adam to get on the list.
And the great unintended outcome of all this? Powers says it’s the fact that Ivy and Coney now has a built-in clientele of about 48 regulars.