A hidden Dupont Circle speakeasy destined to disappear is now going to live on after all.
The Sheppard received news a year ago a U.K. hotel group would take over its building at 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW, which meant the intimate second-story bar with handwritten cocktail menus would be kicked out once renovations started.
Prepping for its ultimate extinction, The Sheppard soon found a future space to call home inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, to be called Morris. But co-owner David Strauss tells Eater the hotel group recently backed out of the takeover, which means the brand will have two co-existing locations.
There’s a celebrity chef tied to both: Spike Mendelsohn, who befriended Strauss during his Culinary Institute days in New York. Mendelsohn originally ran The Sheppard and handed the keys and operation over to Strauss in March to shift attention to Morris. Strauss took over The Sheppard as a “Band-Aid” bar to keep the brand alive until Morris debuted, but now he says he plans to keep it open indefinitely.
Located at 1020 7th St. NW, Morris will be twice as big as The Sheppard and divided into two stories spanning 1,400 square feet. Morris, which is backed by Mendelsohn, business partner Vinoda Basnayake, and Strauss, is now shooting for a March opening.
The bars’ combined names are an ironic ode to Morris Sheppard, the Texas senator who penned the Prohibition amendment.
Morris will adopt The Sheppard’s old-timey soundtrack and bordello look, and the new Swatchroom-designed space will give off a sophisticated and masculine vibe with deep blues and golds, decadent drapes, geometric tiling, oriental carpets, candelabras, and a piano to integrate a live jazz component.
Strauss, who's worked on bar programs at Petworth Citizen and Le Diplomate, says there will be about a dozen cocktail choices instead of The Sheppard's five. With 70 seats, the clipboard menu will rotate drinks monthly instead of nightly like it does at its 40-seat sister bar.
Strauss says D.C. is “greatly lacking” the types of “unassuming cafes” found in Europe, so as a result, Morris will eventually add a daytime coffee component before its nightly cocktail service starts.
Morris will also have in-house food component with simple snacks like pickled vegetables and cheese plates. Also expect more modernized bar accents than those at The Sheppard, like in-house ice production and the ability to freeze glassware to turn out super cold cocktails, says Strauss.
Morris is one of several new attractions coming to the convention center. Smoked and Stacked, from "Top Chef" contestant Marjorie Meek-Bradley, was one of the first to open so far this year.