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Bourbon’s Demise Stemmed From ‘Fierce’ Competition

Owner James Woods tells Eater his 12-year-old Adams Morgan bar suffered from slower sales

Whiskey bar Bourbon closed on Thursday, October 25.
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Longtime neighborhood watering hole Bourbon has served its last whiskey cocktail in Adams Morgan, and its owner says D.C.’s recent restaurant boom made it hard for the 12-year-old bar to stay afloat.

“It’s an unbelievable time for the dining culture in Washington, D.C.,” James Woods tells Eater. “Although the rapid change as of late is exciting, it is also fierce and unforgiving. Sales were just down — candidly speaking.”

Adams Morgan has seen a slew of new arrivals in the past year alone, including The Line hotel and its many restaurants, Middle Eastern bar Green Zone, the comeback of cocktail lair Grand Duchess, and burger haven Lucky Buns at the foot of the neighborhood.

The rising pool of local culinary talent is “spurring more mediums for their craft, events of every sort, pop-ups and collabs, festivals even. There is a wealth of new creative avenues being paved and with that the older fellas have to evolve,” he adds.

Bourbon (2321 18th Street NW), which served over 400 American whiskeys, 20 domestic beers, and hearty bar fare, announced its closure on Facebook on Thursday, October 25 while hinting what may be next for the brand: “Instead of reinventing the business entirely, I think it’s best that we re-evaluate exactly what we’re offering to our community and how,” reads the post.

He tells Eater “it’s not quite the right time” to talk about new ventures he’s involved in. He’s not aware of any exact or potential tenants replacing Bourbon at this time.

Bourbon’s packed Kentucky Derby party was easily its biggest annual event, he says, with 1,500 Mint Juleps sold every year at the unofficial start to summer marked by a sea of floppy hats and seersucker suits.

“Bourbon’s run was storied and strong,” he says. “I am only 37, and have gained a wealth of experience being in that space seeing the city grow around me.”


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