A huge new turn-of-the century-themed bar called Crown & Crow should be flooded with drinking fans and history buffs alike when it opens on Tuesday, July 3.
The historic-looking venture (1317 14th Street NW) comes from partners Brian Harrison, who ran Adams Morgan’s now-defunct the Reef, and Ben Sislen, who owns Kingfisher — another underground watering hole up the street. The spacious operation, which can accommodate 230 customers, is a two-part experience: Once patrons descend a long chandelier-adorned stairwell — situated next to weeks-old Indian restaurant Pappe — they’re welcomed by the 1,100-square-foot Crow bar. A much-larger 2,700-square-foot room, dubbed Crown, is around the corner.
The partners did the design themselves — it helped that Harrison is a professional artist — with the goal of transporting drinkers to the late Victorian era. Asked to pick a year, they decide on 1911 — right before the Titanic sank. The decor includes an iconic piece from the late 1800s: A detailed wooden bar salvaged from Philadelphia.
“We decided to match the rest of the venue to that period. It dictated the theme,” says Harrison.
The owners wanted to stay true to the vintage vibe by sourcing a hodgepodge of furniture and accents that were also born in another era. There’s stools from Titled Kilt in Baltimore; high bar tables acquired from neighboring Cork, which moved up the street; benches retrofitted from wooden farms in Virginia; and lounge chairs that hail from a country club.
The name is an ode to throwback London days, when “crowns” were those who worked at the mint trying to counterfeit money, while the “crow” camp was trying to catch them in the act. “Like cops and robbers,” says Harrison.
Intricate details woven into the Crown space include lots of ornate chandeliers, plush burgundy booth seating, and a painting of Louis XVI. The Crow side ended up being “a little less rustic than anticipated,” thanks to the arrival of the beautiful bar. Acquiring that particular piece of history was a time-sensitive endeavor, since the Philadelphia building it was housed in was about to be destroyed to make way for another development.
“They said you need to be in Philly by 8 a.m. with $12,000 in cash and a 26-foot box truck,” recalls Sislen.
Crown & Crow will offer 14 beers — all draft, to encourage sampling — and specialty cocktails (around $10). Service will kick off at 6 p.m. for the first week of service. Once they’ve settled in, the owners say the bar will operate from 4 p.m. until last call; happy hour, which is scheduled to include $5.50 rail drinks and $2 off beers, will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Stay tuned for an opening cocktail list.
“We are going to be heavy on whiskeys because that is on trend,” says Harrison. Expect lots of Irish selections; the bar eventually plans to carry 100 types of whiskey.
There’s no food, but customers are free to order in from anywhere. The drink menus will feature phone numbers for surrounding restaurants the offer delivery service. “That way people can stay in the comfort of their bar stool and order from many restaurants on 14th Street,” says Sislen.
As for entertainment, expect lots of live music and an old-timey soundtrack. The partners don’t want to draw too much attention to TVs, so silent films will air in the background. Another option: footage of scenic train rides through Europe from the point of view of the conductor. Come fall, the bar will start opening earlier on weekends to appease football fans.
Status: Scheduled to open at 6 p.m. on July 3. 1317 14th Street NW; website.
Scroll down to look inside the cavernous space: