Even D.C.’s most iconic Irish pub isn’t safe from the fickle dining habits of guests, so the Dubliner has instituted a few renovations. Late last month, the 45-year-old bar near Union Station introduced an enclosed sidewalk cafe in place of some old patio space, adding more seats and protecting the space from the elements.
The sidewalk cafe seats 42 people and stays open year round with help from three HVAC units that workers installed on the ceiling.
“For the legacy places like the Dubliner that’s been around for as long as we have, we have to do things to stay relevant,” says co-owner Gavin Coleman, who owns the Dubliner with his father, Daniel Coleman, and is a partner at the Salt Line.
The Colemans built the 750-square-foot cafe in front of the restaurant to replace a portion of a patio that was built in 1991. The outdoor space lost a decent amount of business last year after extreme heat and rain shut it down for about 30 days, driving the decision to add more seats that are protected from the elements.
The patio previously seated 64 customers. Now, between the café and a smaller patio, there’s room for 82 diners. The menus remain the same between the café, patio and restaurant.
The iconic pub has a storied history in the District. Daniel Coleman opened the restaurant in 1974, and it’s morphed into a Capitol Hill stalwart with a folksy vibe that draws locals, tourists, diplomats, Irish expatriates and more. President Barack Obama even swung by on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012.
Beyond that, the restaurant’s former employees have gone on to open more than 30 establishments in the DMV area alone.
Construction on the café began July 8 and involved relocating the main entrance and vestibule to a door in the middle of the restaurant and transferring the awning to the new entrance.
Inside the restaurant, workers repainted the walls, refinished the tables and bars, and added three 75-inch televisions. Other internal tweaks are forthcoming.
“There’s a big difference between worn out and worn in,” Gavin Coleman says. “We try to be worn in.”