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The Era of Those Wacky, Prop-Filled Pop-Up Bars In Shaw Has Officially Ended

“I kind of got to be the Willy Wonka of cocktail bars for five years,” owner Derek Brown says

Nick Karlin/

Here lies D.C.’s thirstiest Instagram trap.

Derek Brown has pulled the plug on Drink Company’s Pop-Up Bar (PUB) in Shaw. For the past five years, Brown and his team whipped up a series of constantly rotating, elaborately decorated themed bars designed around everything from HBO’s Game of Thrones to D.C.’s famous cherry blossoms.

The pop-ups at 1843 Seventh Street NW were the ultimate selfie backdrop, and Washingtonians lined up around the block to get the perfect photo — and legit cocktails from the team behind the much-acclaimed Columbia Room. Washingtonian originally reported the news today that Drink Company wouldn’t put on a new pop-up after shutting down its holiday-themed Miracle on 7th Street installation on December 31.

“It’s expensive. It takes a lot of expense to open a bar every month and a half,” Brown says. “There’s a whole process to follow to make sure it looks great, make sure the cocktails are great, get the staff ready, and it takes a toll.”

No decor detail was spared, and the logistics behind each new opening were intense.

“We have to hire a new staff every time we do it, we have to come up with an idea around it. Because so many things there are handmade, we have to build a lot of stuff out,” Brown says. “We have to rent studio space so we could build stuff while the other pop-ups were going.”

Drink Company’s Pop-Up Bar (PUB)’s cherry blossom-themed decor
Nicholas Karlin/

Brown says that his team gave up the space, so he’s not sure what will go there next.

During PUB’s run, the Drink Company channeled buzzy TV shows like Netflix’s Stranger Things. It served cocktails in carved cow horn mugs for its super-popular Game of Thrones Pub.

One pop culture touchstone went awry, as Brown ran into a copyright dispute with Turner Broadcasting and Cartoon Network that forced him to dismantle a Rick and Morty-themed bar a day after it opened (he then enlisted shock rock band Gwar to destroy it).

Miracle on Seventh Street in 2015
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Cherry blossom season proved inspirational for multiple years in a row, with matcha cocktails on the menu and blooms everywhere. The cheer-tastic Miracle on Seventh Street pop-up was Brown’s favorite. He calls the GoT bars “unbelievable,” and says they even sparked international attention: “I was interviewed for Russian and Chinese television,” he says.

“It was a labor of love. It was fun,” Brown adds. “I think we did something really cool. I kind of got to be the Willy Wonka of cocktail bars for five years.”