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D.C. Bars Package Up Popcorn and PB&Js to Comply With Alcohol Delivery Rules

Places that don’t typically serve prepared food are doing their best

A stock image of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
A stock image of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich

The emergency relief bill that allows D.C. bars and restaurants to package cocktails, beer, and wine for to-go and delivery includes a caveat that can be tough to navigate for businesses that have primarily catered to drinkers. The measure, passed earlier this month to maximize earning potential for eating and drinking establishments that are barred from hosting customers on-site while the city monitors the spread of the novel coronavirus, mandates that every quart container of margarita or 750-milliliter bottle of whiskey comes with a “prepared food,” posing a particular challenge to venues without working kitchens.

According to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), “prepared food” food must be assembled — an ABRA FAQ lists sandwiches, salads, and smoothies as examples — and prepackaged items like bags of chips don’t satisfy the requirement. While bars have opted to close, others have gotten creative to meet the requirements, making the effort to keep some employees at work and offer a tiny taste or normalcy to their neighborhoods.

In Logan Circle, basement bar Kingfisher made the minimum effort, slapping together a sandwich of mayonnaise and bread to supplement to-go kits of popular beer and shot combinations. Kingfisher announced Friday it would shut down entirely, but before that, owner Daniel Williams says customers had responded well.

“I think our regulars are happy to help support us by buying the combo kits and six packs,” Williams says, “and we’re really making inroads to the incredibly underserved mayonnaise sandwich aficionado market.”

Williams says Kingfisher was working on developing a build-your-own combo option that would let customers come up with their own mayo pairings. Delivery could still be in the cards for the bar. Most importantly, he says, people need to find entertainment that keeps them in their homes. He’s encouraging virtual happy hours and online hangouts.

“Make yourself some insanely salty popcorn, find a movie made before 1995 that has no more than 3 stars, and have a drink every time something offensive happens,” Williams says. “Get a bunch of friends together on Zoom and watch it together.”

At Dupont Circle cocktail bar McClellan’s Retreat, owner Brian Nixon now uses bottles normally used to serve barrel-aged cocktails to seal simple to-go drinks. Every aged white Negroni or sloe gin fizz (ginger beer on the side) must be accompanied by a $2 bag of popcorn that McClellan’s makes in four flavors: kosher salt, truffle salt, jalapeno cheddar, or smoked salt.

“Reaction has been very positive,” Nixon says. “We’re really lucky to have a strong neighborhood following, and they’ve all been great. We’ll keep it going as long as we can. We just want to help our local community stay as sane as they can when confined to their homes.”

Nixon is also offering a “Tiki Tuesday” box he’s named Zombie Survival kits. The $60 package comes with quart of boozy Zombie mix, bolstered by aged and overproof rums from Puerto Rico and Jamaica, comes with four tiki glasses, oranges, limes, and Luxardo cherries. Just don’t forget to buy some popcorn, too.

Before the pandemic, a visit to Bloomingdale’s beloved Showtime bar meant cheap Natty Bohs, pizza from nearby Bacio, and Sunday night concerts from house band Granny and the Boys. Now the bar is send out a a care package that includes a 12-pack of Natty Boh, a bottle of Club 400 blended whiskey, a bag of Utz chips, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrapped in foil. The $50 set also has a Granny and the Boys record, bringing the Showtime experience straight into regulars’ living rooms.


Kingfisher DC

1414 14th Street Northwest, , DC 20005 (202) 750-6600 Visit Website

McClellan's Retreat

2031 Florida Avenue Northwest, , DC 20009 (202) 265-6270 Visit Website


113 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 827-8820