Four years after entering the D.C. market, New York City-based sports bar Proper 21 opens a second D.C. location tonight in Foggy Bottom. The taps at the new restaurant (2033 K Street NW) start flowing at 8 p.m., just in time to host the NFL’s 2020 season opener.
The 8,000-square-foot outpost, dubbed Proper 21K, offers ample room for socially distanced seating with floor-to-ceiling windows, 18-foot ceilings, and gold chandeliers at each entrance. The bar will open daily from 11:30 a.m. until last call for dine-in, takeout, and delivery via GrubHub, UberEats, and Postmates. With 167 seats inside and a 66-seat patio, the setup in Foggy Bottom will have three times the capacity of its sibling spot downtown whenever D.C. emerges from the COVID-19 crisis.
NIEUW Group’s first D.C. location of Proper 21 opened in fall 2016 at 1319 F Street NW. The group built a base of regulars who come in cult “Proper” burgers, happy hour, and weekend brunches. Will Strozier co-founded NIEUW Group with Robert Zahn in 2010. The partners also own Manhattan Proper and Proper West in NYC.
The latest location’s menu leans heavy on family-style plates and sides for two to three. Proper 21K offers $19 bottles of wine to pair with any entrée purchase. D.C. chef and managing partner Steve Forbes oversees the menu across the company.
Zahn, who is half Korean, says Proper 21 relies on his mother’s recipes for bulgogi fried rice, fried chicken sandwiches with pickled daikon and sweet gochujang, and an assortment of build-your-own bao buns (or tacos and lettuce wraps).
A list of crushes built with orange and grapefruit juices squeezed on-site is the focal point of the cocktail menu. Crushes are buy-one-get-one on weekdays from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. An all-day happy hour (open to 6:30 p.m.) on Thursdays includes $5 beers and $6 wines. A “Call Your Shot” section (one for $8, three for $20, 10 for $50) features options such as green tea, popsicle, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and pickle back. There are 10 beers on tap, including a signature Proper Ale, along with an extensive wine list that’s big on varietals from California, Italy, and France.
Strozier designs all of the restaurants himself, and K Street marked the first new construction project in the partners’ portfolio. The new space looks a lot like its D.C. and NYC counterparts, with velvet wallpaper, greenery, sleek gray booths, and black-and-white photo prints.
Proper 21 will show Alabama games during college football season and has an NFL Sunday ticket package to go with a high-tech sound system.
The location at the corner of K Street and 21st Street NW will see far less traffic than it would have before the pandemic. It’s at the base of an office building, and nearby George Washington University has made the majority of classes virtual.
“We have a loyal following from our F Street location and I think the longer we’re open, our customer base will build organically,” Zahn says.
On March 2, Proper 21 announced a grand opening date for early April. Weeks later, the city shut down dining at restaurants. In April, Proper 21 became one of the first D.C. bars to sue its insurance carrier for denying it business interruption coverage during the pandemic.
“We’re still fighting the good fight against our insurance companies but have a long road ahead,” Strozier says. “At the very least, we hope this encourages other restaurant groups to follow suit and stand up for what’s right.”