Seven bars that helped make the U Street corridor one of the most vibrant nightlife districts in D.C. before the novel coronavirus arrived will close indefinitely at the end of October. Washington City Paper reports that Eric Hilton and Ian Hilton, the brothers who own one of the city’s most influential hospitality groups, will shut down the following businesses “for the foreseeable future” on Halloween:
- Marvin: Named after D.C. native Marvin Gaye, the bistro and bar is known for its crowded roof deck and raucous DJ nights.
- The Gibson: The cocktail bar helped usher in the “speakeasy” trend in D.C. when it opened in 2009.
- The Brixton: The three-level British-style pub consistently drew lines around the block on weekends.
- El Rey: The taqueria and Mexican bar brought in customers who wanted to sip margaritas in a garden enclosed by shipping containers.
- American Ice Co.: The historic ice house on V Street NW was known for its whiskey selection and its pork barbecue and queso “swatchos.”
- Players Club: The ’70s-style arcade bar featured retro video games and a claw machine full of sex toys.
- Echo Park: The Ninth Street NW bar with a beer garden and a fireplace room opened across the street from the 9:30 Club at the end of January.
In a statement the Hilton brothers sent to WCP, then released on social media, the bar owners reference the difficulty of restructuring their businesses to adjust to shifting restrictions enforced by the city to halt the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase 2 of the District’s reopening plan, bars and restaurants are allowed to serve customers indoors at half capacity as long as they’re seated and tables are spaced out at least 6 feet. Bartenders are not allowed to serve customers from across bar tops. With government aid money running out and cooler weather expected to reduce business for restaurants with outdoor seating, closures are expected to ramp up during the fall and the winter.
“Day after day, we and our staff are operating at a loss, under duress, and with little relief in sight,” the Hiltons’s statement says.
Andy Brown, the owner of the Andy’s Pizza attached to Echo Park, tells Eater the popular pizza stand attached to the bar plans to stay open for New York-style slices and whole pies. The Brixton recently partnered with chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s Foreign National group to bring Coin Mezze, a Lebanese operation full of kebabs and pizza-like manakeesh flatbread, to the bar. Coin Mezze has also been popping up at Victura Park, an outdoor wine bar from the Hiltons and Bruner-Yang at the Kennedy Center’s Reach complex.
Besides the seven bars they plan to shut down, the Hiltons operate Brighton pub on the Southwest Waterfront, French bistro Chez Billy Sud in Georgetown, and the Crimson diner and whiskey bar at the Motto (formerly Pod) hotel in Chinatown. They opened two more French restaurants in Northern Virginia in the past year: Parc de Ville in Fairfax’s Mosaic District development and Cafe Colline in Arlington.
Eric Hilton, a member of electronic music outfit Thievery Corporation, was also a founding partner at former Dupont institution Eighteenth Street Lounge, which has permanently closed after a 25-year run.