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A Rotating Pop-Up Club With Roped-Off Couches Opens in the Old Clarendon Ballroom

Clarendon Pop-up Bar keeps a Christmas theme going in a room full of sectionals spaced 6 feet apart

Clarendon Popup Bar officially opens this weekend.
Clarendon Popup Bar/official photo
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

A new pop-up club promising rotating themes has moved into the art deco Arlington building that held the Clarendon Ballroom for two decades. Clarendon Pop-up Bar, which reportedly sold out of tables in accordance with Virginia’s Phase 3 reopening rules for its New Year’s Eve debut, is starting off with a winter wonderland theme and White Claw-spiked cocktails that suit the millennial-heavy neighborhood.

“The turnout was better than we expected as all tables were booked [or] sold out,” owner Mike Bramson told ARLnow. The bar takes reservations for its sleek white couch areas partitioned with velvet rope, and high-top tables are first-come, first-serve.

Virginia’s reopening restrictions allow full capacity at restaurants as long as there’s 6 feet of distance between tables. Bar seats and congregating areas of restaurants must be closed to customers except for through-traffic. The cutoff for on-site alcohol sales is 10 p.m., but takeout and delivery is allowed to go later. Live music is allowed if performers are at least 10 feet away from guests.

COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Virginia, increasing by 29 percent over the past week. Arlington County has reported 669 new cases and four deaths over the past seven days. Masks are required upon entry and inside the multi-level space, except when patrons are actively eating and drinking. Across the state line in D.C., indoor dining is closed through January 15, and even then it is expected to reopen at 25 percent capacity.

Bramson insists his new venue abides by all local, state and federal COVID-19 guidelines.

“We restricted our capacity by more than half to be extra cautious even though that is not currently a requirement,” he tells Eater.

Along with a potent “Jingle Juice” with White Claw, vodka, and orange liqueur, there’s a “Chestnuts Roasting” Old Fashioned, Moscow Mule topped with a rosemary sprig, and eggnog spiked with rum. Cocktails start at $10, and buckets of beer for $23.

Clarendon Ballroom closed exactly a year earlier, ending a 19-year run on New Year’s Eve in 2020. The bar and events space enjoyed a long run as a dimly lit party pad for fresh college grads and 20-somethings, regularly commanding long lines out the door for its live music and multiple bars.

A grand opening at Clarendon Pop-up Bar (3185 Wilson Boulevard) is scheduled for this weekend, from Thursday, January 7, to Sunday, January 11. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, plus the occasional Sunday.

Clarendon Popup Bar will likely be filled with Washington Football Team fans for Sunday’s first playoff game against Tampa Bay.
Clarendon Popup Bar/official photo

Bar manager Josh Odmark helped design the decor, which includes oversized snowflakes, ornaments, and twinkling gift boxes dangling from the ceilings and archways upon entry. Another corner is flanked by snow-flecked evergreens and lit-up reindeers with a forest backdrop.

Bramson says “micro” themes help create “intimate” areas across the cavernous space. The in-the-works menu will be mostly bar and comfort foods. Just the main 10,000-square-foot floor is open for now, and a rooftop (about half that size) will open in March.

On-site entertainment includes a stage for DJs and live bands (schedule here) and a sprawling projection wall that airs sports. The current wintertime theme will run until the end of February, then swapped out with another.

Bramson was a co-founder of the Social Restaurant Group that opened La Vie at the Wharf and Provision 14 off the U Street NW corridor, but he split with his partners. According to a representative, his portfolio under B Social Hospitality now includes Provision No 14, Pamplona, The Lot beer garden, Roll’d sushi and dumplings in Ballston Quarter, Rebel Taco, Rebel Taco Cantina, and the Skew’d pop-up. Bramson’s roots are in large-scale events, starting a production company he sold in 2014 to enter the restaurant industry.

Across the street, Bramson runs huge outdoor beer garden The Lot, where patrons pair buckets of White Claw spiked spritzers with cornflake-battered “Shrimp Gone Wild” tacos from his Rebel Taco food truck that expanded across state lines last summer with a U Street NW location.