After grappling with regulations, feisty neighbors, and pandemic delays, LGBTQ-owned As You Are Bar finally opened on Barracks Row last month.
The anticipated, all-day corner venture (500 8th Street SE) comes from D.C. bar vets Jo McDaniel (she/her) and Rachel Pike (she/they). U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who’s married to author and activist Chasten Buttigieg, was in attendance during its first night of service on Tuesday, March 22.
The high-profile Capitol Hill couple “cares very much about the neighborhood and small businesses,” McDaniel tells Eater. “Chasten and Rach are besties.”
The all-inclusive safe space opens with a day-to-night cafe spread out across the first floor, with a bar, DJ-driven dance floor, and lounge all popping upstairs soon. For now, opening hours are noon to midnight during the week, and noon to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (closed Mondays).
The shop serves a full espresso menu, teas, and baked goods like muffins and croissants with a side of free Wi-Fi. Beans come from Thread Coffee Roaster, a queer, women- and employee-owned roaster in Baltimore. Reggie Elliot of No Wave Coffee consulted on the program.
Lunch and dinner menus go heavy on vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. There’s Maryland crab or bean soup, a turkey BLT or tuna melt on sourdough toast, wraps, and salads, as well as pub grub like wings, fries, nachos, and chicken tenders. Breakfast sandwiches are offered well into the night after the kitchen closes. Customers can order online for pickup.
Local beers from Atlas, Right Proper, Anxo, and DC Brau join a list of low- and no-ABV drinks and a popular hibiscus agave cocktail. Liquor pours come from D.C.’s women-owned Republic Restoratives.
“We’re trying to find and use women-owned purveyors,” says Pike.
McDaniel was former general manager of A League of Her Own at Pitchers, and Pike was both a bartender and head of security at the Adams Morgan gay bar. As You Are bar opens in a neighborhood with an extensive LGBTQ bar history. Now-closed Remington’s Nightclub, long-running lesbian bar Phase 1, and Orchid were all located nearby. As You Are is now the only LGBTQ bar in the Southeast area.
“People here are of all ages – coming to work, play board games, holding meetings, and watching sports. It’s not necessarily all about drinking, but a community place where people can find each other safely,” says Pike. “We want to push boundaries and be inclusive.”
The cozy downstairs setup features an eclectic living room vibe, with comfortable furnishings and a bright green “Pay It No Mind” mural — an iconic quote from NYC’s trans pioneer Marsha P. Johnson. The welcoming space is well suited for co-working, community meetings, and family-friendly activities.
The owners had to overcome fierce pushback from neighbors and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B in order to open. After initially applying for the bar’s liquor license in November, ANC 6B voiced worries over excessive noise and trash, stemming in part from similar complaints around the previous tenant. McDaniel and Pike addressed concerns during four, four-hour ANC meetings before receiving final ABRA approval.
To allay fears, they installed extra soundproofing and will close at midnight during the week. The second-level space, concealed behind noise-deadening drapes, houses a low-lit dance floor and a long granite bar. A slender, relaxed lounge on the side is splashed with for-sale art made by the LGBTQ community.
Current occupancy is set at 149 and will rise to 180 once permitting for an upstairs bathroom is in place. Until then, they will not be able to host drag shows, DJs, or other entertainment.
Moving forward, As You Are will also lean into local sports and entertainment. It will serve as the first official Washington Mystics bar, showing every WNBA basketball game and hosting exclusive events with the team. The bar also sponsors Washington Prodigy (women’s tackle football), as well as gay softball and kickball. It will also host queer cornhole games and monthly “Drag King” shows and tea parties.