This month, D.C. hospitality group Tin Shop flips its rowdy Georgetown beer hall Church Hall into a polished, all-day gathering spot called Clubhouse that transitions from a WiFi-enabled cafe by day to a 23-and-up bar at night.
Tin Shop (Franklin Hall, Penn Social, Astro Beer Hall, and TallBoy) opened wood-framed Church Hall in 2018 and attracted an instant collegiate following for its spiked slushies, liter-sized drafts, jumbo pretzels, tots, and Jenga (1070 Wisconsin Avenue NW). Its new chapter as Clubhouse goes live on Tuesday, August 9, with a more refined menu full of natural wines and clarified cocktails from Barrel alum Jacob Schoonover and 12-inch pies from Italian-born pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani, who recently partnered with the team to open up Slice & Pie and Lucy on 14th Street NW.
Clubhouse opens with a unique 23-and-up policy after 5 p.m. that aims to squash the space’s former reputation as a go-to hangout for underage Georgetown and GWU students.
“We’ve had problems with ABRA [Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration], and fake IDs are crazy good these days,” says Tin Shop co-founder Geoff Dawson. “We’re not fighting students. We want them to be of age and a little more grown up than ‘this is my first night out drinking.’”
He says he’s seen college-adjacent bars in NYC successfully implement the same age restriction for similar reasons.
“We started trending to be a college bar. Once you are that it’s hard to be anything else,” says Dawson. “It’s not a business that is sustainable – there’s more headache and trouble to it.”
The slanted, window-less bar tucked under Georgetown Park’s garage also faces its own set of visibility challenges from the street. To access the basement bar, patrons descend the longest set of stairs in Georgetown other than the iconic Exorcist ones.
“The big hurdle is creating a reason for people to come find us. You can come during the day to work, have coffee, lunch, cocktails, and a beer to watch a game. We think there is enough demand for that,” he says.
Nearly 9,000-square-foot Clubhouse is ginormous by Georgetown standards, and there’s not a lot of morning-to-night options of its kind in the neighborhood. Three bars stretch across both floors, with two downstairs and one sitting upstairs on the mezzanine. Over a dozen draft lines at each pours a mix of local beers and hard-to-find sours and IPAs, and its 16 TVs on-site will continue to air collegiate and professional sports games.
“We want to give the people of Georgetown a different experience when watching sporting events. Gone are the times of greasy food and light beers,” says general manager Elliot Howe, in a statement.
Clubhouse opens with small plates like meatball sliders, parmesan truffle fries, burrata and caprese salads, and local oysters, plus mains like a smash burger and grilled octopus. A newly installed pizza oven sends out nine red and white pies topped with everything from shaved black truffles to spicy Italian sausage. Happy hour (4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) offers $5 beers, $8 wines, and $10 cocktails.
Morning hours enter the mix on Thursday, August 25, with a menu full of vanilla bean lattes, breakfast burritos, avocado toasts, and croissants led by Tatte Bakery & Cafe alum Madison Peake. Clubhouse is outfitted with soft leather-topped communal seats, a big chandelier, curated soundtrack, and fireplace for the winter.
“We want to be a comfortable, nice place instead of a mosh pit of beer on the floor. We say we are graduating and going to ‘grad school’ as Clubhouse,” says Dawson.
Church Hall’s underage drinking problem is nothing new. Dawson has seen his fair share of fake IDs — some 10,000, he estimates — over his 30-year career running D.C. bars like Bedrock Billiards, Buffalo Billiards, Carpool, Mackey’s, RocketBar, Penn Social, and Jackpot.
“At what point do we push back? Students don’t realize the impact it has on us when they want to have a fun night and sneak in,” he says.
Notifying college campuses and pursing legal action for ABRA-imposed fines and losses are on the table, he says.
To reward regulars across its portfolio, Tin Shop’s new Social Club offers members daily food and drink freebies at its bars. The $29-per-month club hopes to reach 10,000 members.
“The idea is to create a super passionate customer group who gives us way more than cost of entry,” he says. “For instance, if we have a high percentage of members living in NoMa, maybe we open a bar in NoMa.”
The owners envision Clubhouse’s 1,500-square-foot mezzanine level, outfitted with 16 taps overlooking the entire bar, to be a dedicated members-only loft that can be rented out. Clubhouse as a whole is also available 300-person buyouts.
“You have to evolve in our business,” says Dawson. “For a long time it was stagnant beer or food specials.”
Clubhouse opens Wednesday, August 9 starting at 4 p.m. and starting Thursday, August 25 at 8 a.m.
Hours will eventually expand to 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday to Thursday; Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.