Beloved D.C. haunt Capitol Lounge, a go-to for locals, Hill staffers, and college sports fans alike, was one of D.C.’s saddest pandemic-caused closures. Now, the dearly missed dive will resurface at a fellow nonpartisan pub on Capitol Hill next month.
The brick-lined bar poured its last beer in September 2020, wrapping up a 26-year run in the neighborhood (229 Pennsylvania Avenue SE). Now the House-side watering hole will pop up for one day only, taking over its Senate-facing friendly rival Union Pub on Saturday, April 1 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. (201 Massachusetts Avenue NE). Bar owners Matthew Weiss (Union Pub) and James Silk (Capitol Lounge) remain close friends, and five Capitol Lounge employees now work at the nearly 30-year-old Union Pub that’s situated a 10-minute walk north. Some of the same trinkets, nostalgic decor, posters, and menu items will all make a comeback for the newly announced takeover, dubbed “Capitol Lounge: The Return.”
The worn-in and affordable bar, lovingly nicknamed “The Lounge” by regulars, was founded by prolific nightlife entrepreneur Joe Englert. Its motto was, “No Politics. No Miller Lite,” which means there will be no Miller Lite in sight on April 1.
The Lounge was also known for weekday specials like half-off pizza on Mondays; 25-cent wings on Tuesdays; and $5 Bloody Marys and mimosas during weekend brunch. As the home of the Michigan State University Alumni Association of Greater Washington, March Madness and college football season were big money-making sporting events. The pop-up coincides with NCAA’s Final Four tournament, and specials will be revealed closer to the date.
Former Capitol Lounge staff and diehard customers, some of whom now live as far away as California, have already made plans to attend the pop-up after receiving its Star Wars-themed video invitation. What initially began as an April Fools’ Day joke soon snowballed into the idea for a real resurrection.
“What better day to pretend to be a different bar,” says Union Pub general manager Chris Haley, a longtime manager at Capitol Lounge until its end. “Maybe we can host a takeover of a different bar or concept every year on April 1.”
Capitol Lounge made a valiant effort to make ends meet when the pandemic started, immediately pivoting to takeout and delivery with gallons of house jungle juice and adding a newly covered patio area. The bar, which also functioned as a drop-off site for supplies during anti-racism protests in June 2020, applied for a Facebook small business grant to stay afloat but was reportedly denied.