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Free Coffee, Restaurant Specials Through March Hope to Reignite Downtown D.C.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the “Be Downtown” campaign on Monday, February 5

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The D.C. Mayor’s office announced a downtown dining campaign.
Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Downtown workers, tourists, and residents can partake in a sea of food and drink deals at dozens of D.C. restaurants starting this month. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s new “Be Downtown” dining initiative — a promotional push to reinvigorate the downtown corridor — also includes free coffee to jumpstart the work week.

Bowser announced the campaign out front of D.C.’s new Roasting Plant on Monday, February 5. A cluster of 11 cafes, which mostly includes Compass Coffee locales, will offer visitors a complimentary cup of joe for one hour every Monday morning starting February 12 through March 4. In addition, over 40 restaurants scattered across downtown will run a mix of specials (brand-new lunch and/or happy hour deals) well into peak cherry blossom season through March 31.

Downtown is home to nearly 25 percent of the city’s restaurants, Bowser noted during the press conference, and “supporting them is key to D.C.’s comeback.” She cited a recent uptick in Metro’s morning ridership, suggesting more employees are heading back to the office.

The Northwest quadrant is currently grappling with the fact it may lose the Washington Capitals and Wizards teams to Alexandria, Virginia in 2028, leaving many Capital One Arena-adjacent restaurant owners uncertain about the neighborhood’s long-term growth. The “Be Downtown” initiative also comes as the D.C. Council prepares to vote on a big crime-fighting bill following the deadliest year in the nation’s capital since 1997.

The nearly two-month “Be Downtown” promo includes discounts from big names like Clyde’s Restaurant Group (Old Ebbitt Grill, Clyde’s Gallery Place, the Hamilton); Ashok Bajaj’s Knightsbridge Restaurant Group (Modena, La Bise, Bombay Club, Little Blackbird); and José Andres Group (China Chilcano, Oyamel). Some deals stretch into neighborhoods like Dupont (Amparo Fondita) and Capitol Hill (Ambar). Lincoln plans to do a three-course lunch ($29.99) and Saturday brunch ($26) with $6 drinks, plus $6 wines, $8 cocktails, and $3 tacos during a new Tuesday-to-Saturday happy hour (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.). Eater reached out to a few others about what their specific deals entail.

Participating restaurants are members of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), which recently wrapped its Winter Restaurant Week promo.

RAMW president Shawn Townsend acknowledged ongoing “challenges” across the D.C. restaurant industry during Monday’s press conference, but points out that there “were more openings in 2023 than closures.”

“We want to push our residents and folks coming back to the city [to work] to go downtown and enjoy lunch and happy hour,” he says.

Find a free coffee every Monday from February 12 through March 4 (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) at:

  • Roasting Plant (1211 Connecticut Avenue NW)
  • Compass Coffee (435 11th Street NW; 1401 I Street NW; 1301 K Street NW; 849 18th Street NW; 1703 H Street NW; 650 F Street NW; 1023 7th Street NW)
  • Slipstream (1201 New York Avenue NW; 1333 14th Street NW)
  • Urban Roast (916 G Street NW) *from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.