Imagine this: It’s June. 90 degrees outside. After a hard day at work in your D.C. cubicle, you sneak out of the office a little before 5 p.m. Within minutes, your shoes are off, your feet are buried under a few inches of sand, and you have a cold, refreshing glass of rum punch in your hand. Party music plays in the background.
Sounds like a fantasy, right? If Passenger owner Tom Brown has his way, it will be a reality this summer.
In May, Brown plans to unveil the New York Avenue Beach Bar in what is now an empty parking lot adjacent to the Warehouse Theater, around the corner from the Passenger’s front door. He and his partners are bringing “about 80 tons” of sand to fill the 5,500-square-foot space, along with multiple bars, picnic tables, umbrellas, lounge chairs, food trucks and “luxury trailers” containing bathrooms outfitted with running water.
“The beach is the great equalizer,” Brown says. “Everyone wants to go to the beach.” And because it’s not easy to just go to the Eastern Shore for the afternoon, Brown wants to bring it to Mount Vernon Square.
While the Passenger is known for its bespoke cocktails, small-batch spirits and weekly tiki party, Brown says the New York Avenue Beach Bar will be something completely different (and maybe slightly low-brow). “There’s no pretense here,” he says. “It’s going to be laidback and easy-going.” There won’t be a cover charge, except for special events. The three bars will sell cold cans of cheap beer and simple house cocktails “that can be made in batches,” such as rum punch. (Yes, there will be one station selling high-end tequilas and rums, Brown says, but it won’t be a focus.) He’s even talking about getting big beer companies to sponsor the place or its events, because “every beach bar is sponsored.”
But it won’t be all Jersey Shore on New York Avenue. Brown is in talks with a neighborhood restaurant about selling sandwiches from a yet-to-be-licensed food truck. He plans to have Saturday night luau-themed parties with roasted suckling pigs, Friday night crab feasts, and live beach music. There will be lockers where guests can check their shoes and work bags so they don’t need to carry them through the sand.
And about the sand: Some of my editors think it’s going to be gross -- “like a litter box.” That’s no different than the real beach, but the Beach Bar is working with neighborhood churches and groups to arrange summer jobs for local teenagers, who will be responsible for upkeep. Brown says they’re also making sure that the sand won’t wind up out on the sidewalk or the street, “because we don’t want to have to buy new sand in the middle of the summer.”
If all goes well, the Beach Bar may get its first preview at a Cinco de Mayo party before going full-tilt from Memorial Day weekend through Halloween. Doors will open at noon Friday through Sunday — you know, in case you want to get the weekend started a little early — and around 5 p.m. on other days. Except if it rains, that is — you’ll have to find something else to do when the skies open. Just like if you were at the beach.