Legendary bartender Sam Lek is returning to D.C.

Sambonn "Sam" Lek, the bartender who charmed guests at the Mayflower Hotel's Town and Country Lounge for decades, is returning to Washington on Monday -- but at a different hotel bar.


Popular bartender Sam Lek will come out of retirement on Monday to work at the bar at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza at 14th and K streets NW. (Photo courtesy of Sam Lek)

Lek used magic tricks, creative cocktails and a genial manner to become one of Washington's most popular bartenders. He was a fixture at the Mayflower's bar from 1976 to 2011, when it closed for renovations. Last year, while construction on the Mayflower's new bar dragged on, Lek decided to retire and return to his native Cambodia, where he'd visit with family and run his charity, Sam Relief.

But now he's had a change of heart. According to an e-mail from Lek:

I’ve realized, however, how much I miss Washington, DC.  The DC area is where I met my wife, raised my two children, and called home for 38 years.  The district will always have a special place in my heart.  And I am happy to announce that I have been presented with the opportunity to return to Washington, DC  and join the bartending staff at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel.

His first day at the hotel's restaurant and lounge, located at 14th and K streets NW, will be Monday.

Gbenga Ajilore is an economics professor at the University of Toledo, who research centers on public finance and sports economics.
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