Where Redskins Football Is Off and Running
By Fritz Hahn
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, August 29, 2008
The buzz: Not long ago, all a sports bar needed was a couple of satellite sports packages, flat-screen TVs showing the games, cold beers and a menu with decent wings and a good burger. Anything else -- signed memorabilia, appearances by Redskins cheerleaders, trivia nights -- was just gravy.
The Crystal City Sports Pub set the bar high last year when it unveiled a new floor that was closer to a multiplex, with three enormous, high-definition projection screens. Then former Redskins superstar Lavar Arrington opened the Sideline Sports Bar, which boasts a scoreboard-style display and plenty of televisions. A packed happy hour and weekend parties with popular radio DJs have made it one of Prince George's County's hottest nightspots.
Now we have Velocity Five, the sports bar that moved into the Shark Club's old Falls Church digs in March. It has more mahogany and inlaid wood than a downtown steakhouse. The 8,000-square-foot venue has with 50 high-definition TVs, leather couches and velvet rope areas. On Friday nights, tables in one of the two large rooms are moved aside so dancers can twirl to salsa, merengue and bachata, with a splash of hip-hop and Top 40.
But all that flash doesn't hide the fact that Velocity Five is, at its heart, a place for Redskins fans.
The scene: Velocity Five is the creation of Jim Speros, an assistant coach on the Redskins' 1982 championship-winning team and a partner in the Champions sports bar chain. Though Speros left RFK Stadium to work for several other teams, there's no doubt where Velocity Five's loyalty lies.
"We're always partial to the Redskins," says manager Rigo Lagdameo, "so when the 'Skins are on, we'll have half of the TVs on the Redskins and half on all the other games."
This Thursday, when the Jim Zorn era begins at the Meadowlands, the screens will be dominated by the burgundy and gold. Afterward, the postgame Redskins radio show, hosted by John Riggins, will broadcast live on ESPN 980 AM from Velocity Five's restaurant area.
Since the game starts at 7 (during Velocity Five's popular $3 happy hour), crowds are expected. In other words, get there early.
For the rest of the season, Velocity Five will show every NFL game. (Ask at the front desk where you should sit to see certain telecasts.) While the row of screens behind the bar will broadcast all the live action, the main lounge and barroom is prime territory. Eight large U-shaped booths face individual entertainment centers adorned with their own large TV. These can be reserved for groups of eight or more, and they have one very important perk: The television comes with a remote control, so you can change the channel.
It's not just football that's keeping sports fans coming in: Velocity Five has been organizing well-attended parties for Mixed Martial Arts and Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts. At one event in August, hosted by Big O and Dukes from WJFK, there were no seats left about an hour before the matches started. Lagdameo says that more fight-watching events will take place in October and that reservations are allowed for groups of eight or more.
Even when there's not a big game on, Velocity Five is a good place to hang out. The bilingual bartenders banter with a diverse cast of regulars in English and Spanish while baseball and ESPN play silently on screens behind the bar.
In your glass: Expect cold pints of American beer, and Velocity Five offers a short martini menu. The mojitos are good outside happy hour, but during the rush they're hurriedly prepared and can taste like it.
On your plate: The menu has a large list of chicken wings, including blue-cheese-drenched Kentucky Derby, Jamaican jerk spices and just-plain-hot Buffalo Bill's Spicy.
Price points: Happy hour runs until 8 Monday through Friday, and the list of $3 cocktails ranges from '70s classics (the Fuzzy Navel) to '00s trends (mojitos) along with such standards as margaritas. The drinks aren't world-class, but they're good value.
The real steal is the $3 draft beers; the selection includes Pilsner Urquell, Yuengling, Blue Moon, Miller Lite -- everything but Guinness. Daily food specials include half-price burgers on Mondays, and on Fridays, plates of wings are half-off.
Need to know: Velocity Five boasts on its Web site that it's two blocks to the Dunn Loring Metro station, and although that might be technically true, it's a long, lonely walk at night past a boarded-up travel agency, a shuttered Pizza Hut, an industrial park, a garden supply center and apartment complexes.
Also, although the bar is listed as being on Lee Highway, Velocity Five is around the back of the shopping center, next to a Korean supermarket and a Virginia ABC store. Parking is plentiful.
Nice to know: There's an outdoor smoking area that's a section of the strip mall's wide sidewalk, cordoned off with benches and shrub-filled planters. Unfortunately, there's no TV outside to keep track of the game.
What people are saying: "So far, I like it," says Christian Deldoo, 23, a contractor who lives nearby. "I wasn't impressed with the food, but as far as the drinks and the atmosphere, it's pretty decent. Draft beers for $3 are a pretty good deal. I'm definitely going to come check it out on Sundays."