But if you just want a spot to spend a lazy Saturday watching college football — and there are few greater things to do on a fall afternoon — those one-note bars can disappoint. For a more immersive experience, I’d rather go to Mason Inn.
The Glover Park bar is home to four alumni groups, all from the powerful Southeastern Conference: Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi. The Bulldogs, Gamecocks and Gators are ranked in the preseason top 10, so you know the quality of football will be high. And while the Rebels haven’t been that good lately, Mason Inn co-owner Fritz Brogan notes that Ole Miss fans “come out in full force and take drinking seriously.”
But what makes the atmosphere so festive is that these four schools aren’t the only representatives of the SEC that show up. Patrons at the bar sport Razorbacks T-shirts or crimson polos, though Arkansas and Alabama alumni “officially” gather elsewhere. Every SEC contest, along with the day’s other big games, are shown on a dozen flatscreen televisions and a 100-inch projection screen.
“One of the things about Mason Inn is that it reminds a lot of folks of being at a bar in Athens [Georgia] or Oxford [Mississippi],” says Doug Matties, a 2001 Georgia graduate and the president of the local alumni group, DC Dawgs. “It’s got a Southern college town feeling. If you’ve been to one of those places, you know what it’s like: It’s more relaxing; there’s a lot of dark wood.”
Though Georgia has other viewing sites in the D.C. area, including Crystal City Sports Pub and Public Bar in Dupont Circle, “Mason Inn is special for us — it’s more of a Southern sports bar, versus just a Georgia sports bar,” he says.
For some alumni, going to watch a game at Mason Inn is no different than heading to the stadium. They embrace dressing up on gameday, no matter how odd it may be to see Ole Miss alumnae wearing pearls and sundresses (in the school’s red and blue colors) while sipping bourbon cocktails, or Georgia alums in red button-down shirts, black ties and battered ballcaps at a dive bar before noon on a Saturday.
For Meghan Milloy, a 2009 Ole Miss graduate, watching Rebels games with friends is a way to reconnect with the school’s traditions. “At Ole Miss, we like to dress up for the games, and we do that here, too. It’s like being in the Grove,” she says, referring to the famed tailgating spot on the Oxford campus. “I don’t think that everyone dresses up as well as Ole Miss does, but if you come here, you know you’re not at a Pac-12 bar.”