M Street's Whale: An Endangered Species

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's last call for Sign of the Whale, the M Street NW watering hole beloved by aging frat boys and the women who love them. Mike O'Meara , co-host of the nationally syndicated Don and Mike Show , won the property in bankruptcy court and plans to turn it into an Irish pub called -- what else? -- O'Meara's.

For 25 years, Sign of the Whale has been a required stop on Washington's singles/college/intern drinking tour. The rowhouse bar, flanked by a strip club and a Malaysian restaurant, is comfortably shabby and unpretentious, with plenty of beer and cheap food. The place is typically packed on weekends; yesterday three older patrons were perched on bar stools near the entrance sipping their poisons of choice as animal heads on the exposed brick walls hovered over empty tables. A raspy-voiced, white-haired bartender has this to say about the ownership change: "I'm not saying anything!"

But Whale's days are numbered. On May 31, O'Meara and business partner John Cantrell bid $390,000 in bankruptcy court and won the right to take over the bar from owner Glasgow Inc. The auction was routine, said Glasgow's attorney Richard Gins , but O'Meara still needs liquor and business licenses to finalize the sale. Sources said they expect it to be settled in four to six weeks.

Look for an Irish pub makeover. O'Meara and Cantrell already own O'Meara's Restaurant & Pub in Manassas, described as "upper casual dining" by managing partner Jeff Salisbury. The pub opened on Saint Patrick's Day 2004; its namesake, who lives in Manassas, is a big draw. "Mike is in here quite a bit," said Salisbury. The cross-promo ops are endless; some loyal fans of his afternoon radio show (aired locally on WJFK-FM) travel thousands of miles just to drink at Mike's bar.

Salisbury declined to comment about the Sign of the Whale sale while the proceedings are still working through court, but O'Meara's is already advertising for employees for a Washington location.

Who's the Boss? Rat Out the Intern-Exploiter!

People magazine's story this week on nightmare bosses -- yep, a "Devil Wears Prada" tie-in -- offers the tantalizing tale of one young Mike Packard , who spent the summer of '01 working for "a high-profile Washington, D.C. lobbyist" who:

· Made the intern fish a live rat out of his backyard hot tub.

· Ordered him to scrub bird droppings off his SUV.

· Charged the kid $700 when he accidentally scratched it.

And, no, People won't name the lobbyist. But surely we could find out!

Alas, Packard has left fewer electronic tracks than most of his tell-all peers -- no online résumé, no MySpace page, a skimpy Friendster profile. We try to Google a makeshift résumé for him that would lead to a toxic Hill bigwig. The mag story says Packard "now teaches at a Pennsylvania boarding school" -- tap, tap, tap, we discover he was a hockey and lacrosse player at Harvard, class of '02 . . . but nothing on his summer jobs. He was never registered as a lobbyist (we checked!), so no line on the firm. Did he name names to friends? Asked some young Ivy grads to poke around, but no word yet.

On to the bad boss: The story describes the lobbyist winning the chance to throw out the first pitch at a major-league baseball game (and pummeling his catcher-intern with practice fastballs). Don't the O's have a list of all the folks who've done those honors? Maybe, but the guy who knows is on vay-kay this week.

We did call Packard, but he didn't call back. But if you know -- or if you worked for another hateful D.C. boldfacer -- spill it all at reliablesource@washpost.com . Or join our Web chat today at noon.

What's That on Jenna's Finger?

Jenna Bush
Just jewelry, no fiance attached, we're told.(Steve Helber - AP)
Sometimes it seems they're just trying to torment us, those Bush twins.

Jenna and Barbara enjoyed a mellow girls' night out with several pals last week, commandeering a private dining room at 208 Talbot, a fancy restaurant in St. Michaels, Md. What really turned heads was the reportedly huge diamond ring on Jenna's left hand.

OMG! Could it be? She's been dating Henry Hager for nearly two years, though both are about to head down separate paths (she to a teaching job somewhere south of the border, he to business school at U-Va.). Alas, a source close to the twins told us, "She's not engaged." The ring is one she's had for a while, and it's not a serious rock but a couple tiny ones in some kind of antique filigree.

The 24-year-old usually wears it on her right hand, our source said, but sometimes, haphazardly, on her left. Kind of like her sister, who sent the press corps into a tizzy when she wore a bit of costume jewelry on her left ring finger last December. Must be a Texas thing.

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