Keep It Simple This Summer: Hit the Deck

Revamped happy hours have lured patrons back to the Deck, a laid-back neighborhood bar in Glover Park outside the Savoy Suites hotel.
Revamped happy hours have lured patrons back to the Deck, a laid-back neighborhood bar in Glover Park outside the Savoy Suites hotel. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Fritz Hahn
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, June 8, 2007

If, as that great philosopher Bruce Lee said, "simplicity is the key to brilliance," then the Deck is an Einsteinian revolution in Washington night life. Just outside Glover Park's Savoy Suites hotel, the Deck is exactly what its name implies: A large wooden patio with a slat floor, chairs, tables and a bar, set far enough from Wisconsin Avenue that you can talk easily over the traffic noise.

There's no great view or overwrought tiki theme. The two televisions are closer to something you'd pick up on sale at Sears than cutting-edge flat-screens. Beer gets no fancier than bottles of Heineken Light and Budweiser Select.

Whether it's to kill a lazy Sunday afternoon or to grab an alfresco drink before heading to a club on Friday night, the Deck fits the bill.

The bar has been open for more than a decade in one form or another, but it had been losing steam the past few years. Fritz Brogan, who bartended at the Deck last summer, says there were nights when he'd close the place before 11 on Saturday nights because there were no customers.

A few months ago, a friend of a friend asked Brogan whether he'd be interested in running the place over the summer, and the recent Georgetown grad jumped at the chance. Brogan, who has worked at McFadden's and Third Edition, started promoting parties at clubs and for alumni groups while in school and figured he was ready to step up.

Now on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the Deck is a standing-room-only sea of pastel polo shirts, designer sundresses and sandals or flip-flops (Rainbows for the guys, metallic Jack Rogers for the women), heavy on the singles action and often three or four deep at the bar. The big difference, Brogan says, is that he has used his extensive list of contacts from the Georgetown social scene and worked with the invite-only Web site Late Night Shots to build a reputation among the crowd that usually goes to Smith Point, Town Hall or the waterfront bars at Washington Harbour: young, preppy, Republican, ready to party. (Brogan, who worked on President Bush's 2004 campaign, has held reunions for fellow staffers.) Brogan is quick to stress the bar's local connections. "Most of the staff lives within four or five blocks of here," he says. "It's a great neighborhood with lots of people in their 20s and 30s." Brogan guesses that "95 percent of the customers live within five or six blocks."

Of course, revamped happy hours don't hurt, either, especially when the Deck offers $3 and $4 beers all day and night Sunday through Wednesday and specials until 7 the rest of the week. But it's the slowest days that can be the most enjoyable. Sunday's day-long "Sunday Funday" is a relaxing way to end the weekend, while Monday has turned into Glover Park's unofficial dog night, where you might find a half-dozen mutts -- including the largest chocolate Lab I've ever seen -- drinking water from buckets and hanging out with their owners.

As at many nightspots, service changes on the weekends. The bartender who introduced himself and talked baseball on Monday might look right past you on Saturday while he's serving one of his friends/regulars. (They seem to be one and the same.) Waiting for a drink can be frustrating. While a smaller beer-only service bar is set up on the back of the patio on Fridays and Saturdays, it doesn't always relieve the crush.

Since it's an outdoor bar, there are bound to be problems with noise -- especially when a large, expensive condo building opened next to the hotel earlier this week. Brogan says he's trying to keep the neighbors happy by closing earlier and turning down the music.

The most curious thing about the Deck is that although it's packed on weekends, it's not really a destination. It's more of a place to stop off before heading to Smith Point, Rugby or somewhere else. "It's a very transitional bar," Brogan says. "People come in here, have a drink and keep moving." Once they check it out, though, they'll probably keep coming back.

* * *

The ever-popular Helix Lounge recently closed for a few weeks of renovations, but although the mod, '60s-inspired lounge has shed its all-white look for splashes of color -- funky patterned cushions, shimmering green tables, splashes of blue on the long banquettes -- it's more of a touch-up than a shake-up.

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