May 16, 2018 at 10:00 AM
Fascinator-wearing royal wedding fanatics getting up at the crack of dawn to see Meghan Markle's dress and sip prosecco. Lager-swilling, jersey-clad soccer fans waking up early to head to the pub and chant about their favorite team. These two groups might cross paths only in a contrived opposites-attract rom-com, but they're both expected at the Queen Vic pub on H Street NE on Saturday.
May 19 is a momentous day for British expats and Anglophiles: It starts at 7 a.m. Eastern time with the pageantry of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal wedding. Five hours later, fans of English soccer powerhouses Manchester United and Chelsea will come together to watch the FA Cup final, the biggest match of the English soccer season, comparable to the Super Bowl. Viewing parties for both events will attract crowds around Washington, but only the Queen Vic plans to show both.
Over the past seven years, the Queen Vic has become the default destination for anything British in Washington. The pub has stayed open late to show BBC broadcasts of the results of the Brexit and Scottish referendums, as well as U.K. election nights. It hosted a viewing party for the 50th-anniversary episode of “Doctor Who,” with sci-fi geeks shushing noisy soccer fans lingering at the bar. On Robert Burns night, the kitchen gets slammed with orders for traditional Scottish haggis. And on weekends, dozens — and sometimes hundreds — of Liverpool FC supporters descend on the bar to watch their favorite team.
Queen Vic co-owner Roneeka Gordon, a native of Liverpool, remembers the most recent royal wedding, in 2011: The pub had been open for only three weeks, and they thought it would be fun to show Prince William and Kate Middleton's nuptials.
“We'd literally just opened,” she says. “We started off thinking there will be a few people in.”
Instead of a low-key gathering, “it was packed,” recalls her American-born husband and co-owner Ryan. “People were all dressed up,” wearing fascinators and gowns and sipping sparkling wine.
Lessons were learned — they'll have more bartenders on hand for Harry and Meghan's big day — but this time, Roneeka says, “we're not making a big deal out of it. We want people to be able to roll out of bed and come in. It's not like they have to wear hats and dress up. If they want to, that's fine, but I don't want it so people are uncomfortable if they just come in in their pajamas.”
That's not to say the Queen Vic isn't doing anything — the pub will be decorated, and the kitchen is offering a royal wedding menu including full English breakfasts, scones and deviled Scotch eggs.
A few hours later, the Gordons expect a different wave of customers for the FA Cup final (kickoff at 12:15 p.m.). The Queen Vic is an official Liverpool bar, but it attracts fans of other teams, too, including West Ham and Arsenal, who might be more apt to visit when Liverpool (and their own teams) aren't playing. Both of the Gordons expect there to be a significant amount of crossover between the two events: “I think we'll have quite a few people having two meals here on Saturday,” Ryan says. His wife agrees: “If you're getting up that early [for the wedding], you might as well make a day out of it.”
This is exactly what the Gordons intended when they opened the Queen Vic with their friend Kevin Bombardier. The Gordons met in 2004, when Ryan was a bartender at IndeBleu in Chinatown, and Roneeka was on the management team training the staff. By the time they married in 2007, they knew they wanted to open a pub — “something that reminds me of home,” Roneeka says. Their vision has changed slightly; they opened with a gastropub menu you might find in London, full of crispy pig's ear salad and black pudding that wasn't really to American tastes. (“Not everything you think is going to work works,” Ryan says.) Chalkboard menus with farm-fresh ingredients have replaced offal. They've kept the focus on English ales and continental lagers but added a local selection: Ale to the Queen, a golden ale made by Baltimore's Oliver Brewing Company.
The Gordons say that their customer base is more Anglophile than expat, with Americans calling weeks in advance to ask if they're showing the Brexit referendum or a particular soccer match. They play off the British vibe with double-decker buses parked outside during the H Street Festival and staffers dressed as characters from “A Clockwork Orange” at Halloween. But more than anything else, Roneeka says, they respond to requests from their regulars. And if they're asking for Eurovision broadcasts, pub quizzes, the royal wedding and even more soccer, they're going to get it.