Chanting "Drinks Not Shrinks," about 75 devotees of the Ben Bow bar staged a raucous demonstration yesterday against plans to demolish the popular Dupont Circle pub.
Regular customers at the Ben Bow, also known as Ellen's Irish Pub after owner Ellen Donlan, insist it has the best music, the best gossip, the friendliest patrons, the nicest owner and the cheapest beer - 60 cents a mug - in Washington.
But the American Psychiatric Association, which purchased the property at 1636 Connecticut Ave. NW in August, has applied for a permit to demolish the Ben Bow. The APA plans to replace it with a seven to eight-story office building.
The Ben Bow campaign has become a cause celebre for members of the Dupont Circle Coalition, a group seeking a "down zoning" of the area to preserve small businesses and small buildings while curtailing construction of what coalition members call "impersonal high-rise office buildings."
"One glass of beer will cure more psychotic people than all the psychiatrists in the whole world," proclaimed a protesting pub hound as yesterday's group marched from the Ben Bow to the APA's headquarters at 18th and R streets NW. The procession was serenaded by a bagpiper, a banjo player, two fiddlers and several honking cab drivers.
Small, spry pub owner Donlan trailed the pack, walking arm-in-arm with two regular customers. Born in County Galway, Ireland, Donlan worked as a photoengraver for 20 years before purchasing the bar in 1963.
Praised by one regular as "a woman I would gladly die for," Donlan shyly thanked the group, and brushed aside a tear at their "wonderful show of friendliness."
Dr. Jack W. White, the APA's deputy director for business administration, refused to comment on the matter, but stressed that his organization "has been in the area for many years and has been a good neighbor and citizen."