The owners of three different bars on Pennsylvania Avenue SE are harnessing their talents to create a new bistro, cocktail bar and event space at 319 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, the former home of the Pour House. Stanton & Greene, which could open by the end of the month, is a collaboration between Sonoma owners Eli Hengst and Jared Rager, and August Paro, one of three partners behind Beuchert's Saloon.
The partnership "goes back to when I was working on Beuchert's," Paro says. "Eli would come down, and we became friends that way. We both like well-executed designs and concepts, and we have mutual interests because we have bars on the same street."
So when the former Pour House became available, Paro, Hengst and Rager decided to join forces to turn it into a three-level bar with three different concepts. "We wanted to work on this together because it will be the culmination of what the three of us bring to it," Paro says. "It will be more than the sum of its parts."
Those parts include the cocktail list, for which Stanton & Greene's partners tapped Erik Holzherr, the owner of Wisdom, the gin-centric drinking den near the Potomac Avenue Metro, and H Street's Church & State and Atlas Arcade. "I know Erik through a mutual friend," Paro says. "I really like his palette and how he puts cocktail lists together." For this project, Paro envisions a mix of classic and signature cocktails to go with local draft and bottled beer, and a selection of American and Old World wines. "[Holzherr's] spirits knowledge is what we're playing on. We want to focus on American classics, specifically American microdistilleries. That's not all we're going to have, but that's what we like and want to support."
The building itself is one of the largest bars on Capitol Hill, with three levels and 180 seats. The main floor, Paro says, will be an "American bistro" with a classic feel: a long bar with a marble top, leather booths, a restored tin ceiling and a floor covered with authentic subway and other vintage tiles. Josh Hutter, who has been in charge of Sonoma's menu for the last two years, is the executive chef.
Upstairs, the old Top of the Hill bar and rental space has been turned into what Paro calls "a grand attic" with vaulted ceilings and "a streamlined bar – the kind of thing you'd find in Chicago in the '30s." The plan is for the upstairs to be rented out a few nights a week for private and political events, as Top of the Hill was, and as Sonoma's second-floor wine bar regularly is. But it won't be off limits all the time, Paro says: "It's pretty enough that we'll use it as a bar when there's no event."
The only question is what will happen in the basement, which had a German beer hall theme under the previous owners. "We still haven't hammered out" what it will look like, Paro says, though there will be a bar.
As for the name, the owners drew inspiration from Stanton Park, which is located about half a mile north of the new restaurant. The square is unusual in that it's named after Edwin Stanton, Abraham Lincoln's secretary of war, but the equestrian statue in the middle honors Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene. "We were looking for something with a strong local presence that's also bipartisan," Paro explains. "We just found [the juxtaposition of two different eras] very interesting."
Paro says construction is going well, and expects to have mock service and "friends and family" nights in the main saloon and the second floor by the end of January, with the basement opening about six weeks later. "We want this to be the kind of place where everyone from Hill staffers to senators can rub elbows," Paro says.
Stanton & Greene, 319 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.