When the Passenger announced its closing in November, owner Tom Brown told me that he wasn't going to be rushed into finding a new location. "The Passenger needs to stay in Shaw, even if it goes dark for a while," Brown said. "This neighborhood made the Passenger what it is – the juxtaposition of old and new."
Well, the wait is over.
Brown has signed a lease on a two-story building at 1539 Seventh St. NW, next to Ivy and Coney, and he plans to reopen the Passenger in February 2016.
Brown is confident that most of the Passenger's staff will return to work in the new space, which totals 2,600 square feet and will have a bar on each floor. "It's not much bigger" than the old building, Brown says. "It's just a better layout."
Brown also says the building will have a rooftop deck "about a year after we open," depending on permits.
The new digs won't mean too much change in the Passenger's unpretentious style: Brown plans to have a chalkboard with a short list of suggested cocktails instead of a printed menu, encouraging customers to chat with the bartenders about what kind of drinks they prefer. The regular beer-and-a-shot combo will also return.
The kitchen will be under the control of Dmitri Monis, the brother of Komi star Johnny Monis, who worked at the Monis family's La Casa restaurant in Alexandria.
One element that made the Passenger special was that it was a family affair. Tom ran the Passenger, while his younger brother Derek was in charge of the Columbia Room, the award-winning, reservations-only bar-within-a-bar. The Brown brothers went their separate ways when the Passenger closed. Derek is working on the Columbia Room's reemergence in Blagden Alley later this year, while Tom is currently consulting on drinks at Slipstream and prepping for the September/October opening of another cocktail bar, Left Door, near the busy intersection of 14th and S streets.
So will we ever see the Brown Brothers behind the bar together? "Haha! I hope to make that happen as much as before (almost never)," Tom says in an e-mail. "Jokes aside, Derek is super supportive. I'm sure he'd jump in at some point."
"I've been happy to be a part of [the Passenger]," Derek says in a separate message. "I'd happily step behind the bar any day of the week I'm invited -- and I imagine I'll step behind the bar even when I'm not. Long live the Passenger!" Apparently we live in the city if brotherly love.