"One of my pet peeves," says Peter Bayne, "is when you're at a bar and you're just trying to get a drink, but the crowd is three deep, and you can't even get the bartender's attention." People who do order drinks, Bayne says, just stay in place, blocking the flow of people behind them.
Bayne is a partner in the brand-new Franklin Hall, which opens today in the historic Manhattan Laundry building at 14th Street and Florida Avenue NW, as well as a string of other establishments, including Penn Social, Big Chief and Highline RxR. He says the latest venture is an experiment in speeding up the bar experience.
A section at either end of the 60-foot bar has no barstools, and is reserved exclusively for people ordering their drinks — "grab and go," Bayne says. Every bar station offers Apple Pay, Android Pay or Google Wallet in addition to credit cards and cash, so customers can settle bills with a tap of their phone if they choose. Food, developed by chef Matt Baker of Gravitas, is designed to come out of the kitchen in three minutes or less. (Order at a large window, and pick it up at another a few feet away.) At the end of the night, there's no need to queue up at the bar again to settle a tab: The doorman has a handheld payment system so you can tap your phone or insert a chip-enabled card on the way out.
"We're bringing the fast-casual model to the bar scene," Bayne says. "If you want a drink, go up and get it, and go back to your table. But if you're sitting at the bar, it's still full-service."
Outside of this new get-your-drinks-yourself system — which obviously means less demand for staff roaming the floor and checking in on multiple tables — Franklin Hall will seem familiar to those who've been to other establishments run by Bayne and partner Geoff Dawson. The cavernous industrial space, with 232 seats and two dozen more on a soon-to-open patio, is divided into little sections — high tables here, communal tables there, leather sofas by the soaring windows in the front, a loungey nook for 30 or so in the back. Murals of Ben Franklin and Franklin Roosevelt cover the exposed brick walls. Two fireplaces will arrive in time for winter. USB ports and power outlets are plentiful at the bar.
Bayne says there will be 20 beers on tap, along with three wines and a cider. The brews are a mix of familiar locals and bigger nationals, including Bell's, Avery and Wicked Weed. Some of the cheaper options will also be available in one-liter mugs for around at $10. At happy hour, which means $2 off beers from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, 33 ounces of Natty Boh will cost $8.
The menu is heavy on quick-and-easy bar food: Brats simmered in Natty Boh and dressed with sauerkraut and mustard; wings tossed in mumbo sauce; a "Frito Pie" that consists of beef chili and cheddar cheese poured into a four-ounce bag of Fritos and served with a plastic fork. The kitchen is open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Franklin Hall opens at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon on Saturday and Sunday, and a special brunch menu with breakfast tacos and a breakfast Frito pie (served with a sunny-side-up egg!) are in the works. Bayne says the bar will start opening at 10 a.m. on weekends once the Premier League season begins in August.
Franklin Hall, 1348 Florida Ave. NW. Opening June 9.