A Note About Temperance Hall

I had the opportunity to speak with one of the owners, Matt, tonight and I’ll be meeting with him for a longer discussion this weekend. But he did ease a lot of my concerns and I wanted to share them with you before I do a full post on the change of ownership next week.

  • It was very important to Josh and Rob [the sellers] that Temperance remain a Petworth neighborhood bar.
  • Temperance has a different kind of license so there will continue to be a low key feel. I.E. There are not likely to be dance parties breaking out with live music and DJs.
  • They are not trying to replicate Wonderland at Temperance Hall. In other words Temperance will not become a Wonderland annex or outpost.
  • They are still going to keep the same decor, feel and ambiance with a slight change to the layout which will include the addition of some more booth and upholstered seating.
  • The name Looking Glass Lounge is not set in stone although it will probably be renamed that at some point.
  • They understand the importance of the “neighborhood” bar and believe sincerely that the current patrons will be very happy in the future.

I also spoke with Dan Searing the general manager who assured me he will be staying on as general manager which I think says a lot about the new owners. Much more to come next week but I think any fears that Temperance will simply become a Wonderland II have been put to rest.

46 Comment

  • Prince Of Petworth

    More info from Washington Post Going Out Gurus here.

  • This sucks.

    Wonderland is nice–not usually my taste, but nice. But there are different kinds of places for different kinds of folks. And some (like me) prefer variety.

    I know the manager of Temperance always envied Wonderland’s crowds. And I suspect Wonderland owners think they can turn Temperance into the Cash Cow that is Wonderland. I can’t help but think these are naive expectations.


    I sure will miss Fugi Fontina, Prohibition Peanuts, those unbelievable garlic fries, UFO and the occasional fine scotch…


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  • I’m with the ‘this sucks’ crowd.

    I go to Temperance Hall because of the microbrews, whiskeys, awesome burgers, and because the 20’s theme makes it a bit different. Sounds like they are planning to get rid of all of those.

    And $3 domestic beer is supposed to be a draw? I can drink crappy beer at home for a buck a bottle, thanks.

  • I hate to be positive but at least it’s not shutting down permanently, what we would we do then?

  • fucking wonderland

  • Folks, if Dan Searing is staying on as general manager we’re pretty much guaranteed things will NOT go to crap. There may be some changes, but I’ve worked with Dan before, and the guy’s got class & taste. This is not going to be the end of days as some are making it out to be.

  • If they get rid of the burgers or the wings I will have a conniption and I will not be embarrassed about it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • I agree with all my fellow posters…despite the promises of the new ownership I have been around long enough to predict what will happen to Temperance, uh, “Looking Glass Lounge.”
    Maybe its just me being selfish…I like being able to camp out at a booth for 3 hours on a Sunday listening to fantastic music with my lady friend and munching on some tasty pancakes..I’m not one for all-you-can-eat bacon and Delerium and consarnit I don’t want no changes!!!
    Ok…I’ve vented. Perhaps when the new place does become an extension of Wonderland, music/clientèle and all, there will be another low-key, neighborhood friendly bar opening up in Park View, right?

  • I think it’s pretty funny that Wonderland is suddenly the bad guy in the neighborhood. I absolutely agree that a diverse assortment of bars is necessary, and I also agree that Temperance Hall is a great bar already, but it’s not as if the Wonderland Ballroom is a blight on the neighborhood. In fact, if Temperance Hall had to be sold, I can hardly think of a better group to buy it than a bar that’s only a few blocks down the street and that has staked its name on being one of the best neighborhood bars in the city. More than almost any other buyer, I trust that the folks over at the Wonderland will pay attention to what has worked for Temperance Hall to date, and that they’ll be receptive to input from the community.

  • Can I just put to rest the rumor that Wonderland has shxte beer?

    Sure, they do Nelson Mandela (Stella) and Hoegaarden (and bloody Yuengling), but they also have Paulaner Hefeweizen, Budvar (or Czechvar as it is marketed), a couple of different Bells products on tap (the Michigan brewery, not the dodgy Scotch) and probably more I can’t remember off the top of my head.

    Not a shabby mix if you ask me.

    Some rubbish boozers have excellent beer (the Old Dominion Brew House in the Convention Ctr and the Elephant and Castle on Penn Ave).

    Some excellent boozers have rubbish beer (Fox and Hounds, Raven).

  • Folks. This is going to happen. Our opportunity to shape the out come is now. As I mentioned before. Take the time and drop wonderland an email. It only takes a second. The email address is [email protected]. Perhaps PoP could get a specific name for us to contact with concerns when he talks to them. These folks do not want to set up a business plan that will loose them thier core clientell that they will relay on.

  • Pip, what is the problem with $3 domestic beers? Yes, we know we could sit at home on the couch on a friday night and drink beers for $1 each.

    Yes… but then we would be sitting at home on the couch on a Friday night drinking beer…???

    I pretty much only bought the $3 PBR’s the couple times I went to Wonderland. I’m just not that rich! 🙂

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it agian. The things that affected the amount of money coming into Temperance Hall were the following.

    1. Georgia Ave. The block is still a bit questionable, as opposed to the corner-bar comfort that Wonderland provides.

    2. Slow service. You never get your food quickly at Temperance. That’s how it is.

    3. Awful street signage. How many first-timers have you given directions to that drove past the place a number of times?

    A significant re-branding of the bar is not going to change these things.

    1. Georgia Ave. — cleaning up the block is more than one bar/yoga house can do. Unless Wonderland is going to buy an adjacent shop, this is pretty much beyond the bar’s control.

    2. Slow service. Some new kitchen equipment, more pressure on the cook(s), and maybe a small expansion could solve this. Not a total financial nightmare.

    3. Awful street signage. More people would come if they could see a sign as they drove down Georgia.

    The Prohibition theme is awesome. The food, without exception has been great. The beers are always quality, though the arrival of a draft IPA is an improvement. The decor inside is tremendous.

    It’s just a terrible shame that the Wonderland owners are making aggressive changes that are wholly unnecessary all in the name (unstated, of course) of building their brand in DC.

  • I ate brunch at Temperance Hall this Sunday and was shocked at how terrible the food was. I guess I can chalk this up to the turnover but I was not planning on ever going back. My “tuscan potatoes” were barely warm out-of-the-freezer potatoes of the kind I used to get in the college dining hall. The “chipotle cheese grits” were also room temperature, tasted like garlicky paste and had no chipotle or cheese flavor whatsoever. The pancakes were lumpy, and my “semolina roll” was again a right-off-the-Sysco-truck special. Perhaps the residents of this area were so excited about having ANYTHING that they lost sight of the facts…

  • I might place slow service above location in your list above. I already live in this neighborhood, so I have to deal with GA avenue whether I go to Temperance or not. But every time I go, almost without fail, I have to wait an eternity for my food and it almost always comes out wrong. Last time, I had to wait an hour just to get my check. This is the single biggest reason I have not become a regular. Hope the once and future owners of Temperance/Looking Glass are reading this.

  • why did the management change? I’ve only been to TH a couple times but I had good experiences both times.

  • Scott and Dan (and Will, my man) make this place what it is and why I love to go. So if nothing else its already 33% worse starting Tuesday. Wonderglass Hall nothing…

  • also, good god turn down the music. our brunch was also marred by one of the waiters repeatedly turning up the (profane hip hop with a number of children in the room) boomy music on the jukebox. Someone needs to take a look at their EQ settings as well, the bass is very boomy and muddled and makes conversation difficult.

    sad really because I wanted to like this place, living near Howard and dying for more options in the area.

  • Some friends and I ate dinner at Temperance last week and the food was definitely not up to par. In fact, my sandwich was basically tasteless–definitely not the same as the one i’d been ordering in past visits.

    That said, I don’t think Wonderland is a bad place at all. The owners seem pretty responsive to the community. The service at Temperance can definitely use some sprucing up, and personally, I’d like to see a bit more variety on the menu (ok, i’m a vegetarian, so i don’t get the hamburger thing).

    My biggest objection is to the name change. I’m not stuck on Temperance, by any means, but “looking glass lounge” sounds a little strip-club like to me. I doubt I’d walk into a place with that name unless I knew who owned and frequented it!!!

  • With all due respect to the management, the food quality at Temperance has been rumored to be almost as bad as Dante’s old restaurant “Dante’s.” That was a “cool” hangout with microwaved lasagna. I’ve heard multiple people tell me that in conversation the staff focus on things that don’t matter to anyone (exotic ryes, jukeboxes) while failing at the things that should never go wrong (service issues, service timing, food quality, food flavor. The era of having a cool jukebox was over when people got ipods. I think it’s awesome that they do, but it’s like having a cool pair of shoes- I’d look better in crappy shoes if I did sit ups and lost your gut.

    The 1920s theme hasn’t been cool since Bugsy Malone, you know? I understand that Dan likes art deco, but that doesn’t mean that it’s something to focus on in life.

    I am sure that it’s really nice to have around, but the place had many many faults and while I never experienced them, it was really very sad when people started telling me it was going downhill and key points were mismanaged in favor of Erte elements no one cared about.

    The idea that they’d play hip hop at ALL is shocking and lame.

  • To “this is hard to write” so are you saying it would be better if everyone sat in the bar and listened to their ipod? sounds awesome…

    “The idea that they’d play hip hop at ALL is shocking and lame.” are you kidding? Glad I had temperance while I did instead of your ideal bar. Go back to georgetown.

  • To “this is hard to write” so are you saying it would be better if everyone sat in the bar and listened to their ipod? sounds awesome…

    yes, that’s EXACTLY my point, glad you took the time to read it! sheesh!

    Go back to Georgetown? Has anyone over the age of 21 gone to a Georgetown bar since 1988?

  • Shawn – OK, you have a point about the 3$ beer thing. I guess what I mean is really that, when I’m paying over the top for beer, I’d rather be paying for good stuff, even if it’s more.

    This Is Hard To Write – I hardly think having a 20’s themed bar is focusing on something in life. It is pretty cool though. Also, I would love it if you did some sit-ups and lost my gut; that’d be sweet. Far better than me doing the damn things.

  • i like the 20s themed bar but apparently i’m not the only one to find the food service recently pathetic… seriously i was appalled by brunch on sunday. glad at least to find that they are not flat out liars (“tuscan potatoes”) but rather apparentlys omething has changed recently. i’m betting they had to dial back the ingredients due to cost issues.

    also on the hip hop, the hip hop is fine but explicit lyrics and booming bass are hardly appropriate for 1PM on Sunday with children in the room. One of the two waiters was responsible for this, he kept going and turning up the music bayond all reason. maybe he needs a hearing aid?

  • Email I just wrote to Wonderland Mgt:

    Hi Wonderland,

    Congratulations on your purchase of Temperance Hall. I suggest the following to ensure I keep coming:

    Service Needs to Improve at TH
    Improve Food at TH
    KEEP Prohibition Theme!
    KEEP Name!
    KEEP Decor

    Congratulations again and I hope this is a success!

  • It is a bar that serves food.

    Did you ask them to turn it down or are you just assuming they would do the right thing and, noticing there are kids in the bar, turn it down or off? I only ask because I’m guilty of assuming people will do the right thing.

    Still, like I said, regardless of time, it is a bar. People swear in bars. I mean, at 1pm I could be cursing at the refs on the TV during a Skins game.

  • @This is hard to write: Do NOT go disrespecting the memory of Dante’s. Back in the day, nothing said 3AM like a Viking Ship at Dante’s after closing down the Black Cat. Yeah, the food sucked, but it was THERE, it was open late as hell, and after 17 beers who cares?

  • Jay’O glad you wrote. Post the response. I will post mine when I get it. I think all points made about potential improvements should be made in addition to the things we like. The more people who write in the more attention will be paid!

  • Okay folks, enough. I’m just gonna burn the fricken place to the ground. Problem solved.

  • I just can’t stand it anymore. I am not too sure why I am reading all these posts..morbid curiosity, actual interest, or maybe because I go to Temp Hall pretty much every week and know employees there, etc. but folks, get a grip, it’s a business..and a relatively new one at that. The guys that sold it sold it to make some money. The folks that bought it, bought it to make it successful AND to make money. They will make changes, some you like, some you definitely won’t…such is life and commerce. You tell them whether you disagree by either giving them your money or not giving them your money. I am completely amazed, and a little disgusted, with this idea that business owners want to be told what they should sell, make, serve, etc. by a “possible” clientele. If owners went just by that to guide them in their business models…well, it wouldn’t work. You get 50 people telling you what they would like, you get 50 more telling you that that is stupid and this is what you should do. And this idea is so freakin’ common in this neighborhood (Petworth). And ya know what…it doesn’t work. A couple of years ago everyone was so happy that Wonderland had opened and now…they are the Big Bad Wolf because they are successful (?) So if a business does do what everyone wants them to do and it works, well, hell, screw them! they sold out! Give it a rest people! There are much more REALLY important things to be concerned about. And look at it this way, if the Looking Glass Lounge (or whatever it is called) does become wildly successful, well, you can sit there on your barstool lamenting the “good old days” and tell all the dreaded Orange Liners, etal. how Temperance Hall was soooo much cooler. Or you can stay home in protest.

  • Damn! Why didn’t I think of that!

  • To paraphrase Hoosiers, if the garlic fries go, I go. If the garlic fries stay, I stay.

    (still hate the new name though. It just sucks on a bunch of levels).

  • i think in the past year that temperence has slowly declined. the servers used to be friendly and even though it may have been a bit slow you got the correct stuff and it was done with a smile. over time, the servers have changed (not for the better) and service has gotten slower. like really f’in slow. at the bar things have been fine with dan and scott. and will is one cool dude at the door. i used to go there weekly, now its not even monthy. i think that i’ve gotten a bit sick of the food (not thats its bad, just not amazing) and been hoping that they would get a good ipa on tap (when i first started going there it was smuttynose or dogfish head, now its nothing (do they again now?? that may make me go a couple of times soon.)) i hope with the changes that happen that mainly they work on service because thats the biggest change that is needed, and maybe a few more food selections.

  • First, people who haven’t been going to TH since it opened, the service used to be great. It’s always good at the bar in my experience, and it used to be good till about 8 months ago at tables. I came back to TH after not being there a while and was a little shocked at how it had dipped.

    Second, the music is controlled almost always by the customer. The internet jukebox is yours for the money-wasting. Don’t blame the staff that some other customer picked crappy music. I’ll agree on volume based on the mood of the bar in general, but selection is all YOU.

    Third, Wonderland hasn’t felt like a neighborhood bar to me since before about six months after it opened. Busy nights and weekends feel like a club atmosphere almost, which is great when you want that, but I think it grew out of it’s “neighborhood bar” feel, other than it’s location. That and a couple jackass bartenders made me stop going and instead go to places like TH.

    I was there for brunch on Sunday as well, but my French Toast was awesome. Though given the worsening of service, I’m not surprised by the reports of lowering food quality.

    As long as they improve the service and return the food to it’s previous quality, I’m fine with new management. A name change would be unfortunate but not a deal-killer, though “Looking Glass” sound frickin stupid to me.

  • WoW! So it is true i didn’t believe my friends…Oh how sad i’ll miss you TH.Thank god red derby opened..

  • i am dissapoint.

    i was a hoping for making strip club, or massaging parlor.

    now it is just same as before with new name and new customs.

    can we make petition for to have ladies like my seester to serve mens?

    why this neighborhood always go down?

    i miss kazakhstan bar of drinks on tabs and donkey pulling after midnights…

  • the wonderland folks have done a great job of managing that place. you people may not remember but that used to be a skechy corner too. i’m looking forward to the change….hopefully they will lighten up on that awful garlic smell in Temperance

  • I think the new name is meant to tie in both places: “Alice in Wonderland”, “Through the Looking Glass”, I guess I should be surprised that no one picked up on this.

  • >I think the new name is meant to tie in both places: “Alice in Wonderland”,
    >“Through the Looking Glass”, I guess I should be surprised that no one
    >picked up on this.”

    I think everyone picked up on this?

  • I’ve been a weekly regular at TH since it opened. The food/service at the bar are fine.
    I can’t speak for certain, but I believe this past week the chef was sick or out. Maybe someone can confirm.
    I know Rose and Matt. They care a tremendous amount about making TH an enjoyable experience. They are not making wholesale changes, but little things, like putting a clear sealant on the brick walls so it doesn’t chalk up your clothes if you lean against it, moving out the church pews so you can actually see who’s at the bar – hey ya go to a bar to see and be seen, if not you can stay at home – and making the menu a little more simple. That’s not a big deal to me. Everyone should relax, be patient, and maybe use the yoga studio upstairs to learn how to take deep breaths.
    Will is the man though. He IS TH. Hope he’s in, will find out and report back.

  • Talked to Will last night, he’s still in with his grabbing and hugging.

  • The pews, the good beer, and a lot of the interesting alcohols are already gone from what I’ve seen. And they’ve replaced the barstools with backless stools that are probably less cumbersome than what was there, but look like they belong at Silver Diner or the malt shop, which is jarring.

    Just like anything, I am sure some changes will be good, and some will be bad, but I’m a little leery at this point. Mostly because they had a really well thought out alcohol and beer selection, and that has all been pushed to the wayside for what seem to be run-of-the-mill options that you can get anywhere. It’s too bad that we couldn’t have a little of both, at least.

  • what the fuck happened to the tv?
    not that its a neccesity but i find it strange that supposedly the remotes have been taken away so they can’t be watched. i’m about to bust out a universal remote and get myself some tell-lie-vision next time i go there. gimmie some sports as a slight distraction please.
    on the plus side they are adding more taps and seeing as how much i like beer thats a plus. but keep in mind “no tv and no beer make homer, something, something.” “go crazy?” “don’t mind if i do………………”

  • TT, BRILLIANT! Well said…

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