Friday Question of the Day – Would a Country Bar Do Well in DC?

A friend of mine is gonna kill me for posting this question because he thinks this a million dollar idea and wants to open one himself. Nevertheless a fun Friday Question of the Day will always trump my personal friendships… I was also psyched to find another really interesting fact from the cultural heritage trail in Mt. Pleasant (pictured above). It mentioned that there was a country bar located at 1419 Irving St, NW in Columbia Heights (that later became a rock bar) called the Starlite Restaurant. Coincidentally, It turns out that there is currently a vacant retail space in DCUSA in nearly that exact same address (next to the IHOP). Could a country music bar be reborn here?

And in general what do you guys think – are there enough country music fans to support a country bar in DC? If so, what neighborhood do you think would best support one?

Are there any other “specialty bars” missing from DC that would do well here? I’d also vote for and support a good old regular bowling alley.

125 Comment

  • Chick Hall’s Surf Club (just norht of DC) did great for about 50 years. There’s a pretty good country, bluegrass and roots rock scene here.


    • the only bar missing from dc is one that is not retardedly crowded. It doesnt matter how nice or different a bar is if you cant stand anywhere, make your way to the bar, or hear what people are saying. I would pay a cover for such a bar if they actually did crowd control.

  • if there is a mechanical bull, I will consider going

  • Count me in…that’d be a hoot. There’s zero good country music in this town, at least as far as I can tell, so it would definitely fill a void. Shoot, if a honky tonk can thrive on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (Yogi’s), Columbia Heights is a no-brainer.

  • There is a gay country bar that does quite well in DC.

  • When was it operating there?

  • A country bar would do great here. DC is a melting pot and needs something for everyone.

    • Oh 0 but that spot in DCUSA would be a terrible spot for a cool country bar. It needs to be in a spot like Wonderland Ballroom or something – not in a shopping mall.

      • Agreed
        A country bar in a mall would screams cliche and uncool while a country bar in a better location has the chance of being cool

        • what exactly is the cliche of a country bar in a mall? i’ve never seen that before. is it common?

          is it really a “shopping mall” if it just has a street entrance? i mean, what’s the issue?

  • This blog’s obsessive/excessive bar scene coverage and bar centric orientation both with images and text reaches for new heights here now with the imagined and non existent.

    Surely our urban life here in Washington now in 2011 cannot be so limited, is more involved and evolved than this, and as DC’s Neighborhood Blog merits a broader chronicle to the Beautiful Life than this repeated (and now seemingly tired) theme.

    Next reply:

    Yeah, partner. I’ll drink to that.

    Anyhow, might I suggest a look at a great monthly neighborhood journal now into its 5th decade:

    The InTowner.

    There are regular and repeated columns that a reader can look forward to every month like:

    Scenes from the Past,

    At the Museum Art Exhibition reviews,

    Food in the ‘Hood Dining Reviews,

    ‘From the Publisher’s Desk’ Editorial,

    and ‘At Your Service’ Home Service Directory.

    I encourage readers here and our PoP who once (and sadly, only once) made a guest column appearance in The InTowner monthly newspaper, no longer available in print, but on line at:

    • I like bar reviews. We need more bars. There is bar from me thats a block away and thats too far. Shut your face poop head. Your too high brow kick it down a notch.

      • Why don’t you meet him halfway and kick yours up a half-notch?

        You can start with your spelling, grammar and punctuation. It’s headache-inducing to read what you’ve “written.”

        And you can quit the name-calling.

    • I read this twice but I’m totally confused. I’m with CTK: Huh?

      • what is not to get?
        the guy would like a country bar. but is also suggesting that Pop broaden the coverage and emulate the intowner.

        its just a suggestion based on his perception that this blog covers a lot of bars.

    • What are you talking about? Over the course of the last couple days I learned from someone about painting masonry. It wouldnt have been possible if it werent for PoP’s post on painted brick.

      It sounds like you came on here to advertise your publication. Which, there’s nothing wrong with, but its completely inappropriate to put down PoP’s blog while doing it.

      I’m now less likely to read your writing, especially since you resort to publishing in downloadable PDFs… who does that? get with the times.

    • Anonymous are you selling ad space for the intowner?

    • Read a different blog then…last I checked there are a few dozen here in DC for you to choose from.

      Keep up the good work PoP! I like you just the way you are.

  • Plenty of midwest transplants and bluegrass fans in DC. It would do well, but it would need a gimmick. Like white barbecue or a Brokeback Mountain theme.

  • Isn’t Remington’s a county bar?

    • Yes, Remington’s is a country bar located on Pennsylvania Ave SE (close to Eastern Market metro station).
      so PoP – youre friend doesn’t have to kill you since his million dollar idea is already taken.
      As a plus, this bar is gay friendly, so it welcomes everyone!

      • Remington’s is a gay bar, not a gay friendly bar.
        A gay friendly establishment is an establishment that is not predominately gay but welcomes gays.
        Most gay bars are straight friendly.
        I’d say Remington’s is a straight friendly bar.
        Also, if Remington’s is still what it used to be (which I do not know) I would say it is a country western bar. Not a country bar, whatever that is anyway.
        And as for a bar in that location–I don’t think that IHOP can be successfully reborn there, not less a bar of any kind.

  • Country bar? Sure, why not.
    As for the last question: We’re seriously lacking a decent English. And while I respect Commonwealth, neh. Menu is too foofy & pints too expensive. Elephant & Castle has all the ambiance & soul of Chuck E. Cheez. Unless I’ve missed something else, seems like that’s it for the English.

  • There already is a country bar in DC, its located in Eastern Market on Penn Ave. Called Remington’s it’s one of the oldest gay establisments in DC. and there used to be Coyote ugly in Chinatown, but that came and gone.

  • Depends how it’s done… I won’t be going there until someone else tells me it’s safe.

    I remember Wyoming and Texas themed parties with Bush and Cheney –the bolo ties, belt buckles the sizes of plates, parking lots filled with Bronco SUVs.

    Which country? Which type of country?

    If it has a front porch like Madam’s Organ, then yes.

  • We need a good blues bar here, something bigger than the Zoo Bar. I still miss City Blues and Twist & Shout.

  • I’ve only been a couple of times, so I don’t know if it qualifies, but what about Stetson’s on U st.
    What’s on their jukebox? Do they have live music, and if so, is it country?

  • Wasn’t there a place called Bronco Billy’s back in the ’80s? Maybe earlier? Later? Had a great happy hour buffet.

  • Alt-Country-Wilco-type of place would satisfy many a hipster.

    I would have the guys at El West in Mt. Pleasant open a Norteno and alt-country music venue with Hill Country barbecue.

  • A real country bar and not some Disneyfied or hipster-oriented place would be great. There are probably loads of country bands that would be willing to play there.

    • i would be more inclined to patronize a hipster oriented alt country bar than some honest to goodness country bar.
      i’ve spend enough time in the south to do my damnedest to avoid those hard core country loving southerners.

      but everyone should have their own place.

  • I think you’d make money on it, for sure. Whether it would work or not is a whole other ball of wax. Assuming the intent would be for a legit country bar, probably not. My guess is that would either be overrun with hipsters who find themselves to be engaged in a deliciously ironic exercise or quickly become a favorite haunt for the staffs from every Red State congressional member’s office, seeking to remain “true to their roots.” Either way, it is not necessarily going to give you the vibe you’re looking for in concept.

  • as a native texan, YES. and it needs a texan menu to match.

    • I think it would be good with a hitching post decor and peanut shells all over the place!

      It would do wonders for DC’s struggling rat population!

  • DC is missing a world music/folk/acoustic music venue. Bluegrass and country would fit in that as well. But something that would have a eclectic mix of Afrobeat, salsa, cajun, Appalachian, etc. You can get good international artists at Lisner, but you’re chained to your seats in an auditorium, not a club. You can trek to Birchmire’s in Virginia, but they book a lot of over-the-hill ’60s acts for my comfort.

  • Nick’s in Alexandria is a pretty good time. Line dancing and karaoke and fairly close to the Van Dorn Street Metro.

    • +1 for Nick’s. That place is FUN, and the bar and front room are completely classic. Karaoke in the back is kind of a mess (or was when I was there).

  • +1000 on a bowling alley. Lucky Strike is an affront to the game.

  • Isn’t Stetson’s on U Street a country bar? Isn’t it also a gay country bar? Is it still even open? I don’t know, I don’t go to bars, but I think it’s still there.

  • A country bar would do well in DC – it would probably do best in a neighborhood attracting red state transplants – Capitol Hill, Georgetown, or “North Arlington”

    • When you say “red state transplants” do you mean political conservatives?

      • yeah grumpy, when I go to a bar…the last thing I consider is my political affiliation or the politics of the other bar goers.

        Lighten up Francis.

      • I meant people from red states regardless of their political ideology – country music is most popular in the South, West, and Midwest – regions of the country that tend to be more rural and yes, more conservative. Unless the West Coast and Northest have become the center of country music recently…

    • I would be curious to see these “red state transplants” on the Hill. In all of my years here, I’ve only run across a small handful – about the same as in any other neighborhood in the city, save perhaps G’town. Something tells me you don’t spend much time over here if you’re lumping the Hill in w/ G’town and N. Arlington…

      And, as others have mentioned, we DO have an excellent country bar, that is also a gay bar (AND a karaoke bar) – Remington’s – in which I don’t think I’ve seen much in the way of “red state transplants.” Then again, I’ve never asked anyone there where they were from or what their political ideology was since it doesn’t matter much to me one way or the other.

      • I used to work with a bunch of red state Congressional staffers — while many of them did not live on the Hill, I think the right kind place (not Remington’s apparently) would make them more likely to hang out there after work or even on the weekends. Does the term “red state” offend people? Haven’t we all seen an election map? I don’t assume that someone believes something on where they’re from, but country music is more popular in the rural areas and states in the South, West, and Midwest, right? Am I missing something?

  • I myself would go ironically, but there are tons of country fans all over the place. I think it would continue to clean up well after my obnoxious friends and I grow tired of the novelty.

    more importantly, every time I go see a movie in Chinatown I pray for an actual bowling alley in this city. it’s so sad.

    • how do you go somewhere ironically? what does that mean exactly?
      either you go, or you don’t go. either you enjoy yourself or you don’t.
      or do you have to be part of some subculture to not be ironic?

      do you go to indian restaurants ironically? or chipotle?

      • I’m guessing with a fake air of tolerant amusement that belies a presumption of superiority, as there’s a stereotype of country music fans as American beer drinking, blue collar, politically conservative folk. Read: the polar opposite of how many hipsters wish to be perceived.

        • so you’re saying that if jm goes, he will have an presumption of superiority?

          and not that he’s just looking for something fun and different to do on a friday night? i just don’t get it. i’m not a country fan, but i’d go to a country bar. sounds fun. and i don’t wished to be perceived as a “politically conservative folk” though i am an american beer drinking blue collar guy. some would even refer to me as a hipster. so if i go to a place like that, its because i’m being ironic and not just me?

          is it ironic for those folks stereotypical country fans to go to the ballet? or a (insert popular hipster band) show? can’t people just relax, have fun, and not be considered ironic?

          • It was JM who said he would go “ironically.” Nobody’s accusing him of it; he freely admits it and revels in it. He even says that his “my obnoxious friends and [himself]” would stop going after “grow(ing) tired of the novelty.”

            That’s what I would call waltzing in the joint with an air of superiority. Others might call it slumming, or deeming to mingle with the lower classes with the intent of mocking them. At least that’s how it reads.

            So, no, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to a country bar for a change of pace or something fun to do on a friday night. But it doesn’t look to me – and others – that this is what JM has in mind.

          • You’ve misconstrued my post, Anonymous. I clearly am not promulgating these ideas. I find them distasteful.

            T-street, right on.

  • You can hear classic country tunes from The Human Country Jukebox every Tuesday from 9-close on the second floor of Madam’s Organ.

  • I’ve been to a few bluegrass shows at Madams Organ. I don’t know that you can qualify that as a country bar, but I think they had (have?) a regular bluegrass night.

  • Absolutely we need a country bar, but I think old- school country and bluegrass would do much better than pop-country. Also, they should serve BBQ.

    I disagree with the ‘red-state transplants’ comment. I think the bar would do well anywhere. Everyone loves a bar that’s just a little trashy. Plus ‘red-state transplants’ live in more places than you mentioned. Mr. Grumpy should change his name to Mr. Judgey.

  • It took so long to get a proper biergarten in this city, that a true country bar is probably years away.

  • There used to be a few country places in mid- and upper-MoCo, maybe there still are, so I would say that it is possible for one do well in Th’ District.
    Oddly, just last week I was in NYC and a friend showed me what he described as “the best country bar anywhere in the five boroughs”. It may be the only one in NYC, but it does well for several other reasons – It has a great jukebox, cheap beer, looks like a dive (REAL dive, not Faux Dive), and they open at 10am.

  • Country bar? Meh. I wish there was a psychobilly bar.

  • Still wondering when the Starlite operated at 1419 Irving St. Anybody know? My apt. in 1987 overlooked that street and I don’t remember it.

    • saf

      It opened as a country place in July 1954, switched to rock in the 1960s.

      Haven’t found yet when it closed.

      Also trying to remember what the address of Chuck’s was – it was in that block. I wonder if it was the same place.

      • saf

        Having checked with my favorite historian – some time in the late 60s, it switched to soul and R&B acts. It survived only a few years after the riots.

  • Just make sure they don’t serve Charlotte BBQ – I hear it’s rubbish.

  • I think it would be great! Just include a lot of photos on the wall of nonwhites in cowboy gear. Country unfortunately in some places, is an all-white thing and that would stick out in a bad way in Columbia Heights.

    And the restaurant should hire the various Columbia Heights bluegrass/country/old tiimey bands to play like Hollertown which is playing 9-1am this saturday at Haydees in Mt. Pleasant.

  • I don’t listen to much country (outside of Johnny Cash) but country bars, if they have a good cover band, can be a lot of fun. The question being – are there any good country bands in the area? My guess is no….

    • Come to Axum’s Level X Lounge (9th and U) tomorrow night around 9 and see for yourself. The Human Country Jukebox will be playing songs by Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and more.

    • Yes.

      Ruthie and the Wranglers, Hall Brothers (formerly Heroes and Friends), Oklahoma Twisters (more western swing than country), Blue Moon Cowgirls, Bill Kirchen (who plays a little bit of everything.) I know there’s more – those are the only ones I can think of right now.

  • There are barely any decent rock bars in this ghastly city, much less country.

  • I will also be risking a friendship by mentioning this and I am sure most PoP fans will look down upon this theme but Stock Exchange bars are a blast.

  • This is a lesson to all of you who are friends with Mr. Petworth – don’t share your million dollar ideas with him! PoP – you have officially lost any chance of Superbowl Proscuitto.

    Oh and a country bar with line dancing and 5 different types of Lite Beer on tap would kill on the Hill – preferably 8th St.

  • Country bar, yes. In that wretched location, no. Just put a dry cleaner or cell phone store there.

  • Wretched? Do you recall what it used to be like? It’s paradise now compared to that.

  • A honkeytonk is needed. A country-themed bar is not.

    Ask yourself, would pre-op (face, not genitals) Kenny Rogers in “Six Pack” drink there (honkey tonk), or would Taylor Swift (country-themed bar)?

    Do you have the possibility of going home with a 45-year-old divorcee missing a few teeth (honkey tonk)?

    Will ordering a cosmo result in the bartender handing you a shot of whisky and a pair of pink panties (Honkey tonk, and perhaps Remingtons)?

    Please, no stupid “let’s pretend we are country” bars.

    As Jeff Black recounts watching Waylon Jennings yell at the crowd gathered at the Southwest Airlines terminal at SXSW,
    “Y’all should have kept it country. You f*cked up when you went rock and roll!”

    • Chick Hall’s was a genuine honky tonk. They still occasionally have live music there, but it’s not the same.

      • i only went there a handful of times since i don’t like to drink and drive, but that was indeed a gem of a place. i used to go see ruthie and the wranglers play there. great band.

  • em

    DC was once a great town for country – and there are still a lot of fans around (and a fair number of songwriters, bands, etc.). I think a country bar would do great, especially if it highlighted the varied forms of the genre on different nights (roots / folk, bluegrass, western, pop, etc.). Something a little more on the honky-tonk side would be fun – both for people who really enjoy the music and those who go “ironically” (I’m willing to bet that at least a few of those folks would end up coming back “for reals”).

  • YES! This is a great idea! DC is a melting pot and there are a lot of country fans. This has my vote!

  • YES PLEASE! Half of DCers are from the south anyway…

  • A good Lesbian bar please!!! Sakes alive – the gay boys even have a country bar and us ladies are sequestered at Phase – which is a lowbrow dive bar. Can we just have a normal lez bar sans jello wrestling and Drag Kings?!?!?!

    • HStreetRocks,

      The answer is, No. And it is simple economics based upon sterotyping.

      Knowing people who have worked at lesbian bars, real lesbian bars — not the fake jello wrestling, etc, — you take the two traits bar owners and bartenders hate most and combine them into one crowd — a penchant to drink cheap beer and not tip well.

      I was told that gay men buy cosmotinis at $10+ a pop, then tip well. Lesbians buy $1 PBR, and tip less than 10 percent, if at all.

      I know that is horribly stereotyped, but when livlihoods are on the line, people really don’t care about being politically correct. And I know bartenders who have great customers who are lesbians. But they all tended to agree that as a collective crowd, they didn’t, and it was slightly better financially to work at a bar catering to a cheap college crowd than a mature lesbian crowd.

      I admit my experience with those who worked in lesbian bars was in another city, but my lesbian friends also tended to agree with them. The bartenders said that in general women just don’t tip well, straight or lesbian.

      That is the reason they said true lesbian bars don’t work, and why you can have so many choices for gay men.

      • your posture lacks merit based on the success of lesbian bars in other cities – ie Lipstick Lounge in Nashville, Candy Bar in London, Abbey in LA – and those aren’t the lezziest cities – I don’t need more than one GOOD one – but thank you for your opinion.

  • Back to the country bar- I would totally be there. It would be weird in DCUSA… but DC definitely needs one. I am stuck going to Madam’s on a Tuesday?

Comments are closed.