The Reef Abruptly Closes for Good in Adams Morgan

2446 18th Street, NW

Despite just reopening last Thursday, The Reef will be closing for good. Thanks to a reader for sending word. From their Facebook page:

“To Our Community,

As many of you know, the last few weeks have been very challenging for the Reef. After much effort, and cooperation between the ownership, our amazing staff and community, and the ABRA, we were able to regain our license and reopened our doors. However, as a result of the recent events we can no longer operate.

It has been our honor to be a part of the Adams Morgan Community for almost 12 years. We know many of you consider The Reef home and we consider you all family.

While we can no longer call 2446 18th St. home, we know that the friendships that have been created between the hundreds of employees and thousands of customers we have had the privilege to serve will endure for a lifetime.

Please welcome whoever is fortunate enough to recreate this space as you welcomed us all those years ago.

And please like The Reef on Facebook if you would “like” to be a part of an ongoing community. Who knows what will be next for us, but as always, everybody will be invited!

To everyone we say, “Cheers Bro”, and Thank You.

The Reef”

56 Comment

  • orderedchaos

    Wow… the end of an era. The Reef was fantastic fun over the years, and their recent remodeling of the main (2nd) floor was excellent. Sad that the roof situation drove them out of business.

  • Seems pretty vague. I have a hard time believing that the recent short term shutdown hurt their finances enough to close. That place printed money. It was huge, and packed every weekend and a couple nights a week in between.

    Sounds more like the ownership was thinking about getting out anyway, and this presented a good opportunity?

    • Businesses aren’t always as successful as they seem to outside observers. These guys had a brutal lease and the last several years have been very tough industry wide, Adams Morgan in particular. I wish them all better luck in the future.

  • It was really great when it first opened and for a number of years. But recently it seemed as though the menu and chef changed, so I haven’t been there in quite a few years.

  • What?! And I didn’t even get to say goodbye?

    The end of an era indeed! I have decided this is a major sign from the universe, or something.

  • That’s a shame; loss of the Reef will leave a big hole in the 18th Street nightlife scene. Does anybody remember the Thai (?) restaurant that used to occupy this space? Seems to me it would be nice if a the Reef could be replaced by a good sit-down restaurant, but I’d suspect the economics of rent and other costs in Adams Morgan make that an unlikely business plan. Any other bets about what will replace the Reef?

  • Whoever buys this place would be sitting on a gold mine. The rooftop alone is pretty valuable considering it’s one of the few very open/large rooftops on that strip (Jack Rose is way too far away even though I know it’s technically still Adams Morgan).

    • Mellow Mushroom is two doors down and has an expansive deck.

      • Not really much open space there. The roof portion that overlooks 18th street is filled with tables where people are sitting and getting waiter service so it’s really not the same.

    • They would be if the landlord wasn’t so greedy. Don’t know how they think they are going to get another business that makes as much money as the Reef. I guess it’s not relevant, as long as the rent gets paid. I’m worried it’s going to go Banana Republic, start a chain reaction, and there goes the neighborhood.
      I’ve long since switched to the 14th/11th/9th/Georgia scene anyway. I think 9th and 7th are going to be the new 14th and 11th. Hear me Brian? Something on the 64 bus line, OK?

      • Chain retail typically doesn’t go for second-story locations. And presumably a retail store won’t have much use for a roof deck, either. My bet is some new variation on a bar/club, since it seems to be the only way to have enough cash flow for what is probably a pretty high rent.

  • Maybe they’re getting sued? I don’t see how that doesn’t happen after a parolee bouncer stabs a patron

    • Pure speculation, but that was my thought too.

    • I too am speculating, but I’m guessing that the insurance company may have dropped them (or something like that) due to what I imagine would be a pretty hefty lawsuit.

      • Likely so, but when you get dropped it’s usually for the future and you can always get another insurance company to step in (probably at extortionate rates, but that’s another story). Their current insurance company still has a duty to defend them in court and pay out any settlement/verdict money up to the policy limit. That is, unless the insurance co. cites some violation of the terms of the policy.

        Like, say, not maintaining the video surveillance system so it would have captured an event like this.

        This is completely unfounded speculation, but it’s possible that when they notified their insurance company of a possible claim they got a “reservation of rights” letter, which basically says “We’ll defend you, but we think you violated the terms of the policy. If we determine for sure that you did, you’ll have to pay us back the legal fees and any settlement funds that are paid out.” That might have been enough for them to call it quits.

  • Super sad. The Reef was my go-to rooftop bar when rooftop bars were hard to come by in DC.

  • RIP The Reef, the rooftop, the locals discount, and your fish tacos. Many good memories of my early DC days here.

  • I remember when the Reef was initially shut down by MPD/ABRA a couple weeks ago one of the regular commenters on here insisted that that policy was unduly punitive and indeed abusive. I didn’t agree with that point of view, but it would be interesting to know the story behind this final abrupt closure. It could shed a lot of light on whether MPD/ABRA’s policy is a good or bad one. (Of course it might also shed no light.)

    • Not debating whether the emergency closure was warranted or not, but I highly doubt that it tipped the scales. Bars are constantly at risk for being shut down for a few days here and there over lots of things: fights, underage drinking, plumbing emergencies, etc. If their finances were so precarious that a few days’ suspension did them in, they were headed that way regardless.

  • From the comments, seems to be a significant loss to Adams Morgan and to DC’s nightlife in general.

    I never did patronage The Reef, but did a couple of times its predecessor Star of Siam. And, yes, the view and the experience of the rooftop was wonderful.

    What I remember most about that location, however, is the vacant lot is was. It was only in the early 1990s that the current structure was built! Looks old. Fits right in. But newish it is.

  • I’m told the landlord kicked them out. ABRA was allowing them to stay open. After the incidents they’ve had in the last year, (the guy jumping off the roof, the bouncer beating up a customer recently, and, most recently, the stabbing) The Reef was not long for Adams Morgan. It’s a shame, ownership and staff are good folks, but it would’ve happened eventually. RIP The Reef.

    • This would not surprise me. Their landlord, who owns several properties in the neighborhood, is not exactly the most upstanding character. You would not believe the rents he charges on these properties.

      • Not saying you’re wrong, as I don’t know the landlord, but are you saying that he’s not an upstanding character simply because he charges high rent? I don’t see anything wrong with simply charging what the market will bear. Could you elaborate?

      • I’d like to know more, too. If your claim of cancelling the lease is true, the guy seems actually more upstanding than not. If I were a property owner with a tenant like this, I’d be more than a bit wary of the liability/community impact/blood stains associated with a roof jumper, bouncer brawl, and now stabbing.

  • I love the printing money comment, With several owners all trying to make rent or mortgages plus rent on the business all the different insurances personal and business 2 sets of taxes.Printed money tends to fly out the door faster than you think.Unlike say passenger that charges 18.50 for a cocktail it’s hard to make that money back on $5 rail $3 miller lites..

    • Well said. Yeah anybody that merely looks at a bar and thinks they have even the slightest clue about their profitability is a moron. Without even knowing the cost of rent, payroll and overhead. What are you psychic? Please. Just because you get your car fixed doesn’t make you a certified mechanic. Nobody has any idea what the cost of doing business was for these guys except the shareholders. Sure they may be making money hand over fist but that doesn’t mean that they get to keep any of it. You have no idea what their bills are so how could you possibly know if they are making any money as a business? If you haven’t owned a bar or managed or worked in a bar in DC you don’t have a clue what you are talking about. Leave this to the professionals and stick to something you actually have some experience in instead of talking out of your behind. The last thing these people need is unfounded speculation and gossip to tarnish their legacy. I’m sure they are busy enough tryin to find a way to support themselves and their family’s without having to hear your ignorrant 2 cents

      • You sound upset. Let me condense your “point” for those unwilling to read your lengthy screed: I am strangely invested in this message board “debate” I’ve concocted, and under no circumstances should anyone express an opinion that might class with my own.

  • I am late to this news and was just sitting here thinking that maybe I’ll walk up to The Reef for a beverage since it’s re-opened. Now this. So, so disappointed to see it go. A true loss for the neighborhood. Thanks to all of the employees at The Reef who made it so enjoyable for everyone over the years. You will be missed!

  • Brian I love you bro.

  • Brian we love you bro!

  • I wasn’t a regular, but there just often enough to really miss the place. Brian is a cool guy and I’m sorry this happened to him and his staff. One night, some Virginia frat brothers were giving him a real hard time about his pirate schtick, but instead of throwing them out, he just cooly poured their drinks and otherwise ignored them. He was always quick to offer a free drink if he recognized you, plus the locals discount was a nice touch…hope he and the staff land on their feet.

  • This is the best news I’ve heard all week! So happy this place is finally closed! One down, many more to go. Let this be a lesson to other business owners! SHAME ON YOU REEF! Now hurry out of the neighborhood so we can get a small plates establishment

  • I’m really going to miss the place. While it may have been a total mess on the weekends, the rooftop was a relaxing, welcoming neighborhood hangout on weeknights after work. Brian is a great guy, and I’ll miss all the great bartenders who worked there over the years. They always had interesting beers on tap, and Brian was usually quick to concoct some sort of interesting shot for everyone at the bar. I hope something similar takes over that space, but it’ll never be the same.

  • It’s been awhile since I have been but I have to say that I am a bit choked up by it’s closing. So many good memories there for me and my wife and even my daughter for the kiddy happy hour. We were there on election night 2008 and there was tons of energy in AM in general that night. The night that Michael Jackson died, many of us had a thriller dance party on the roof. Thanks for the memories!!!

  • Darrel_J

    Pretty surprised by all these nostalgic comments. I remember when the Reef was fun, clean and a good time; but that was years ago. It’s been nothing but crowded, dirty, and unwelcome the past few times I’ve gone since 2011.

  • So it goes. I will miss their Belgian Sunrise

  • Those of us who have had Brian’s back since the days at Bedrock Billiards will remain loyal. I’m sure wherever he moves on to will be another popular place that is welcoming to locals. Unless he goes off to get a PhD in icthyology.

  • Sorry to see the Reef go. Good luck, Brian and I look forward to your next venture, Bro.

Comments are closed.