Roundtable Discussion: First Rule for Your Bar

For the triumphant return of the roundtable (Tonzi stop sending death threats, leaving Busch Light on my porch, and ordering me Foster Oil Cans at RFD), I asked my fellow J Street-ers what their first rule would be if they owned a bar and did not have to worry about the effects of their rule (i.e. loss of revenues, fines for breaking the law, etc).

The background for this came from a drinking session with Dr Boozenstein at the summer opening of a much hyped bar. We were drinking, watching a shit-ton of people pass through the area, listening to kids (yes, kids at a bar) whine and parents shout their responses due to the loud music, and jostling for a position at this seemingly local (two doors down from where I was living at the time) bar. Naturally, one of my first thoughts was that the two of us should open a barebones bar a half-block up the street that catered to locals and only served a handful of beer in cans/bottles and had three taps (Dry Creek Cafe in Austin would serve as a template).

Of course, I’m sure few people open a beer bar in D.C. with the explicit desire to have the bulk of their clientele live in places where they have both taxation AND representation, so how would I go about creating my perfect (aka local based) bar?


50% of the bar stools for people who live in the zip code (IDs would be checked) or I recognize (aka regulars).


No macro beers on tap.


A portion of the bar (basement, spot with big TVs, etc.) would be reserved for those watching the/a game.  You have to make your loyalties apparent to enter that area.

Dr Boozenstein

Good bars reward loyal customers.  I really like the idea of a reserve list, but most places that have a reserve list only have it as a place to stash high dollar specialty bottles.  Bullocks to that!  Allah willing, my bar will have a “reserve” list that will have specials for every budget as well as a hidden menu with it’s own secret language a la In-N-Out Burger.  You just have to know how to ask for it.  Exclusivity for the masses!


So, I was really struggling with an answer for this roundtable.  I could come up with plenty of “concept bars” I’d own (e.g., Cask-only), but I couldn’t think of a good rule, so I asked Shintern to clarify, and this is what he offered:

Best thing I could suggest is to close your eyes and either think of (a) your dream bar and what would be the first step you would take to make it happen, or (b) think about something you hate at bars and ban it”

So I sat back, closed my eyes, and instantly it came to me – the one thing I absolutely loathe about bars: I’d ban people.  Seriously, there is nothing in this world I hate more than people at the bar.  They take up space, they make stupid drink orders, have annoying voices or laughs, and are just a constant reminder of how awful other people are.  First off, I should specify that I’m going for Sarte here, not Groucho Marx.  I’d ban OTHER people, but I’d still be okay.  I guess there would need to be a bartender, otherwise why am I not just sitting alone in my apartment.  But it could get awkward for the bartender with just one patron, and I can even imagine the bartender wanting to have regular conversations with me.  So it’d be best if there were no other people and the bartender was mute.  I might get hungry, so it’d be helpful if the bartender could cook too.  I’m not talking Michelin rated, just cheeseburgers, wings, etc.

So my first rule, would be to ban people.  This would probably turn out to be the most profitable bar ever.

Don Von Matterhorn

First rule would be that you check your personal problems at the door.  No drama.  At my bar we would not give a damn about your personal problems.  If the dogs in your head are barking, go see a shrink or stay and slam your drink.


My bar would have a rewards program for loyal customers.  A glass would be given out (possibly with name engraved) for my regulars.  As long as they bring their glass in, I’d fill it at a lower cost than the standard charge.
Or perhaps a punch card.  “Buy 10 Beers, Get 1 Free!”


So, if J Street Beer ever opens a bar, there will be plenty of seats, but the only person will be X, sitting in front of the TVs, wearing a Cubs hat, drinking a non-macro beer from the Reserve List, with a personalized glass that says “My Shrink: By the time I finish this session, it’s time for another.”

Yea right, like X will ever be not stressed…

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