No-Cover Bar Options for New Year’s Eve in Washington

Avoid the madness with these easygoing imbibing destinations.

By: Jessica Voelker

For a no-frills New Year's, head to Boundary Stone in Bloomingdale. Photograph courtesy Boundary Stone

Smug as the expression may seem, there’s a reason New Year’s Eve is often referred to as “amateur night”: Things get kinda crazy. One way to handle the insanity is to wait things out at home, but think about it this way, sane citizen of the drinking universe: With the possible exception of St. Patty’s Day, New Year’s Eve is when you and your kind are needed more than ever. So, better to venture forth in the early evening and claim a stool or table at one of these bars and restaurants, all of which are taking a low-key, no-frills approach on the 31st. Sure, some of them may get crowded, but since none charge an entrance fee, you’re free to wander at your leisure.

It’s business as usual on New Year’s Eve at newish Bloomingdale bar Boundary Stone. There’s no cover, no live music, and no specials beyond a midnight toast, says owner Gareth Croke.

Breadsoda in Glover Park will be cover-free on the 31st, and will offer free Champagne at midnight, plus complimentary pool and shuffleboard throughout the evening.

Dickson Wine Bar on U Street opens at 6 PM on New Year’s and will have drink specials but no charge at the door.

According to a staffer, there will be “absolutely no cover charges, but lots of specials” at moules-frites-and-Belgian-brews destination Granville Moore’s this NYE. Arrive early to secure a spot at the narrow H Street eatery—given the first-come-first-served policy, it’s sure to fill up fast.

Okay, so a dance party isn’t exactly low-key, but it’s the attitude we appreciate at Looking Glass Lounge just north of Columbia Heights in the Park View neighborhood. Plus the deejay doesn’t start spinning until 10 PM, and by then—who knows?—you may be feeling festive.

Robert Wiedmaier's Mussel Bar will be open from 10 AM to 1 AM. The live band goes on at 10 PM, around which time the happy-hour food menu will be offered.

Off the Record, the old cocktail stalwart in the basement of the Hay-Adams hotel, will open at 11:30 AM and close at one AM on the 31st, just as it always does on Saturdays.

“We’re anti-cover,” says Room 11 chef-owner Ben Gilligan, when asked about the NYE plan this year. “I think Dan is making a big bowl of punch,” he adds, referring to partner Dan Searing, author of the book The Punch Bowl: 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry. Room 11 will also be featuring St. Germain cocktails and giving away St. Germain–related prizes to its guests.

Neither the Alexandria nor the Ballston location of Rustico plans to make a big deal out of New Year’s Eve—both beer bars will be cover-free on the 31st. Dinner and draft specials are possible, but “nothing too crazy,” says a rep. Sounds about perfect.