When George and Louie Dross opened JV’s in 1947, neither brother could have predicted that their notion of serving up simple food and a rockin’ good time would last into the 21st century.
JV’s—officially JV Restaurant, named after its Falls Church neighborhood, Jefferson Village—is a genuine honky-tonk that has specialized in brew, burgers, and live music for most of its 60 years. The decor consists of signs like beer is the reason i get up in the morning, photos of patrons and musicians, and American flags.
The place is a favorite with veterans, who pack it every Memorial Day when Rolling Thunder is in town. But its fans are legion, evidenced by the fact that a yearlong celebration is planned to mark the start of JV’s seventh decade.
“There’s too many people who want to come celebrate,” says Lorraine Campbell, George’s daughter and now the owner/manager. The place holds only 50 people. So on one weekend each month in 2007, JV’s will throw a party featuring bands that have played there.
Back in the early 1950s, Lorraine recalls, a young Army guy named Eddie Fisher, stationed at nearby Fort Myer, would come in almost every morning to have breakfast with her father, George. Other patrons brought in guitars and sat on tables, picking and chatting. Fisher went on to become a popular singer. Somewhere along the way, George and Louie decided to book bands.
“In those days it was bluegrass,” Campbell says. Later the fare expanded to blues, rock, and country—all still staples at JV’s.
In the 1970s, Louie left to run another club, and George managed JV’s until his death in 1985. His wife took over, “but Mom really just came in to socialize,” says Campbell, who ran the place and then became co-owner after her mother died in 1999.
The clientele has consisted mostly of neighbors and other locals, but Campbell says customers come from as far away as southern Maryland.
A fair amount of music history has come through the doors, too. The Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene have played JV’s, as have members of Patsy Cline’s band. You can still catch musicians there who’ve played with Leon Russell, Charlie Daniels, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Celebs who show up at JV’s from time to time include Dan Aykroyd, who married a local woman and knows a little about the Washington music scene.
Campbell has sent T-shirts bearing JV’s logo and motto—ageless charm without yuppie bastardization—to Jay Leno, Hank Williams III, Delbert McClinton, and Vince Gill and received thank-you notes from each. She’s also sent them to US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Campbell admits she’s a little surprised that JV’s is still rocking. “I never thought it would go this long,” she says. “I’ve never thought of selling the place, but I have to say I never thought it would make it to 60.”