Twice-Closed K Street Speakeasy Is Back Again With Some Changes

But not without some more liquor license problems first

The Rent's cocktails are named after DC neighborhoods. Photo by Stephen L. Miller.

K Street basement bar The Speak shut down twice for operating without a proper liquor license. Now, the bar is preparing to reopen on Dec. 8 with a new menu and new name: For Rent.

This time, business manager Jermaine Jones said Wednesday, the bar had its paperwork completely straightened out.

Except… it didn’t quite.

In September, the the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board cited the bar for two violations: using a trade name that hadn’t been approved and operating in a part of the building that hadn’t been approved. (Owner James Tillman also runs New Orleans-inspired bar Vieux Carre upstairs at 1413 K St., NW.)

The liquor board has since OKed the bar’s basement expansion, but as of yesterday, it had not approved “For Rent” as a trade name. Only after Washingtonian brought the problem to Jones’ attention yesterday did the bar’s attorney submit an application to use the name. They expect it to be approved by today. (UPDATE: The liquor board will review the name change request on Dec. 7.)

“As ridiculous as it sounds, it really was a clerical issue,” Jones says of the bar’s troubles since Tillman took over. (The liquor board also shut down the bar about a year ago, when it was operating under a different owner.)  We wouldn’t have reopened knowing that we didn’t have the credentials to open. That would be ridiculous.”

For Rent—named after the “for rent” sign that was originally plastered outside The Speak—has undergone a few minor design updates, but the vibe is generally the same.

Seth McClelland, the brand consultant who conceptualized The Speak, is no longer involved. Beverage Director Jesse Raines will oversee the cocktails, all named after DC neighborhoods, as well as a limited beer and wine list. Among his concoctions is the “K-Street” made with whiskey, vermouth, smoke, and liquid smoke as well as the “NOMA” with tequila, creme de cassis, lime, ginger beer, and mezcal. As far as food, the bar has upgraded from Lay’s potato chips to a meat and cheese board.

One thing that remains: a hidden entrance. But this time, Jones says they don’t want to call it a speakeasy: “It’s a cocktail and lounge.”

CORRECTION: The bar is called “For Rent,” not “The Rent.”

The Rent, 1413 K St., NW. Open Mondays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Fridays from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.


Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.