News & Politics

Then And Now: What’s Replaced Six Classic 1980s DC Haunts

Photos of what used to be Tracks, DC Space, Kilimanjaro, and other spots that cool people went back in the day.

The long-gone Georgetown new-wave boutique Commander Salamander was recently resurrected for the filming of a new Wonder Woman movie that’s apparently set in 1984 Washington. That got us thinking about other favorite haunts from the Reagan era—and what has replaced them.

D.C. Space

443 Seventh Street, NW


Poets, jazz artists, comics, and punk acts jammed on the tiny stage of this club, once the heart of the city’s underground. After the last chord, the crowd—who had paid a few bucks to see acts like Fugazi, Soulside, or 9353—spilled out into the dark, nearly deserted streets. It’s now a Starbucks, with coffee brewed right on the spot where drummers once pounded their kits.


1724 California Street, NW


“Sound technician . . . sound technician: Let the bass rule the house!” That command, issued from Kilimanjaro’s stage during a mid-1980s gig by H.R. of local legends Bad Brains, could serve as the club’s slogan. It was a hub for international music and a hot spot for DC’s African and Caribbean diaspora. Today it’s the site of Mint, where members pay $148 a month for cardio and strength classes.

Food for Thought

1738 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Bistro du Coin.
Bistro du Coin.

Hippies, punks, vegetarians, and anyone looking for a cheap bite found a home at Bobby Ferrando’s restaurant, also remembered in certain quarters as the spot where Bobby’s son Dante and his bandmates in Gray Matter played a roof set in 1986. The veggie burgers have been replaced by boeuf bourguignon at Bistrot du Coin, but Food for Thought lives on at Dante’s 14th Street club, the Black Cat.

Yesterday and Today Records

1327 Rockville Pike, Rockville

Sadaf Halal Restaurant.
Sadaf Halal Restaurant.

Looking for the first pressing of Machine Gun Etiquette by the Damned or the latest Negative Approach seven-inch? Skip Groff’s Rockville strip-mall shop was one of the area’s best places to find music outside the mainstream. Even cooler, musicians you could see onstage at D.C. Space and the 9:30 Club were working right there at the store. Sadaf Halal Restaurant now occupies the site.


1111 First Street, SE


For many young people coming out in the 1980s (and plenty of straight people, too), Tracks was a haven. The warehouse club in a then-desolate part of town offered huge video screens, of-the-moment music, and even an outdoor beach-volleyball court. Everyone was welcome—especially if you wanted to dance. It shut down in 1999, and development around Nats Park has made the area unrecognizable today.

Biograph Theater

2819 M Street, NW


Whether you were looking to check out the latest John Waters flick on a months-long run, a Marx Brothers comedy classic, or a double bill of Akira Kurosawa films, this was the place to go in the pre-DVD era. Located in a former automobile dealership in Georgetown, the movie institution offered programming for just about every kind of sensibility. It has since been replaced by a CVS.

This article appears in the August 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

Alex Daniels

Alex Daniels is a staff writer at the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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