News & Politics

Drink Company Is Doing an Esports Pop-Up Bar This Summer

"Levels Unlocked: House of DC Heroes" will include nods to Overwatch, NBA2K, and Smash Bros.

A Feb. 16 gamewatch at Penn Social for the inaugural Washington Justice match. Photo courtesy of Kaz Sasahara for Washington Justice

As enthusiasm grows within the District’s esports community, local gamers will face a new adventure this summer: pop-up bars. Events DC and Drink Company (the group behind the Game of Thrones and Christmas bars) are teaming up to create a three-room pop-up called “Levels Unlocked: House of DC Heroes,” themed after the local Overwatch, NBA2K, and Smash Bros. teams and players.

But first, “Levels Unlocked” will travel to downtown Austin on March 13 as part of the SXSW Gaming expo for what Events DC CEO Gregory O’Dell says will be an interactive gaming experience where fans can play with pro gamers.

“What other sport do you get a chance to see LeBron James play in the game and be side-by-side?” says O’Dell. “It’s obviously not to that level yet, but the sport is growing exponentially.”

According to the Events DC team, the pop-up bar will return to DC in July or August in the space where the Cherry Blossom PUB is currently located. It will have many of the same elements as the Austin bar, including Smash Bros, NBA2K, and Overwatch-themed cocktails by Drink Company, and music by popular DJs in the esports community.

Specifics for the summer pop-up bar are still in the works, but Drink Company president Derek Brown says that from a gamer’s perspective, “it’s going to be something pretty incredible and something up to the level that we usually produce these pop-ups.”

The pop-up at SXSW will feature pro gamers and popular DJs in the esports community. The DC pop-up, coming this summer, will feature many of the same elements as the one in Austin. Flyer courtesy of Events DC.

Brown calls DC a “hub” of esports, which is already considered a billion-dollar industry. Currently, matches for the Overwatch League are played in Southern California, while NBA2K teams face off in New York. In 2020, home matches will come to the newly-built Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast DC.

“We see this as a long-term play,” O’Dell says. “We’re going to bring this back to DC and continue to drive this.”

Assistant Editor

Elliot joined Washingtonian in January 2018. An alum of Villanova University, he grew up in the Philadelphia area before earning a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post,, and, among others. He lives in Bloomingdale.