Food

Drink Company’s Themed Pop-Up Bars Have Permanently Closed in Shaw

Owner Derek Brown won't replace them with a permanent bar.

The 2017 pop-up Cherry Blossom bar in Shaw. Photograph by Farrah Skeiky.

Over the last five years, Drink Company has transformed its Shaw pop-up bar into a Christmas wonderland, a cherry blossom garden, Game of Thrones’ Seven Kingdoms, a David Bowie tribute, an e-sports game room, and much more. But DC’s most popular (and longest running) pop-up space has finally ended its run. The bar officially closed on Dec. 31 and will not be replaced by a permanent drinking destination.

“We’re tired. That’s probably the easiest way to say it,” says owner Derek Brown. “In essence, we open a new bar four or five times a year…. At the end of the day, it’s an overwhelming amount of work to do, and I don’t think we can continue to do it.”

Beyond all the work that went in behind the scenes, Brown says it was expensive to run a bar that was essentially closed six months a year and had two people on salary to design and construct ever-more elaborate environments. “It’s not a normal thing that bars do,” Brown says. “It wasn’t struggling per se, but it was in a place where it’s hard to see this being worth it.”

So why not open something more permanent? “I don’t think we had a good idea in mind, to be honest with you. We’ve used all our best ideas the last couple years,” Brown says. Before the pop-ups, Drink Company operated a trio of bars in that location: sherry-focused Mockingbird Hill, whiskey haven Southern Efficiency, and oyster bar Eat the Rich. Looking back, though, Brown says they were never the “perfect fit” for the space. He has no intention of bringing them back there or elsewhere.

Talk of the bar’s demise started circulating after Popville spotted equipment from the Miracle on 7th Street pop-up on the auction site Rasmus. If you’re looking for a memento, though, you’re not likely to find it there. Brown says the coolest stuff has already been hand-picked or disassembled. Mostly, it’s ice machines and bulk glassware for sale.

For now, Brown says he intends to focus on Columbia Room, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, as well as other non-bar related projects.

“I can’t say never but I don’t foresee me opening a new bar any time soon. For a lot of people that’s their goal. They got into it because they want to keep expanding and they want to create a restaurant and bar empire,” Brown says. “We just wanted to do cool shit, and we did it.”

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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.