Food  |  News & Politics

What Is the Deal With Harry’s Bar?

Four people were stabbed near the Proud Boys hangout on Saturday

Trump supporters crowd Harry's Bar on Nov. 13. Photograph by Evy Mages

Harry’s in the Hotel Harrington downtown is a go-to drinking spot and gathering place for Trump’s supporters, including the Proud Boys. On Saturday, as the President’s fans gathered to protest the election results, clashes between the far-right group and anti-Trump protestors erupted nearby, resulting in four stabbings with serious injuries.

Harry’s has become a popular hangout for the younger MAGA crowd over the last few years, in part because it’s close to the Trump hotel but has much more affordable drinks. The pub was packed with Trump supporters after the Million MAGA March in November, with patrons singing “God Bless the USA” and waving a big blue lives matter flag in the street out front. Few wore masks.

The dive-y watering hole has repeatedly violated DC’s Covid safety restrictions. Harry’s was socked with $2,000 in fines for unsafe conditions on the weekend of the MAGA march, including insufficient table spacing and “unmasked patrons standing and talking and no social distancing,” according to the inspection report. A month earlier, the District issued two separate warnings to Harry’s for similar offenses after President Trump retweeted a video showing maskless supporters in the bar cheering and fist-bumping police. No further warnings or citations were issued over the past 24 hours. If the bar faces a third mask violation, its liquor license will be reviewed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control board.

Harry’s leases its space from the 106-year-old Hotel Harrington, which is the city’s oldest continuously operating hotel and has a long history as a local gathering spot. After Prohibition, it operated a popular restaurant and a long-running cocktail lounge called the Pink Elephant, and it was the original home of DC’s first TV station (now known as Fox 5) and former classical-radio outlet WGMS. The Milt Grant Show, a teen rock-and-roll dance party, aired live from the hotel in the 1950s.

So how does the owner of this storied business feel about the bar on its ground floor being so associated with Trump? The Harrington has remained in the hands of the same family for its entire history, but according to managing director Ann Terry, owner Charles McCutchen—a nuclear physicist and grandson of the co-founder—recently died, and a succession plan is still being sorted out. In the meantime, Terry has taken a hands-off approach to the bar ruckus. “It’s Harry’s responsibility,” she told Washingtonian before this weekend’s violence. “I really don’t keep up with it a lot. We don’t play any part in running things.” As for the potential impact on the hotel’s reputation: “It’s not something we can control, really.”

Terry referred further questions to Harry’s owner John Boyle, who didn’t respond to emails or phone messages (sent prior to the incident this weekend). When Washingtonian called the bar directly, the man who answered went to fetch Boyle. The employee could be heard in the background telling somebody a reporter was on the line. Soon after, he returned and said, “So sorry, honey, [Boyle] just stepped out.” Then he hung up. 

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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.