You may be drinking in a Metro car sooner than you’re commuting in one. Metrobar—a 5000 series train retrofitted with dining tables and a bar plus a huge outdoor patio—will open near the Rhode Island Ave-Brentwood station later this spring.
The bar comes from the founders of two popular DC rec leagues: Jesse Rauch, a former third-grade teacher who started the District Karaoke league, and John Groth, who’s behind DC Bocce League and has helped run restaurants like Acre 121. They’re joined by Matt Weaver, who has a background in construction.
The idea for Metrobar was born over drinks in 2019. “We were just talking about DC architecture and what connects all eight wards,” Rauch says. “The Metro is probably one of the closest things we have. We were thinking: what if we could get our hands on a Metro train car? What if we turned it into a bar?”
The conversation happened to coincide with Metro disposing of its 5000 series trains, so they worked with transportation authorities to acquire two cars that would have otherwise been scrapped. (One of the cars will be used for this venue; the other will be used for another project down the line. They’re both currently being stored in a lot in Maryland, near a fabricator who’s helping with the construction.)
First things first: they’ve torn the disgusting carpets out of the train and plan to replace them with hexagonal tiles inspired by Metro platforms. In fact, they’ve gutted the cars entirely, upgraded the HVAC and electrical systems, and removed a lot of the components underneath them so that everything can be mounted on trailers to move.
The 75-foot-long refurbished space will include a full bar with windows that open up to the outside patio as well as 50 to 60 seats inside (when Covid restrictions lift). Some of those will be original Metro seats that are reupholstered. Expect a generally more modern look that’s more subdued than the bright-orange color scheme of Metro trains past.
“It’s almost like a diner to me. You have little booths with nice walnut tables,” Rauch says. “You’ll know you’re in a Metro train car, but you’ll feel like you’re in a really nice social setting.”
The team is looking to add old go-go and punk concert posters on the walls and plan to bring in local artists to the site. The goal is that patrons will be able to see artists in action. The trains will also still have a microphone for announcements. “We’re hoping that it will be audible and you can actually hear what’s being said,” Rauch says. Don’t, however, expect the constant doors opening and closing sounds: “I think that would be a little over the top.”
Another 300-plus seats will fill the 11,000-square-foot outdoor space, some of which will also be floored like a Metro platform. In keeping with the repurposed theme, some tables will be made out of giant wooden spindles that were once used for wires.
Metrobar plans to only serve beer, wine, and spirits from local makers—like DC Brau or Cotton & Reed—that are generally located near the Metrorail system. You can bet the cocktails will have cutesy Metro-themed names. While there’s no kitchen on the train, the bar will have food trucks on site and pull from a forthcoming food hall at the Bryant Street development across the street.
While this is the first Metro-themed bar with an actual Metro car, it’s not the first local watering hole to go with a transportation theme. Union Social in NoMa featured a red line cocktail, crosswalk wallpaper, and full-sized stoplight. It was short-lived, but inspired no shortage of Metro jokes.
Hat tip to @eat_dc for first reporting news of Metrobar’s arrival.
Metrobar. 640 Rhode Island Ave., NE.