Tap99, which claims to be DC’s first 100-percent self-pour taphouse, opened last week in Navy Yard. Inspired by the old saying, “99 bottles of beer on the wall,” the new restaurant and bar across from Nationals Park literally features 99 self-pour taps on the wall. Yes, there are other self-pour options around DC (like nearby Walter’s Sports Bar), but Tap99 is the only one that does not also offer bar service.
The bar comes from 25-year-old Jason Cherry, who owns three Mission Escape Rooms in Maryland and previously raced cars professionally. He also opened DC’s first franchise of Kilwins—an old-timey, nostalgia-inducing ice cream and confections shop—right next door to Tap99 earlier this summer.
Cherry’s initial plan was for Kilwins to lease 1,200 square feet of space on the corner of Half Street, so his location would face the baseball stadium. But after negotiations with the landlord, Cherry ended up upgrading to 4,400 square feet in order to lock in this coveted location. With 3,200 square feet of extra space and 48 hours to come up with a new business concept, the idea for Tap99 was born.
Implementing PourMyBeer technology, up to 33 people can pour themselves a drink at once using touch screens, each connected to three taps, along the walls. Upon arrival, you’ll scan your ID, open a tab and receive a card that looks and works like a hotel key. Use your card to activate any of the electronic self-pour taps. Choose from 75 beers, ciders, seltzers and hard kombucha options, 18 pre-batched cocktails, and six wines. Options will constantly be rotated with new, seasonal selections from local craft breweries and distributors. You’ll be charged by the ounce, so pour (or taste, if you’re not ready to commit) as little or as much as you’d like. Staff members frequently sanitize the tap wall and soon, disposable “Tapkins”—like napkins for taps—will be available for guests to cover the handles while pouring.
Tap99 sets portion limits on all drinks based on requirements from DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. Your card will be cut off if you reach a limit, for example, after pouring 32 ounces of beer. However, staff members can quickly reactivate cards. “Reactivating the card takes less than 10 second so it does not hold you up, and provides us an opportunity to assess the patron,” Cherry says.
Guests can order food via Toast at the host stand or using QR codes on tables around the restaurant. The menu includes six different brick oven pizzas and other shareable plates like sticky maple buffalo shrimp and tuna poke nachos. And don’t worry, there’s plenty of seating—98 indoor seats (many at communal tables) and a dog-friendly patio, to be exact.
For dessert, Tap99 visitors can look through a large glass window to see caramel, fudge and other treats being made next door at the sweet shop. The two spaces are connected (and share bathrooms), making it easy to go from one to another without going outside. The businesses will “absolutely” collaborate with each other, Cherry says. Think wine and chocolate pairings. Cherry has a development agreement to open three more Kilwins stores in the DC market over the next six years.
Tap99, 1250 Half St., SE.