This story has been updated.
The TikTok page of Seth McClelland, the bar owner behind Never Looked Better in Shaw and the Mirror downtown, is full of debaucherous drinking advice, including a video of him chugging a bottle of Tito’s captioned “how to get fugged up” and another titled “how not to blackout.” But it’s his tips for underage drinkers that are now stirring up backlash.
In one video about what to order if you’re using a fake ID, McClelland recommended avoiding Long Island Iced Tea or Sex on the Beach—or anything with “sex” in the name. “Here’s what you get: a gin gimlet, because no one under the age of 30 even knows what the fuck that is,” he said.
In a “part-two” segment, McClelland revised his suggestion: “To be honest, if you’re a girl, get a glass of Champagne. And if you’re a guy, get a Bud Light and a shot of Jameson. It’s simple, they won’t think twice. Definitely do not get a Buttery Nipple.”
McClelland has since deleted the videos, but they were compiled and shared by the Instagram account Save Blagden Alley, which documents overflowing dumpsters, cups of urine, crime, and other issues affecting the historic Shaw alley.
“PROTECT KIDS. BOYCOTT @neverlookedbetterdc and @themirrordc,” Save Blagden Alley posted, tagging Mayor Bowser, city council members, and DC police. “This guy owns both bars and this is what he’s doing on @tiktok which is public. This is beyond *%#*^ up.” (The Instagram account has since been disabled.)
At the same time, Never Looked Better has been facing scrutiny. Complaints from neighbors led DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board to hold a fact-finding hearing on December 8 looking into allegations of underage drinking at the bar.
McClelland said in the hearing that he created the personal TikTok account while his businesses were closed due to Covid and that his videos about underage drinking were meant as a “party joke, but I understand now that it wasn’t very funny.” He later told the liquor board that one of the videos got more than 3 million views.
McClelland emphasized that his bars have security and protocols in place to ensure no one under 21 can enter. Neither the Mirror nor Never Looked Better have ever been cited for sale to a minor, according to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.
“I’m happy to delete the posts,” McClelland said during the hearing. “The reason that I didn’t delete the post was because I didn’t want to appear to be hiding anything from the board. I wanted you all to be able to see what was being alleged against me.”
The liquor board ultimately decided not to pursue further action, however board members made it clear to McClelland that they didn’t find his jokes very amusing.
“I think this is not only bad judgement, I think it’s stupid. It does not bring your license into a good perspective to me,” said liquor board member Edward Grandis. “I don’t believe you’re Jonathan Swift.”
Another board member, Jeni Hansen, added: “In my opinion, there was influence from your post, and I don’t feel you were sorry until we found out.”
McClelland did not respond to a request for comment.
McClelland previously consulted for a K Street speakeasy called the Speak that turned out to be a little too real. The hidden bar, located where the Mirror now is, was shut down by the city twice for operating without a proper liquor license.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that the Mirror has not received any citations for sale of alcohol to minors. ABRA initially provided information for a different, unaffiliated bar called Mirror Lounge, which received a warning for that violation in January 2020.