Photo: Violetta Markelou // Wardrobe: Paul Stuart at CityCenterDC
Photo: Violetta Markelou // Wardrobe: Paul Stuart at CityCenterDC

A Day in the Life: CityCenterDC’s Timothy R. Lowery

Since breaking ground in 2011, CityCenterDC has maintained its 10-acre space as a hub of luxury retail, dining and living in its downtown location. Beyond its commercial use, the space has become a sight of interactive public art and activations that draw thousands of visitors to the spot each season. CityCenterDC’s holiday lights strung over Palmer Alley, designed by Swatchroom’s Maggie O’Neill, quickly became an iconic – and Instagrammable – view of DC during the holiday season. To get a better look at one of DC’s favorite holiday hangs, we spoke to Timothy R. Lowery, a director with the global commercial real estate firm Hines and general manager of the CityCenterDC project.

On Tap: How did CityCenterDC’s holiday display and tree come to be?
Timothy R. Lowery:
In November 2014, we debuted the tree and had a tree lighting. We didn’t know if we’d have 10 people or a million people. The first year, we had a thousand people and it was a wonderful evening. The second year, we had around 3,000 attendees. Last year, it was 6,000 people and this year, we [already] have 40,000 people interested in our Facebook event for the tree lighting. What that shows you is this appetite to be part of something.

OT: Aside from growth in attendance, how have the holiday displays evolved?
Fast forward through the years, and we’ve added components like Maggie O’Neill’s Dream Closet, which is 400 ornaments over Palmer Alley. It’s amazing because the inspiration is the retail iconography of the clothing hanger made by different geometric patterns. This will be our third time having that installation up. It was always our intent to create traditions. This is a huge amount of land to build a project on. The thing I’ve been saying from day one is that we want to give traditions to the community. That’s the overarching theme for the holidays. We’re so grateful for the traction it’s received in the community.

Work Must-Haves
Morning Earl Grey tea
My planner with my daily schedule
An organized environment
My Montblanc pen
My eyeglasses

OT: How did art and installations become such a huge part of CityCenterDC’s identity?
The art installations happened very organically. In 2015, we participated in the [National] Cherry Blossom Festival after one staff member suggested we order pink lanterns and have our engineers put them up as our nod to the cherry blossoms. We had 400 pink lanterns of different shades and sizes [strung] along the alley. Social media went crazy. We realized after thousands and thousands of posts on social media that there was an appetite for public art. That’s not incongruent with the planning of CityCenterDC; we always planned on having art. We have art installations in the park and the plaza from time to time but the alley was such an interesting phenomenon. It’s exciting but a bit daunting because you always feel like you have to one-up yourself. I think we’ll stay with four seasons. Anything more than that could be too much.

OT: Outside of seasonal programming, what other art is housed in CityCenterDC?
Two years ago, we did the Fancy Animals Carnival featuring an artist from Taiwan. This year, we did The Loop, which evolved because a friend of mine posted a picture of the same thing from New York. I texted her and asked what it was and our team reached out to the artists and installed it here. There’s really this appetite for unique experiences. As a society, we’ve moved away from pure product consumption. People are looking for experiences. They still have products involved, but they’re going to go somewhere they can get an experience in addition to a product. We have tapped into that at CityCenterDC.

Can’t Live Without
Family and loved ones
My watch

OT: Tell us a bit more about your role at CityCenterDC.
I’ve been here since the beginning as a part of the project before we ever even finished construction. I remain at the helm of day-to-day operations at the center. On any given day, there’s some artistic component happening. At the end of the day, there needs to be a cohesiveness to our brand, and I’m the one that makes sure it all comes together.

OT: What is the best part of your job?
This really is the truth and not just because we’re talking about the holidays: every year, I get up and welcome everyone to the tree lighting. And as I stand there and look out over thousands of people who have come and respond to what we’re doing, that’s one of the greatest thrills I’ve had. Even from an architectural standpoint, if you build this thing and no one responds to it, of what use is it? When you see people coming and enjoying whatever it is you’re offering, that’s the biggest thrill. If it weren’t for those people finding comfort here and finding whatever it is they’re looking for at the moment, then this would all be in vain.

Follow CityCenterDC on social media @citycenterdc and learn more about holiday installations and events at

CityCenterDC: 10th & 8th Streets in NW, DC; 202-289-9000;

Photo: The Bruery
Photo: The Bruery

Hoppy Holidays: A Beer Lover’s Gift Guide

‘Tis the season of giving, at least that’s what you’re supposed to do. But you know what you’re not supposed to do? Give crappy gifts. We’ve all heard people say, “It’s the thought that counts,” to mask their disappointment after getting a tacky tie or coffee mug.

It’s always a safe bet to put a little extra thought into your gifts, and to really know your audience. If you’re shopping for a beer lover this holiday season, we have you covered. From local options to items you can have delivered to your doorstep in time for an exchange, the beer-themed gift ideas below will have you looking like a thoughtful giver, and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Beer Memberships

“The Bruery’s societies (our beer clubs) are the heart of our business,” says Ethen Adams, The Bruery Store’s area manager. “We love to experiment with flavors and aromas in our beers, and push brewing to new levels.”

Instead of giving someone a six-pack you picked out, why not let the brewers do it? With a beer membership from The Bruery, new experimental beers will be sent several times a year, giving your favorite beer fan an excuse to try variations outside of their comfort zone.

“While many of us have tried and trusted brands, I dare say that a true beer lover is always on the lookout for the next beer that will wow them,” Adams says. “We’re taking this beer journey alongside our members and as such, we try to treat them like a part of the family.”

The Union Market-based shop is also offering a 10 percent discount on their last quarterly installment of the 2018  Preservation Society, bringing the total to $70. Readers of On Tap can sign up online at The Bruery’s website with the discount code OnTapPS18. Each quarterly package comes with three bottles, including a barrel-aged strong ale, a sour ale and a limited experimental beer.

Other memberships on our radar include the DC Brewers’ Guild membership and the international Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club. Learn more about the latter at

The Bruery Store at Union Market: 513 Morse St. NE, DC;

Beer Gear

This one might seem obvious, but let us preface that not all merch is the same. A few breweries in the area are extremely meticulous, setting an extremely high standard for others to keep up with.

“There’s a deep connection between a community and its local breweries, and we’re forever grateful for the passion that people feel for our business,” says Chris Van Orden, Port City Brewery’s manager of marketing and beer strategy.  “We spend a ton of effort making the best beer possible for them, so we want to make sure everything else we offer all meets the high standard.”

Merch is a regular discussion topic at the brewery’s weekly meetings, where the team always tries to plan two seasons in advance. While a ton of places only offer shirts and hats, Port City sells socks, hoodies, dog collars and other unique items.

“We’ve found a few designs with a broad appeal that we keep in stock, but we’re constantly looking for new items that set us apart,” Van Orden says. “So there’s always something new on offer: lapel pins, bike jerseys, socks. We’re delighted each and every time a person decides that they enjoy Port City enough to wear our name on their back or carry our logo on their growler.”

With a strong brand backed by great beer, Port City gear will allow you to represent a local spot with strong ties to the community.

Other spots we recommend for merch include DC Brau and ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar.

Port City Brewing: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA;

Walking Tours

There are a number of breweries to tour in the DMV, but for a next-level experience, organize a walk through the famed Heurich House Museum for the beer head in your life.

The Dupont Circle mansion was built in the 1890s by German immigrant and local brewer Christian Heurich. His family lived there until 1956, and the house still includes all original interiors and a number of family collections.

Though the Christian Heurich Brewing Co. location was torn down in 1962, the museum features a rotating exhibition of more than 1,000 items including bottles, cans, signs and other branded objects from the old DC brewery. The collection is on loan from local collector Jack Blush, but the museum is currently fundraising to acquire and display it permanently.

Patrons can tour the museum for free (donations are welcome), but you can also treat your beer-crazy friends and family to an hour-long brewmaster tour that concludes with a beer tasting. Groups of 10 to 20 can enjoy the tours for $30-$40. For specifics, email

Other places to tour include the Flying Dog “Beer Geek” iteration in Frederick, Maryland or Brookland’s Right Proper Brewing Company.

Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC;

Beer-Focused Dinners

“Wait a second, Trent. Didn’t you say that played-out gifts weren’t what we were talking about here?” Yes, but you have to stick with me on this one as there’s a method to the beer-crazed madness here.
DC has welcomed a litany of terrific eateries over the past few years, and some of them include some particulary intriguing beer menus.

Chief among them is Tiger Fork, a Hong Kong-inspired restaurant in Blagden Alley featuring numerous Asian beers on the menu.
Think of this as tackling two problems at once: you want to get a gift for a brew head, but you also want to eat delicious Asian food.

Another restaurant with an eclectic selection is Capitol Riverfront’s The Salt Line, whose beer selection pulls from all over the country. Not to mention, they have a delectable menu with dishes that pair fantastically with just about every brew you can think to order.

So yes, we’ll admit dinner isn’t super high on the creative side, but you can’t forget to eat when you’re drinking a well-crafted beverage.

We also highly recommend the buzzworthy Bad Saint in Columbia Heights and Himitsu in Petworth for their eclectic beer and food selections.

The Salt Line: 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC;
Tiger Fork: 922 N St. NW, DC;

Ask The Expert

We asked Theresa McCulla, historian for the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, for a few beer-themed gift recommendations.

“Be a better enthusiast through books,” McCulla advises. “The past few years have seen a bumper crop of books about beer: brewing manuals, books about important historical events like Prohibition and the craft beer revolution, and brewers’ memoirs.”

Beyond books, McCulla recommends some of the things we’ve already talked about including places that can pair food with beer, eclectic merchandise and tours. One suggestion involves helping to make the brewer happy.

“Bottles are classic, [and] cans and crowlers are handy, but brewers prefer when you drink their beer out of the proper glassware. Research the correct glassware for your favorite kinds of beer and make sure you have them on hand when happy hour rolls around.”

Lastly, McCulla says to look up anything philanthropic your favorite brewery may be involved with that you can contribute to.

For more information about the American Brewing History Initiative, visit

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic
Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Explorer Jodi Magness Discusses Discoveries of Ancient Israel

From age 12, Jodi Magness knew she wanted to be an archaeologist, and never looked back.

Thursday she’ll discuss one of her many discoveries, a mosaic depicting the first non-Biblical story ever found decorating an ancient synagogue. She’s set to speak about her findings and why they matter at the National Geographic Museum in two sessions of a talk titled, “Uncovering Galilee: New Discoveries in the Holy Land.”

Magness and other archaeologists debate what story the mosaic, which features two men surrounded by soldiers and battle elephants, tells. One theory suggests the image shows the encounter between Alexander the Great and the Jewish high priest. (Explore pictures of the mosaic at this link.)

Since 2011, and thanks to a National Geographic grant, Magness and her team have been excavating the synagogue in the fifth-century village of Huqoq, three miles west of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The synagogue is the only public building in the settlement, whose residents largely practiced agriculture.

Ancient Huqoq was not a rich urban center, but had a stunningly beautiful synagogue – what gives?

Written documents indicate that synagogues like the one at Huqoq did not exist. Roman legislation at the time – Christianity had already become the empire’s religion – banned construction of new synagogues. Some Christian writers wrote polemics attacking Judaism. As a result, a narrative developed in which Jews in this time and region lived a marginalized, oppressed existence. Magness’ research pushes back against that monolithic conception.

In doing so, Magness explains, her work demonstrates the importance of her field.

“Archaeology supplements the rather skewed and narrow picture that we have just from literary sources,” she says. “Literary sources from the ancient world were always written by elite people and represent a certain point of view.”

“Archaeology is a great corrective” to elite-produced literary sources, Magness continues. “Archaeology is a democratic enterprise [because we] dig up everything, including the houses of ordinary people, which gives a much more complete picture of ancient life.”

Surviving Jewish written documents from this time were produced exclusively by male rabbis, but Magness’ research attests to the presence of women at the site as well. For example, mosaics of two women flank a dedicatory inscription at the synagogue. Magness says that the identities of the women are unknown, but it’s possible they were donors.

Other evidence of female presence is more difficult to point out directly, but is indirectly indicated. For example, ancient houses excavated around the synagogue have included remains of spindle-whorls, and weaving during this time period was primarily a female activity.

Magness says her project has uncovered about two-thirds of the synagogue. There was a significant expansion and re-use of the synagogue during medieval times, but archaeologists still don’t know what that is. This work will take another four to five seasons. More information about the project, including applications for students interesting in joining the dig, is on the Huqoq website.

Magness is not the only female Explorer the National Geographic Museum is highlighting this season. The museum will host an event titled Expand the Field in February on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which will feature women improving our understanding of the world. Then in March, the museum hosts When Women Ruled the World, tied to the opening of the museum’s next exhibition, Queens of Egypt, celebrating legendary queens from ancient Egypt.

In the words of National Geographic’s Lexie de los Santos, “I’m quite proud of this season and I hope it influences women everywhere to realize the impact they can have on our world.”

Magness speaks at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 29. Tickets are $25, and available here.

National Geographic Museum: 1145 17th St. NW, DC; 202-857-7700;

Photo: Courtesy of Gaylord
Photo: Courtesy of Gaylord

‘Tis the Season at Gaylord National Resort

A 55-foot Christmas tree decked out with more than two million lights is suspended from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center’s 19-story atrium, signifying that the holiday season is upon us.

“The holiday season in National Harbor is unlike any in the area,” says Jenna Buck, Gaylord National’s special events director.

After all, where else can one experience colorful, larger-than-life ice sculptures, amazing entertainment shows, indoor snowfalls and more in an indoor wonderland kept at nine degrees? The destination is also walkable and offers picturesque views of the Potomac River along with shopping, dining and millions of twinkling lights to get people in the holiday spirit.

“Every year, we add new and unique offerings to keep Christmas on the Potomac one of the most spectacular holiday experiences in the capital region,” Buck continues. “This year is no different, and we are thrilled with our program lineup.”

More than a dozen holiday activities are planned for the 11th annual Christmas on the Potomac, including Gaylord National’s popular ICE! attraction. This year’s ICE! features one of TV’s most iconic Christmas specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas, as well as four two-story ice slides, a full nativity created from crystal clear ice and two million pounds of colorful ice sculptures hand-carved by 40 artisans from Harbin, China.

“Picking themes for our ICE! attraction can take several years to work through – from getting licensing approvals to creating the designs and more,” Buck says. “A Charlie Brown Christmas is a holiday classic that was high on our list to produce. It’s something that appeals to multiple
generations, and we are excited to showcase 12 scenes from the TV special through larger-than-life, colorful ice sculptures.”

Fans of Charles Schulz’s beloved characters can also take part in the Merry Snoopy Christmas Scavenger Hunt or attend an interactive Breakfast with Charlie Brown & Friends featuring Snoopy, Linus and other favorites. But ICE! isn’t just for the kids. The Arctic Dash on December 5 is a new event designed for 21-plus visitors making use of the attraction.

“We wanted to create an ICE! experience that would be fun for adults and play to the ‘extreme factor’ of the attraction,” Buck says. “Participants will get to dash through the resort’s nine-degree ICE! attraction in their bathing suits and then celebrate with a signature cocktail in the lobby bar. We hope the event will inspire friends to brave the cold, have fun and get a taste of the holidays at Gaylord.”

Visitors to the resort will also experience two brand new shows in the atrium: a laser light show and the world-class entertainment of Cirque Dreams Unwrapped, both playing through January 1.

“This year’s atrium laser light show is called A Christmas Wish, which tells the story of a grandfather explaining to his grandchild the magic of the Christmas season,” Buck says. “You’ll hear holiday favorite tunes choreographed to our water fountain and laser lights, all set within the resort’s 19-story atrium. It also includes an indoor snowfall, so it’s quite magical.”

Cirque Dreams Unwrapped was designed exclusively for Gaylord National, according to the show’s founder Neil Goldberg.

“It is a 25-minute entertainment attraction that combines Cirque elements, elaborate costuming and theatrics within a stage set that reinforces the Christmas wishes of dreams come true,” the Broadway director says. “The show offers something for everyone and is a perfect experience to share with loved ones.”

Thanks to the enormity of Gaylord National’s atrium, Cirque Dreams Unwrapped is able to present swinging, flying and soaring aerial performances unique to this experience – all designed to emulate the holiday season and share the aspiration of wishing for dreams.

“Some of the acts are magical and majestic, while others truly personify the spirit of possibilities,” Goldberg continues. “We’ve searched the world to engage a couple of young principle artists who showcase their potential through astounding performance artistry as part of the show’s grand finale. Kids will be mesmerized, adults left in awe and all fascinated.”

Buck says Gaylord National couldn’t be more honored to have Cirque Dreams Unwrapped performed for guests during the holiday season.

There’s also a Christmas Village, where guests can ice skate, decorate gingerbread houses, ride a Christmas carousel, sing Christmas carols with Mrs. Claus and get their picture taken with Santa Claus. And the popular Build-A-Bear Workshop returns, allowing kids the chance to create their own cuddly, cute polar bear plush designed exclusively for Gaylord Hotels.

With all of the offerings provided during Christmas on the Potomac, Buck feels the best way to experience the celebration is with an overnight stay. Guests who book one of their holiday packages get exclusive perks with ICE! including unlimited entry to the attraction, a special admission line and early access to the attraction on weekends. Guests can also upgrade to an atrium view room.

The holiday season is traditionally a time to gather, share, reflect and celebrate together with loved ones. The events during Christmas on the Potomac offer the perfect entertainment options that appeal to audiences of all ages.

“At the end of every holiday season, we look back at all of our offerings to review what was popular and discuss what we are missing, as we are always looking to add to our events and create some of the best holiday entertainment in the region,” Buck says. “At the end of the day,
our goal is to provide an experience where people walk away with smiles on their faces and memories that will last a lifetime.”

ICE! featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas runs from Friday, November 16 through Tuesday, January 1 with tickets starting at $24 for children and $32 for adults. Breakfast with Charlie Brown & Friends runs from Saturday, November 17 through Monday, December 31 with tickets starting at $26.99 for children and $39.99 for ages 12 and older. Cirque Dreams Unwrapped runs from Friday, November 16 through Tuesday, January 1 with tickets starting at $19.99 for all ages; limited free seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Christmas on the Potomac tickets and holiday packages are available at or by calling 301-965-4000.

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center: 201 Waterfront St. National Harbor, MD; 301-965-4000

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

2018 Places to Party: A Go-To Guide to DMV Venues

Welcome to On Tap Magazine’s 2018 Places to Party guide, your go-to resource for the best venues in the DMV to host a party. In the listings that follow, you’ll find a broad selection of venues ready and able to help you plan the perfect party. From a small happy hour with friends to a blowout bash, these locales can handle it all.

b DC Penn Quarter

b DC Penn Quarter
801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC | 202-808-8720

Award-winning burgers, all-American beer and the best bourbons are just the beginning. Conveniently located in the Navy Memorial Plaza in DC’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, b DC Penn Quarter is Washington’s headquarters for “good times, made locally.” Their handcrafted, modern American comfort food and beverages are the perfect additions to your next company meeting, holiday party, social event or corporate function. They offer space for 137 people inside, plus 60 on the patio and two semiprivate areas seating 40 and 24 guests each. They can accommodate a wide variety of events. Offsite catering is also available, including for events held at the Navy Memorial. For more information, give them a call at 202-808-8720 or email them at

b One Loudoun

b One Loudoun
20416 Exchange St. Ashburn, VA | 703-723-2900

Award-winning burgers, all-American beer and the best bourbons are just the beginning. Conveniently located in Ashburn’s One Loudoun Center, b One Loudoun is NoVA’s headquarters for “good times, made locally.” Their handcrafted, modern American comfort food and beverages are the perfect additions to your next company meeting, holiday party, social event or corporate function. With space for 180-plus people inside and another semiprivate area seating 42 guests, they can accommodate a wide variety of events. Offsite catering is also available. For more information, give them a call at 703-723-2900 or email them at

Barley Mac 1

Barley Mac
1600 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA | 571-800-3070

Barley Mac’s innovative twists on American comfort foods will please the taste buds while their extensive specialty liquor menu is sure to excite even the most ardent cocktail enthusiasts. With an industrial chic interior, plentiful seating and large bar area, Barley Mac is an ideal drinking and dining choice for groups of all sizes.

Blackwall Hitch

Blackwall Hitch, Alexandria
5 Cameron St. Alexandria, VA | 703-739-6090

Blackwall Hitch is located in the heart of charming Old Town Alexandria. They create a dining experience blending the area’s finest in tastes and talents with a coastally-inspired concept that creates a local connection. Here you’ll find seasonally-driven and locally-sourced food and spirits, great local music, and the area’s friendliest staff and patrons. Their philosophy is genuine and simple: they are here to create a dining experience that is unique and exceeds expectations. Whether it’s their signature flaming crab dip, oysters shucked at your request or custom-crafted cocktails, they deliver an experience you are guaranteed to remember. They also create events that you will remember forever. Their beautifully appointed dining rooms are perfect for any event. From bridal luncheons to rehearsal dinners to family reunions and graduations, their special events manager will guide you through every step, making sure your event goes off without a hitch.

Bluemont Vineyard

Bluemont Vineyard
18755 Foggy Bottom Rd. Bluemont, VA | 540-554-8439

Located 30 minutes from Dulles Airport, Bluemont Vineyard is easily accessible while feeling a world away. Sitting at 951 feet atop the Blue Ridge Mountains, the farmhouse-inspired tasting room overlooks Loudoun Valley and will set the tone for your special gathering. Bluemont’s personalized service and exceptional attention to detail is at your disposal to combine with the perfect space and experience for a memorable event. Visit them at or email to start planning your next celebration.

Bobby McKey's Dueling Piano Bar

Bobby McKey’s Dueling Piano Bar
172 Fleet St. National Harbor, MD | 301-602-2209

Music is our Rx! If you’re looking for that out-of-the-box, unique celebration that will give guests memories to last a lifetime, look no further. Bobby McKey’s features an interactive show that pairs all-request live music with improvisational humor sure to entertain even the stuffiest of colleagues. With exposed brick walls and lofty ceilings, McKey’s offers a rustically cool event space. Your next corporate function, class reunion, bachelorette party or holiday event will be elevated with their unique entertainment, delicious catering and custom drink packages. Just a short stroll from the Gaylord National Convention Center and the MGM National Harbor, their location puts you in a prime spot just minutes from DC and Virginia.

Cafe Berlin

Café Berlin
322 Massachusetts Ave. NE, DC | 202-543-7656

Café Berlin is the perfect place to celebrate the holidays. The restaurant is decked out for Christmas in true German style. The private party room can accommodate up to 45 people for a seated dinner, and a standing reception is always an option as well. Need room for more people? The full restaurant is at your disposal. Café Berlin can accommodate up to 60 guests in its two dining rooms. The seasonally-inspired
draft beer selections and Glühwein, or German hot mulled wine, are always a delight and the winter wild game menu will wow your guests.

Cafe Citron (3) overhead shot

Cafe Citron
1343 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC | 202-530-8844

Tucked away on the south side of Dupont Circle, Cafe Citron is a colorful, Latin international restaurant, bar and lounge uniquely decorated with a funky, inviting and eclectic flair. They’re always a favorite for holiday company parties, birthdays, bachelorette, bachelor, breakup and yes, divorce parties. The restaurant can fit any budget to accommodate 10 to 200 guests with no room fee. Bottle service starts at $200, pitchers at $50 and large platters at $75 are available for large groups. The entire main floor is available for private happy hours from 5-8 p.m. at no fee as long as a minimum of $400 is spent between 15 to 100 guests. Voted the number one Latino happy hour in town with small plates from $3.50 to $10, they carry a vast selection of Latin American beers, delicious specialty drinks and fabulous tapas platter selections with the best mojitos in the city. International DJs, a live Latin percussionist and dancers are available for hire for your event, as well as music, microphone and projector usage at your request. Cafe Citron transforms into a nightclub Monday through Saturday after 10 p.m. They host free salsa classes Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. They also offer free bachata classes Thursdays at 8 p.m. Looking for a fun and unforgettable venue? Cafe Citron is it. They even offer free shots for birthdays. Please text 202 422-3005 or email for more information or check them out online at

Photo: Scott Suchman

Photo: Scott Suchman

50 Blagden Aly. NW, DC | 202-791-0134

Located in DC’s historic Blagden Alley, Calico is a restaurant, bar and urban backyard. Stop by and enjoy a variety of beverages and elevated, cookout-style fare designed to be enjoyed with a group. Signature bites include Chef Nathan Beauchamp’s take on cookout classics like Carolina BBQ ribs, lobster mac & cheese, and crab cakes. Nibble fare, sip on unique craft cocktails in nostalgic, single-serve drink pouches, or enjoy a drink from the large selection of beer, wine and cocktails on draft that reflect Calico’s relaxed, communal atmosphere. Let Calico help plan your next birthday party, happy hour or holiday gathering. Send the Calico team some details on what they’re looking for and they’ll be happy to help. For more information, email or call 202-791-0134.

Chart House

Chart House
1 Cameron St. Alexandria, VA | 703-684-5080

Chart House Alexandria is situated on the Potomac River, where you take in spectacular views of the Capitol while feasting on an impressive menu. Enjoy fresh fish specialties such as mac nut mahi, slow-roasted prime rib and the signature hot chocolate lava cake. With three semiprivate dining areas, Chart House is the perfect location to host your party or event. The Capitol and Sequoia Rooms are surrounded by windows on three sides, allowing you and your guests to enjoy panoramic views of the Potomac and downtown DC. Open for lunch Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.; dinner Monday through Thursday, 4-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4-11 p.m.; Sunday champagne brunch 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Sunday dinner 2-10 p.m. Chart House has the best happy hour in town Monday through Friday, 4-6:30 p.m. featuring delectable appetizers starting at $4 and signature cocktails starting at $6. Reservations can be made online.

CIRCA at Chinatown

CIRCA at Chinatown
781 7th St. NW, DC | 202-628-7777

Conveniently located by Capital One Arena, the Washington Convention Center and Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro, CIRCA at Chinatown is an American restaurant featuring seasonal classics and delicious, neighborhood-inspired food and drinks. The massive restaurant concept provides multiple seating options across two levels for large parties and private happy hour events. The first level offers the craft cocktail Dragon Bar, complete with an extra-long granite bar and room for 125 standing guests. The second level features the main dining room for up to 100 seated guests, an additional bar upstairs for 40 standing guests, a glass-enclosed private dining room for 36 seated guests and a semiprivate lounge for 12 seated guests. The CIRCA team works with you to tailor the space and create special menus to make your next gathering unforgettable. Email them at to book your next happy hour, party or event.

Crafthouse 1

Crafthouse, Fairfax
11861 Palace Way, Fairfax, VA | 703-825-1811

If you’re on the hunt for the perfect place to host the beer connoisseurs in your life, look no further than Crafthouse Fairfax. With an extensive, rotating cast of draft and bottled beers, there’s no shortage of great brews available for your party – especially seasonal offerings. In addition to beer, you can choose from handcrafted cocktails, a diverse offering of food and daily specials. They also offer happy hour from 3-9 p.m. Entertain your guests with trivia, live music or football games, and be sure to check out Crafthouse’s website for special happenings.

Photo: T. Buell

Photo: T. Buell

DC Brau
3178-B Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC | 202-621-8890

Looking for a truly unique space for your next event? DC Brau offers a variety of event spaces for company meetings, birthday parties, receptions, holiday gatherings or any special occasion. The brewing company can accommodate groups of all sizes, ranging from a small squad to parties of 500 of your closest friends or associates. In addition to the tasting room and side bar, DC Brau now offers a new space called The Lodge with a long private bar and comfortable seating. Of course, the full brewery is also available for a truly one of-a-kind experience. Email DC Brau at and follow them on social media @dcbrau.

The Fainting Goat

The Fainting Goat
1330 U St. NW, DC | 202-735-0344

A local place to call your own, the Fainting Goat is a favorite neighborhood spot in DC’s U Street Corridor. Enjoy great cocktails and food in a relaxed atmosphere right in the heart of the bustling U Street nightlife. With fresh and local nibbles, craft beer and spirits, and friendly staff, Fainting Goat is the place you’ll keep coming back to. Let their team help you plan your holiday party, happy hour, seated dinner or any occasion. Send them a little information about what you are looking for and they will get back to you as soon as possible. Email or call 202-735-0344 for more information.

Finn McCool's

Finn McCool’s
713 8th St. SE, DC | 202-507-8277

Finn McCool’s is the ultimate event space on Capitol Hill. The private, second-story venue can accommodate 80 guests and boasts a piano stage, private bar and exceptional audio/video options with Bose surround sound. Finn’s event team is on hand to cater to your every need, offering entertainment options, transportation assistance, custom food and beverage packages, and decoration assistance. They make creating a unique and unforgettable event easy. From business breakfast meetings and lunches to happy hours, receptions and holiday parties, Finn’s has you covered. For more information on reserving the premier party space for large parties in the main dining room or to book the entire restaurant, please contact marketing and beverage director James Abbott for additional information at or 410-989-3564.

Fire Works Pizzeria

Fire Works Pizza, Arlington
2350 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA | 703-527-8700

Fire Works Pizzeria & Bar is one of Arlington’s most popular restaurants, with a vibrant yet relaxed atmosphere perfect for your next holiday party, celebration or office gathering. Known for wood-fired artisan pizza and voted number one in NoVA, Fire Works has a full menu of appetizers, entrees, sandwiches and more, plus a great banquet menu for planning your festivities. With over 30 draft beers, 100-plus bottle and can beer selections, a well-balanced wine list, and a full bar featuring inventive craft cocktails, your guests won’t lack for great food and drink. Fire Works offers a private party room for up to 40, an outdoor patio for 50 or more during fair weather, or larger events upwards of 100 in the main dining space. Fire Works’ expert culinary team is ready to help you create the perfect private party to fire up your guests. For more information and to book your next party, call 703-527-8700 or email events coordinator Viri Morales at


Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant
555 South 23rd St. Arlington, VA | 703-685-0555

Add some color, flair and wonder to your next party by booking it with Freddie’s Beach Bar. From the décor to the atmosphere, this is a fun place for any occasion to throw a party. From speeches to shows, Freddie’s is well-prepared to entertain with its stage equipped with wireless, microphones, lighting, TVs and more. The karaoke collection includes over 20,000 songs so you can sing your heart out. From hosting parties of four to 120 patrons, you’re sure to have a great party. For fabulous food, décor, entertainment and lasting memories, book your next party or event at Freddie’s Beach Bar. For more information on Freddie’s, visit or call 703-685-0555.

Gordon Biersch - Navy Yard

Gordon Biersch, Navy Yard
100 M St. SE, DC | 202-484-2739

Gordon Biersch features handcrafted beer, wine and specialty cocktails. Purity, precision and perfection are the hallmarks of its premium, German-style biers. Crafted to the exacting standards of the Reinheitsgebot, or German Purity Law, Gordon Biersch uses only the highest-quality Weyermann Malt from Bamberg, authentic Bavarian Hersbrucker hops and pure, filtered water to develop a range of well-balanced flavors for every discerning taste. Situated only a few blocks from Nationals Stadium in Southeast DC, Gordon Biersch offers fresh, handcrafted beer and premium, made-from-scratch food, all served up in a friendly and fun atmosphere. Surrounded by modern day décor and handsome wood furnishings, guests are able to watch the brewing process through the glass-walled brewery.

Gordon Biersch - Rockville

Gordon Biersch, Rockville
200 East Middle Ln. Rockville, MD | 301-340-7159

Gordon Biersch features handcrafted beer, wine and specialty cocktails. Purity, precision and perfection are the hallmarks of its premium, German-style biers. Crafted to the exacting standards of the Reinheitsgebot, or German Purity Law, Gordon Biersch uses only the highest-quality Weyermann Malt from Bamberg, authentic Bavarian Hersbrucker hops, and pure, filtered water to develop a range of well-balanced flavors for every discerning taste. Situated in the Town Square in Rockville, Maryland, Gordon Biersch offers fresh, handcrafted beer and premium, made-from-scratch food, all served up in a friendly and fun atmosphere. Surrounded by modern day décor and handsome wood furnishings, guests are able to watch the brewing process through the glass-walled brewery.

Gordon Biersch - Tysons Corner

Gordon Biersch, Tysons Corner
7861 Tysons Corner Center, McLean, VA | 703-388-5454

Gordon Biersch features handcrafted beer, wine and specialty cocktails. Purity, precision and perfection are the hallmarks of its premium, German-style biers. Crafted to the exacting standards of the Reinheitsgebot, or German Purity Law, Gordon Biersch uses only the highest-quality Weyermann Malt from Bamberg, authentic Bavarian Hersbrucker hops and pure, filtered water to develop a range of well-balanced flavors for every discerning taste. Located in the largest shopping mall in the DC area and just minutes away from the nation’s capital, Gordon Biersch Tysons Corner is a favorite among locals and visitors. The restaurant can accommodate 436 guests with indoor and patio dining. Included are two banquet facilities that are available for group dining and private parties. The restaurant features seven plasma televisions, as well as a magnificent view of the restaurant’s brewing facilities. Brewery tours and beer samplings are given by the brewmaster and staff.

Greene Turtle

The Greene Turtle, Alexandria
7879 Heneska Loop, Alexandria, VA | 703-971-0200

The Greene Turtle’s party room can accommodate small and large gatherings, as well as any size in between. Featuring several large, flat-screen TVs, your group can enjoy presentations or sporting events while enjoying food buffet-style or served lunches and dinners. There’s no fee to reserve the room, and the team works to ensure you and your guests are taken care of by dedicated servers and menu options that fit any budget.

Hawk 'n' Dove

Hawk ‘n’ Dove
329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC | 202-547-0030

Hawk ‘n’ Dove is equipped to welcome anyone in search of an exceptional way to celebrate with a variety of private dining and event options for any occasion, year-round. With each event, you’ll receive customized food and drink packages, entertainment options and transportation assistance, plus accommodations for all audio and video needs on their Bose surround sound system. Parties of 10 to 100 guests may enjoy a seated or cocktail experience in the expansive private area with a dedicated bar and service station. For larger parties, reach out for full restaurant rental availability at or 410-989-3564.

Heavy Seas Alehouse

Heavy Seas Alehouse
1501 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA | 703-879-4388

Heavy Seas Alehouse in Rosslyn is a place where sailors tell stories but parties become legends. Fans of Heavy Seas Beer can experience Baltimore’s best and locally owned craft brewery in their own backyard in Arlington alongside some of the top regional and national craft beers. The menus feature fresh and seasonal ingredients that they source locally whenever possible. The dishes are simple in appearance, with bold and assertive flavors that stand up to the intense beers Heavy Seas is known for. With multiple options for private dining and group functions, Heavy Seas Alehouse looks forward to hosting your private event or celebration. Call or email to reserve your party today at

KO Distilling

KO Distilling
10381 Central Park Dr. Suite 105, Manassas, VA | 571-292-1115

KO Distilling boasts a beautiful copper and oak-themed, 2,500-square-foot event center that can hold up to 88 people, and features a banquet hall, stunning tasting room and ADA-compliant restrooms. The banquet hall comes with ample seating, and the view of KO Distilling’s state-of-the-art distilling plant is remarkable and definitively unique. The tasting room includes a handsome bar, four crank-up style circular tables, two large Chesterfield-style leather couches and a gas fireplace. Edison light bulbs, a tin ceiling and an overhang constructed of used bourbon barrel staves work together to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Visit to learn more and inquire.


711 8th St. SE, DC | 202-846-7728

Lola’s on Barracks Row is the perfect place to host your private function. This flexible space will take the pressure off your shoulders and impress your guests. Lola’s second story space features a pool table, outdoor patio and full bar and can accommodate parties of up to 50 guests. Plus, Lola’s will happily and personally arrange your special event or reservation for any group up to 150. With each event, you’ll receive customized food and drink packages, as well as accommodations on all audio and video needs on the Bose surround sound system. Larger parties can reach out for full restaurant rental availability at or 410-989-3564.

Madame Tussauds 1

Madame Tussauds
1001 F St. NW, DC | 202-942-7310

Host your next special event at Madame Tussauds – Washington DC. Whether you want to brush elbows with the presidents or mingle with the stars, your guests are sure to have a time they will never forget. Featuring 14,000 square feet of interactive space, Madame Tussauds – Washington DC is a memorable, dramatic and fun venue for any and all occasions: company parties, cocktail receptions, birthday celebrations, networking events, product launches, seated dinners, holiday parties, fundraisers and much more. Madame Tussauds works with many of the District’s best caterers, photographers, videographers and the hottest DJs – all the connections to make your event a red carpet affair. Located in the historic Penn Quarter neighborhood, Madame Tussauds is centrally located just steps away from the National Mall, Chinatown and Gallery Place and easily accessible by rail, bus and car. Contact Madame Tussauds at 1-888-WAX-IN-DC or visit

Murphy's Grand Irish Pub

Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub
713 King St. Alexandria, VA | 703-548-1717

Murphy’s of Alexandria has over 40 years of experience in catering to large groups and has successfully hosted every type of event ranging from holiday office parties to rehearsal dinners, retirement parties to fundraising events and even small group gatherings. The upstairs is available to rent for private functions and can accommodate up to 100 people for receptions or sit-down dining. It features a cozy, three-sided, open-stone fireplace that allows for fireside dining. A full bar is available, offering a vast selection of domestic and international beers, premium and house liquors, and an assortment of premium wines. A stage is located at the front of the room, which can be used for presentations or entertainment.


Ophelia’s Fish House
501 8th St. SE, DC | 202-543-1445

From fundraisers and receptions to corporate events and dinners, Ophelia’s Fish House is the premier private event venue on Capitol Hill. With 2,100 square feet of private event space, every event is tailored to meet and exceed your expectations. Customized food and drink packages, as well as an array of entertainment and transportation options, are just some of the allure of Ophelia’s. Enjoy an extensive craft beer and wine list, a widespread selection of handcrafted cocktails and an outside patio with a dedicated bar and service station. Email their marketing and beverage director, James Abbott, to book Ophelia’s for your next event today at or call 410-989-3564.


520 8th St. SE, DC | 202-544-1168

Dark, sexy and upscale, Orchid Bar is the perfect venue for your next soirée. Rent out the entire space to enjoy customized food and cocktail options along the 42-foot, marble-clad bar (DC’s longest) and on the outdoor patio with a firepit. Orchid’s event team is on hand to provide entertainment, transportation and decoration assistance, and the venue can accommodate all audio and video needs. With 2,300 square feet of private event space, every event there is tailored to exceed your expectations. Limited availability for parties of 10 to 125. Email their marketing and beverage director, James Abbott, to book Orchid Bar for your next event today at or call 410-989-3564.


Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar
203 Crown Park Ave. Gaithersburg, MD | 301-330-4400
1905 Towne Centre Blvd. Annapolis, MD | 410-897-1022

Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar is a fresh, colorful and fun Latin American restaurant experience inspired by Central and South America, Cuba and the Latin Caribbean. Their Gaithersburg and Annapolis locations offer ample private party space and are a refreshing break from the norm. They can easily accommodate any and all dietary needs and restrictions and help you stay within your budget. And with a menu of more than 100 rums from around the world, they know how to get your party started right. Contact them today to book your no-frills private party event for the holidays. Visit for more information or to get started.

Pearl Street Warehouse

Pearl Street Warehouse
33 Pearl St. SW, DC | 202-380-9620

Pearl Street Warehouse is filled with the sounds of all-American music and offers a relaxed, intimate atmosphere unmatched by any other local venue. With a 300-person capacity, two large bars, state-of-the art A/V capabilities, and the opportunity to work with their expert booking team to book a band or performance, Pearl Street Warehouse is the ideal spot to host your event. Contact for more information.

Penn Social

Penn Social
801 E St. NW, DC | 202-697-4900

Penn Social is a massive, versatile venue located in the heart of Penn Quarter, just two blocks from Capital One Arena. The popular locale is home to three unique bars, seasonal patio seating, 30-plus draught beers, two stages, over 15 arcade games, a collection of board games and much more. Penn Social is your go-to spot, whether you want to host a small happy hour party, a huge holiday party or a daytime panel discussion for your 200-person office. For the sports fan, Penn Social features a 22-foot HD theater screen, with seven additional HD projection screens and HDTV’s throughout. Interested in checking out their space? Join them for their daily 4-7 p.m. Happy hour which features $2 off all beers, as well as $5 rail drinks and $6 wines.

Public Bar

Public Bar
1214 B 18th St. NW, DC | 202-223-2200

With the holidays approaching, Public Bar’s lounge level is the perfect place for your company to host this year’s holiday party. With space for all your guests, great food, drinks and a private floor that fits up to 150 people, Public Bar is the perfect place for your next event. They host corporate happy hours, watch parties, fundraisers and other parties. Their catering menu can be customized to serve anywhere between 20 to 250 people with all of your favorite bar foods. If you want to celebrate your birthday or plan a special event, check out Public Bar’s rooftop and get a private table and party to the sounds of their in-house DJs. Email them at to inquire about upcoming events, or to book your next party and table reservation.

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
42461 Lovettsville Rd. Lovettsville, VA | 540-822-9017

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm provides a unique location for any event: wedding, rehearsal dinner, corporate events, birthday, holiday parties, or baby and bridal showers. What could be more perfect or more magical than idyllic views in every direction and a breathtaking panoramic view of the Potomac River? The chef will help customize a menu offering progressive, local, earth-to-table cuisine. The team wants to assist you throughout your entire journey, accommodating your vision and ensuring your event is truly unforgettable. Country-style and peaceful with nature’s splendor surrounding you, enjoy the casual, quaint feel – the perfect venue for your special occasion.

Sauf Haus 2

Sauf Haus Bier Hall & Garten
1216 18th St. NW, DC | 202-466-3355

Conveniently located in the heart of Dupont Circle, Sauf Haus Bier Hall & Garten is a multilevel traditional German biergarten. The massive 5,000-square-foot space is a historic building established in 1922, formerly known as the Guitar Shop. The first level offers the foosball room, complete with two foosball tables, a projector and room for 150 standing guests. The second level features the patio inside bar, a more intimate bar space for up to 150 standing guests and the biergarten for up to 200 guests. The Sauf Haus DC team has an event coordinator onsite to work with you to tailor the space and create special menus to make your next gathering unforgettable. Email them at to inquire to book your next happy hour, party or event.

Sign of the Whale

Sign of the Whale
1825 M St. NW, DC | 202-290-3310

Washington, DC’s Sign of the Whale, a Dupont icon for nearly one-half century, is the most dynamic establishment in DC to combine both work and play. The Whale offers lunch, happy hour, trivia and an upbeat nightlife on the weekend. It’s also home to the Philadelphia Eagles and Ohio State football. The Whale is a true neighborhood bar that will make you feel welcome from the moment you step inside. The main bar is large and expansive while the upstairs loft bar provides a private and intimate experience. With availability to rent out the upstairs bar, back dining area or the entire bar, the Whale can host your event of up to 250 people for birthday parties, bachelorette/bachelor parties, corporate happy hours, holiday parties, luncheons, reunions or fundraisers. They also offer many different drink packages and a delicious catering menu to meet your needs. For more information, visit their website at or email them at


Siné Irish Pub & Restaurant
1301 S. Joyce St. Arlington, VA | 703-415-4420

Siné, Gaelic for “this is it,” boasts architecture, furniture and décor straight from the Emerald Isle. A fullservice bar features 18 different draft beers and a professional and friendly wait staff makes Siné the perfect setting for business lunches and after-work family gatherings or groups for sporting events. They have an ideal space for any size celebration. Reserved party spaces are available to accommodate up to 80 people for sit-down dining, or up to 150 for a cocktail or casual mingling event. Rooms are available seven days a week at no additional charge. Party platters featuring finger foods are also available. Prices vary based on the size and needs of the party. To make your reservation, email or call Monday through Thursday between 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Smith Commons 1

Smith Commons
1245 H St. NE, DC | 202-396-0038

Smith Commons is a three-story dining room and public house that makes you feel right at home. The exposed brick and big bay window offer a casual yet vintage atmosphere. They host several events like weddings and corporate meetings and offer private dining as well – the venue has proven to be a go-to gathering space in the heart of the Atlas Arts District. Each guest will get to experience a customized menu and drink package, as well as A/V services. They create great memories! Contact Jessica Sturgis for additional information at 202-607-5561 and/or

Tavira 2

Tavira Restaurant
8401 Connecticut Ave. Chevy Chase, MD | 301-652-8684

Tavira has been an award-winning restaurant since 1999. They provide a fine dining experience in a family friendly setting. Enjoy authentic Portuguese and Mediterranean selections. Along with their regular menu, they offer several daily specials and two three-course meals: a Portuguese tasting menu (seven days a week) and a three-course, prix fixe menu (Sunday through Thursday). Also, enjoy Happy Hour Monday-Friday in their attractive bar. There is plenty of free garage parking. Visit their website for more information.

Tio Javier

Tio Javier
514 8th St. SE, DC | 202-507-8143

Planning a fiesta? Host your next event at Tio’s in one of their festive and inviting event spaces. Their heated rooftop features a private bar, fire pits and can comfortably accommodate 150 standing guests or 50 seated. Their first-floor dining space also has a private bar, opens up to historic Barracks Row, seats 40 and can host up to 80 standing guests. For larger parties, contact them about full restaurant rental availability. While they’ve got an extensive tequila selection, you’ll also receive customized food and drink packages for your event. Audio/video, entertainment and transportation options available. ¡Olé! Email for more information.

The Urban Winery 1

The Urban Winery
949 Bonifant St. Silver Spring, MD | 301-585-4100

Taste. Learn. Create. The Urban Winery is located just over the District line in downtown Silver Spring. Guests can enjoy a thriving winery setting without driving to a pasture. Family-owned and operated, their winery and restaurant caters to corporate events, sip and paint parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and showers and anniversaries. Cozy up with your friends in their barrel room. Have a group of 10 to 20 people? Sign up for their private winemaking classes. At the Urban Winery, guests are encouraged to explore their inner winemaker and indulge in their Mediterranean-style menu. The heart of their business is carrying on the legacy of their father Anthony, who immigrated from Greece and enjoyed making wine. Please visit for more information. Follow them on Facebook @theurbanwinery, Instagram @the_urbanwinery, Twitter @urbanwinery_ss and Yelp at


Tysons Galleria, 2001 International Dr. McLean, VA | 703-442-9110

When looking to host a private event in Tysons, look no further than Wildfire. Their selection of party rooms is perfect for both private and semiprivate events. Contact their parties and special events managers at 703-442-9110, and they’ll assist you in planning your special occasion from beginning to end.

  • Holiday parties
  • Corporate events, meetings and presentation
  • Cocktail receptions
  • Birthday celebrations
  • Baby and bridal showers
  • Rehearsal dinners
  • Celebratory brunches

Wildfire McLean features six private room options to host any breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner event. Their private rooms accommodate 20 to 120 people and are equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. In addition, valet parking is available.


300 Tingey St. SE, DC | 202-651-6375

Whether you are planning a tailgate, happy hour or corporate event – or just gathering with friends to watch your favorite team – Willie’s is the perfect venue. Located just steps from Nationals Park in Navy Yard, their open-space venue rises above the rest and features fi nger-lickin’ barbeque, a wide selection of draft beers and craft cocktails. With 360-degree views of the game, Willie’s is the perfect setting for fans to show off their city and host an event. Private and semiprivate space available for 10 to 300 guests. Good friends. Good times. Great food. Contact them today to plan your next event, or to cater your next party or tailgate. Email them at for more information.

Photo: Courtesy of Red Bull
Photo: Courtesy of Red Bull

Red Bull Brings Esports Tournament Final to District

Thousands of electronic gaming enthusiasts will descend on the new, state-of-the-art St. Elizabeths East Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southeast DC this month for four days of ferocious fighting.

The November 16-18 battles won’t put flesh-and-blood fighters in a ring or a cage but rather virtual brawlers projected on massive video screens, as the nation’s best efighters square off in the Red Bull Conquest National Final. The event is expected to draw spectators from around the nation as fighters from 15 different regions vie for prizes and bragging rights as the ultimate competitors in “Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition,” “Tekken 7” and “Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2.”

It’s a moment city officials hope will put DC on the map as fertile ground for the rapidly blossoming – and potentially hugely lucrative – esports industry. In fact, the new $65 million arena in Congress Heights, which will also serve as the home court of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and Wizards’ G League affiliate Capital City Go-Go, was designed in part with esports competitions in mind.

Jimmy Nguyen, national competition director for Red Bull Conquest, tells On Tap that the nation’s capital does not yet have the egaming reputation of California, New York or Texas, but it is rapidly earning its place on the map. He also says DC has a natural appeal for major showcases because it’s an attractive draw for tourists.

“It could be the next area that could flourish and become a stage where we do all of our big events,” Nguyen says. “What we’re trying to do is create opportunities and grow together, and see where we can take this for years to come.”

Events DC, the convention and sports authority for the District, has been angling to get the city involved in the esports realm for years, and finally scored big when it landed the Red Bull Conquest.

Max Brown, chairman of the Events DC board of directors, says the new arena is a natural fit for the virtual sports competition and was built to accommodate such events.

“The arena was built with extreme Wi-Fi and the fastest ethernet to be able to create memorable experiences that are ideal for esports tournaments and its fans,” Brown says. “Tech is shaping the future of entertainment and with the cutting-edge capabilities of the new arena, esports is just another opportunity for us to showcase DC on a global stage – and attract even more events and visitors to the city, similar to Red Bull’s Conquest Final.”

Earlier this year, Events DC also partnered with industry leader NRG Esports to establish a new training home for elite egamers based in DC.

Nguyen says while Red Bull is famous primarily for its wildly popular energy drinks and sponsorship of extreme sports competitions, it has been aggressively moving into the esports realm for the past two years.

“The next big thing is esports and gaming,” he says. “It’s something that we see as viable to the culture.”

Nguyen also rejects the notion that esports are strictly for kids or “computer nerds.” He says that mode of thinking is seriously outdated.

“Back in the day, it was easy to say this a little hobby that nerds and geeks do, but now we’re all geeks and nerds. The more mainstream it gets, it’s hard to say gaming doesn’t matter anymore. We recognize that, and we want to give everybody the opportunity to get involved.”

In the realm of DC-based egaming, perhaps no figure looms larger than Austin “Boo” Painter – star player for the Wizards District Gaming, a virtual NBA team that just completed its first successful season in the burgeoning NBA 2K League. The 24-year-old former State Department security specialist from Luray, Virginia quit his job last year to become a professional egamer with Wizards 2K.

Painter is among roughly 100 paid players in the new league chosen from among 72,000 contestants nationwide. The league pays for his housing and provides a salary that he says allows him to “live healthy” doing what he loves, which includes playing live ebasketball that is streamed to thousands of fans weekly.

“I wake up every day and play [NBA] 2K,” he says, hardly seeming to believe it himself. “When I have kids, I’m never going to tell them to get off the video games because this could happen to them. Esports are growing, and now every little kid looks at video gamers like they want to do this all day too.”

The Red Bull National Conquest Final takes place Friday, November 16 to Sunday, November 18. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit For more information about the Wizards District Gaming, visit

St. Elizabeths East Entertainment & Sports Arena: 1100 Oak Dr. SE, DC;

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life: Potomac Distilling Company’s Todd Thrasher

The transition from barman to rum distiller was a no-brainer for Todd Thrasher. Add the opportunity to continue energizing the nightlife at the burgeoning Wharf neighborhood to the mix and you’ve got one extremely confident – and rightfully so – business owner.

Thrasher’s Potomac Distilling Company is slated to open this month, a slightly adjusted date based on a few additional construction needs. His distillery’s smokestack is quickly becoming one of the city’s most iconic structures, with the cheeky idiom “Make Rum Not War” painted on one side.

As locals impatiently await the distillery’s opening, Thrasher continues to hone the craft of distilling and prep his four rums – his flagship Green Spice Rum, as well as white, gold and spiced – for consumption. After years leading the Eat Good Food Group and its current spots, the seasoned mixologist says he’s ready to walk away from day-to-day business operations at his NoVa-based ventures.

In fact, he won’t be leading business operations at the distillery either. His wife Maria Chicas will, and he says she’s excited about it. Thrasher, on the other hand, says making rum and expanding his rum’s reach both locally and nationally is his sole focus.

Thrasher’s three cocktail bars within Potomac Distilling range from Polynesian-style tavern Tiki TNT to a grassy rooftop space including a garden with botanicals used for his Green Spice Rum – and managed by his mom, who apparently has quite the green thumb.

He is clearly an option maker, with high hopes of creating yet another reason to visit The Wharf. He wants to pique the interest of locals and tourists alike, offering them access to the distillery, and giving them multiple vibes to choose from for their bar experience.

On Tap: Why is The Wharf the right fit for your distillery?
Todd Thrasher: The water and the rum. Really, it came about because [Wharf developer] Monty Hoffman wanted me to do another Bar PX down here, but I wasn’t interested. So, he floated this idea of a distillery – legend has it there was [once] a distillery down here – and I drink rum, so it was a natural fit for me.

OT: What do you think this neighborhood is bringing to DC?
TT: A waterfront. DC has so much waterfront that has been underutilized. I don’t want to park in Georgetown; that waterfront is small, and the dining and options down there are not so interesting. I think The Wharf itself is bringing something that has long been missed: a waterfront opportunity that’s a gathering place.

OT: How late will the distillery be open?
TT: We’ll be open late, except Sundays. Monday through Thursday we’ll be open till 1:30 a.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays we’ll go until 2 a.m. Me and my business partner have had long discussions about keeping those hours, because that’s a big thing with bars. They say “Yeah, we’ll stay open late,” but when business isn’t happening, they close.

Work Must-Haves
MacBook Pro
Coffee maker
Non-slip floors or mats
Comfortable shoes

OT: Why just rum? Why not multiple spirits?
TT: We may branch out in the future, but there’s a hole in the artisanal rum market right now.

OT: Is rum’s popularity shifting in cocktail culture?
TT: [Yes], and on the craft level. I think we’ve seen that big influx of whiskey, and God knows there’s enough vodka on the market to choke people. New American gin has been kind of big the past few years, but it’s time for rum now.

OT: How long did you spend learning about distilling and experimenting with different rum profiles before setting up shop?
TT: In terms of distilling, [I] probably [started] around 2010. I got into home distilling on a very small scale, and most of the stuff went in the garbage. Over the past two or three years, I’ve taken a few classes at Moonshine University and visited many distilleries.

Can’t Live Without
My wife
Our son Trystan
My bed
The ocean (I’m an avid scuba diver)

OT: Are there any challenges to owning a distillery in an urban area?
TT: It’s small in there. I think the distillery itself is just under 1000 square feet, so moving things around is an issue. It’s going to be very tight, so I’m sure storage will be an issue, but hopefully I’ll grow out of the space because of success.

OT: What is your wife’s role in the business?
TT: Clearly she’s the boss [laughs]. She runs our other restaurants on a day-to-day operations basis, but we’re pulling her out of that role. She’s basically going to be the office manager of the entire operation, and she’ll do private parties and all that stuff. She’ll run the business aspect of the whole entity – the distillery and the bar.

OT: How do you feel about Potomac Distilling being in the spotlight? Everyone who crosses the bridge has a prime view of your smokestack.
TT: It’s unbelievable. It’s great. I mean, I joked with a friend of mine about how it’s going to be as big as the National Monument. Everyone who crosses the bridge is going to see that smokestack, and hopefully it’s intriguing to them. It’s reminiscent of the older days when there were billboards.

OT: Who is your ideal customer?
TT: Everybody. I want everyone who’s going to the Fish Market to have a cocktail. I want everyone who’s going to Arena Stage to have a cocktail and a bite to eat. The great thing about DC is it’s a great melting pot of people, and every four years, you get an influx of new people too. I’m equal opportunity.

For more information on Thrasher’s Potomac Distilling Company, click here.

Potomac Distilling Company: 1130 Maine Ave. SW, DC; 202-900-4786;

Photo: Courtesy of Jamal Gray
Photo: Courtesy of Jamal Gray

Movers & Shakers: Who’s Behind the Music in DC?

DC’s music scene is an organism in flux. This is not so surprising, with several new venues recently opening – and several closing – and despite the city’s increasing population, it remains a relatively transient town. Still, DMV artists are finding more ways to build community and establish legitimacy on local and national levels, but not without hard work from some individuals behind the music who truly believe in the strength of the District’s musical past and the potential for its future. We caught up with a few of the movers and shakers making an impact on DC music.

Jamal Gray

DC native Jamal Gray is a musician-curator-organizer who founded the Uptown Art House – a creative incubator and activism-focused artists’ space “without borders” – and leads the avant-garde jazz troupe Nag Champa Art Ensemble. His projects often bridge the underground and the conventional in an effort to elevate the whole of DC’s music scene.

On Tap: How did you first come to be involved with music culture in DC?
Jamal Gray:
My personal connection with music is through my parents. They met working at WPFW 89.3FM, which is a local radio station in DC that focuses on jazz and public affairs. Both of my parents are from DC. My dad was a record producer and [eventually] started his own label. I’ve been around music my whole life.

OT: What major changes have you seen in the local music scene in the past 10 years?
Once things moved more toward [the] Internet, people were moving less toward trying to cultivate a scene and more toward trying to cultivate a persona. That’s where I think we are in music in general, and DC’s just a microcosm of that. A lot of people are spending a lot of energy to cultivate their persona.

OT: With your own music, the collaborations you work on and the performers you support, it seems you’re trying to counterbalance that and keep the “real” in the music. Is this your goal?
If I’m going to support an artist, I want to know what they’re going to add to the conversation. It’s got to be a dialogue, not a diatribe. You should create from yourself, but not only for yourself. You have to be able to jump inside people’s worlds, especially if you want to make an impact. That’s part of what I’m trying to do – push things forward. Art is always a vehicle for progress or change, because it’s usually the artists that will take that risk before other people. That’s what I’m about.

OT: What do you think DC music needs to push forward?
There’s a real conversation that has to happen between the artists themselves so we are held to a certain standard, and between the venues and artists so everyone can feel appreciated. A lot of people who want to leave [DC] say there’s no industry here [and] no infrastructure for musicians. I want our community to be globally minded but locally based. People passing through need to know you can come and see good music happening. We need documentation for it – platforms that are invested in the future of it. I’m an advocate, but I’m an artist too. The best thing I can do is continue to push forward good content and experiences, and help build spaces to incubate toward the next level.

OT: What projects are you most excited about right now?
We are working on a new Nag Champa record. I’m also really excited about my radio show on Full Service Radio called “Late Bloom” that airs live every Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m. We feature a mix of new and obscure music, and interviews with locally based artists working to make global impact. The Uptown Art House project is continuing, but as a creative agency for artists, musicians, curators and activists.

Listen to Gray weekly on Full Service Radio at and check out Nag Champa and Uptown Art House on Facebook: @nagchampadc and @uptownarthouse.

Photo: Sam Segal

Photo: Sam Segal

Peter Lillis

Not only did Peter Lillis help establish Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House’s success as an intimate venue in Adams Morgan focused on local musicians, he’s part of the team behind independent record label Babe City Records, a member of DC-based band Den-Mate, and the marketing manager for Union Stage.

On Tap: You have been involved in many facets of the DC music scene for several years and taken on new roles as the energy has shifted. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Peter Lillis
: In the past five years and perhaps longer, DC was the center of the DIY music and house show scene and really focused on doing shows in nontraditional venues. I got involved around that time, around 2014 or so. I began throwing shows at similar places. I was inspired by the idea of active participation. I got disillusioned by the idea of covering music and wanted to be in bands and put on shows. It took me a few years of doing that to realize I wanted more, and the DIY community was a great opportunity to dive into that. I was inspired by everybody’s personal and communal interest [in] bettering themselves and the scene. There was an exciting movement happening.

OT: Do you think the DIY era is over?
There’s still a good amount of it, but DC is not getting more affordable. The spaces that were central to that experience are gone now – torn down or renovated and sold. But for me and my colleagues at the other collectives, everyone seems to have upped their game. DC has done a better job of investing in nightlife and entertainment options for people. There’s a lot of money and young people and new options for performers. The Wharf where I am now with Union Stage is a great space for people to play. Songbyrd does great work engaging locals. [Dangerously Delicious Pies] is open on H Street. The house show arc was necessary to get us here. We all got the practice we needed to develop empathy for promoters and bookers. The DIY concept doesn’t need to be confined to people’s homes; it’s not mutually exclusive from commercial venues. The fact that they are going away just means we’ve built something that people want, which is encouraging.

OT: You organize industry panels and meetups. What is the purpose of those?
When we opened Union Stage, [owners] the Brindley brothers had a very welcoming attitude, which is kind of rare. We concocted this effort to directly engage the music community and see what it would bring. The central idea is to give people a platform to meet and talk and see how everybody works together. The music industry is very connections-based. That can make it difficult for people who don’t have the knowledge or resources to be involved but want to be and are talented and motivated. The meetups and platforms we’ve organized have that in mind. It’s been successful so far, [but] there’s a lot of work left to be done. The city could support local arts in a more effective way. The only way we can communicate that to decision-makers is through collective action, so this is a small effort at doing that. We give people the initial tools and contacts to grow their business while keeping it concerted and learning from the community itself, and we can get feedback and learn how to run our business better.

OT: What do you think is unique about DC as a local musician?
It’s a somewhat small city but [a] very big media market, so it’s somewhat easy to navigate compared to some of the more entertainment industry cities where there’s a ton of noise. You can meet people and there’s a scrappy attitude, but being the city it is, we get more eyeballs and cred than a city of a similar size in a different location. [It’s] advantageous for local artists to live in our area and be able to play in Baltimore, Philly, NYC, Richmond – you can play any of those places and still be home in your bed at the end of the night. People need to get out of town and start evangelizing the community here, and that’s the only way we’ll become effective on the national, international level.

Join the DC Music Industry group on Facebook to get involved in Lillis’s community efforts. Learn more about Union Stage at and Babe City Records artists, including Den-Mate, at

Photo: Alicia Raft

Photo: Alicia Raft

Sasha Lord

Sasha Lord has promoted, partnered and worked with numerous groups in the DMV. She has also managed tours for several artists, booking shows abroad and traveling with the musicians. Now based in Brooklyn, Lord is currently GM of the Market Hotel (Brooklyn) and Trans-Pecos (Queens) while remaining the primary booker at Connecticut Avenue-based music venue Comet Ping Pong.

On Tap: How did you get into the business of artist promotion?
Sasha Lord:
I have a background in community outreach and working with at-risk populations. I worked for an outdoor leadership school and I’ve always been community-oriented. In college, I worked at Black Cat and then got the opportunity to [work] at Comet Ping Pong. I also have a background working with people with disabilities, and that’s why I tried to make Comet as accessible as possible. I’ve combined my professional background and community work with my love of music to make a diverse, accessible venue for all ages.

OT: What did you see at Comet, in terms of artists and audiences?
Comet is beautiful because it’s very much a community. We have a variety of promoters so we have a broad range of types, ages, genres and diversity in music – and that makes it a unique space. My shows will sometimes have an older demographic [while] other promoters have a younger [demographic]. It’s very well-rounded and community-oriented.

OT: What should venue operators and promoters do to elevate DC as city where musicians want to come but also pay attention to the artists who are already here?
Taking care of artists and being mindful of their needs is crucial. Over the past 10 years booking [at] Comet, I was able to go to festivals [and] tour with people. I curated a showcase at South by Southwest, helped with two events [at] Art Basel and [participated in] art fairs. I toured so I could be a better promoter. It made me realize that Comet is a really good venue, and we’re really good to artists. It made me understand what touring artists go through when they arrive. Maybe they’re exhausted, maybe they spent their last $20 on the Baltimore [Harbor] Tunnel, maybe they’re hungry [and] slept on someone’s floor. I didn’t think about those things until going on tour. I realized how hard it is. So when bands show up, be mindful. I feel for the most part, most of the venues in DC do a good job at that.

OT: Now that you are based in New York, how will you stay involved in DC music?
I have shows booked at Comet through April and plan to continue to book there. A lot of bands reach out to me now wanting to be booked in both NYC and DC, and it’s awesome that I’m able to do that. I recently booked [80s indie band Beat Happening’s] Calvin Johnson in DC and New York, and have some other things in the works for the next year. I’m cultivating and curating in both cities, so bands will know that they’ll get a good experience at [multiple shows]. I’m not leaving DC. I’m hoping to contribute even more by bridging the cities together.

Read about Lord and her projects at and learn more about Comet Ping Pong’s winter lineup at

Photo courtesy of Marta Staudinger
Photo courtesy of Marta Staudinger

‘Coalesce’ Exhibition Finds Synergy in Separation

Art galleries have a somewhat unfair reputation for being unapproachable and designed for a niche audience, but for Marta Staudinger and Christine Olmstead’s “Coalesce” exhibition, the opposite could not have been truer.

As I stepped into The Bryne Gallery in quaint Middleburg, Virginia, I felt enveloped in a warm, golden embrace that seemed to reflect off the various art pieces around the room and what I saw were vibrant creations from Staudinger and Olmstead that felt youthful and energetic without feeling overwhelming.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the exhibition, though, was that both artists had incredibly distinctive styles of abstract painting, but they didn’t clash; Staudinger and Olmstead’s styles “coalesced” in a way that allowed each artist to stand out but still feel like one in the same, much like telling the same story from different points of view.

With such different styles, I wondered how the two decided to create art together. Staudinger admits that the thought never really crossed their minds until they kept finding themselves being connected through their art: they were commissioned to create a piece each that was meant to complement each other, then Olmstead had an exhibition in Staudinger’s gallery in DC.

It was there that “the man who hung our works from that [aforementioned] commission for this corporate client is one of the co-owners of the gallery and he saw a lot of synergy between our work,” Staudinger says.

It also helps that when the two started this project together over the summer, they agreed to use the same color palette: mostly earthy tones like greens, blues, reds with bolder colors like copper and gold.

Staudinger’s take on the palette included works that often felt like looking at a landscape with lots of use of texture, straight lines and panels of color with names for the pieces like “Turquoise Pearl Frost” and “On Cloud 9.”

A standout of Staudinger’s was a largely white canvas with four deep red vertical strokes named “Catalunya,” a statement piece that incorporates elements of the Catalan flag and history.

Olmstead’s interpretation of the agreed-upon color palette was much more flowy and softer than Staudinger’s, but still with glimpses of boldness and texture as well. And where Staudinger’s pieces looked like staring into the distance, Olmstead’s felt close and personal, almost like a zoomed-in look at a flower. Each of Olmstead’s pieces had names that started with “Don’t Stop” and ended in multiple variations like “Don’t Stop 16” and “Don’t Stop Making Mistakes” – little reminders for herself, Olmstead says, to never stop looking for the goodness in life and growing as a person.

One of Olmstead’s standout pieces (perhaps not surprisingly next to Staudinger’s “Catalunya”) was “Don’t Stop Seeing the Light,” a canvas of light blues and greys as the backgrounds with layers of reds, browns and coppers built on top, slightly less big than the layer before to create a focal point of sorts. The final touch was dashes of gold flake paint that acted like cracks of light breaking through the grey.

“I ended up gravitating more towards some colors and Marta gravitated a little more towards other,” Olmstead says. “I think you can see that they’re all in the same palette but her works maybe have a little more of one color and mine tend to have a little bit more of another.”

While the two artists had different takes on and inspirations for their individual works, Staudinger says they shared an overall design for the exhibition, although an unusual one; instead of a curator seeking them out to feature a series of their works, they “created these pieces together to be site specific,” Staudinger says.

But that was where their collaborating in-person roughly ended – each piece they created was made in their separate work spaces in different towns. The two wouldn’t see each other’s finished works until they would meet at the gallery to set up the exhibition.

And so we all found ourselves in a small gallery in the middle of rural Virginia with two artists who’s styles are wildly different, and yet complimentary. After listening to people’s conversations around the room, and seeing for myself, I’d say we all agree that whatever creative spark Staudinger and Olmstead share, we want more collaboration between them in the future.

“I love that we’ve been able to share experiences and vulnerabilities and techniques and formulas…without really bleeding into each other’s styles,” Olmstead says. “The pieces look so different and we both have very distinct styles [but] our pieces are of the same soul and of the same flavor because, as Marta said, we are people of the same flavor.”

Check out Staudinger and Olmstead’s “Coalesce” exhibition at The Byrne Gallery in Middleburg, Virginia. The exhibition run’s until November 4.

The Byrne Gallery: 7 W Washington St. Middleburg, VA; 540-687-6986;

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Día de Los Muertos Festival at The Wharf

The skies cleared and the fun began at the Dia de Los Muertos festival at the Wharf. Presented by Modelo, the day featured live music from La Unica, sets from DJ Blind Stares, face painting, an altar competition and authentic treats from Pearl Street restaurants. Photos: John Gervasi