Prohibition Is Back; Red River’s Spirit Lives On

Posted July 13, 2005 at 4:46pm

Speakeasy on the Hill. It’s been more than 70 years since Prohibition ended in the District, but a new Capitol Hill bar plans to channel the days of speakeasies and bootleg booze — only this time the booze will be legal.

Mark Menard and Mike Schuster, owners of the Pour House and Trusty’s, and Jim Spore have taken over the space formerly occupied by Zack’s at 613 Pennsylvania Ave. SE and plan to open The 18th Amendment in mid-August.

The bar takes it name from the amendment that enacted Prohibition in 1920 and will take its design cues from the speakeasies that cropped up in response to the alcohol ban.

The renovated space will be divided into an upscale bar on the main floor and a more casual hangout in the basement. The upper level will offer a full bar with high-end liquors and about eight beers on draft in an art deco-inspired room. The basement bar — “the kind of place where gangsters would have hung out,” Spore said — will have furniture fashioned from old whiskey boxes, barrels and pews and a small lounge with couches.

The 18th Amendment will also have several pool tables and a limited menu of appetizers, small pizzas and paninis.

“We want it to be the new place to be on Capitol Hill,” Spore said.

The Bar Formerly Known as Red River Grill. The frozen margaritas and $1.50 Buds are back. Union Pub, the updated successor of Red River Grill, opened its doors and shaded patio to thirsty Capitol Hill crowds at the end of June.

The interior makeover includes new seating and a less-cluttered look. In the main bar, silver stools and a few royal blue booths and ottomans provide seating in the otherwise open space. In the dining room, tan and chocolate booths line the walls, which are dotted with silver stars.

While the look is new, regulars of Red River will be relieved to find that some of the old happy hour deals have stuck around.

Following in Red River’s footsteps, Union Pub offers a slew of dirt-cheap specials every day. Wednesday’s special — $1.50 Buds, Bud Light and Miller Lite from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. — is even called “The Tradition Continues.” From 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, rail drinks are $3. Mondays bring half-price burgers and $2 domestic drafts, while Tuesdays offer half-price wings, $7.50 domestic beer pitchers and $3 frozen drinks, which come in flavors such as watermelon, banana, raspberry and piña colada.

Union Pub’s nice selection of draft beers includes Chimay White, Guinness, Brooklyn Lager, Flying Dog Pale Ale and a house brew, Union Pub Amber.

Gone is Red River’s Tex-Mex menu, replaced by American bar fare, paninis, salads and entrées. Among the appetizer offerings, mini burgers are served in a basket with fries, and bruschetta is topped with mozzarella, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Sandwich choices include an andouille sausage-spiked burger and a goat cheese and roasted pepper panini on artisan bread.

Sports fans will appreciate the 10 televisions, including three with 50-inch screens, that will be showing Nationals games throughout the season.

Union Pub is located at 201 Massachusetts Ave. NE.

Happy Bastille Day. To toast July Fourth and France’s Bastille Day, Brasserie Les Halles (1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) will hold its annual Bastille races and celebration today.

The festivities kick off at noon with can-can dancers, a disc jockey and food. The main attraction is the waiter’s race, in which waitstaff from area restaurants speed walk down the street balancing a tray and its contents. The race starts at 2 p.m.

Also on the agenda is a children’s race at 12:30 p.m. and an open race for guests at 1 p.m. A $10 entry donation is suggested, and proceeds benefit the Best Buddies program.

Meanwhile, Poste Brasserie (558 Eighth St. NW) is hosting “A Picnic at Poste” this evening from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Billed as an “eco-celebration” inspired by the revolutionary spirit of Bastille Day, the party will raise funds for the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that conserves land for parks, community gardens and other natural spaces.

The party will be held in Hotel Monaco’s courtyard and on Poste’s terrace, where picnic-themed hors d’oeuvres, organic wines and specialty cocktails will be served.

Tickets for the event are $35 and can be purchased by calling (202) 939-6421.