Young and Hungry

Restaurateur Joe Englert on the Hardship of Making a Buck in the “New Pansy Climate”

In D.C., all it takes to shut down the government and create an organic coconut water shortage at Whole Foods is a little slush and a catchy storm name. The victim of this weather hysteria? Restaurants and bars, says restaurateur Joe Englert, whose properties include H Street Country Club, The Pug, Granville Moore's, and more.

Engert has been on a literary roll lately, penning 18 confessions he'd like to make to Opraheight reasons why it rocks to own a bar, and eight reasons why it sucks. Before spring weather arrives, we've let him have at it on the topic of the weatherman vs. the barman:

Most every D.C. beer garden, gastropub and other booze-centric business lives and dies by its daily sales report (DSR). The DSR not only details a night of transactions by conveniently breaking down sales into categories for food, beer, wine, and sales tax. By glancing at the comments section of these mini-time capsules, an operator has the perfect cheatsheet for bringing clarity into why a night might have rocked or fizzled. (“Why can’t there be a Presidential Inauguration every weekend?”) or (“Rugby party a bit too much of a success: Billiards tables upended. Women’s room stall ripped off hinges. See attached police report.”)

Unfortunately, on too many DSRs throughout the DMV these days, the same sentences keep on appearing: “Weatherman screwed us again. Scared everybody off with inaccurate prediction of monsoon. We were dead, dead, dead.”

For years, a typical Dodge City restaurateur knew that for only a few days a year would he endure ringing not a single dime in sales: Christmas, Easter, the day after New Year's, and maybe a night or two where a once in a decade storm dumped walls of snow upon the city. It took a monumental blizzard or Katrina-sized hurricane to cause the media into warning the masses not to head outdoors to their beloved pupuserias or titty bars. That was then. Now, the constant weather hysteria never sleeps. Anchor men, bloggers, online newspapers, and of course demented weather people scream constantly about killer snow drifts, code red air quality, and deer tick infestations. Booze operators are left to face the empty seats, the sad side affects of the paranoia.

I have owned bars, nightclubs and taverns in D.C. for a quarter of a century. I debuted a place in Arlington when the corporate offices of Whole Foods and Apple still thought the place was a backwater suburb in Texas. I launched a series of bars on U Street NW back in the age of innocence when people like me were called “crazy white boy” instead of “gentrifier.” I have outlived wine coolers, jalapeño poppers, Zima, the Macarena, and the don’t ask, don’t tell era of putrid smelling cigars. But now, I just don’t know if I can survive the weather boogey man any more. The constant screeching of weather warnings are causing innkeepers like me to lose our asses.

We used to have a saying in the bar business that cold weather “smelled like money.” During the cold months we packed them in. Now, a brisk chill is enough to keep our clientele in for a fortnight. Sadly, winter now reeks of death.

Take the damn “Snowquester” which didn’t happen a few weeks ago.


The 72 hours leading up to this non-event encapsulates the sorry state of Washington weather panics. But how to explain the next week or so afterwards as the city’s inhabitants bunkered down like Stalingraders circa 1943. When will we start realizing that the local storm barking always proves bigger than its bite? Our news stations, our sad phone, and even sadder regional leaders constantly wimp out. Cancel school and gubberment now. Ask questions later. And what I would like to know: if there are so many non-essential people populating our workforce why do we keep them on the payroll?

The new normal has become a straight-faced call for zero to 14 inches—and while this would make a compelling porn flick title, it signifies everything wrong Washington weather forecasting and its sycophants. Are we so soft we can’t endure a little dusting on Route 66? Would it hurt our children to trudge a mile or two to their private schools instead of being Ubered there? How does the capitol of a super power come to a screeching halt for nearly a week based solely on predictions from people who seldom get it right, have terrible haircuts, and actually get excited about the Washington Redskins?

Historically, I have had very little use for the weather except for taking advantage of the cold by pushing over-priced, hot alcoholic drinks topped with whipped cream. I always hated the losers in Catholic school who wore “rubbers.” I own nothing but contempt for umbrella carriers, raincoat wearers, mitten lovers, scarf bearers, and muffler milquetoasts. I’m gobsmacked by the wholesale wimpiness. How can the painfully mild Washington weather bring my fine peers to their knees? Most of the city hibernated through this winter even though we hardly suffered through 1.7 inches of total snow accumulation. Summer has a fearsome rap around here too. Sure, it gets hotter than Hades every July for a few weeks. But to paraphrase my hero Marion Barry, “Get over it, bitches. Your bandwidth is weak."

Shouldn’t we do what other people do all over the planet? Buy an affectionate yak or alpaca for the cold months. Get used to sweating in August. Or how’s about gliding around on your over-priced bike to create a very inexpensive air conditioning system? Then do like those billion Chinese do, hydrate with a frosty cold mug of beer on a lovely patio garden of your local neighborhood tavern.

Looking at this year’s March DSR’s compared to 2012, most of our beloved friends in the biz are experiencing a massive downword trend. Obviously this month Washingtonians have gone out not like lions, but lambs.

D.C. has a “state motto:” Justia Omnibus or “justice for all.” Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner” unfortunately happens to be the official song of the city. But if we don’t start acting tougher, I think we should just go ahead and make our official musical group “Pussy Riot.”

D.C.ers, it’s time to accept that once in awhile, a hard rain is gonna fall, especially on the way to a drunkfest or that special bris ceremony with the open bar.  Washington, you are young and pretty and you look sort of hot when you are wet.  Damn the Cassandras. It’s time to get outside and start drinking again. It won’t fucking kill you. Or at least that quickly.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Cynthia

    Ah, equating a woman's vagina with weakness... That one never gets old. Also, for the record, Pussy Riot's women are a bunch of badasses standing up to a murderous dictator.

  • Mario

    This is a "literary roll?" This is what happens when people start sharing their thoughts online...they never STOP!
    What a bizarre, illogical piece. Just because your place is dead because of the "weathermen" doesn't mean that people aren't partying. And you're telling me that after decades in the bar business that this is your first slow March? Gimme a goddamn break.
    Just like that Black Squirrel weirdo, barmen should save their talking for behind the bar, NOT at a computer. That's what "real" barmen do, not flock to the web at the first sign of slow business and start blaming everyone except themselves.

  • Alex

    Just wondering if the weather is an incorrect suspect. Could it be folks just don't have as much money? The sequester has cut people's salaries, and for years now, salaries have been stagnant. Maybe a tipping point has been reached where it's simply too hard for folks to justify $8 pints when their rents keep rising, food keeps costing more, and the price of a plane ticket for a decent vacation is frightening. Also, could Joe come across as anymore obnoxious? Dude, when it rains, I use an umbrella. Sorry if that makes me a whimp in your world. It's good to know what bars this guy runs so I can try to avoid them in the future. I don't like my money going to support the establishments of a guy who comes across as a total jerk.

  • anons

    Well, I am glad the names of his establishments were posted along with his over the top childish screed. I know where not to spend my money.

    I am sorry that occasionlly something interrupts your cash creation waterfall and reduces the number of 18 dollar hamburgers or twice priced beers you sell, but get the fuck over yourself.

  • Don

    "Now, a brisk chill is enough to keep our clientele in for a fortnight"

    Or maybe they just go places where the ownership doesn't sneer at them as a bunch of wimps. I mean, I know I can't wait to go hand over my money to judgmental wankers, but some people feel differently. What babies. Come be patronized as you patronize!

  • alawyer

    Might not be good for the pubs but it is great for the wine stores.

  • DC Resident

    Wow--I wish I could get those few minutes of my life back that I just wasted reading that!

  • boozehound

    My guess is that the author was going for humorous snark here, but there is an art to that kind of stuff, and Mr. Englebert sure doesn't seem to have the skill for it. Not only that, but he reveals himself to be the exact kind of brotastic frat boy d-bag that so many of us find insufferable. Next time someone suggests going to the Pug, I'll look for other options.

  • Guh

    @boozehound: He was an original partner in the Pug but has since been bought out. Thank god.

  • Sw

    "Historically, I have had very little use for the weather except for taking advantage of the cold by pushing over-priced, hot alcoholic drinks topped with whipped cream. I always hated the losers in Catholic school who wore 'rubbers.'"

    Gee whiz, Joe Englert, you're so cool.


  • Ron The Don

    And what part of keep your thoughts to yourself does this bar owner doesn't understand?

  • Jes’ sayin’

    Pure gold.

    He's spot on about the weather wussies. Y'all just don't want to admit it.

  • go ham or go home

    Washingtonians are a bit on the soft side. I propose a one month "life training" for every resident in the District to take place in january on the streets of Chicago or a Siberian Gulag. activities to include but not limited to: walking carefully on ice, dealing with cold weather by not comparing it to whatever southern state you came from, not talking about how cold weather affects minority voter turnout, and not being a whiny little bitch all the fucking time. I'm glad that there's someone in DC who's willing to call it like it is.

  • Jammaster V.

    I thought catholics don't wear rubbers?! Or at least are taught not to. Bad joke I know, but not as bad as this piece!

    I'm in the service industry too, I know how much it sucks when weather kills your crowd, but being rather vocal about it is the most unprofessional thing you can do. I get the angle this guy is going for, but there's something to be said about being in hospitality and not caring about people waiting over two hours to give you their money (Granville Moore's on a friday night), and then pathetically trying to intimidate people into drinking on slower nights which is not always weather related.

    I really like Englert's bars, and I realize this is op-ed, but you'll forgive me if I'll begin considering alternatives.

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  • yup

    H St Country Club is where they demand to "hold" your credit card but when you pay in cash at the end, they still charge your card. Granville Moore's got on TV and got overpriced, overrated, overcrowded. I can only get to these via X2 (aka: the STABBY bus) since the free shuttle's gone.

    There are less crowded, metro-accessible bars w/better beers and cheaper food where I won't have a credit dispute after I leave. All over DC. Rain's got nothing to do with why I won't return to your sh!tholes.

  • RealBigYuppy

    Let me just remind everyone that alcohol is poisonous, it IS known to destroy your liver. Let me also remind Joe Englert that Marion Barry was NOT a good mayor; quoting him was STUPID.

    with all of this said, quit bitching!

  • fffff

    This is what I read: "I want to make money, and I'm not making money, and I was the first white person on H Street, and it's the fault of the weathermen because they have bad hair, and anyone who doesn't pay me money must be a vagina because they are afraid of the weather..." Asshat

  • Novatronic

    Oversharing is a terrible thing. And I'll take cold weather anyday over the May to October hot humid ugliness. Looks like a cry for help.