Monica Alford and Robert Kinsler
Monica Alford and Robert Kinsler Credit: Rich Kessler

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On Tap magazine, an arts and entertainment publication focused on the D.C. metro area, is rebranding as District Fray Magazine, it announced today.

The pivot comes after DC Fray, the recreational sports company that offers leagues for games like soccer and volleyball, as well as dodgeball, Skee-Ball, and bingo, acquired the magazine in early 2019. Now, says DC Fray founder Robert Kinsler, the time has come to more closely align the magazine’s branding with DC Fray’s. 

On Tap, founded in 1998, publishes a monthly print edition and covers entertainment in all its forms—“what’s hot in the local scene from music and sports to beer, wine, cocktails, theatre, style, comedy, film,” its website says—and was previously put out by Five O’Clock Publishing. It will continue offering a free monthly print edition, Kinsler explains. “We want to be as effective at delivering our mission for our community as we can, and a print magazine and a local publication is a really unique and effective way to deliver the kind of content that we’re covering,” he says. “I mean, everything can’t live on your phone.” Everyone who worked with On Tap will remain with District Fray, Kinsler says, and the team was merged with the editorial and events operation that already existed at DC Fray when they acquired the magazine. On Tap also moved from Alexandria to DC Fray’s Northeast headquarters last year.

The magazine’s mandate has expanded slightly: In addition to On Tap’s traditional sports, entertainment, and food and drink coverage, District Fray will cover lifestyle topics like health and wellness, work and professional culture, and outdoors and recreation. “We’ve expanded the editorial team a little bit and put more resources at their disposal to work with more freelancers and to expand the mission and to cover all those things that are going on,” Kinsler says. There are five people on the editorial side, including editor-in-chief Monica Alford, who was managing editor of On Tap for the last four years.

The new District Fray is still thinking about its future horizons. “We’re definitely a local publication 100 percent,” Kinsler says. “It’s in our DNA. So everything will be put through a local lens, or the vast majority of things will be put through a local lens. But we certainly know that people in D.C. travel, they do things outside of the D.C. immediate area. So we’re going to kind of navigate how we pull things in, like, should we do coverage on the big global event, should we cover Yacht Week, should we cover Coachella? But that will be a minority of coverage. The bulk will be Great Falls and the brand new bar in Northwest and the concert that is coming to Echostage.”

Alford is paying close attention to the magazine’s direction after the relaunch. “It’s very important to me to make sure that we’re inclusive of the entire D.C. community,” she says. And on that note, she says, she wants to appeal to groups beyond millennial transplants. “D.C. is a very transient city, and I’m somebody who grew up here, so it’s been really fun to watch so much talent come in and out of the city, and that’s definitely a part of what makes our city tick. But at the same time, there’s also so many communities within D.C. that have been here for generations, and I want to make sure that our publication feels approachable and accessible to them.”

Kinsler started DC Fray in 2009 as, initially, a Skee-Ball league. The company has expanded to New Orleans, Phoenix, and Jacksonville, Florida, while Kinsler has moved with his family to Annapolis, though he still has a strong D.C. allegiance. “My kids were all born at GW, I was born inside the beltway; I consider myself a Washingtonian,” he says. “I’m definitely excited to bring a perspective of not just D.C., you know, inside the District lines, but also the greater Washington, D.C. area and all the amazing things that we have, from Great Falls to Annapolis to things in Baltimore.”

District Fray publishes its first issue—themed “For the Love of D.C.”—on March 7, and is hosting a launch party on March 28 with arts group No Kings Collective. No Kings co-founder Brandon Hill will illustrate the magazine’s first cover.

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