Courtesy Garbage BARge
Courtesy Garbage BARge

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This fall climate experts dealt the world a report so damning about the planet’s future that some millennials are questioning whether to reproduce. Local nightclub DC9 picked up on the current zeitgeist and built a pop-up around it. The decorations and drinks at Garbage BARge launching tonight and lasting through Dec. 30 are inspired by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and, according to one of the founding bartenders, Lauren McGrath, “the relentless Catholic guilt felt in regards to our plastic use.” 

“It started as something that was 90 percent funny,” says McGrath of the Garbage BARge concept. “But we’ve been meeting with different nonprofits and groups who specialize in these kinds of things. For me I’ve always thought of the environment. I’m a vegan. But you tend to stick it in the back of your head when you’re at work.” 

In just over two weeks, D.C.’s new plastic straw ban will take effect. Back in June, Councilmembers Jack Evans and Mary Cheh introduced a bill that would make it illegal for any food service entity to sell, use, or provide a plastic straw or stirrer with any food or beverage unless the straw or stirrer is made of a material that can be composted. “Garbage BARge is an interesting conversation point for what alternatives we’re going to use and what other steps we’ll take beyond straws,” McGrath explains.

The DC9 team has spent weeks collecting discarded plastic to use in crafting the decor for Garbage BARge. Staff members from The Brixton, DC Brau, Dino’s Grotto, and The Passenger pitched in by dropping off plastic rings from six-packs of beer and the like. The main attraction is an art installation from Our Last Straw, a coalition of bars, cafes, hotels, and event venues that are committed to eliminating single-use plastic straws in the District. As DC9 uses up the remainder of its plastic-straw stockpile throughout the duration of the pop-up, customers will be able to affix their straws to the piece of art. 

Only one of the cocktails on the Garbage BARge menu will come with a plastic straw. It’s a take on a “Mind Eraser” shot that requires a straw for the full experience. Dubbed, “The Last Straw,” the drink utilizes Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka and soda. “Our Mind Eraser looks like an oil spill, and it’s your job to clean it up,” the menu reads. 

If customers need straws for the other cocktails on the list, Garbage BARge will provide either hay or paper straws. There will be a straw poll conducted to see which alternative to plastic is more appealing. As several cities across the U.S. have outlawed plastic straws, paper straw producers are feeling pinched

All of the cocktails on the menu below are $11 each:

“We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat” with spiced rum, light rum, Blue Curaçao, and grenadine 

“Maritime Madness” with Plymouth Gin, St. Germaine, lime, and pineapple 

“The Last Straw” with Van Gogh Double Espresso, soda, and a straw

“Red Tide” with Old “Overheat” Rye, sour mix, and Merlot

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” with Tito’s Vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry, and orange

“Melted Snow Ball” with Stoli Vanilla, orgeat syrup, and Coconut Lacroix

“Black Pearl” with Kraken rum, orgeat syrup, Fernet, and lime

“Captain Without a Crew” with Dogfish Head Sequence Ale and a shot of Sauza Hornitos tequila

McGrath says DC9’s full beer list will also be available and notes that the cocktails were a team effort. “Every bartender got something on the menu,” McGrath says. “‘The Melted Snowball’ was everyone’s favorite.” She notes that a donation will be made to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in keeping with the spirit of the silly-turned-serious pop-up. 

Garbage BARge is only taking over the first floor of DC9. “We already have a bunch of happy hours booked for a few of the nonprofits we’re working with,” McGrath says. She also notes that a U.S. senator’s office reserved Garbage BARge for a holiday soiree, but won’t specify which one.

“If there’s a line, we’re ready for it.”

Garbage BARge is open Mondays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.; and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Garbage BARge, 1940 9th St. NW;