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It’s been less than a week since Ventnor Sports Cafe announced it would close Nov. 28 after a 14-year run in Adams Morgan. Owner Scott Auslander told City Paper that even though the two-level watering hole has never been busier, he wasn’t able to come to terms with the landlord during negotiations that arose because the bar’s lease is up at the end of the month.
Two longtime hospitality industry professionals, Jo-Jo Valenzuela and Oscar Guardado, found the lease terms amenable and have already swooped in to claim the space at 2411 18th St. NW. It helps that Guardado’s mother is the landlord.
Valenzuela, who has worked as a bartender at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, Occidental, and Brine, has been eyeing locations in Adams Morgan for a year, noting that The Green Zone and Lucky Buns beat him to the punch with two sought-after addresses.
“I have a feeling about Adams Morgan,” Valenzuela says. “People there are starting to create really good places.”
Good news sports fans: Valenzuela and Guardado are keeping the sports pub theme. According to Valenzuela, the downstairs will remain largely unchanged except for a deep clean and some new televisions. The upstairs space will take a little more work and may not open right away. The plan is to serve dinner until 10 p.m., then change over to a lounge. That’s where Guardado’s expertise comes in. He has run Rosebar Lounge in Dupont Circle for years.
“We’re thinking of having some electronic hookahs, good music, and good drinks,” Valenzuela says. “It’s something Adams Morgan has seen before, but with some fresh faces and a fresh take on it.”
Diners will be able to order “international pub food,” according to Valenzuela, who is currently developing a menu that cooks will execute. He’s Filipino and Guardado is Salvadoran, so expect many dishes inspired by the cuisines of those two countries, plus “a bang-ass burger” and wings.
Upstairs in the dining room and lounge, Valenzuela will offer weekly specials like lechon Mondays and perhaps the occasional kamayan feast (a family-style Filipino meal arranged on banana leaves). They’ll open with dinner and introduce brunch later on.
While Valenzuela’s calling card is winning cocktail competitions with cutting edge ingredients, he expects the drinks to be more laid back at his new business venture.
The partners are still finalizing a name, but they expect to have the bar turned around and ready to reopen within a month.
There’s one major problem for Ventnor’s regulars. Guardado is a Cowboys fan and suggested making the new bar a home for Dallas fans on Sundays. Ventnor’s was a known Philadelphia Eagles bar and the two teams are vicious rivals. Valenzuela hopes they can compromise and be an NFC East bar.