At the 2026 pop-up, you can order a take on a gin rickey cocktail named “Came to The Wrong Town.” It would normally cost $12, but at the pop-up coming to The Armory inside Rebellion June 11 to 13, the cocktail costs $17.97.
“It’s a future dystopia showing the effects of this harmful initiative,” Ryan Aston of The Hamilton told City Paper when the plan was first hatched. The goal is for the anti-Initiative 77 pop-up to suck. Not only will the prices of food and drink be appreciably higher, but the bar will be staffed by a slim number of employees and only one person will cook.
Aston organized the pop-up with two other tipped workers, Frank Mills and Zac Hoffman, Proof Hospitality partners Brian Westlye and Travis Weiss, and Jennifer Heiser, who works in communications.
Some of the drinks carry incendiary names like the “Uncle Tom Collins.” The drink refers to a tense moment at a town hall when a Initiative 77 supporter made racially charged remarks directed at Mills, who is African-American. Race and gender have played major roles in the debate over the ballot initiative. There’s also a Sazerac called “#86ROC.” In restaurant speak, when a dish is 86-ed, it’s done for the day.
ROC, short for Restaurant Opportunities Center United, is the organization that collected enough signatures to get Initiative 77 on the ballot. Its local director, Diana Ramirez, calls the pop-up a “media stunt intended to scare workers and diners by painting a false picture of the future.”
“If D.C. voters pass Initiative 77, the future will be bright for tipped workers and restaurants,” she says. “We know from the experience of cities like San Francisco and Seattle that tipped workers will benefit, poverty will decline, tipping will continue, and restaurants will continue to flourish.”
The tipped minimum wage in D.C. would increase in eight increments until it reaches $15 in 2025 if Initiative 77 passes on June 19. From 2026 going forward, there would be no more tip credit or two-tiered wage system. All workers would receive what supporters of Initiative 77 call “One Fair Wage.”
Currently, restaurant operators can pay tipped workers a base wage as little as $3.33 an hour and expect tips from patrons to carry them over the standard minimum wage of $12.50. The employer must make up the difference if tips don’t bring a worker up to the standard minimum wage.
Opponents say tipped workers earn far more than minimum wage already. Supporters say the current system is difficult to enforce, leaving some workers earning poverty wages.
Those behind the 2026 pop-up are trying to communicate what they expect dining out to look like the year there is no more tipped minimum wage. The idea is that restaurants would have to change their business models to shoulder payroll increases. Some say they’d institute a service fee and others predict they’d need to raise prices.
Weiss calculated what his group would have to charge per drink and dish at the pop-up based on a month’s payroll at his other restaurant, The Commodore. “I made everyone $15 that wasn’t at $15 and raised other employees up incrementally,” he told City Paper last month. Payroll for two weeks jumped from $7,770 to $11,637, including all hourly employees, management, and the restaurant’s operating fee.
Supporters of Initiative 77 believe D.C. restaurant operators and consumers could adjust to the changes over the long phase-in period and point to the fact that seven U.S. states already make it work.
“It’s about looking at the model and figuring out how to accommodate increasing labor costs,” Ramirez says. “The biggest backlash is the fear of the unknown, the fear of change … There’s a win-win for everybody in this scenario.”
The pop-up runs June 11 to 13 from 7 pm. to 1 a.m. A portion of the proceeds will go to the DC Coalition to End Sexual Violence.
The Armory, 1836 18th St. NW; rebelliondc.com/the-armory-at-rebellion