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Before there were craft cocktails, or pop-ups made out of crafts, there were bars run by bartenders. That’s the kind of establishment John “Solly” Solomon of Solly’s and Brookland’s Finest and Tony Tomeldon of The Pug are opening at 740 15th St. NW by the end of October.
“We don’t need mixologists,” Solly says. “We want people that can talk to people, engage people, and if they can make a great drink on top of it—even better.”
The bar is taking over the old mail room of the Union Trust Building, erected in 1905. The bar, Union Trust, is named after the building. “What I see it as is bringing the neighborhood bar aesthetic back downtown,” Solly says, tipping his hat to Shelly’s Back Room for carrying the torch for so long.
Try asking Tomeldon about the vibe and he spits jokes as usual. “We’re going to do a lot of pop-ups,” he says, deadpan. “Like a Game of Thrones bar, a Halloween bar.”
Solly steers his partner back to reality and again touts hospitality as the focus: “I hope that’s what we’re going back to in the industry. It has longevity.” He hopes the bar will become an industry hang given the large scale restaurants nearby that have large staffs, among them Old Ebbitt Grill, The Hamilton, and next door neighbor, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. The fact that they’ll stay open until 2 a.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays should help.
Union Trust will have a list of classic cocktails and ten taps. One will pour Prosecco, another a draft cocktail. The rest will be reserved for one domestic beer, likely Miller High Life, and seven local beers. “We consider ‘local’ anything within a three-hour drive,” Solly clarifies.
Don’t come on an empty stomach because there will be no food served.
The bar will seat about 80 people spread across a handful of booths, bar stools, a communal table that can be partitioned off for private parties, and a few high-top tables. A back hallway connects Union Trust to Joe’s. Pro tip from Tomeldon: Now you don’t have to go upstairs to use the bathrooms there.
When asked how the two first met, again it’s jokes from Tomeldon. “Match.com,” he says. In reality, they crossed paths about seven years ago after a fundraiser for the Belfast Beltway Boxing Project. Both men have run no frills bars for years. While Union Trust will keep things simple, the setting says it’s something a little more serious with its brass embellishments and dramatic, historical setting.
“We’re both vaguely adults now,” Tomeldon says. “I still love The Pug but I opened it 10 years ago. This is a big kid bar.”
Union Trust, 740 15th St. NW