Game of Thrones Pub is the latest pop-up bar from Derek Brown, who has effectively cemented himself as the P.T. Barnum for D.C. millennials. In his heyday, Barnum organized everything from freak shows to baby contests, demonstrating an intuitive knack for what the public would pay for.
Brown is similarly canny: His last two pops, the Christmas-themed Miracle on 7th Street and the Cherry Blossom Bar, were teeming with lines of eager twenty- and thirty-somethings who wanted a chance to try cocktails ($13-$15) in a space that guarantees likes on every social media platform. What good is an experience if you can’t humblebrag about it on Instagram?
The pub is spread across three Shaw bars, each recalling a vivid set from Game of Thrones, HBO’s fantasy drama that has become a large-scale cultural phenomenon. The former Mockingbird Hill space now looks like a Weirwood tree, complete with crimson leaves and an etched face that weeps blood.
Southern Efficiency is now the Hall of Faces, including a small photo booth where anyone can prop their melon right above the hashtag #GOTPub. As for Eat the Rich, it’s King’s Landing, with a banner for each of the major houses in Westeros. In the back, of course, guests can pose on an iron throne.
The drink menu includes yet another mix of high-concept cocktails, coupled with limited beer and wine selections. The “Dothraquiri,” for example, takes the classic rum-based cocktail and adds some sweet flourishes.
Bartenders serve the Scotch-based drink “The North Remembers” in an actual horn, though it is not a drink for Scotch-lovers since coconut overpowers the spirit.
The biggest hit, however, will probably be a tequila-based highball called “Shame.” Whenever anyone orders it, the bartenders ring a bell and shout “Shame!” like Faith Militant.
All of this is undeniably exciting, and it’s easy to get swept up in what amounts to a boozy, miniature Renaissance faire. But the lines will be awful. During the peak of Miracle on 7th Street and Cherry Blossom Bar, the lines could extend the length of the city block, all the way past the Shaw Metro entrance and blocking the residents of the 7th Flats apartment building.
At least one nearby spot is following the zeitgeist: The seafood restaurant Drift on 7th will offer Game of Thrones-themed food and drink, including a “Drinklage Shot.” Other Shaw bartenders enjoy the pop-up, insofar as that long lines mean that dejected customers will wander into Right Proper, All Souls, and other locales. Since its inception, this pop-up has been a testament to the old saying, “It is immoral to let a sucker keep his money,” and now the neighborhood is keen to get in on the action.
Brown was having a ball the night before the grand opening tonight. His friends and investors dressed in costume, and Brown adorned himself in the all-black garb of the Night’s Watch. Night’s Watch is led by Jon Snow, a natural leader—albeit a reluctant one—who is the closest thing Game of Thrones has to a traditional hero.
But if Brown is akin to any character from the HBO series, it’s not Jon Snow. It’s Petyr Baelish, also known as “Littlefinger.” Brown looks a little like Littlefinger, and he shares the same ruthless instincts. Littlefinger owns the brothel in King’s Landing, and Game of Thrones Pub is similarly poised to be the preferred spot where the city lets its hair down. Don’t care about Game of Thrones? Don’t worry. Winter is coming, and so is the tinsel.
Visit Mondays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. through August 27.
Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar; 1843 7th St. NW