All photos Laura Hayes
All photos Laura Hayes

Servers are one thing you won’t find when Franklin Hall opens Friday in the Manhattan Laundry building (1346 Florida Ave. NW). The 5,600-square-foot American beer hall that owes its long, narrow layout to its status as a former trolley repair shop is built off a self-service model. There are two designated areas of the bar to order drinks, and those craving nachos or Frito pie can step up and order at a kitchen window under an old-school marquee.

“One thing I hate about bars is when they get too busy,” says partner Peter Bayne, who co-owns the beer hall with Geoff Dawson. “You’re three-deep and you finally get up there and the person orders a drink and then camps out in front of you.” The two sections to order drinks at the bar will have Apple and Android payment systems to expedite service.

The decision to copy the fast-casual service model wasn’t just about assuaging the frustrations of table service and the gauntlet that is ordering at a packed bar. “A bar for me is a place to meet people,” Bayne says. He says creating areas for people to mingle will make it easier for strangers to strike up a conversation.

Franklin Hall borrows its name from two men. “We wanted to do Ben Franklin, America’s original entrepreneur, and then FDR[Franklin D. Roosevelt]—the man who brought the cocktail back,” Bayne explains. The emphasis on entrepreneurship comes from the fact that Franklin Hall shares its address with WeWork—a co-working space that attracts the start-up crowd.

Though it’s a beer hall with 24 draft lines, Franklin Hall will also have a full menu of drinks, including a house Hemingway daiquiri and wine on tap, plus a robust bourbon selection. Beers include a mix of local and non-local beers such as DC Brau’s Corruption, Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale, Right Proper’s Raised by Wolves, Bell’s Oberon, and Natty Boh. All the beverages are designed to pair with a food menu that’s heavy on the sausages.

Chef Matt Baker of the forthcoming Ivy City restaurant Gravitas is Franklin Hall’s consulting chef. Highlights from his menu include nachos topped with cheese whiz, guacamole, sour cream, and pineapple salsa ($8); a grilled spicy Thai pork sausage served with pickled vegetables, shaved jicama, and Sriracha-lime aioli ($12); and a fried apple hand pie ($5). (Full menu, subject to change, below.) 

The beer hall is outfitted in reclaimed wood, steel, murals, and old newspaper clippings advertising things like sewing machines. A professional “picker” from Ivy City Trading Company drove up and down the East Coast scoring bases from sanding tables and the like to accentuate the building’s industrial feel. 

Patrons can plop down in two cozy lounge areas that will get fireplaces come fall, the main hall that can accommodate large parties, and eventually a 24-seat patio. Bayne plans to broadcast everything from NFL games to Premier League soccer on the flat-screen TVs (he says they’ll open at 10 a.m. on weekends when there are soccer matches on). 

Starting Friday, Franklin Hall will be open Mondays through Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Fridays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturdays from noon to 2 a.m.; and Sunday from noon to 1 a.m. A discounted draft Happy hour will be offered weekdays from 4-7 p.m., and a brunch menu featuring breakfast tacos is expected to debut in about a month. 

Bayne and Dawson of Tin Shop are also behind Smoked & Stacked, Big Chief, Highline RXR, Penn Social, and more.

Franklin Hall, 1346 Florida Ave. NW;