There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
In the 1980s, the hookers who worked the downtown stroll outside the Post Pub attracted some of the tavern’s regulars, who would stand at the window facing L Street NW to gawk as the women paraded up and down the street in short tight skirts, skin-tight jeans, and even bikinis and lingerie.
Many of those gazers worked late-night shifts as mailers, bundling newspapers and loading them onto delivery trucks for the Washington Post, which until recently was located catty-corner from the L Street pub, between 15th Street and Vermont Avenue. Pub owner Bob Beaulieu asked the rubberneckers to stay away from the windows, where other patrons sat at tables to eat or drink. “They’d stand between the people who were eating,” he recalls.
When that didn’t work, Beaulieu solved the problem by installing a wooden bar underneath the windows that looked out onto L Street and placing stools beneath it. That allowed the guys to drink their beer and watch the nightly spectacle without disturbing other patrons.
The prostitutes, the old Post building, and many other businesses are now gone from the immediate neighborhood, but Post Pub stubbornly remains, virtually unchanged from the way it was—physically and atmospherically—in the 1970s and ’80s. Stepping into the bar today feels like going back in time. Indeed, little has changed since the days when I frequented it after arriving in D.C. to work as a night crime reporter for the Post. I wasn’t alone.
“Post Pub is the Fortress of Solitude for those of us bores who still remember when being a hack was a working-class job,” says Bill Myers, a former Washington Examiner reporter and frequent patron for whom Beaulieu even erected a plaque on one of the pub’s back booths. “I love a good bit of specialty foam on my organic whatever as much as the next guy, but sometimes it’s nice to be called ‘hon’ without the least bit of irony. It’s even nicer, occasionally, to order a good bit of the strong stuff (medicinal purposes only, of course) without feeling like I’m taking some kind of exam, or a second mortgage. Bob has bravely defended the last bits of genuine Washington Bohemia, and may he reign forever.”
On Sept. 20, Beaulieu will celebrate his 40th anniversary as owner of Post Pub, which he purchased in 1976 and which was once known as the Post House Restaurant. The building that houses the bar was built in the 1860s, and over the decades the watering hole has maintained the ambiance of a divey but endearing neighborhood tavern.
“There’s nothing fancy here,” Beaulieu says. “It’s just a beer and a sandwich. If you’re looking for something fancy, you have to go someplace else.”
The pub’s booths are red Naugahyde, its tables Formica, and the spongy carpet (also red) looks like it dates from the ’70s, thanks to the beating it takes from beer and French fry spills. One of the most notable modern upgrades is that the old-school jukebox that for decades stood past the end of the main bar is gone, replaced by a TouchTunes digital jukebox. “People can sit at their tables and use their cellphones to choose which songs they want to play,” Beaulieu says.
In the early 2000s, Beaulieu got rid of the cigarette machine that for years stood just inside the front door. When he bought the bar, it had one lonely black-and-white TV. Now, there are nine high-definition color TVs in the tavern’s two seating areas.
The menu hasn’t changed much—burgers, sandwiches, fries, salads, and a modest variety of entrees, such as the salmon, one of the pub’s more popular dishes.
The tavern’s retro feel is a major part of its appeal. “We get a lot of people in who are from out of town, from places like Cleveland and Buffalo,” Beaulieu says. “They say this place reminds them of their neighborhood tavern, and if they’re in town for a week or so, they keep coming back.”
At one point, Post employees accounted for a good chunk of his business, but that has dwindled over the years. “I get very few anymore,” he says. “They probably stumble out of their office to a food truck.”
Drinking habits have also changed. In decades past, Beaulieu and his staff would make two gallons of martinis, a gallon of Manhattans, and a gallon of whiskey sours every Monday. Three-martini lunches were popular in those days, but “now, I might sell a dozen martinis a week.”
Both of the Post Pub’s busiest days over the course of four decades were tied to news events. The second-best day was Jan. 20, 2009, the day of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration. The busiest was on 9-11. “It was gridlocked on the street, nobody could go anywhere,” Beaulieu recalls. “We were packed all day and night.”
Beaulieu has no major plans to celebrate the four-decade milestone, other than to offer half-priced burgers and domestic beers for $3. CP