City Paper is not for tourists
Barrel House Liquor is relocating from the historic property at 1341 14th St. to a new spot next door—sans giant, iconic storefront barrel.
Due to rising rental costs at the store’s current location, owner Mesfun Ghebrelul says he’s signed a lease on a smaller space at 1339 14th St. NW (previously Salon Blu). The move will happen on Oct. 22, the store’s 20-year anniversary under Ghebrelul’s ownership.
The Barrel House property has existed since the mid-1940s, making the property—and its barrel—one of the oldest on the block. Ghebrelul, who goes by M.G., took ownership of the longstanding business in 1995, when he says the street was known for sex workers, gangs, and drug-dealing. Now, M.G. says the community brims with young, upper-class clientele.
“We have people who of course have money, who work in the downtown area, who are young,” he says. “They are a working-hard people, but on the other hand, they are party people.”
The liquor store’s sales reflect this change: While scotch and bourbon were popular when the store first opened, M.G. says his most-sold drink is now vodka.
M.G. also says the new clientele is more educated about new brands and more likely to try a variety of products instead of sticking with a signature drink.
“This generation is about seeing things,” he says. “Even if they like one [brand] in particular, they will go another way to taste something new. So you have to keep up with the new things, so you have to have variety.”
To minimize moving costs (and prepare for a smaller space), Ghebrelul says the store is having a blowout sale on all products. He plans to keep the store’s name at the new location.
Meanwhile, M.G. says he isn’t sure what will happen to the storefront barrel.
“That’s [up to] the landlord, so I don’t know,” he says. “But the barrel is in my heart.”
Photo by Tatiana Cirisano