When H Street Country Club opened nearly five years ago, the bar would get large crowds of deaf and hard of hearing patrons from nearby Gallaudet University, but it didn’t have any American Sign Language-speaking staff. “It became an issue, especially on Thursday nights when college kids go out,” says Jimmy Silk, who was general manger at the time. “We would get a pop of 40 to 50 Gallaudet students and we couldn’t communicate with them… We would literally stock the bar with pads of paper and pens.”
Fast forward to Silk’s latest restaurant, Vendetta, where about a third of the staff is fluent in sign language and three or four servers, bartenders, and bar backs are completely deaf. “They read lips,” Silk says. “And a lot of them can communicate verbally to a certain extent.” Every night of the week, the restaurant has at least one sign language-fluent employee on the floor so if a group of sign language-speaking diners come in, they can communicate more easily. Even Silk took free sign language classes offered by the Atlas Performing Arts Center to restaurant and bar employees, where learned to sign the basics plus, you know, Irish Car Bomb.
Thanks to its sign language-speaking staff, Vendetta will kick-off its first ever ASL trivia night on Monday at 7 p.m. It’s basically like any other bar trivia, except that the hosts will ask questions both verbally and in sign language. As far as Silk knows, it’s the first bar trivia night of its kind in the area.
“It’s something that the hard of hearing culture demands,” Silk says. “They’re really no different than any other young professional bar crowd you’d see anywhere else in the city.”
The first-place team will get their tab picked up by the restaurant. Second place gets a $50 gift card to sister bar Capitol Lounge. In between rounds, expect on-stage performances using heavy bass music. Silk anticipates at least 100 people to be in attendance. And even if you can’t make it next week, the ASL trivia nights will continue on the first Monday of every month.
Photo courtesy Vendetta