A late 19th century saloon that operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition is returning to its watering hole roots as Beuchert’s Saloon, opening at 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE this September.
Beuchert’s Saloon comes from Acqua Al 2 partner and former bar manager Nathan Berger, former theatre and film set designer August Paro, and PS7’s bartender Brendan McMahon, who helped open Ben’s Next Door on U Street as well as restaurants in New Orleans.
The trio have pieced together the history of the building through talks with the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, archives at the Library of Congress, and other research. Commercial land baron John J. Beuchert, who owned a number of local businesses and eateries, opened Beuchert’s Saloon sometime in the late 1800s. During Prohibition, his son, Theodore I. Beuchert, decided to continue operating the saloon as a speakeasy. Theodore’s wife ran a number of front businesses, including a sewing machine store and then a gramophone shop to mask the sound of men drinking and smoking in the back. It closed in 1934 (after the repeal of Prohibition). Most recently the space was occupied by Capitol Hill Art & Frame.
Berger, Paro, and McMahon aren’t just bringing back the name of Beuchert’s Saloon. They also want to bring back its aesthetic. They’re keeping the original brick walls that have been there for more than a century and outfitting the space with turn-of-the-century finishes like vintage bar hooks and soda fountain taps. A 40-ft bar will also dominate the 60-seat dining room, and the front window will showcase a cheese and charcuterie station with a restored 1918 Berkel hand-crank meat slicer.
“We’re hoping to render the establishment in such a way that when people walk through the door, they say, ‘Has this been here the entire time?,'” Berger says.
The trio are still in negotiations for a chef, but the place will highlight local and seasonal farm ingredients. McMahon’s family owns EastOaks Organic Farm in Poolesville, Md., which breeds thoroughbred race horses but also grows produce and raises pigs and chickens. The restaurant will source about two-thirds of its produce and proteins from there. The drink menu will include seasonal cocktails, also made with ingredients from EastOaks, as well as ten beers on tap and a limited wine menu. Berger hopes to keep the average meal ticket (including a drink) around $20-22 per person for lunch and $35 for dinner.
“The Beuchert family’s contribution to the city has kind of fallen into the crack of history,” Berger says. “We’re hoping that what we do is going to help bring back a little bit of the respect and the importance of having a neighborhood watering hole.”
Photo by Nathan Berger