Bartenders— Abdul Kayoumy and Haile Berhane, formerly wetting whistles on U Street at Local 16, began managing Velvet Lounge “about a week ago,” says Kayoumy; the official sale of the venue is pending approval from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. “I’ve always had a dream of starting up my own rock ’n’ roll bar,” says Kayoumy. Once the bartender’s officially running the show, what are his plans for the space? “Basically, we’re going to keep Velvet Lounge the same as it is,” he says: same name, same style, same booker, and same sound system. But he notes that Velvet Lounge’s downstairs bathrooms will see a bit of a face-lift once the liquor license goes through. “It’s already a little bit cleaner down there,” he says.
Chris Connelly, who owned the club for just shy of a decade, sold the joint to free up time for surfing in Costa Rica, kayaking in Montana, and despair-free snow days in the District. “Now when it snows, I can celebrate,” says Connelly. “It doesn’t mean I’ll be losing hundreds of dollars.” Still, Connelly’s not ready to give up the bar business just yet; he says he’ll serve as an informal consultant to other area bars and venues dealing with neighborhood protesters and city issues. “And sometimes, I’ll put on a tie and become a formal consultant,” he says. Even when endless summer beckons, breaking up is hard to do. “We have a great sound guy, a great sound system,” says Connelly. “I guess I can’t say ‘we’ anymore, huh? It’s been hard to disassociate myself from it. I haven’t gotten used to it yet.”