When The Public Option reopens at the end of June, regulars of the neighborhood brewpub can anticipate some changes. Bill Perry, who, opened the Langdon watering hole in 2015, is bringing D.C. bar legend Tony Tomelden on board as a managing partner. Tomelden owns The Pug and is a partner in Brookland’s Finest and Union Trust. He lives a block away and patronized the brewpub frequently before it closed for more than a year due to the pandemic.
“Next to The Pug, Public Option is my favorite bar in the city,” Tomelden says. “It makes perfect sense for me.” He expects more people to visit the bar because the neighborhood continues to grow. “There’s a lot of things going on in Brookland and Northeast in general. Dew Drop Inn and Brookland’s Finest aren’t that far away,” he says. “With so much development happening, if these apartment buildings get to 50 percent capacity, that’s still a huge increase of the population in the area.”
Perry, a former National Geographic photo archivist, calls Tomelden “a legend in both the neighborhood and the industry.” “The similar vision between The Pug and Public Option, our goals and what we’re after is totally in line,” Perry says. “While I’m very proud of what we did over here for the first few years, there’s so much more that can be done when bringing on someone with his kind of knowledge and experience. It felt like a great match to help us take the next step. To quote President [Joe] Biden, we hope to ‘build back better.’”
Now about those changes. The Public Option will carry on as a brewpub, but may not offer as many beers of its own as before. Perry says for the first four and a half years they were able to keep about eight beers on tap “except in extraordinary circumstances.” Most were inspired by English ales, Perry’s favorite.
Tony Wood was the head brewer at one point and then a couple, Molly and Nick Hoeg, took over. Perry says the Hoegs will be back. Molly is the head brewer and Nick is the cellar master. “They introduced some non-English-centric beers, which were fantastic,” Perry says.
Perry expects there to be a couple of ales, some light-bodied beers, a heavier beer like a porter, and perhaps an IPA brewed on site to start. Tomelden is tasked with building out a beer list with selections from other local breweries, as well as some national producers, to round out the overall offerings.
Reactivating the upstairs performance space later this summer or early in the fall is also a part of the pair’s reopening plans. The brewpub previously dabbled in entertainment by hosting everything from bands and comedy to an adult puppet show. The building was once a jazz club called Mr. Y’s Gold Room. Perry says to look for mostly local musicians, with the occasional international act taking the stage. “Not the Rolling Stones or anything,” he jokes.
They also hope to utilize the kitchen by pairing up with the founders of Sandlot, Ian Callender and Kevin “Scooty” Hallums, to bring in rotating Black-owned food businesses. At both the Georgetown and Navy Yard locations of Sandlot, Callender and Hallums host businesses through Uber Eats’ Black-Owned Culinary Residency Program.
In addition to the indoor space, there are also about 20 seats on the patio. The Public Option aims to reopen on Friday, June 25. Perry and Tomelden say they’re just waiting for the final green light from the city.
The Public Option, 1601 Rhode Island Ave. NE; (202) 636-3795; thepublicoptiondc.com