Photo: “Woof” Bear Happy Hour at Titan Bar by Joe Tresh/Bear Nonsense
How did Bear Happy Hour start? Bear Nonsense has the receipts.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the “Original Bear Happy Hour,” and who inspired who in DC’s Bear community, so Bear Nonsense would like to re-publish its history of Bear Happy Hour in Washington, DC including updates with the newest entries to the list. Bear Nonsense thinks it’s important that our history as a community not get clouded in false marketing. Facts that aren’t in the available public record are sourced. Bear Nonsense welcomes corrections and additions.
The Washington D.C./Baltimore area is rich in Bear history and tradition. Two of the nation’s first Bear clubs were founded in this area: Chesapeake Bay Bears (CBB), a large and influential membership club, and The District of Columbia Bear Club (DCBC), a fraternal Leather Bear club formed in January 1995. The International Bear Brotherhood Flag originated during a CBB summer pool party in the Maryland suburbs in July 1995. GenXDC embraced the youth-oriented, online “Gen X Bears” movement in 1998 bringing a new kind of Bear club to Washington D.C., keeping it on the cutting edge.
How did Bear Happy Hour Start? We have the receipts.
Another long tradition in DC Bear culture is the Bear Happy Hour or “BHH,” an early Friday evening event that calls an end to the work week with a Bear-friendly happy hour. Different bars have offered their interpretation of the Bear Happy Hour with varying degrees of popularity among the DC Bear community.
Read below to understand how DC’s Bear Happy Hours have been hosted in various bars by different bar owners and promoters for over 18 years. Here is a quick list and working history, in start-date chronological order, of Friday night Bear Happy Hours in Washington, D.C.:
Windows Bar (Dupont Italian Kitchen, aka DIK Bar)
Bear Happy Hour (2000 – present)
This is the original Bear Happy Hour created and hosted by Windows Bar (Dupont Italian Kitchen, aka DIK Bar).
First to be called “Bear Happy Hour” and “BHH.” This is “DC’s Original BHH”
In 2000, local neighborhood Bears started attending Windows Bar (aka “DIK Bar” since it was upstairs from the restaurant “Dupont Italian Kitchen”) on Fridays and called it “Bear Happy Hour” while a Deaf Happy Hour happened simultaneously. (Source: GenXDC mailing list in Aug-Sep 2000) The Bears there wanted a nice quiet place to eat and socialize. While the bars hosting BHHs have come and gone across the city, Windows has remained a cornerstone of the community. With new help from the community, today it hosts a regular BHH on the 1st & 3rd Friday of each month.
Windows Bar is the only organizer today that had anything to to with the creation or management of Bear Happy Hour at Windows.
“Woof!” Bear Happy Hour (Spring 2005 – December 2007)
Image: Glenn Mlaker, Titan owner and creator BHH at Titan, during Woof Bear Happy Hour’s “Bears Gone Wild.” Photo by Joe Tresh/Bear Nonsense
Bear Happy Hour at Titan is the happy hour that many remember most fondly, and was always called “BHH.” In 2005, Glenn Mlaker, the owner of “Hamburger Mary’s” restaurant on 14th Street at Rhode Island Ave., NW, hired Mike Roth, the bartender from Windows, for the bar upstairs called “Titan.” Titan had more room and dedicated itself to a Bear Happy Hour each Friday until 10-11 p.m. Attendees of Windows’ BHH migrated to Titan and hundreds of guys would attend. The VJ played pop and R&B hits with some comedy. The last Friday of each month “Bears Gone Wild” was held with “wet underwear” or “best chest” contests. After BHH ended, the bar hosted a drag show of local performers. In January 2007, Titan Bar teamed up with the “Ramrod” brand to re-brand itself “Titan’s Ramrod.” Officially the bar room was still named “Titan” while the bar itself held the “Ramrod” name. Hence: “Titan’s Ramrod.”
On December 28, 2007 – the final Friday night of the year – text and email blasts shot through the DC Bear Community announcing it would be Titan’s last Friday night and the bar would close forever. Titan and the burger joint downstairs were sold to a developer.
None of DC’s Bear organizers today had anything to to with the creation or management of Bear Happy Hour at Titan.
Bear Happy Hour (unofficial) (January 2008 – June 2009)
“The Great DC Bear Schism of 2008” When Titan closed abruptly, it left the community without a home. Omega and Green Lantern (where Charger Stone worked) actively chased the Bear community, but most members of the community elected to attend Cobalt every Friday night. (Source: jimbo.info). While never reaching the popularity of Titan, members of the Bear community regularly attended Cobalt’s happy hour, but still referred to it as “BHH.”
None of DC’s Bear organizers today had anything to to with the creation or management of Bear Happy Hour at Cobalt.
Ghetto Therapy (December 2008 – June 2009)
During the time Cobalt was holding a Bear Happy Hour, some members of the community sought an occasional alternative location. After a successful Bear birthday party was held at Jimmy Valentine’s in December 2008, a new Bear Happy Hour was established to be held every 4-6 weeks. It was called “Ghetto Therapy” because Bears wanted to escape the “gay ghetto.”These were discontinued June 2009 when Motley Bar announced a Friday Bear Happy Hour. Bear Nonsense, the organizers of Jimmy Valentine’s BHH wanted to support the new venue. (See promo artwork)
Motley Bar Bëar Crüe
Motley Bar Bëar Crüe Bear Happy Hour (June 2009 – August 2010)
When “BeBar” rebranded itself “EFN Lounge” downstairs and “Motley Bar” upstairs, newly-hired bartender Charger Stone worked with his employers to attract the Bear Community to a new happy hour. Calling the night “Motley Bar Bëar Crüe” and offering cheap beer pitchers (and later free pizza to keep the hungry Bears in the bar), this Bear Happy Hour received support from the community and was very popular. The owners tried to make “Motley Bar” into a full time Bear bar, but the Friday night happy hour was the only consistently popular night.
One Monday in August 2010, the employees got an email that “EFN Lounge and Motley Bar” was closing immediately.
DC Bëar Crüe
DC Bëar Crüe Bear Happy Hour (August 2010 – June 2018)
Much of the community supported and advised Charger Stone as he negotiated with Town to open early for a Bear Happy Hour. Members of the Bear community got word out quickly.
Stone renamed the “Motley Bar Bëar Crüe” Facebook group to “DC Bëar Crüe,” and a new Bear Happy Hour was born within only five days of Motley closing.
With the closure of EFN/Motley, Cobalt started promoting a “Men’s Happy Hour” with Bear bartenders and DJ. The Green Lantern also promoted a Bear Happy Hour in hopes of getting the Bear crowd. Neither took hold.
As word got out across the city that Town was open for happy hour, crowds of people from all facets of DC gay community began to fill the venue. From a few hundred people when it first began, Town’s Bear Happy Hour eventually opened both floors and attracted many hundreds of people beyond the Bear community.
Windows Bar (Dupont Italian Kitchen, aka DIK Bar)
Retro Bear Happy Hour (May 2012 and occasionally thereafter)
Bears wanted something new! Town’s Bear Happy Hour attracted a large number of people, and after a few years many Bears longed for the “good old days” of a Bear Happy Hour in a quiet smaller bar venue. A few members of the DC Bear Community including Bear Nonsense created the occasional “Retro Bear Happy Hour” event back where it all began, “Windows Bar” aka “DIK Bar,” through word of mouth and Facebook invites.
Rock & Roll Hotel
Bear Happy Hour at Rock & Roll Hotel (May 2012 – Present)
Bears wanted something different! The impromptu success of the “Retro Bear Happy Hour” prompted Bear Nonsense to negotiate with Rock & Roll Hotel (suggested by Tom Aloisi) to provide drink specials during a new BHH called “Bear Happy Hour at Rock & Roll Hotel.” The event is held on a comfortable rooftop with a focus on socializing. Originally a monthly event, Bear Happy Hour at Rock & Roll Hotel expanded to twice a month in 2014 and weekly during the Spring-Fall season of 2018.
Grin & Bear It! (May 2013 – April 2014)
With the success of Bear Happy Hour at Rock & Roll Hotel, community members around H Street NE wanted more Bear Happy Hours, so Bear Nonsense coordinated a Bear Happy Hour at Biergarten Haus called “Grin & Bear It!” The monthly event ended when the World Cup 2014 took over the German restaurant for an extended period. Bears went back next door making Bear Happy Hour at Rock & Roll Hotel a twice-monthly event.
DC Eagle (February 2015 – June 2015)
Bear Happy Hour at DC Eagle
A Bear in his natural habitat – the leather bar. DC’s legendary Eagle bar reopened and the Bears wanted in. Bear Nonsense created a BHH at the Eagle to provide a variety of Bear Happy Hours for DCs Bear community revolving with Bear Happy Hour at Rock & Roll Hotel. Lack of air conditioning at the new building prompted organizers to put the event on hold, and it was not restarted.
DC Bëar Crüe
DC Bëar Crüe Bear Happy Hour (July 2018 – ?)
With the close of Bear Happy Hour at Town, DC Bëar Crüe is working with Uproar to host a Bear Happy Hour.
“Woof!” Bear Happy Hour (July 2018 – ?)
With the close of Bear Happy Hour at Town, DC Eagle is hosting “Woof!” – a Bear Happy Hour.
Bear Nonsense is excited by all the action and congratulates all bar owners and promoters. Thank you for helping to build this community. Bear Nonsense is motivated to find a welcoming place for all kinds of members of DC’s Bear community, and encourages everyone to find what works for themselves. Bear Nonsense continues to meet on the roof of Rock & Roll Hotel every Friday. HUGS!