Meet the Washington D.C. Bear Community at old-school Friday night Bear Happy Hours organized by Bear Nonsense. As seen in the Washington City paper and the Washington Post, Bear Happy Hour at Rock & Roll Hotel is the 2nd Friday of each month and Grin & Bear It! is the last Friday of each month.
Bear Happy Hour in Washington D.C.
by Joe Tresh for Bear Nonsense
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 Bear 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.
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. Starting with a weekly Friday night event at “Windows” bar just after Y2K that lasted until 2005, different bars have offered their interpretation of the Bear Happy Hour with varying degrees of popularity among the DC Bear community.
Today there are multiple Bear Happy Hours happening at once in order to fill the expanding needs of a diverse Bear community. Bears in other cities have begun their own Bear Happy Hours.
Here is a quick list and working history, in chronological order, of regular Bear bar nights and Bear Happy Hours in Washington, D.C.:
Club Bar Nights
The DC Eagle (1995 – ?)
District of Columbia Bear Club Bar Night, held once or twice a month on a Sunday afternoon. Dozens of Bears and Cubs would regularly attend. Hamburgers and hot dogs were grilled on the patio. DCBC still holds regular events at the Eagle.
Chesapeake Bay Bears Bar Night, held once a month on another Sunday afternoon. Dozens of Bears and Cubs would regularly attend. Hamburgers and hot dogs were grilled on the patio. CBB is no longer active.
Buffalo Billiards (1999 – 2002?)
GenXDC Bears held regular Saturday afternoon all-ages Bear events here. Dozens of Bears and Cubs would regularly attend. (Source: GenXDC)
The Original Bear Happy Hour
Windows Bar (Dupont Italian Kitchen) (2000 – 2005)
Bear Happy Hour
First to be called “Bear Happy Hour” or “BHH”
In 2000, 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: Randy Stern and Devlin Breckenridge posting on GenXDC mailing list in Aug-Sep 2000)
Bears Move to 14th Street
Titan/Titan’s Ramrod (Spring 2005 – December 2007)
Bear Happy Hour
In 2005 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.
In January 2007, Titan Bar teamed up with the “Ramrod” name 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. Though Friday Bear nights were always popular, the bar could not fill the room on other days.
The Great DC Bear Schism of 2008
Omega – Green Lantern (January 2008)
When Titan closed abruptly, it left the community without a home. Omega and Green Lantern actively chased the Bear community, but key members of the community elected to attend Cobalt every Friday night. (Source: jimbo.info)
Cobalt (January 2008 – June 2009)
Bear Happy Hour
While never reaching the popularity of Titan, members of the Bear community regularly attended Cobalt’s Bear Happy Hour.
Jimmy Valentine’s (December 2008 – June 2009)
Ghetto Therapy by Bear Nonsense
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 were escaping the “gay ghetto,” yet going to another “urban ghetto” to drink. These were discontinued after June 2009 because Motley Bar started hosting a popular Friday Bear Happy Hour called “Motley Bar Bëar Crüe,” and the organizers of Jimmy Valentine’s BHH wanted to support the new venue.
The DC Bear Renaissance
New Bear Clubs
During the DC Bear Renaissance two new Bear clubs were born in the region: 495 Bears and Beltway Bears. DCBearScene.com also started blogging about the Bear events happening in the city.
Motley Bar (June 2009 – August 2010)
Motley Bar Bëar Crüe
When “BeBar” rebranded itself “EFN Lounge” downstairs and “Motley Bar” upstairs, employee-bartender Nick Baatz worked with owners of the venue to attract the Bear Community to a new happy hour. Calling the night “Motley Bar Bëar Crüe” and offering cheap beer pitchers (and free pizza to keep the hungry Bears in the bar), this Bear Happy Hour took off 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.
Cobalt – Green Lantern (August 2010)
Bear Happy Hour
With the closure of EFN/Motley, Cobalt started promoting a “Men’s Happy Hour” with Bear bartenders and DJ. The Green Lantern also promoted in hopes of getting the Bear crowd, but the community was trying something new.
Bear Happy Hours Today
Town Danceboutique (August 2010 – Present)
DC Bëar Crüe Bear Happy Hour
With Motley Bar’s closure Baatz, at the time known as Pup Charger, acted quickly with advice from members of the Bear community and immediately sought a large venue that would hold a new Bear Happy Hour. “Charger” contacted Town Danceboutique – a large gay nightclub – who took the opportunity to open early when they otherwise would not be open and attract Bears. Members of the Bear community got word out quickly. Charger renamed the “Motley Bar Bëar Crüe” Facebook group to “DC Bëar Crüe,” renamed himself to Charger Stone, and a new Bear Happy Hour was born. The large open spaces of the new venue allowed the new Bear Happy Hour to fill the spaces of Town with all kinds of people in the DC gay community. From a few hundred people when it first began, to eventually opening both floors and attracting many hundreds of people, the event features a live DJ, a usually-packed second floor, and often a performing act or “Beareoke” on the first floor.
Windows Bar (Dupont Italian Kitchen) (2011 – ???)
“Retro Bear Happy Hour” by various organizers including Bear Nonsense
Town’s Bear Happy Hour has attracted a large number of people, and many bears longed for the “good old days” of a Bear Happy Hour in a smaller bar venue. A few members of the DC Bear Community create 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 (May 2012 – Present)
“Bear Happy Hour at Rock & Roll Hotel” by Bear Nonsense
The impromptu successes of the occasional “Retro Bear Happy Hour” and a location suggestion by Tom Aloisi prompted Joe Tresh, one of the original planners of Bear Happy Hours at Jimmy Valentine’s, to negotiate with Rock N Roll Hotel to provide drink specials during a new Bear happy hour called “Bear Happy Hour at Rock N Roll Hotel.” Other nearby businesses (The Bear 7-Eleven, Star and Shamrock) have offered discounts to Bears on these special nights as well, making this a monthly neighborhood night out for the Bears.
Bear Happy Hour at Rock & Roll Hotel happens every 2nd Friday of each month.
Biergarten Haus (May 2012 – Present)
“Grin & Bear It!” by The Bear 7-Eleven with word of mouth by Bear Nonsense
Community members around H Street NE wanted more Bear Happy Hours, so The Bear 7-Eleven coordinates a Bear Hapy Hour at Biergarten Haus called “Grin & Bear It!” with help from Bear Nonsense to invite the community.
Grin & Bear It! happens every LAST Friday of each month.
Bear Happy Hours Beyond DC
Mixers Bar (NEW)
Bear Happy Hour at Mixer’s
First and third Sundays of the month