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Posted at 5:51 PM ET, 03/28/2007

Open Bar Madness

By Fritz Hahn

There are plenty of happy hours offering $2 beers or half-price martinis. What I'd rather do, though, is spend nothing at all -- or at least get my money's worth with unlimited drinks. That's where this guide to D.C.'s open bars comes in handy.

Most of the open bars listed below truly are open, so it pays to specify "Courvoisier and Coke," "Absolut and cranberry" or "Tanqueray and tonic" if that's what you really want. Otherwise, the bartender might think you don't care and pour you a glass of bathtub rail liquor instead.

If a Web site or our info below says you need to print out a pass to get in, don't leave it in the office. Without a printout, you might find yourself paying $10 to $20 to get into what's otherwise billed as a free event with free drinks.

Also, even though the drinks are free, you still need to tip your bartenders. They're not doing any less work to make your martini than they would on a Friday night. In fact, they may even be doing more, so don't shortchange them.


kstreet Lounge: Much imitated (see below) and rarely matched, Flirt has been offering free drinks, free food and a party environment that makes Wednesday feel like Friday. It's welcomed Diddy, Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, Sean Taylor and a host of others. Of course, the people and the drink specials are the real reason to come out: Free drinks from 6 to 8 and then from 10 to 11, with a dinner buffet available from 7 to 9. Dress to impress: plenty of folks change into their club clothes before heading over to the kstreet Lounge. Fellas, it's essential to grab a free pass from Women get in free all night.

MCCXXIII: Crowds of direct-from-the-office African American professionals get in line early for this legendary midweek party, and it's easy to see why: free cocktails and beers from 6 to 8, free admission with a pass from and Love's DJ Ben Hameen spinning hip-hop on the main floor. Seriously, if you don't arrive early, you might not get a chance to enjoy the premium open bar.


Tapatinis: Every week, some kind liquor company gives away free drinks from 10 p.m. until all the bottles are empty. So far, sponsors have included marquee names such as Johnnie Walker Black scotch, Belvedere vodka and Remy-Martin cognac. (A full list of upcoming events is on Honestly, there's no catch. Just ask the bartender what the night's brand is and order a cocktail.

MCCXXIII: A long-running special popular with young professionals who'd rather drink cut-price cocktails than $2 Buds at the neighboring Lucky Bar, this isn't an open bar in the purist sense. There's a $15 cover to get into the club, but once inside, drinks are free until 9 p.m. For about the price of two martinis, you get all the cocktails you care to drink for a few hours. (Some mixed drinks are admittedly weak, but you can always dump it out and get another, or try another bartender.)

Play: The folks from Absolute Addiction have returned to the popular south-of-Dupont lounge, bringing back the popular "Open Bar for Ladies" happy hour. From 10 to midnight, any woman who RSVPs on receives ffree admission and free drinks. (Guys receive free admission, and that's it.)


Avenue: Opium Fridays recently moved its happy hour back from 6 to 8 to 9 to 11, making clubgoers happy but frustrating those of us who wanted to get unlimited Tanqueray/Hennessey/Heineken/etc. drinks after work. No matter. You still get two hours of free top-shelf cocktails and a free soul food/Caribbean dinner buffet at midnight. WPGC's DJ Quicksilva provides hip-hop hits all night, while DJ Superslice spins reggae and dancehall on another level. Dress to impress or you don't get in, and bring a pass from to avoid paying $15-$20 at the door.

H2O: Friday is the club's international night, with salsa, house and hip-hop music, including occasional live performances. Doors open at 9, and free drinks and snacks are offered until 11. Beware, though, that the free drinks come from a single bar at the far end of the building, and lines can get long, especially as 11 draws near. Grab a pass for free admission from

Cafe Peju/Juste Lounge: Moving the popular "Sex in the City" format from its former Washington location, Juste Lounge has a simple recipe for Friday success. Print an e-mail invite (see and there's no cover. Admission includes tickets for two drinks -- beer, wine, premium liquor -- between 5 and 8. A neo-soul or R&B band performs from 9 to 11 or so, and then a DJ spins hip-hop, reggae and soul until the wee hours.

Love: On the first Friday of the month, Love goes back to the glory days of Republic Gardens with Reminisce, which features an early open bar happy hour (6 to 7) and the legendary complementary lavish buffet. DJ Scientific hosts the old-school party from 6 to 10, spinning "classic R&B, hip-hop, reggae, funk/soul/rare grooves and disco/house." Cop free admission from

MCCXXIII: On Fridays, MCCXIII extends its popular open bar by an hour, so you get unlimited call brands from 5 to 9. Of course, the club also raises the price, so you're paying $20, or the usual price of two name-brand mixed drinks. Still, it's a good value, if generally packed right after work, and would be perfect for pre-gaming before meeting some friends nearby.

Tapatinis: Here's one of the few all-you-can-drink events that has a cover charge but doesn't force everyone to buy in. Between 5 and 8, you can pay $25 for an open bar, or you can just hang out and go a la carte. Of course, after paying $20 for two house martinis, you may just want to go with the open bar.

Ultrabar: Home Fridays at the four-level nightclub start off the right way: with free drinks from 10 to 11. Guys get in free before midnight; women don't pay a cover all night. Once your open bar dries up, there are $4 Peroni beers and $5 Snow Queen vodka drinks until midnight. DJ Geometrix deftly cuts and juggles hip-hop and old-school tunes on the main dance floor. Passes come from


Avenue: The International Saturdays party can seem a little slow early on, so Avenue is trying to lure crowds earlier with free drinks from 10 to 11. Once that's over, DJ Geometrix spins upstairs, and Miller Lites are $3 all night long. Grab a free pass from

H2O: One of the biggest hip-hop club nights in the city, H2O's Saturday night party attracts thousands of people every week. Whether they're dancing in the high-ceilinged, mahogany-paneled main rooms or chilling out on the patios overlooking the Southwest Waterfront, the crowds make this one bustling party. Get there between 9 and 11 for free drinks (only offered at one bar at the far end of the building) and free barbecue food that's cooked on the patio. Grab a pass for free admission from

Love: If you're going to Love for the international night of salsa, house and hip-hop, it can't hurt to get some free drinks out of the deal. It might even make up for the cost of parking. But man, you really need to get there on the early side to take advantage of the offer: complementary drinks are given out at the main bar between 9 and 10. Free admission comes with a pass from

My Brother's Place: Every week, a youngish crowd of college students and Hill staffers pay $15 for unlimited drinks from 9 to 1. It's not as fancy as most of the other lounges on this list -- more college hangout than upscale club or date spot -- but when you're guzzling pitchers of Miller Lite, does it really matter?

Ultrabar: Ultrabar has clearly hit on a formula it likes, because Chroma Saturdays look a lot like Home Fridays. The bar is open from 10 to 11. Once the free drinks end, bartenders pour $4 Peroni beers and $5 Snow Queen vodka drinks until midnight. Former DMC champion DJ Enferno cuts, scratches and tears up everything from hip-hop to '80s songs on the main dance floor. With a pass from, everyone gets in free before midnight.

-- Fritz (Updated June 18, 2007)

By Fritz Hahn  | March 28, 2007; 5:51 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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What is the etiquette for Tapatini's? Each time I see this advertised it seems implied that you can order a Cocktail with the liquor of the evening, however this hasn't been my experience there. I went in on cointreau night, and while I have no idea what to with it other than Margaritas, it was made clear to me all I was getting was the shot.
So what do you do? Order a drink on the side? Take shots all night?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

What time do the free shootings begin? Do you need to dress appropriately or you wont get shot at?. Which are the best nights to observe the shootings on the next day's morning news? What is the proper shooting etiquette for shooting or being shot at? Is the buffet open during this period? Do I have to check my piece at the door or can I keep it on my person?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 3, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

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