The Future of Dr. Dremo's
There are only two weekends left for Dr. Dremo's Taphouse, the Arlington landmark that's closing for good at 2 a.m. on Sunday, January 27, to make way for a high-rise condo building. With time running out, I thought I'd check in with Andrew Stewart, Dr. Dremo's "Minister of Information," to talk about the search for a new location and see what the last few weeks would bring.
Some blogs have reported that Dremo's owners are throwing in the towel and closing the business for good, which Stewart denies. "[Looking for a new building] is not that bad," Stewart says. "You have to throw a lot of lines out to get something to bite. We put in a bid to buy a building, but we haven't heard back." The Dr. Dremo's team continues to visit real estate agents, trying to find a way to stay in their neighborhood. "I'd love to be in Clarendon and Court House," Stewart says. "I'm not trying to buy the Pollo Rico up in Cullmore." A doomed attempt at opening a branch in Herndon a few years back has convinced them that Arlington is where it's at.
The Stewarts have had a presence in the neighborhood since 1990, when Andrew's brother Bill was one of the first to see the potential of the Wilson Boulevard strip. He open Roratonga Rodeo (now Galaxy Hut), then Amdo (now Iota) before finally opening Bardo, a massive brewpub with room for 900 people, in 1993. Bardo eventually morphed into Dr. Dremo's in late 2000, and brewing operations were taken over by the local Shenandoah Brewing Company.
Dremo's kept up many Bardo traditions, including the annual Night of 101 Elvises and the Washington Psychotronic Film Society's weekly screenings of offbeat, underground and forgotten movies -- mostly rare and out of print. The end of Dremo's means the end of the Psychotronic film series, at least temporarily. "We are in screening limbo," says founder Carl Cephas. "We are looking at a few new clubs and a few clubs that we've been at before." The problem is that the group, which can bring about 70 people to the bar every week, has geographical issues. "The Virginia fans say that they can't get to D.C. and the D.C. fans say that they can't get to Virginia." Nothing is scheduled after a final showing of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" on Jan. 22, so keep checking www.wpfs.org for updates.
No special plans are underway for the final night, though the Stewart says he expects it to be pretty crazy and plenty crowded. After the last guests are kicked out in the wee hours of January 27, the doors will reopen, albeit briefly, on the 28 for an everything-goes auction. "We have 12 pool tables we'd like to see go to good homes," Stewart says. "We have a bunch of stainless-steel beer tanks that would be great for a small brewery or a big homebrewer. We used them as serving tanks. They could be boil kettles, mash tanks. Most of this stuff is going in the dumpster if no one buys it."
"My priority is [to find a good home for] the totem pole. If no one buys it, we'll give it away."
(A note to Breweriana collectors: The beer tap handles won't be sold, as Stewart hopes to move them on to the next Dremo's location, and there's not a lot of Bardo memorabilia to be had. Sorry.)
One person who won't be around for the last hurrah is Bardo founder Bill Stewart. He moved to Australia about six months ago, his brother says. "I believe he's in Sydney, but he's talking about opening a brewpub over there." The nucleus of this new business should ensure that the spirit of Bardo lives on: The bar's original brewing equipment is packed into boxes and sitting on a dock in Baltimore, waiting to be shipped down under.
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