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Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 01/14/2008

The Future of Dr. Dremo's

By Fritz Hahn

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.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | January 14, 2008; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Comments

How many condos do we need in Arlington? Sheesh....

I wish the developer would just let this go. Especially since the house market is going shaky.

Posted by: Tobi | January 15, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

For the love of god, enough articles about Dremo's. How many times are you guys going to write about that place? You'd think DC was a one horse town.

Posted by: Enough | January 15, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I LOVE Dr. Dremo's, and I hope they find a new location! I have to make it up there this week or next.

Posted by: Mikael | January 16, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I LOVE Dr. Dremos! It will be missed. Hopefully the management will find a new location. I have to make it up there this week or next!

Posted by: Mikael | January 16, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Folks, it's just a bar. Get over it!!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 22, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

There are other things going on in the metropolitan area besides Dremo's closing. Get out and do some real reporting, and cover something else.

Posted by: Reporting? | January 22, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Hey fritz, how 'bout going out and doing some actual reporting and telling us what's going on in other parts of the town. Believe it or not there is other news out there besides dremo's closing.

Posted by: No more | January 23, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

The passing of a venerable neighborhood joint is entertainment news. Dremo's has been there in some form or another for almost 15 years. In that time, it has served as one of the last bastions of a non-conformist social scene that used to be the norm in Clarendon. Now, I'm not here to argue with people about the merits of places like Clarendon Grill or Ballroom but for people who don't care for those scenes, Dremo's was a welcome escape. If you want some "real" journalism, how about some stories on how the people who move into neighborhoods like Clarendon and Court House and bring with them Cheescake Factories and other chain stores end up destroying the very natture of the neighbohood that drew them there in the first place? Or maybe about how areas allow developers to call a dry cleaners and a convenience store "retail" and use that as a justification for displacing mom-and-pop restaurants and stores? Or maybe you would just prefer Fritz to write a review of yet another cookie-cutter place that serves $3 Miller Lites at Happy Hour?

Posted by: No cookies for me, thanks... | January 24, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I've been a neighborhood resident for the last 5 years, and I'll miss having a fun, quirky place to meet up with friends for comedy nights, movies and great beer. Yes, Dremo's is just a bar, but in a place like DC where people tend to keep to themselves, it offered a very welcome sense of community.

I hope they find a new spot soon.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 26, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Excellent points, No Cookies.

(Went there last night, and was slightly amused by the number of Clarendon Ballroomers who showed up for what must have been their first (and last) time at Dremo's. Ah well, good to see money in Dremo's pocket, at least.)

Posted by: MB | January 27, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Great story, Fritz. Dremo's is an institution, one of those rare places that has a quirky personality of its own rather than one sprung straight from corporate market research. In the mid-90s, my then-boyfriend now-husband and I went to the upstairs bar several nights a week to play pool, explore the beer list and just chill out in a super-welcoming spot. Community indeed--I still remember the awesome bartender, Steve; shooting pool barefoot; long tables full of friends drinking hefeweisse for Oktoberfest; and the night they tried to close early by putting Sonny & Cher on the jukebox to drive everybody out. Please keep reporting on Dremo's future, there are people who care about this place.

Posted by: Christie Findlay | January 28, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Standing on line at dremo's? Paying a $10 cover? Get a life. It is entertainment news, but the Post is a venerable institution as well and the passing of a bar does NOT merit more than one report.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I missed the last 2 nights it was open because of the crowds, but I was happy to have dremos a part of the scene in arlington that has become so yuppie and boring. Let's hope dremos comes back as it was before.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 28, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Fritz,
I know you appreciated all 3 incarnations of the current dremo's and those old Bardo memorabilia will truly be missed-the murals on the walls were priceless. The Ch 4 tv crews trying to sneak into the bar at 4AM, after W.K. Smith punched out our doorman, Hank. I was lucky to be a waiter there, during the Bardo heyday, and it was the most rockin' place ever! For a young waiter to be watching over 20 plus tables, ringing in over $2500.00 in sales with a paper Guest Check was an amazing rush! Bill was actually one of the first restaurant owners to use an electronic ordering system and food and beer runners to increase the efficiency of serving those 900 plus hungry and thirsty folks on a friday night! This is something some dinosaur places like Capt. Billy's in La Plata, MD could use to get their poor customers some food or even a drink on a busy night. Bill was a visionary, and still is in many ways, I wish him luck down under. And Andrew and his dad continue to carry on that inspirational vision Bill had--all in the tradition of Freedom for Tibet, and for the Dalai Lama. Long live freedom and places like Roratonga, Amdo, Bardo and Dr. Dremo's.

Posted by: BIG ANDREW ROSS | January 30, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

for very selfish reasons I'm glad it's being torn down. I met my ex girlfriend there. At least that reminder will be gone. I hope Dremos comes back at a new location. Kind of funny how desperate people are to make a buck. If you hadn't noticed, the RE market has tanked. Building new condos is idiotic. But hey, it's your money and property, feel free to be complete idiots, maybe we can really bring the economy down if we work together! Oh and thanks for closing down other bars soon like Jays Saloon and Royal Lee for more condos that nobody wants either. Maybe we can close down all the bars in Arlington if we work together to stop the evils of people having fun!

Posted by: steve | February 22, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

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