Tonic bar opens for business with 10 beers on tap

Tonic restaurant began serving alcohol Thursday, after winning a yearlong battle for their liquor license.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which oversees liquor licenses in the District, approved the restaurant’s license at their first meeting of 2008. The license was issued last Thursday morning, and the restaurant was serving alcohol within hours.

Tonic, owned by two GW graduates, opened in Foggy Bottom last fall as a full-service restaurant on the corner of 21st and G streets. Restaurant staff had said they were waiting for a liquor license to complete their menu.

Most of the alcohol offered will consist of beer and wine. Hard liquor is only being offered on weekend mornings, per an agreement the University. On Saturday night, the restaurant had 10 beers on tap with plans to add an additional two.

Jeremy Pollok, co-owner of Tonic, said they eagerly anticipated the approval of the license. “We’re excited to become a full service restaurant. It was almost like opening a restaurant with both hands tied behind my back,” he said.

They will have a daily “Happy Hour” from 5 to 7 p.m., consisting of half-price draft beers, $5 wine and 50-cent Buffalo wings.

People underage will be permitted in the restaurant at all times, but will not be able to sit at the bar. Security guards working on the weekends will mark people’s hands at certain hours.

Pollok said patrons older than 21 can expect to get carded more than once.

A large group of students, alumni and local residents filled the bar on Saturday night to watch the New England Patriots play the Jacksonville Jaguars on three flat-screen televisions.

“I think GW needs a signature bar, and this is it,” said Chris Sleet, an alumnus sitting at the bar with other GW graduates. “They haven’t had one in 20 years or more.”

After the game, large groups of friends sat around tables drinking, and many of the staff who had finished their shifts drank at the bar.

“This potentially might be the coolest bar in the area, so we are out to support it all we can,” said Yuri Van Mierlo, a graduate of American, drinking with several of his friends. “I like the location, the atmosphere here is perfect. It deserves more people, and I will continue to support it.”

The restaurant will be open until 1 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 2 a.m. Friday to Saturday. They will not serve pitchers of beer or have drink specials past 7 p.m., in accordance with the ABC order.

The ABC denied Tonic’s first application for a license in the fall of 2006 due to a District law preventing retailers from serving alcohol in a residential neighborhood unless there is already another establishment with the same license. Last summer, the D.C. City Council amended the law, allowing Tonic to apply.

The University and several community groups criticized the second application, but the sole official protestor was Michael Kimmel – a lawyer representing several dozen residents of the Letterman House and The Statesman. Kimmel unsuccessfully tried to lessen Tonic’s hours of operation. He said at a hearing in December that residents were concerned about loud activity in the area that might result from Tonic having a liquor license.

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