After 11 years of pizza, beer and pho, owner Hien Bui is serving customers at the Froggy Bottom Pub something new – a promise the GW landmark will stick around.
The University announced last week that after Kaiser Permanente vacates its 2100 W Pennsylvania Ave. space next October, GW will take steps toward renovating that building and the townhouses lining the street to create one large, sleek office building. But Bui said since the passage of GW’s 20-year campus plan in 2007 that outlined Froggy’s spot for redevelopment, she knew her family business was hanging on a thread.
Bui said she and her husband have been searching for a new home for the 26-year-old college bar within walking distance of the Foggy Bottom Campus and hope to relocate just a few blocks away. The Buis borrowed funds from friends and took out a loan on their home to buy Froggy in 1999 with less than $10,000 in their savings account.
Without Froggy, Bui – a vibrant Vietnamese woman who routinely chats up regulars – said students would miss out on a traditional college pub experience. But if she finds a different space, the new eatery would be nearly identical to the classic pub and she would continue looking after students.
“I take care of them like their own mother,” Bui said. “I do not take crap from you guys.”
The restaurant with cheap beer and a large, colorful hand-painted frog spread across the wall has become a facet of campus culture.
“It’s like our ‘Cheers,’ ” sophomore Robbie Romo said. “It’s almost like losing a piece of GW’s soul.”
Romo, who eats at Froggy about every other week, said the eatery is a destination he would have brought his kids to in 20 years.
Customers poured into the restaurant over the past few days, asking Bui to confirm the news that Froggy will board up. Alumni approached her on the street, she said, looking like they were about to attend a funeral.
“They all freak out,” she said, adding that she is unsure when Froggy would officially close, but the University estimated the building would be torn down in early 2014. The lease with the University ends in the spring.
Froggy saw a small slump in sales this fall after multiple eateries opened their doors at The Avenue, Bui said, attributing the temporary drop to students’ desire to try out the new shops. But after a few weeks, sales returned to normal.
“Everybody tried, and everybody came back,” she said.
Kelsey Heinze, a 2009 graduate, said she and her boyfriend of three-and-a-half years had their first date at Froggy. Unsure of when the joint would shut down, they visited last Friday night and bought the pub’s signature glasses as mementos.
“Of course it’s going to be sad that Froggy isn’t going to be there with its green awning on Pennsylvania Avenue, but it’s definitely going to be a place that’s remembered by past and current students,” she said.
Calling the pub an “institution” on campus, Heinze said the eatery never disappoints.
Bui, who said forging a home away from home for students is one of her goals, consoles her faithful customers by saying she is still around for at least the next two or so years.
“The most wonderful thing is that I enjoy to see you mature and become grown-ups,” she said. “They always come back. They bring their wife. They bring their children. To me, it’s a reward.”