Halloween is the one day of the year to celebrate your spooky side, but there is one place in town where the holiday never ends.
Beetle House DC, a Halloween-themed bar at 816 H St. NE that opened last month, has a simple motto: “Every day is Halloween.” Bar owner Zach Neil said the joint delivers on its promise with skull-lined walls, sword-swallowing entertainers and a Halloween-themed cocktail menu featured all year long.
Neil said Beetle House DC is his third operation of the same name. His first two Halloween-themed restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles gained almost immediate popularity, with the New York City restaurant booking up for 13 months, he said.
“I think people are always surprised, and what’s made us successful in the cities we’re in is that sometimes people come in in the middle of January or in the middle of June and they’re like, ‘Oh my God. As soon as I walked in the door, I felt like it was October,’” Neil said.
Neil said he was inspired to open up his third location of Beetle House in D.C. because of his fond memories performing in D.C. clubs like Black Cat and the 9:30 Club as a touring musician in the ’90s and mid-2000s.
“D.C. for us was just more of a passion project, it was more like, ‘We like it here, so we’re going to try to open something here,’” Neil said.
He said the restaurant is “dark and macabre,” decked out in Tim Burton-inspired decorations like candle-lined shelves with wax streaming down onto the walls. An open coffin and a large skeleton head resembling Jack Skellington from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is mounted on the wall.
“The overall feeling is you always feel like you’re in a ‘Sleepy Hollow’ movie or something,” Neil said. “It’s really cool.”
The first floor of Beetle House holds the restaurant, and the upstairs houses the joint’s bar and a stage where entertainers regularly perform. Daily shows include fire breathers, sword swallowers, contortionists and magicians.
On the bar’s menu, you can order drinks like “This is Halloween” ($12) – a cocktail made with Fireball, sour apple, pumpkin liqueur and apple cider. Other spooky drinks include “The Beetle’s Juice” ($14), which is made of tequila, muddled blackberries and cranberry juice, and the “Chocolate Chocolate Martini” ($14), made with vanilla vodka, chocolate syrup, milk and whipped cream.
As far as food goes, you can eat a plate of pulled pork, burgers, mac and cheese and steak. There are also many options and available substitutions that are vegetarian, vegan or gluten free.
During Beetle House DC’s first Halloween in the District, Neil said the restaurant will run business as usual because “Halloween night for us is not really any different than any other night.” He said the restaurant might bring in some fortune tellers or psychics for more of a “witchy” theme on Halloween night.
Neil said he plans to keep up the excitement of the restaurant throughout the year by paying homage to later holidays and celebrations like Christmas and Valentine’s Day – but with a darker twist. Before Christmas, Neil said the bar will transform into a “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme from the second weekend in November until the new year.
“We’ll have our twist on kind of the pagan version of Christmas, so we’ll do you the dark kind of goth Christmas decor,” he said. “We’ll build out our own little Halloween town which is very reminiscent of ‘Nightmare Before Christmas,’ so we’ll still celebrate the dark side of the holidays.”
Nearing February, Neil said Beetle House will switch to a “Bloody Valentine” theme and then celebrate the equinox in the spring.
“We just have event after event – that keeps us relevant throughout the year,” Neil said.