Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Asylum Due for Major Changes

One of my favorite Adams Morgan bars is headed for massive "back to the future"-like changes. Asylum Rock and Roll Lounge, which is 20 years young as of 2011, will revert back to a one level basement bar, giving up the top floor to another entity. It is located at 2471 18th St NW.

It originally opened as a one level basement bar, and although I've heard it referred to as a "biker bar" by various people over the years, it's really just a venue that tries to bring something a little different to the maddening AM bar scene.  They have a decent selection of vegan food, serve a popular weekend brunch, have oddball movie nights (Parker Posey, Wes Anderson), started an alterna-speed dating night and hosted regular parties like "Reform School" (Catholic school girls, etc) and "Shorts" (admission meant wearing shorts--or less). Of all the bars on 18th St NW, I feel most at home here.

However, those events were made possible by presence of an upstairs portion of the bar, which was added more than 10 years after the original downstairs bar opened and more than doubled the capacity. Although the vegan friendly weekend brunch originated while Asylum was downstairs only, it really flourished in the upstairs, often resulting in long waits for a table and a full bar right at opening. A great scene. Gone are the days of Tuesday vegan happy hour, but it had a great run as well.

It's unclear if the venue that takes over the upper floor space will be related to Asylum in any way; owners, managers, workers. I don't know. But the loss of a performance space and seats for vegan food are a total bummer for me, personally. One of my first forays into Adams Morgan as a Washingtonian was into Asylum's dungeon like bar, then with a motorcycle hanging in the front window and photo filled bar top in the back. I met a blind date there at like, 2am on a Friday night. I think I liked Asylum because it reminded me of the old Bidder's Suite in Richmond. Slightly dingy, dirty even. But good people. Fun times. Soon after the first visit, I started going to the fledgling vegan brunch, now a mainstay for DC vegans.

They'll likely remove the pool table and add seating by way of additional tables in order to increase capacity. There is a DJ booth downstairs, as well as a screen for projections. Don't expect to see bands, however. The sound system is located upstairs, as is the stage. Hopefully the specials like weekday happy hour and $0.50 beer on Saturdays continue. I will update when I get more information, but look for changes in late May and June of this year. Good luck to Asylum, it's one of the best bars on the 42 bus and I want it to stick around, even in its original form.

UPDATE: Prince of Petworth has more details here.