This unassuming ground-floor watering hole was like a breath of fresh air in D.C.’s gay-bar scene when it opened last December. Sure, long lines quickly formed outside—sometimes reaching gelato/coffee shop Dolcezza on the corner of 14th and P streets NW. But as soon as you got past the half-window door and glimpsed the walls of (glorious!) exposed brick, you felt cozy. Cozy because you weren’t in a rush to get upstairs and slosh through crowds of not-so-stellar dancers, like at other gay venues in the city; cozy because you looked around and saw late-20-somethings-and-up you could imagine conversing with in your living room; cozy because the double-sized drinks during happy hour (available until 10 p.m. daily) went right to your head.
Even by non-gay-bar standards, Trade delivers. From its website: “HUGE HAPPY HOUR IS BASICALLY ANYTHING YOU NORMALLY GET IN A REGULAR GLASS, YOU GET IN A HUGE GLASS FOR THE SAME PRICE, AND THEN ALL BEER AND WINE IS ONLY $4.” Got that? Good, because it’s exactly what it sounds like. I’ve had bourbon sodas in tall beer glasses.
Co-owners Ed Bailey, Chachi Boyle, and John Guggenmos know what they’re doing and knew what the market needed. (They own gay venues Town Danceboutique and Number Nine, after all.) A night at Trade could start after work, dinner, or a party and be equally fun, thanks in part to its ever-reliable bartenders and typically inoffensive club music. From time to time, they’ll bring in a DJ, who’ll set up at a repurposed church podium (a lectern, if my Catholic upbringing serves me right) on the elevated dance platform. It hasn’t ever done much for me.
Trade initially branded itself as a gay “dive bar,” but this patron isn’t so sure the label has held up a few months into its operations. What dive bar do you know has “all-gender restrooms?”