It’s 4: 30 p.m. on a Friday and I’m searching for my friend (and colleague, the wonderful Sesali Bowen) on a line outside of a Washington D.C. bar. Yes, it’s 4:30 p.m. on a weekday, and there is a line for a bar. No, the increasingly alarming behavior of the capital’s most famous resident is not the cause. At the front of the queue are a couple dressed in preppy casual wear. They tell me they arrived at about 2 p.m. Towards the middle of the ever-growing line, there are two women both holding umbrellas. The friends confirm they hopped into the fray at about 3:45 p.m. They also happen to be dressed as Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) from Game Of Thrones. No one bats an eyelash or does a double take, since we’re all waiting to get into Game Of Thrones Pop Up Bar (PUB), in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood.
While I decided to go to Thrones Pub to specifically celebrate my birthday — I turned 25 the day prior — the real urgency of the situation came to a head because the watering hole will close its Wall, a.k.a. doors, this Sunday, August 27, on the day GOT season 7 will air its last episode. After spending about an hour and a half inside of Thrones PUB, I’ve realized this decision by Drink Company, the D.C.-based business behind the concept, is making a grave mistake on par with Dany’s choice to bring Viserion to fight the Night King. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s still pretty terrible. The Thrones PUB proves the bar needs to a "'round-the-clock, open-every-day-and-national-holidays type of permanent spot.
The first piece of evidence is the fact everyone was willing to spend hours upon hours of their lives simply waiting to step foot in the PUB. As I said, I got in line for the bar at 4:30 p.m., a full half hour before the establishment even opens. I waited in that line until about 6:25 p.m., when I finally made it to the front. Despite the fact the day started out as a beautiful, hot, Mid-Atlantic summer Friday, it did not stay that way. In fact, during my group’s time in line, there were multiple flash storms. These weren’t mid-August sun showers, either. These were sky-opening, lightning crackling, thunder-booming torrential fits of rain. From my vantage point, essentially no one got off the line. That's probably because multiple people came prepared with rain ponchos. Every Thrones fan withstood the possibility of pneumonia or freak electrocution just to get inside the bar.
And yes, it was worth the wait. Everyone has to queue up outside for hours upon hours for entry because management purposefully limits how many patrons are allowed inside at a time. That means the PUB greets you with the kind of lively atmosphere that would feel foreign in Westeros, but it doesn't feel too packed. Plus, with three amazing and detailed bar rooms and a fourth smaller one in the back, no one is waiting another two hours for a drink. The first room is designed to resemble a Godswood, with a wall-based weirwood tree as the focal point. It’s so well-done, you might forget weirwood trees aren’t real. Next up is the Hall Of Faces, where there are dozens of lifelike dead faces etched into the wall. Thrones PUB even tries to be inclusive, including a few Black people in the mix. The final major space is a replica of the Red Keep, with an Iron Throne photo-op area attached. The wait for a group to take a snap with the Throne is about an hour, and yes, of course, I waited. Thankfully, no one had to stand in another line for the privilege of sitting upon the Iron Throne — the queue is run by an app that tells patrons when it is their turn.
The PUB was a success in where it counts: the drinks will impress alcohol snobs, like the Lannisters. There is no greater joy in this pop-up than ordering the Shame cocktail, which is a simple-but-refreshing mix of tequila and grapefruit tonic. When a patron orders and is subsequently served their Shame, their bartender rings a bell à la Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham) in season 6’s "Mother’s Mercy." Just like the crowds at King’s Landing, every PUB drinker within earshot will yell “Shame!” with the bartender in time to the bell. It is a sight to behold. One of my drinking buddies did not realize how the Shame worked and screamed “Shame!” during what was meant to be her own (jokey) public humiliation.
Drinks with less flashy serving styles happen to be just as delicious as the Shame. I also tried the Lady Mormont, which is a concoction made of gin, Madeira, honey passionfruit, lemon, falernum, and orgeat. I admit that I didn’t know what the last two ingredients are. Thanks to Google, I now understand they’re both syrups. However, before I knew that, I simply recognized the syrups made quite a good cocktail. Interestingly, the Lady Mormont comes in a glass designed to look like a little bear. Originally I found it condescending towards the biggest badass in Westeros, but then remembered Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsay) is literally a little bear, considering House Mormont’s sigil. My friend got the North Remembers, whose selling point is the awesome mug it comes in, emblazoned with wolves. It also tastes like very good, boozy coffee — if that’s your thing.
This Sunday, Game Of Thrones will end its seventh season, and it’s unknown when its eighth and final season will premiere. Even the most optimistic estimates place season 8’s likely debut in September 2018, while the possibility of a 2019 bow looms over Westeros. In a Thrones drought like this, fans deserve all of the Lady Mormonts, North Remembers, and, yes, even Shames they can get.
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