As the chalk board out front casually announces, the Irish Channel Restaurant and Pub (500 H Street, NW) re-opened on March 7th. The quaint and unassuming pub was recently renovated when the former Red Roof Inn was converted to a Marriott-run Fairfield Inn & Suites.
It’s clear much consideration was spent refurbishing the modern Irish public house and restaurant. Many new updates are plainly visible upon entering: the bar stools and church pew style booths have been reupholstered and several large flat-screen televisions have been added throughout the space. A new (slightly lower) ceiling was installed along with new light fixtures over the bar. And the once-open walkway between the hotel lobby and the bar has been walled off, better defining the bar as separate from the hotel. But renovations weren’t only cosmetic: new electrical wiring, heating element, and redesigned bathrooms are present as well.
With any remodel, some changes are necessary and regulars will notice some slight differences. The Channel’s traditional Monday karaoke has been discontinued, replaced by a live musician signing traditional Irish tunes from the stage by the bar’s fireplace. And alas, the dartboard in the back has been replaced by one of the new TVs.
More importantly than the décor changes are, of course, the beer selections; thankfully, the traditional pub draught selections – Guinness, Harp, and Smithwicks – have been preserved, along with Newcastle, Yuengling, Stella Artois, and Frederick, Maryland’s own Flying Dog Pale Ale. The Channel’s food menu – mostly of Irish fare – has shrunk in size, but only temporarily according to one bartender.
The Channel is fundamentally a great local bar and its recent facelift simply updates that fact. Because at its bones, the Irish Channel is a place to raise a pint, relax in the company of your neighbors, and for now, enjoy the fleeting smell of fresh paint and upholstery.
THF is a Penn Quater resident who blogs about the culture of drinking at thehipflask.wordpress.com.