February 24, 2011 | by David J. Hoffman
Freddie’s purple reign

Freddie Lutz at his 60th birthday party in December. The gay entrepreneur has another milestone coming up — his bar turns 10. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant
555 So. 23rd St.
Arlington, Va.

Anniversary festivities:
8 p.m. Tuesday “Purple Party” — buffet and DJ Alicia
March 4 — Wicked Jezebel
March 5 — Saturday ‘Drag Diner’ buffet brunch

with Shelby Bottoms (Saturdays weekly)
$9.95 — 10 a.m.-3 p.m
Sunday champagne brunch
(Sundays weekly)
$19.95 – 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Freddie’s Follies Drag Show
with Destiny B. Childs (Sundays weekly)
9 p.m.-11 p.m.
March 8, 10 and 11 — WiseCRACK Disco Trivia
(Tuesday, Thursday, Friday weekly)
March 10 — “Dining Out For Life”
March 20 — “Mimi I’mFurst”
For details, go here or call 703-685-0555

Freddie Lutz knows what it takes to succeed as a restaurateur. But how to put it into words?

Certainly it’s that ineffable “je ne sais quoi” — that intuitive yet practical sense of how to succeed in the world of hospitality, as a purveyor of food and drink and good times. And it’s second nature to the man known to everyone simply as “Freddie.”

His is the motto for many who succeed — “excellence equals success.” In Lutz’s words, “They say if you make it past the first year, you’re doing good, but if you make it past the third year, you’re really doing good.”

However, the well-known rule of thumb in the restaurant industry is this sobering statistic: most new ones don’t make it much past one year. Therefore, Lutz says, “I guess if you make it past a decade, you’re doing fabulous.”

March is his 10th anniversary celebration month, starting Tuesday. He calls it “our purple party,” and it begins at 8 that night with a complimentary hors d’oeuvre buffet and an atmosphere of merriment with party favors. There is, as Freddie insists, “no cover charge” whatsoever,” because, he calls it “a big celebration, and everyone’s invited.”

“It’s a thank-you to the community,” he says, “for all their love and support over the last 10 years.” Lutz’s favorite color is purple, so that’s the theme.

Purple streamers deck the small stage — a mainstay for karaoke and drag shows, flanked by a white baby grand piano.

Lutz admits he borrowed — he calls it “artistic license” — the purple hue from elsewhere. He dubs it “royal purple” and says proudly, “I stole it from a diner in Key West, where I fell in love with it.” So back in Arlington, he immediately went to a Duron paint store, and found it.

But Tuesday’s kick-off party is just the beginning.

March 4 at 9 p.m., the lesbian band Wicked Jezebel will perform. Then on March 10, Lutz plans to give more back to the community, by, he says, “donating 110 percent of the proceeds” — not the profits, but the proceeds — of all sales that evening to Food and Friends’ “Dining Out For Life” fundraiser. March 20 brings the drag artist “Mimi I’mFurst,” well-known from “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.”

But Lutz is counting on staging more events. He’s planning them in concert with his general manager, his 24-year-old nephew Ryan, whom Lutz insists is straight, saying he is sort of like the young man Val — played by actor Dan Futterman in “The Birdcage.”

One touch of décor, of course, is Lutz’s sense of fashion style, through his own collection of colorful Hawaiian shirts — at first he simply estimates there are “a lot of them” in his closet, but then concedes that maybe it’s around 40. “Hey,” he says, “it’s a beach bar.”

Lutz also says that he has aimed to transplant the atmosphere of “The Birdcage” — set in Miami’s South Beach — to his place, with its “islandy feeling,” on 23rd Street in a commercial strip between Arlington Ridge and Crystal City. Its decor was spun through his own mixing bowl of styles. ”I didn’t need to hire a decorator,” he says, “I pretty much did it myself, I guess my theme song is ‘I Did It My Way.’”

Lutz lives on Meade Street, near the restaurant in the old Lutz family home, with his partner of 13 years, Johnny Cervantes. It’s the same house where Lutz lived with his parents, from when he was age 3. He boasts a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Lutz just celebrated another landmark anniversary — his 60th birthday, on Dec. 3, with a big bash at the restaurant. Cervantes, meanwhile, only owns up to being “39-ish, again, but I never give out my age.” When interviewed, they had just returned from their second home — in Rehoboth Beach — and Cervantes’ fondness for his partner was palpable.

“With Freddie, what you see is what you get,” Cervantes says. “But it’s true,” adding that “it’s his honesty and his integrity,” plus, “he’s got so much energy.”   In their relationship, Cervantes says, “he’s always the one who is willing to take the risks — and the only way I can describe him is as a free spirit, while also remaining respectful of everyone that he knows.”

“He doesn’t step on anyone’s toes. The bottom line is this, everybody loves Freddie, and Freddie loves everybody, whether in this neighborhood, in the business community, straight or gay.”

Cervantes says the secret of the success of the bar and restaurant is that Lutz has “great negotiating skills.”

Asked about that, Lutz acknowledges that when he started out a decade ago, after a 25-year career working down the street as manager and maitre’d at Cafe Italia, “I just wanted to see if I could do it myself, to see if I could make it happen, to create a gay bar and restaurant, but also — gay or not — to just see if I could do it on my own.”

Yes, he sees Freddie’s as “just one big, happy, dysfunctional family, with all the crazy drama that goes along with a gay bar, the intensity and all that, but this is important,” he adds, “the accent is on the word ‘happy,’ that’s definitely a key word.”

So yes, he feels “a great sense of accomplishment” now, to hit the 10-year mark.

Asked about the new LGBT bar in Northern Virginia, whether or not he feels any rivalry with the So Addictive Lounge at 733 Elden St. in Herndon, Lutz insists, “Absolutely not, in fact, I welcome it.”

He says there’s plenty of room in Northern Virginia for another gay bar. It’s managed by a former Freddie’s employee and they’ve talked about how they can help each other. Lutz sent flowers opening night. He got flowers in return.

When Lutz began 10 years ago, buying the location of the old Foxhole — he called it “a neighborhood, ‘Cheers’-type sports bar.” But then he started to change everything, he says, though they stayed open the whole time. Several of the Foxhole regulars hung around. He told them to hang on, the purple paint and redecorating were just part of “a work in progress,” a phrase he says still applies.

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