Long-time JR.’s manager Dave Perruzza announced this week he plans to have a new gay sports bar Pitchers open by early June. He’s signed a 10-year lease for the roughly 10,000-sq. ft. building at 2317 18th St., N.W. where Spaghetti Garden, which closed May 8, was located. He spoke to the Blade Friday by phone to offer details.
WASHINGTON BLADE: So this will be a gay sports bar and restaurant but there’s a lesbian component to it as well?
DAVE PERRUZZA: Yes, but not all right away. We’re gonna be opening it in two cycles because it’s so big, it’s a lot to take on all at once. We’ll have the restaurant portion and the outside patio spaces hopefully by Pride, tentatively, then I’m hoping to start the lesbian bar mid=July. Hopefully it will be open by my birthday (July 24). I’m consulting with some folks and working on signage and I want to make sure I do it right. I need to talk to some lesbians and find out what they want. I have the gay side down pretty well, even though sometimes my friends say I’m more of a lesbian than a gay man, but you know (laughs).
BLADE: So did the fact that there’s no Phase 1 (long-time D.C. lesbian bar) anymore or any D.C. lesbian bar factor into your decision?
PERRUZZA: Yeah. We get a lot of lesbians ad JR.’s and Cobalt. Everybody treats them respectfully but people from out of town always say they can’t believe there’s no lesbian bar here. It’s the nation’s capital for crying out loud. Then people say, “Oh, well, lesbians never go out.” Well that’s not really true. I know a younger generation of lesbians in the city who want to go out and it’s just kind of freaking sad that here you have one of the gayest populations in the country and they have to pick and choose which night they can go out.
BLADE: So the lesbian bar will have its own entrance?
BLADE: Did you feel that was crucial to making it work?
PERRUZZA: Yes. It’s going to make it feel like it’s their space. If it were just another part of the bar, I don’t think it would work as well. For me, it’s a no brainer. I’m also excited to be able to do charity events and even weddings here. So often it sucks when charity events — and I know they’re always looking for space — have to pay to use space. I mean if I’m not using the space, why should I charge you for it?
BLADE: Well, you’re a businessman though.
PERRUZZA: But we’re also community and that’s one of my goals. Wouldn’t it be great if charities didn’t have to pay money for space and all the money went to charity?
BLADE: So there’s four other bars besides the lesbian one. What will they all be?
PERRUZZA: They’ll all be part of the sports bar. That’ll be the first part open. The first three floors open will all be restaurant.
BLADE: How long has this been in the works?
PERRUZZA: A month and a half. It happened very fast. It was like, “I love it, I want it, I went for it.” We have a 10-year lease.
BLADE: Were you restless at JR.’s?
PERRUZZA: It was just time for me to go after 20 years. It was a good run but I wanted to do something that was all mine.
BLADE: How hard has it been to get all this rolling?
PERRUZZA: Not hard it at all. It was kind of easy. Once I have my mind put to something, I like to do it.
BLADE: How did you come up with the name?
PERRUZZA: It had just been in my head awhile, probably a couple years, that I want to have a sports bar and call it Pitchers. The lesbian bar will be called A League of Her Own.
BLADE: Will there be a Catchers too someday?
PERRUZZA: Maybe if a space opens across the street, we’ll see (laughs). Right now I’m just sticking to Pitchers.
BLADE: Are there any other voids, aside from the lesbian angle, that you’ve seen in D.C. nightlife you’re hoping to fill with this venture?
PERRUZZA: I’m going to avoid theme nights. I don’t want to alienate anybody. I don’t want a this night or a that night. I just want everyone to feel welcome all the time.
BLADE: Have you applied for a liquor license?
PERRUZZA: I’m transferring the one from here.
BLADE: What’s your operating budget?
PERRUZZA: I don’t even know yet, I’m still in the middle of it. But it’s a lot.
BLADE: Any major renovations?
PERRUZZA: No, just minor. Some things with the air conditioning.
BLADE: How has D.C. gay nightlife changed in 20 years?
PERRUZZA: Grindr has killed it a little. But Uber has helped. It no longer matters as much where the gay bars are or how close they are to each other. You don’t have to fight the parking. If you want to go to another bar, you just hop in an Uber and you’re there in minutes.
BLADE: Did you have your eye on Adams Morgan?
PERRUZZA: No, I hardly ever went there. I just came here, saw it and loved it.
BLADE: How was it even on your radar?
PERRUZZA: They came to JR.’s and said we want you to come run our bar. I said I want to buy it and I want to run it. I don’t want to work for anybody anymore.
BLADE: And they were fine with that?
PERRUZZA: Not at first. I had to talk ’em into it.
BLADE: Are you nervous?
PERRUZZA: No, I’m pretty confident. It’s a good space and I’ve been doing this for 20 years so I’m pretty confident.