Martin’s Tavern at 80 with Mayor as Bartender

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Mayor Vincent Gray and Billy Martin tend bar for Martin's 80th anniversary party. | Robert Devaney

When you get a free beer from the Mayor of Washington, D.C., you know it is a good night.
Georgetown landmark, Martin’s Tavern, celebrated its 80th anniversary April 3 with a standing-room-only party that seemed to attract half of the town, including Mayor Vincent Gray.

Gray presented Billy Martin, fourth Martin in line of the tavern’s owners, with a proclamation that named the day “Martin’s Tavern Day” in the District.

Martin said he was proud of his family’s long-standing Georgetown business and knew some were looking down from heaven in approval. After the speeches, as if Martin needed to encourage anyone, the crowd continued the party. And the mayor was invited to be a Martin’s Tavern guest bartender.

Every president since Harry Truman has dined at Martin’s, except Barack Obama, who has a few more years to come and belly up to the bar.

The following is a history of the Martin family, according to the tavern’s website:

In the late 1890s, William S. Martin traveled from Galway, Ireland, to America. Forty years later, he and his son, William G. Martin, opened Martin’s Tavern on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and N Street, NW.

It was 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression and the beginning of the repeal of Prohibition. William G. Martin, a recent graduate of Georgetown University, was beginning a prodigious career in professional baseball, football and basketball. Successful in business and sports, he earned a seat as a Hall-of-Famer.

In 1949, William G. Martin’s son, William A. Martin, joined the tavern after serving in the Navy during World War II. William A. Martin attended Georgetown University Medical School and excelled as a Golden-Gloves boxer and Pro-Am golfer. His stories of “The Dugout,” recalling countless meetings with Speaker Sam Rayburn, Senator Lyndon Johnson and other monumental Capitol Hill leaders, were passed on to his son, current owner Billy Martin.

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