Before enjoying a cold beer at Church Hall, you’ll first have to find the entrance.
Georgetown’s newest bar is accessed via an unassuming staircase off 1080 Wisconsin Ave. Follow the steps just after the Georgetown Park garage to arrive at the spacious underground hangout, which invites guests to kick back over a drink or a round of Jenga at one of its many communal tables or comfy couches.
“This is a church of community and a church of fun,” says co-owner Geoff Dawson, a hospitality veteran who runs the bar alongside his business partner Peter Bayne.
Dawson and Bayne are co-founders of local design and management firm Tin Shop, which operates a number of bars and restaurants in the city, including Franklin Hall and Penn Social. Church Hall is both the newest concept and a bit of a homecoming for Dawson, who grew up in Georgetown and now lives with his family in the Palisades.
The bar opened March 30 after years of build-out. The space was little more than a concrete shell when Dawson and Bayne found it, with vaulted ceilings that evoked a grand church. The finished product features several bars, a full kitchen and design touches that bring a feeling of openness to the windowless room. The seating options are varied, including large beer-hall style tables with cushioned benches inspired by church pews (the team decided to ditch actual pews for something more comfortable).
“The challenge will be a beautiful Saturday day,” Dawson says of the task of attracting customers indoors. “But once it gets hot, this is going to be very cool. In the winter, we’ve got the fireplace going.”
Rather than relying on table service, Church Hall staffs multiple bars for pouring drinks and a walk-up counter for placing food orders. Buzzers ensure plates get to guests as soon as they’re ready. And customers can opt to settle their tabs as they walk out the door, where a staff member will have a portable payment device at the ready.
“It’s service on your own terms,” Dawson says. “I think it really works for today’s customer. People want to be in charge of their own experience.”
Dawson describes the menu as “elevated but inexpensive” bar fare, and it aims to please a range of guests. Take the beer selection (liter pours are available), which rotates among local, craft and large national brands across more than 20 draft lines. There are cocktails on tap and a few wines, too. For food, chicken and waffle sandwiches and Reuben sliders cater to those with bar-food cravings, and items like salads and falafel tacos will satisfy health-conscious, vegan or gluten-free eaters.
Church Hall is outfitted with lots of party games, from Cards Against Humanity to giant Connect Four. It’s all part of the mission to create an inviting spot for the entire neighborhood, from college students to office workers looking for a happy-hour spot (happy hour is 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday).
“Being able to sit down and have an ice breaker is such a great way to be comfortable and to have fun,” Dawson says. “We just see a lot of people laughing, and to me if people are laughing that means they’re having fun. And if they’re having fun then they’ll come back.”
Church Hall opens at 4 p.m. on weekdays and at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.