Georgetown Bar Culture

Georgetown throughout the decades has been consistently dubbed the Washington D.C. preppy paradise. The website NTF (Not For Tourist) advises visitors to “throw on your white loafers, pop your polo collar, and grab your designer bag for a weekend out in Georgetown.”( While Georgetown’s day life may be wrapped up in pastels and pearls the nightlife reveals a different side of Georgetown.

During the midnight hours different groups of residents, students, and visitors mingle in the many different clubs, bars, and taverns located in Georgetown. Georgetown has seen many different fads and styles, besides the collegiate prep it has been stereotyped as. In the early 70’s Georgetown was known for its thrift stores such as Commander Salamanders, multiple record stores, smoke shops, indie concerts and most importantly its disco scene, with bars like Tramps. In the 80’s Georgetown entered the peak season of its quintessential 80’s prep with the Hollywood film “St.Elmo’s Fire” depicting the life of young Georgetown graduates. Many students thought this was an unfair representation of the Georgetown student and that reality was much different. Georgetown in the 80’s was filled with concerts from start-up artist at the Cellar Door and the Bayou, basketball, and a thriving on-campus student run pub. In the 90’s Georgetown entered into a grunge period with rock bands and alternative music blaring out of establishments such as Poseurs. The 2000’s saw the real death of the Georgetown bar culture, as the bar and taverns, where students, professors, tourist, and neighbors could all be spotted grabbing a drink, began to close their doors. The Georgetown bar culture was filled with much more than loafers, gingham, pleats and shoulder pads, Georgetown’s bars served as a destination for all of Washington D.C.

Take a peek at some of the videos below that convey the different Georgetown bar culture vibes throughout the decades.

The stereotypical Georgetown bar and young graduate life depicted in the 80s classic St. Elmo’s Fire

In this video, you can see different vintage shots of Wisconsin, the famed St. Elmo’s Fire, which is really the Third Edition, and the Georgetown neighborhood. While this may only be a dramatized movie about the highs and lows of post-graduate life, it does reveal certain aspects about how Georgetown students and young adults interact with bars. The characters of “St. Elmo’s Fire” use their beloved local bar as a meeting place, a location to come share and support each other while facing the trials and tribulations of adulthood. They also use the bar as a place to court love, make business/ life decisions, celebrate, fight and work out social issues. “St. Elmo’s Fire,” while a cliche 80’s movie, does work to present a representation of bars role as a social meeting place in young adults lives during the 1980s.

The Cellar Door Concert

The Cellar Door was one of the premiere music venues in Washington D.C. from the 1970’s to very early 1980’s. It not only helped launch the careers of famous artists, such as Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, John Denver, Richard Pryor, Neil Young and Jackson Browne, but it acted as a center of culture and social connection. The establishment offered students and Washington D.C. residents cheap access to new and influential music. Additionally, it fostered a community that connected the performer with the people, as the venue was very intimate.

Documentary of the rich culture and music of the Bayou


One of the most historic music and event venues in Washington D.C. this place has seen D.C. through the decades. This was truly a place that blended together different classes of people from doctors, lawyers, students, and middle-class workers. The club played host to multiple genres of artist and performance. It helped usher in the era of rock n’ roll in Georgetown, which influenced not only the individuals of D.C. but Georgetown’s identity as a cultural, musical and social destination.

Interview with the owner of the oldest bars in Georgetown still open today!

Martin’s Tavern has been a staple in the Georgetown neighborhood since 1933 and is the perfect example of how family and community can influence bars, as bars can influence families and communities. This place acts as one of the ultimate blenders of communities. One can find Martin’s Tavern filled with students, parents, neighbors and politicians. Martin’s is not only a place to grab a meal and a drink but it is also center to politics, family life, networking, business and Georgetown neighborhood life.


PS. The picture above is Wisconsin street in the 1980’s Fil St. Elmo’s Fire. There you can see the Third Edition, next to that a bank, and next to that a favorite student movie theater, and on the corner a Roy Rogers.

  1. Movieclips. “St. Elmo’s Fire (8/8) Movie CLIP – Our Time at the Edge (1985) HD.” YouTube. YouTube, 06 Oct. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
  2.  Neilyoungchannel. “Neil Young: “Old Man” from ‘Live at the Cellar Door”.” YouTube. YouTube, 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
  3. Bayoudocumentary. “Bayou DC’s Killer Joint Trailer.” YouTube. YouTube, 02 Nov. 2011. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
  4. Gael4Arse. “Martin’s Tavern.” YouTube. YouTube, 29 Apr. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.