The Passenger: A Bar that Rides On and On


Old standbys are often best. Tom Brown opened The Passenger, 1539 Seventh St. NW, in 2009 with his younger brother, award-winning mixologist Derek Brown. Originally located in a historic hardware store located across from the DC Convention Center, the brothers set out to create an unpretentious space where guests could imbibe quality cocktails at a time when there was a dearth of stand-alone bars in the neighborhood, said Brown.

The Passenger is named for an Iggy Pop tune. At the old site, Brown pioneered the so-called “blue collar cocktail bar.” This no frills hang out serves “everyday luxuries,” with a particular nod to service industry workers.

“It can be different things to different people,” Brown observed. “Most of all, it’s just kind of a place for people to gather, meet each other and establish friendships.”

When the original location closed due to development in 2014, Derek Brown moved his bar-within-a-bar, The Columbia Room, to a since-closed space in Blagden Alley. The current Passenger opened in 2016, decorated with colorful murals by local artists.

Today, the Passenger serves local brews on tap and in cans, on a rotating menu. The establishment’s cocktails incorporate local liquors and ingredients. Guests can order Puerto Rican cuisine from Qui Qui, the restaurant on The Passenger’s second floor.

The restaurant’s atmosphere, Brown noted, changes from day to day. Live music from Puerto Rican bands alternates with guest appearances from live DJs spinning everything from punk to soul.

While The Passenger has been a neighborhood staple for more than a decade, Shaw’s rapid growth brings in both new customers and old regulars. All, Brown feels, are able to connect over great drinks.

The Passenger is open Monday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. and Sunday, 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. Food is available from Qui Qui Thursday through Sunday. For more information on The Passenger, visit

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at