Bracket Room, a new upscale sports bar in Clarendon, is planning to open its doors on Thursday, Sept. 5.
The restaurant received its liquor license this week and will be wrapping up interior construction over the next week. Co-owner and reality television star Chris Bukowski says the Bracket Room will distinguish itself from other sports bars in the area by offering a higher-end, “female-friendly” experience, complete with a wide variety of cocktails and shooters and higher-quality food.
“What’s going to separate us any every other sports bar is our food,” Bukowski told ARLnow.com. “We have put in the most effort into our food. It’s not going to be your typical bar food… that’s what’s going to bring people back.”
Bracket Room chef Roland Kator, a personal friend of Bukowski who formerly worked at restaurants in Las Vegas and Chicago, including celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, has helped design a menu that includes both bar favorites and slightly more adventurous fare. Pizza, burgers and tacos are available, as is ceviche, Maine lobster and a “superfoods salad.”
Lined with flat screen TVs and wood paneling, the bar’s modern interior suggests a lounge more akin to Las Vegas than Arlington, which is what Bukowski was aiming for. Adding to the high-end vibe: a private, 20-person VIP area with a customized iPad to control the TVs and the volume.
Bukowski first came up with the idea for the Bracket Room 5 years ago. His TV fame, through roles on ABC reality shows “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor Pad,” gave him a “marketable name” that helped to make the restaurant a reality, he said. Already, fans have been coming into the under-construction restaurant seeking photos.
While many celebrity chefs are content to put their name on a restaurant with which they have little on- going personal involvement, Bukowski, as a celebrity owner, says he will be more hands-on. He has put his TV work on hold until at least the spring, so he can focus on running the restaurant.
“We have to have everything perfect, from our construction to our staff,” he said. ”I will be here every day — interacting with people, making sure everybody’s having a good time.”
Bukowski noted that he “lives literally right above the bar” — in the Lyon Place apartment building. He moved in about 7 months ago.
“I love Clarendon… it’s a perfect location,” he said, when asked about why he chose Arlington and not his native Chicago as the place to open the bar. “The demographic is right up my alley… a lot of young professionals, people that are right out of college that are hungry to make a career for themselves, but still like to go out and enjoy the nightlife.”
Some local restaurateurs who have spoken to ARLnow.com have expressed skepticism of the Bracket Room’s ability to turn a profit while trying to offer both a sports bar experience and chef-prepared food in a relatively small space. Located in the former Burapa Thai space at 1210 N. Garfield Street, Bracket Room will have a capacity of only 100 people inside and 36 people on an outdoor patio. Still, Bukowski believes the restaurant can succeed financially.
“Space is probably the least of my worries,” he said, adding that he would rather have a small, crowded bar than a large, empty-looking bar.
“On a Tuesday night it’s going to look busy even with 25-30 people in here,” Bukowski said.
To ensure a good experience even with a capacity crowd, Bukowski hired “Magic” Michael Werner of the Florida bar training firm ShowTenders. Werner, who worked as a corporate trainer at T.G.I. Friday’s, said his training will enable bartenders to make better drinks faster, while reducing the time customers have to wait to get their order taken at the bar when it’s crowded.
The Bracket Room will be a D.C. sports bar, with most of the TVs showing the Redskins, Capitals, Nationals or Wizards when they’re playing. It will open on Sept. 5, following a private VIP reception on Tuesday, Sept. 3.