Over the past 20 years, Englert has reshaped Washington nightlife with his quirky bars. After his all-in bet on H Street, the question now is whether DC has finally changed him, too.
Joe Englert can’t sit still—not in an interview, not in life. Since coming to Washington in the 1980s, he has opened more than two dozen nightspots here—more than one a year. The first was called Club Random. The second, 15 Minutes.
Englert’s best-known bars are cathedrals of camp. At the Big Hunt, tribal masks stare down from walls and a man’s arm dangles from a dragon’s jaw. At H Street Country Club, mini-golf players putt around a fiberglass Marion Barry. The lamps at Trusty’s Full-Serve are fashioned from vintage motor-oil cans and beer is served through the windows of a yellow school bus. At the late Insect Club, patrons munched on “mealworms Rockefeller” beside a giant ant farm depicting a history of the world from the Crucifixion through the first space walk.