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.

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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.

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