By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer
The new Georgetown establishment Church aims to offer a little something for everyone — coffee shop by morning, restaurant by day and bar by night.
The D.C.-based development group Tin Shop announced last week that it has signed a 10-year lease for part of the canal-level portion of the Shops at Georgetown Park retail complex, 3222 M St. NW. That space will host the new Church concept by August or September, according to Tin Shop co-founder Peter Bayne.
Religious skeptics, take note: The concept is secular in nature, Bayne insists. “That sense of community, that sense of a gathering place — it’s a little tongue-in-cheek,” he said.
Church will offer coffee, breakfast sandwiches and pastries in the mornings; counter-service lunch in the afternoon; and dinner and cocktails in the evening. Throughout the day, a generous collection of tables will allow for communal seating and light conversation, akin to a typical coffee shop. And in the evening, happy hour and a range of rare bourbons and scotches will be served alongside an evolving food menu.
Tin Shop operates numerous D.C. bars including Iron Horse, Jackpot, Rocket Bar and Penn Social. Bayne said the concept for Church was inspired by a desire to branch out into a multifaceted business that offers a range of experiences under a single roof. Rather than just operating a bar, which largely restricts business to evening hours, Bayne and his co-founder Geoff Dawson decided to develop a model that could work for the full day. They thought Georgetown seemed like the right place for the idea.
“It just seems like Georgetown could really use a hangout space that has a coffee program that wasn’t Starbucks and holds more than 15 people,” Bayne said. “It just seemed like a natural fit there. When you’re paying these huge D.C. rents, you want to maximize the space as much as possible.”
Bayne knows plenty about the D.C. market, after growing up near Crestwood and starting his career waiting tables at Nanny O’Brien’s in Cleveland Park. When Dawson’s company purchased Nanny O’Brien’s a decade ago, Bayne left to work for another of Dawson’s properties, Bedrock Billiards in Adams Morgan. In 2013, Dawson and Bayne teamed up to form Tin Shop, so named because “you can make anything out of tin,” Bayne said.
Jamestown LP, the real estate company that owns Georgetown Park, reached out to Dawson last year about the possibility of Tin Shop occupying part of the newly re-emerging retail complex.
The Church space, totaling nearly 7,000 square feet, presents a unique challenge. Its position adjacent to the heavily trafficked parking garage will necessitate some creative marketing — the owners are planning for a social media push and on-the-scene efforts like free samples.
“I know we’re going to build the place to be beautiful so once they walk in the door, it just has that feel,” Bayne said. “But how do you get them to walk down those 15 steps?”
Once inside Church, customers will be greeted by an unconventional interior with 20-foot ceilings, a rear mezzanine, several tall pillars and the arched diagonal ceiling that inspired the name.
As for the food, Bayne said the menu will change every six months or a year, thanks to a collaboration with the food incubator Union Kitchen, which provides local startup businesses with resources to hone their culinary skills. When Church opens, Union Kitchen will send one of its startups to the kitchen at Church for a six-month trial period to develop and test out its menu. It’s a win for Church as well, Bayne said, because customers will get to taste an evolving variety of offerings.
“We’ll have people who are very eager to produce an excellent menu because this is their shop to really showcase their abilities and what their concept is and their desire is,” said Bayne. “It’s great for us to keep it fresh, but it’s also great for Union Kitchen to be able to offer such a unique opportunity for their members.”
The next steps for Bayne and his team include finalizing the designs, securing approval from Jamestown LP, getting city permits and beginning construction within the next month or two.
Ultimately, Bayne hopes to win over a base of customers who can expect something new at Church every time they visit.
“The life cycle of a business: People love it, they get used to it, and then it gets stale,” Bayne said. “If we’re constantly updating it, it always stays new.”
This article appears in the March 30 issue of The Georgetown Current.