Cocktail Chorus

JR.'s makes the most of Mondays with decades of music for the masses

When it comes to nightlife, Monday is about as celebrated as a case of pubic lice. That’s exactly why, upon entering JR.’s Bar & Grill on a typical Monday evening, you may be excused for you surprise at finding the gay bar jumping.

So what’s packing them in for one of the 17th Street stalwart’s busiest nights of the week?

That’s an easy answer: ”Showtunes, Songs and Sing-A-Long,” colloquially known as ”Monday night show tunes.” And they’ve been a JR.’s staple since the bar opened nearly a quarter century ago.

”I’m assuming it came out of JR.’s Dallas,” says Dave Perruzza, vice president of JR.’s parent company, TCR, referring to the company’s Texas outpost, which preceded its D.C. addition. ”It’s a pretty simple formula. We try to get the newest stuff, but we have a 24-year library. It’s all about the DJ, too. We have a really good DJ now.”

The DJ ruling the Monday-night roost these days is Jamez, whom JR.’s has been bringing back weekly since he moved to Philadelphia. Perruzza says he’s just that good, tweaking the crowd with a variety of material that ranges from Broadway standards to cranking up a little Neil Diamond, perhaps, to get the crowd singing.

”It’s a whole array of songs, not just show tunes,” Perruzza says, explaining that Mondays aren’t for Broadway purists alone. ”We might do some Broadway, then a song from Aladdin. We don’t alienate anyone. I’ve had many sit at my bar on a Monday saying, ‘What is this?,’ then leave singing.”

Monday has a way of offering surprises, too. Perruzza remembers a Monday during the last presidential campaign season. Singer-actress Ellen Greene was in town tooting the ”Hillary Clinton for President” horn, and somehow her chanteuse instincts led her to JR.’s. ”She stood on the bar and sang ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ with no music. It was just amazing. She said she thought it was one of her best performances.”

Greene was no fluke. Just weeks ago, cast members of the Broadway production of Hair were in town for a White House performance. They, too, made their way to JR.’s and patrons were once again treated to an unscheduled – and unparalleled – performance.

The most telling endorsement of JR.’s Mondays may be from Perruzza himself, despite his obvious bias. Consider that when he began working as a JR.’s bartender, the only musical he’d ever seen was Evita. Today, a musical production can hardly pass through town without finding Perruzza in its audience. And hardly a Monday can pass without Perruzza tending bar.

”Going on 14 years, I’ve always worked Monday nights,” he says, adding that he was not at all excited about the shift when it was first assigned. ”I make the schedule now, and I still work Monday nights. Everyone is always in a good mood. You can’t really fight with the Wizard of Oz on. It’s such a good night.”

Drink specials at JR.’s ”Showtunes, Songs and Sing-A-Long” include $3 pints from 9 p.m. to close, $6 Absolut highballs and ”buy one, get one free” from 7 to 9 p.m. JR.’s Bar & Grill is located at 1519 17 th St. NW. For more information, call 202-328-0090 or visit jrswdc.com.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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