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Last year Tammy Truong lost a dear friend, an immigrant from Ecuador, who overdosed after years of struggling with being gay — specifically, with his parents, who refused to accept him. “To not be accepted for who you are,” Truong says, “I was heartbroken over that.”
The tragedy reinforced a desire Truong developed much earlier in life, to help others and give back. She remembers dodging grenades and landmines every day as a little girl in her native Vietnam, a country further tarnished with poor records on human and women’s rights. “I always envisioned that when I got older, I would make a difference,” she says. “I’d become more involved in the community as a humanitarian.”
And that’s become a key, if somewhat unexpected, motivating factor behind Uproar, the new gay lounge and restaurant Truong launched last month in the Shaw/U Street neighborhood. A self-styled “bear bar,” Uproar has already proven to be a success, even though it opened quietly, on the weekend of D.C.’s biggest snow storm in decades. “I was out there shoveling snow,” Truong says. “I’ll be darned if I didn’t see guys with beards covered in snow. It was heartwarming to see such support.”
Truong initially renovated the two-story building to house I Ching Restaurant and Bar. But after a year, Truong’s attempt at a pan-Asian restaurant wasn’t panning out. So the businesswoman, who has owned Polished, a Georgetown hair removal and nail salon, decided to shift focus at the advice of local restaurant and liquor consultant, Chad Cox.
Truong appreciates the irony of running two businesses essentially at odds over the issue of body hair. But she’s become enamored with the look and the attitude of bears, and the vibe they give off. “Just look around — everybody’s smiling,” she says, surveying the crowd on a recent night. “We want it to be an unpretentious and easygoing place for everyone, with a nice ambiance.”
In addition to the always-open first-floor video bar, Uproar’s second-floor dining room will be the site of regular events, as well as weekend brunch, slated to start next month. Above that is a seasonal roof deck with a full bar. Uproar has put an emphasis on reasonable prices for both food and drink, including an extended happy hour — with most drinks costing only $5 from opening to 9 p.m. every night. On Friday nights, Uproar offers an “after hour happy hour” starting at 10 p.m. That’s when Bear Crue’s Bear Happy Hour is winding down at Town, two blocks to the east.
Once a month starting in March, Uproar will also offer what they’re calling a “community give-back night.” The bar will donate to specific charities based on customer votes at each monthly event. Truong also envisions hosting regular fundraisers and meet-ups for advocates of LGBT youth and other causes near and dear to her, from boosting international orphanages to countering sex trafficking.
“My vision is just, down the line, a lot of humanitarian stuff,” she says. “That’s the way I see myself growing from here — networking and finding solutions.”
Uproar is at 639 Florida Ave. NW. Call 202-462-4464 or visit uproardc.com.
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