Because Jews need a holiday bar, too

Every year, Ivy and Coney sports bar in the District reimagines itself as a Chanukah bar.
Photo courtesy of Josh Saltzman

What started as a way to rib the Christmas holiday bar up the street has turned into a Chanukah tradition at Ivy and Coney sports bar in the District.

When the Festival of Lights begins, the competition inside switches from the big game on the screen to the classic sour cream or applesauce argument. And the menu changes from beers and brats to Manischewitz and latkes.

“It started as a joke response to our friends’ bar that becomes a Christmas bar every year,” said Ivy and Coney co-owner Josh Saltzman. “I’m Jewish and I was like, ‘Oh we need our own bar because we never get to have holiday bars like everyone else.’ We started it as kind of a joke, just ribbing them for fun, and the response was amazing.”

It began four years ago. Even though Chanukah only lasts eight nights, Ivy and Coney stretches the fun to the end of December. Staples of the event include latkes, sufgani-shots, candle lighting (during the holiday), sweet Manischewitz wine (a purchase will benefit HIAS), nightly presents, dreidel playing and instruction, Shot-Norah (eight shots on a makeshift menorah) and, finally, lots of debate over which is the best latke topping, applesauce or sour cream.

“If somebody asks me for extra sour cream,” Saltzman said, making his choice clear, “I always send them to one of the bartenders that prefers it.”

While Jewish patrons in particular have loved having their own holiday bar, the shtick and fun are infectious, Saltzman said.

Non-Jewish customers love the Chanukah celebration, he said. “It’s an opportunity for them to learn. We teach them dreidel and a little bit of the story and by the end of the night they’ll be dreidel spinning experts.”

Will Ivy and Coney expand to other Jewish holidays? Purim is on the radar, Saltzman said. For the time being, the holiday spirit (and spirits) run through the end of the month.

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