It's been many years since Cockburn popped in to the DC watering hole Sign of the Whale. Tucked into an underrated bar district on M Street about a five-minute walk from Dupont Circle, the Whale was once a popular hangout for interns and thirsty twentysomethings, the Joseph A. Bank-clad worker bees who make the city go.

Now it's recovering from a devastating fire. Just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, smoke began to billow out of the Whale's upper-level window. Firefighters rushed in and doused the flames, which thankfully didn't spread to adjacent establishments like Camelot and...

It’s been many years since Cockburn popped in to the DC watering hole Sign of the Whale. Tucked into an underrated bar district on M Street about a five-minute walk from Dupont Circle, the Whale was once a popular hangout for interns and thirsty twentysomethings, the Joseph A. Bank-clad worker bees who make the city go.

Now it’s recovering from a devastating fire. Just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, smoke began to billow out of the Whale’s upper-level window. Firefighters rushed in and doused the flames, which thankfully didn’t spread to adjacent establishments like Camelot and the 1831 Bar and Lounge. No injuries were reported.

The owner of Sign of the Whale released this statement Wednesday night:

Sadly we had a big fire today. We will be doing a Sign of the Whale Pop-Up at Nero for the time being. We will be featuring the same dj, specials, bartenders, fun time, and happy hour giveaway! Please come out and support us! We will be holding mini fundraisers this week and next week at Nero!

We will update you every step of the way through the whale recovery process. The Whale never dies! we will soon be back in building!

(Nero is another bar not far away on Connecticut Avenue that’s owned by the same proprietors, and Cockburn encourages you to check them out.)

Cockburn notes that any Washingtonian who was in their twenties during the 2010s will have been to Sign of the Whale. In fact, he’s old enough to remember when the kids used to drink at even rowdier establishments: remember My Brother’s Place, the old fire-hazard Hawk and Dove, Tequila Beach? The kinds of places where your feet stuck to the floor and a single beat thrashed through your teeth and the backs of everyone’s hands were faintly graffitied with the remains of scrubbed-out stamps.

The nice thing about Sign of the Whale was that it wasn’t this, less a seething nightclub than an unpretentious dive. Like its clientele, the bar had its growing pains: it shut down in 2017, reopened as DC Tap House shortly thereafter, transitioned back to Sign of the Whale in 2018, closed again in 2019, and reopened in 2021 as a more high-concept joint. The beer was now craft, the menu hipper, but it remained a comfortable (and relatively inexpensive) place to have a drink.

It’s just this sort of establishment that’s been taking it on the chin since the pandemic began. So it is that Cockburn wishes all the best to Sign of the Whale. He’ll be on Whale watch to see when it reopens — and looks forward to coming in for a beer very soon.