Freddie Lutz has a lot of stories.
One of his favorites was a time when several men came into his bar, Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd Street S.), and started stirring up trouble. As they started causing trouble and making crude remarks, all Lutz had to do was pick up the phone and a few seconds later a few burly, “football player” friends showed up from a nearby sports bar and gently escorted the troublemakers away.
For Lutz, it’s a story that marks the kind of support he’s had in Arlington County since the start. This year marks the 20th anniversary Freddie’s Beach Bar, which he proudly calls “Northern Virginia’s only LGBTQ+, straight friendly restaurant and bar.” While many gay bars across the country had to fight for their place from the beginning, Lutz said he’s been lucky with mostly positive experiences in Crystal City.
The bar got started 2001, but Lutz said his history with the neighborhood goes back further.
“Prior to losing my mind and opening Freddie’s, I was a maître d’ and manager at an Italian restaurant nearby called Cafe Italia for 25 years,” Lutz said. “I grew up in the neighborhood and was pretty well known. Folks knew me and knew I was gay. We did drag shows at Halloween. That part of my life was no secret, even back then.”
Lutz said opening Freddie’s was partially a matter of finding the right timing.
“The timing was good, because that was when the police department was doing diversity training and people were trying to be more accepting,” Lutz said. “It’s not like we were opening some sleazy bathhouse, we were a respectable bar. I think once we did open, everybody realized we had a very class, respectable clientele.”
Lutz said there’s been “very little trouble” over the years, apart from the earlier crowd escorted out and one time early on when Lutz said the bar had a brick thrown through the window. The bar has expanded a few times over the years, and Lutz is in the process of opening a new “Freddie’s” in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware sometime in the next few months.
“It’s gotten bigger and better,” Lutz said. “We’ve gotten better with age.”
Over those years, Lutz said he’s also seen increasing gay representation at non-gay-specific bars; with pride flags decorating venues throughout the region. While a boon for the gay community, it also has also created questions of identity for venues that made their mark as isolated islands of acceptance — but Lutz said he isn’t concerned.
“A lot of gay bars seem to be fading out because gay people and straight people go to the same bars, but I think it’s nice to have specifically a gay bar, particularly with our history,” Lutz said. “Like with gay folks from the Pentagon who early on considered Freddie’s to be a safe place for them to hang out, even before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I advertised as straight-friendly, which gave them cover even before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Lutz said Freddie’s, like other gay bars, also stands out as a safe place and overall haven for the still under-threat transgender community.
Gay bars nationwide have also faced some scrutiny, however, for catering predominately to white clientele. D.C. gay bar Nellie’s Sports Bar faced public outcry after a bouncer at the bar dragged a Black woman down a flight of stars. Lutz said it’s an important discussion that gay bars throughout the country should engage with, and one he’s seen come up on the National Landing Business Improvement District’s Equity Committee.
“I’m an old white guy, so to have the opportunity to have open, honest discussions about race: I welcome that and I think more people should take this opportunity to get educated and learn more,” Lutz said. He noted that a recent discussion hosted by D.C.-based Tagg Magazine helped to spotlight the issue of making queer spaces safer for Black patrons.
In general, Lutz said he has a positive outlook for the future of Freddie’s. Lutz is a board member for the National Landing BID and said he’s been largely enthusiastic about the arrival of Amazon — which placed a sizable takeout order from Freddie’s last year. Now, Lutz said his bar is starting to do in-person events with the company.
“We did an Amazon happy hour for their employees, some of which are already here, and that was really great,” Lutz said. “It was a mix of straight and gay employees — they had their Glamazon group represented.”
Plans for the headquarters’ development are proceeding and the tech giant has been making contributions to local schools and nonprofits, but the effects of the new headquarters are also worrying some in nearby localities. In Alexandria, the city is scrambling to put together a plan to keep intact affordable housing nearby at risk of gentrification.
But Lutz sees Amazon’s arrival as an opportunity to make up for some of what was lost as the federal government moved thousands of jobs out of the Crystal City area starting in the mid-aughts, hurting local businesses.
“I’m not the least bit concerned,” Lutz said. “I know some residents are concerns about increased traffic and so forth, but I don’t have any concerns about that. When [the Base Realignment and Closure Act] happened we lost like 25,000 people and vehicles, so to replace that with Amazon and all the new infrastructure: I don’t think that’s going to be an issue at all.”
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village