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The nightlife power couple behind B Live talk about their burgeoning Clarendon empire

When B Live in Clarendon opened to the public earlier this month, it was a big moment for local restaurateurs Christal and Mike Bramson.

The live music venue and restaurant is not the only venture that the married team has in Arlington. They also own several other well-known Clarendon concepts, including The Lot, Clarendon Pop-Up Bar, and Pamplona on Clarendon Blvd, plus they are planning to open a new tropical-themed bar on the roof above B Live, at 2854 Wilson Blvd, later this summer.

But B Live is perhaps the Bramsons’ most ambitious project yet, particularly with the added element that it moved into the former home of iconic watering hole Whitlow’s on Wilson.

ARLnow spoke with the couple about B Live’s debut, “tropical glam,” and the future of their other popular pop-ups. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

ARLnow: B Live has been open to the public for about two weeks now. How has been it going? What has surprised you? What challenges have you all encountered so far? 

Christal Bramson (CB): I think the initial thing that has struck us is that with very limited amounts of press and media, the community was clearly ready for us to open. There’s been an outpouring of support, which we embrace and love, but not necessarily ready yet for lines wrapped around the block.

Is there any pressure opening in the former home of such an iconic Arlington spot? 

Mike Bramson (MB): We definitely felt the pressure going in… we have big shoes to fill. We spent a lot of time on the design and really put a lot of our heart and soul into it.

CB: Obviously, Whitlow’s is an iconic place in Arlington and just want to do credit to the historic corner we are occupying.

MB: I knew the space really well, so we kind of had an idea of what we wanted to do with it. We completely changed the look of the inside, but still kept what people knew most about [Whitlow’s], which was the music and the brunch. We did add a few elements that really made it our own. So far, people’s reactions have been amazing.

What was the thought behind opening another live music venue in Clarendon? 

MB: Clarendon, historically, has had several live music venues and we saw a few of them fall away, either right before the pandemic and, then, right afterwards. The only remaining live music venue was the Renegade. They do a fantastic job and that’s a great venue, but we felt that historically there was always more than just one live music venue… there should be more than one option for live music as most towns and cities have.

What’s the process behind the booking of the bands, music, and entertainment? Is there an influence, theme, or genre you all are going for? 

MB: Personally, I love Ocean City and Dewey Beach. So really a lot of bands that we’re getting are from that area and from Philadelphia. Plus, a lot of local bands. It’s basically cover bands right now, but we will expand our reach.

CB: Wednesday nights will be acoustic. Saturdays will be more band focused with a spattering of DJs. And we are going to have local artists that just need a platform on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Coco B’s is next, opening on the roof of 2854 Wilson Blvd later this summer. When will that be open to the public? And what more details can you provide about the look, feel, and the drinks?

MB: We’re expecting two months from now, if everything goes well. So, we’re aiming for the end of July, beginning of August. We’re still working on the details of [the drink program], but there will be tropical-inspired cocktails.

CB: I’d describe [the look and feel] as ‘tropical glam.’ If you think of B Live as the male version of the two of us, then Coco B’s is the female version… the his and hers. It’s definitely going to be more female-focused. There’s going to be a lot of pinks, velvets, feathers, and it’s going to attract the softer side of Arlington.

MB: We also had some plans to expand the rooftop and, and actually make the bar a little bit bigger. But we found out that by doing that, it would cost us the rest of the summer. So, we are going to hold on those plans, do some cosmetic changes, keep the layout as is, and open the bar and rooftop this summer. Then, during the winter, we will close it and next spring we will have our big reveal for the redesigned rooftop.

Just a few blocks away is another venture of yours: The Lot. What’s the future of the beer garden? 

CB: We are hoping to continue as is. We are on a month-to-month [lease] right now. We are at the mercy of the county in terms of the redevelopment there. But we are going to keep it as long as we possibly can.

MB: We haven’t heard anything from the county yet, but the landlord did say that we would be able to have it at least for the rest of this season. But we don’t know what’s in store for next year.

The last few years you all have been operating the Clarendon Pop-Up Bar inside of the former Clarendon Ballroom. However, it’s been reported that your lease to continue that runs out later this year. Additionally, we reported earlier this year that the building’s new owner, Michael Darby, has applied for a building permit there. So, what’s next for Clarendon Pop-Up Bar?

MB: We can’t really comment on that. All we can say is that the lease was for a pop-up, which by definition is temporary. Everything is developing and we will have to see what happens.

Will the pop-up continue through the summer and until the lease expires in the fall? 

MB: We are still figuring that out. As of right now, though, we are still operating.

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