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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

D.C.’s first BYOB booze cruise outfitted with bikes hits the water

Jack Maher and Jack Walten will open Potomac Paddle Pub Monday.

For any legal drinkers seeking adventure, you will soon be able to enjoy happy hour while paddling down the Potomac River.

D.C.’s first paddle boat bar, Potomac Paddle Pub, opens Monday with a BYOB policy and 10 bike seats that customers use to propel the boat. Passengers on the boat will pedal from Georgetown’s waterfront to Columbia Island Marina in Arlington, Va. while sipping on their favorite beverages and feeling a downstream breeze.

The boat holds six to 15 people and can be privately rented out for $625 on weekends and $500 during the week, or tickets can be purchased in pairs for $45 each.

The long, red-roofed boat is hard to miss on any marina, and its bike seats sit parallel to an ice bar to keep your brews cool.

Jack Maher and Jack Walten, the founders of Potomac Paddle Pub, got the idea for the bar when they saw a roving cycling bar, The Pedal Saloon, in Clarendon, Va. Maher said they wondered if the tram-like, pedaled vehicle could be set on the water.

“It’s almost as if you’re biking around the city, on the water, with a beer in your hand,” Maher said.

During the hour-and-a-half-long trip, the boat travels from the Georgetown Waterfront and passes by the Watergate Hotel and the Kennedy Center, followed by a riverside monument tour of the Jefferson Memorial and more, sailing about three miles from the pickup spot to the Pentagon.

The boat tour allows tourists and locals alike to escape the crowds while seeing the city, Walten said.

Peddling while you drink has the added benefit of working off calories as you consume them – “gluttony without the guilt,” Maher said. Luckily, those who need a break can alternate between the bike seat and the boat’s extra space that allows others to hang out.

“Along with the whole active aspect, I think it’s a very unique and interesting way to take in the views of D.C.,” Walten said. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to give a monumental experience.”

The bar doesn’t sell drinks, instead allowing passengers to bring their choice of beer or wine. Because of the BYOB policy, the cost for each passenger are lower than a traditional booze cruise where companies will charge high prices because attendees are essentially a “captive audience,” Maher said.

The boat prohibits bringing liquor on board to avoid added seasickness from heavy drinking, but Maher and Walten said their favorite drink to sip while peddling – White Claw, a light, fizzy hard seltzer – will definitely be allowed aboard.

“That’s our bread and butter,” Maher said.

While the boat is marketed as a pub, passengers under 21 are welcome, but they aren’t able to drink. IDs will be checked at the dock to ensure that all drinking aboard the boat is legal, he said.

Arlington natives Maher and Walten have been friends since preschool and after attending rival colleges in South Carolina, Maher and Walten moved in together and brainstormed several business ideas. Potomac Paddle Pub is the first venture to come out of the pair’s “whiteboard sessions,” Walten said.

They discovered that while paddle boat bars are rare, there are others in Chicago, Detroit and Charleston, S.C. and the pair realized that D.C. would have one of the best routes for sightseeing.

“I personally hadn’t been on the route we are taking in many years,” Walten said. “I’ve only been on a boat or two twice on the Potomac really, and now that I’m a little older, a little more mature, I really appreciated the perspective that you get.”

Maher and Walten’s concern about the Potomac River’s long history of pollution led them to invest in an eco-friendly boat. In addition to being peddled by passengers, the boat is equipped with a solar panel that powers its electrical systems. Given their lifelong connection to the river, Maher and Walten encourage customers to support the river with an option to round up to the nearest dollar at checkout and donate the difference to the Potomac Conservancy, a nonprofit group supporting efforts to clean the river.

“Being from Arlington and growing up in the area, we’ve been going down to the Potomac for most of our lives,” Walten said. “Sustaining the Potomac and cleaning it up would be something that’s pretty important to us.”

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