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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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New Western Market bar set to open early next month

Sage Russell | Assistant Photo Editor
Workers walk through Western Market last month.

A sports-betting bar previously slated to open in Western Market in spring 2022 will now open early next month, but will drop its former gambling feature for the time being.

ExPat, a two-floored bar located on the ground and lower levels of Western Market serving alcoholic beverages and Southern barbecue staples like brisket, ribs and grits, will open in early March. The bar was originally set to open its doors in spring 2022 as a sports betting bar, but ExPat’s gambling component has been put on the “backburner,” owner Ben Sislen said.

Sislen said he will consider adding a gambling option at the bar later.

“We will learn lots about our customers in the first few months,” Sislen said in a message. “If they want a sports gambling product, we will be prepared for that.”

After ExPat’s debut was initially announced at a Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting in March 2022, commissioners and community members expressed concerns about the potential dangers of establishing a hub for sports betting on a college campus and risking theft of cash payouts awarded to winning gamblers.

Sislen said in April 2022 that ExPat customers would be able to place bets at the bar using an ExPat betting app, with bet sizes limited to $500 and cash payouts limited to $200 to prevent gamblers from betting and losing too much money.

“Nobody wants to be sitting next to the person who’s losing a mortgage payment on a sporting event,” Sislen said in 2022.

ExPat will take the place of Bertucci’s, an Italian restaurant chain that closed in Western Market in 2020.

Sislen said he walked through Bertucci’s in January 2019 and saw a “great opportunity” to create ExPat and offer GW students a space away from classrooms and residence halls where they could come together and socialize, which he said the campus currently lacks.

“I’m not sure GW really has that third space,” Sislen said.

The DC Council legalized sports betting in December 2018 after the Supreme Court eliminated a federal law outlawing the practice outside Nevada in May 2018. Today, 38 states in addition to the District allow sports betting, compared to 30 states when D.C. legalized the practice.

Sislen said ExPat will be open for lunch, dinner and late night fare. He said the bar’s hours will be unaffected by the Western Market building closing at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 7 p.m. on Sundays because of the bar’s separate entrances and exits.

Sislen said the bar’s delayed opening was “disheartening” and that it is more difficult to open businesses today compared to years ago due to requiring more money and permits. He said he is excited for the bar’s opening, which acts as the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Once we see people in here having a good time, we’ll forget about everything else,” Sislen said.

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