When beloved bar and restaurant Whitlow’s on Wilson closed in 2021he left behind a prime real estate vacancy and an opening into the neighborhood’s live music scene.
“Clarendon had a really big live music scene, with iconic bars like IOTA, Whitlow’s even, Clarendon Grill,” says restaurateur Mike Bramson, one half of the husband and wife duo behind B Social hospitality. “With these changing spaces, we felt live music was missing.”
The couple, who live in Clarendon, are preparing to help rectify the situation with B live, a restaurant and a concert hall which opens on May 12 at 8 p.m. Built in much of the space that Whitlow has occupied since 1995, the new concept will host live music five days a week, offer a hearty range of comfort food and sport what claims to be the “only Bloody Mary bar DIY from Clarendon” during the brunch service.
B Live is the latest nightclub from Mike and Christal Bramson, whose newly formed group of restaurants includes The Lot, Pamplona and “secret social club” AKA the 14th, which opened in DC last month. (Another B Social concept, Coco B’s, is set to open across the rest of Whitlow’s footprint, including its legendary rooftop Tiki bar, later this summer.) The co-designed 4,100-square-foot space with John Howard of A2Z Music Factory and Michael Juliano of Juliano Design Build– features 102 indoor seating, a large stage, an L-shaped bar adorned with rows of music-activated vanity lights, and a 48-seat patio.
Find Instagrammable moments everywhere you look, starting with the gallery lobby which features album covers targeting Gen X and older millennials (think Def Leppard, Dr. Dre, Selena and the Spice Girls). Along one wall near the entrance, a neon sign reading “Bad decisions make for better stories” is based on a piece the couple spotted while vacationing in Tulum, Mexico, earlier this year. Pasted walls feature concert posters and other music-related imagery.
“It’s like my college dorm,” Bramson says.
A fresco titled Legends live forever features 10 late icons of music history, including Whitney Houston, John Lennon and Prince. This room and the pasted walls were created by frequent collaborators Michael Pacheco – who has also created work for Ballston Taqueria El Rey and food truck Rebel Taco – and Rodrigo Pradel, whose work appears at The Lot, READ Book Bus and , with Pacheco, Bar Bao.
B Live will kick off the music on its opening weekend, with performances from Pennsylvania Bryen O’Boyle Thursday, my hero zero on Friday and 8 Track Jones the Saturday. The venue will soon host live music five nights a week, including regional bands, local artists and DJs who will be advertised on its website and on a soon-to-be-arriving marquee board.
Following the departure of venues such as Whitlow’s, Mister Days and IOTA, other scenes, like at neighboring Clarendon’s The Renegade and The Perch in Tysons, have popped up to fill the void. The Bramsons hope B Live will be a key addition to this new wave, which will include regional bands as well as Arlington-based artists.
“We want to hear them. We want to see them grow,” says Mike.
Chef Juan “Nacho” Olivera of the Lahlou Restaurant Group (Dolce Vita, AKA The 14) is behind the comfort food menu and all-day brunch. For lunch, find a po’ boy with fried shrimp, calamari and turkey bacon, as well as a Cobb salad with cookie croutons and buttermilk ranch. On the dinner menu, choose from steak frites, roast chicken, and royal turkey meatloaf, among other hearty options. And for brunch, the restaurant will offer classics such as eggs benedict in four versions, as well as chi-chi pancakes with smoked salmon and caviar.
“We just wanted to have a place where we would really want to eat,” says Christal. “We [have] high end food, but on the menu you will see items that we have traveled and tried and love.”
Although you might not find branded plastic cups at the bar at Whitlow’s, you will find a selection of draft beers, wines and White Claws. And the main consumption event takes place during brunch; Starting May 28, beverage director Josh Odmark plans to introduce a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar as well as cereal shooters (complete with Lucky Charms and the like doused in alcohol and served in small bowls).
For the Bramsons, B Live is a place locals will return to again and again, for happy hour one night, family dinner another and, of course, Sunday brunch.
“We want to see familiar faces all the time,” says Mike.
B Live is located at 2854 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. The restaurant is open Sunday to Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. During the opening weekend, the restaurant will serve bar snacks, expanding its extensive menu the following week. The brunch service will begin on May 28.