When Hank’s Cocktail Bar closed its Upshur Street location in January and moved into their current Dupont Circle location, it didn’t just leave a vacant spot in the buildings. It made an opportunity for two savvy restaurant owners in the area. Carlie Steiner and Anna Bran-Leis would meet at Hank’s, and when it was gone, they realized how valuable that space was to them.
“We both own restaurants on Upshur,” says Steiner, “I own Himitsu and Anna owns Taqueria del Barrio—and we would see each other at Hank’s because you could get a great cocktail without leaving the neighborhood. The loss of a watering hole meant the building was available, and the two saw a chance to make it something of their own.
When it was on Upshur, Hank’s Cocktail Bar had dark, moody décor, and a lot of cocktail bars share that dark, romantic lighting. But Steiner and Bran-Leis wanted to make something of their own that made people feel upbeat and safe. So they replaced the former colors with bright blues, pinks, and mint greens. They installed a bubble garden on the back patio, as well as sherry soft-serve. And they called it “Dos Mamis.”
“The name came from the mornings we would spend waving at each other across the street of our restaurants, greeting, ‘Hey Mami!’” says Steiner. They wanted to create a space where they would want to hang out, and invite others from the neighborhood to join them.
Bran-Leis identifies as a bisexual woman, and is proud to be an LGBTQ business owner. She says that she feels that in the community, bisexuality is often not taken seriously, that bisexual people are often perceived as not gay enough, or that they’re lesbians who are still in the closet. Steiner identifies as a lesbian, and believes that it’s important to have LGBTQ business owners because they can relate to the community around them, which inevitably includes people under the rainbow. It also means that she can “relate to the staff on a level of familiarity that provides comfort, safety, and visibility.”
Dos Mamis is intended to be a safe space, they say, where people can get a good drink in the neighborhood. And this isn’t just idle talk. Steiner’s restaurant Himitsu is already a member of the Safe Bar Collective from Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS). This includes training the staff on gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and bystander intervention. Steiner and Bran-Leis intend on working with the Safe Bar Collective for Dos Mamis as well.
What’s next for Dos Mamis? “We hope to continue to grow in a way that always holds up and supports all minority groups. The more we can grow, the more we can give.”