B Live Opens With Live Music, ‘Upscale Diner Food’ and a DIY Bloody Mary Bar
The Clarendon nightspot occupies the former Whitlow's space.
When beloved bar and restaurant Whitlow’s on Wilson closed in 2021, it left behind a prime real-estate vacancy—and an opening in the neighborhood’s live music scene.
“Clarendon used to have 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 those spaces changing over, we felt that live music was missing.”
Mike and partner Christal Bramson, who live in Clarendon, are setting out to help rectify the situation with B Live, a restaurant and music venue that opens May 12 at 8 p.m. Built within a large section of the space Whitlow’s had occupied since 1995, the new concept will host live music five days a week, offer a hearty array of comfort food, and sport what claims to be “Clarendon’s only DIY bloody Mary bar” during brunch service.
B Live is the latest in a series of nightspots from the couple, whose recently formed restaurant group includes The Lot, Pamplona and “secret social club” Alias on 14th, which opened in D.C. last month. (Another B Social concept, Coco B’s, is slated to open in the remainder of the Whitlow’s footprint, including its fabled Tiki bar rooftop, later this summer.) The 4,100-square-foot space—designed in conjunction with John Howard of A2Z Music Factory and Michael Juliano of Juliano Design Build—boasts 102 indoor seats, an ample stage, an L-shaped bar decked out with rows of music-activated vanity lights, and a 48-seat patio.
Find Instagrammable moments everywhere you look, starting with the gallery-wall vestibule that spotlights album covers targeting Gen Xers and older Millennials (think Def Leppard, Dr. Dre, Selena and the Spice Girls). Along a wall near the entrance, a neon sign reading, “Bad decisions make better stories” is based on a piece the couple spotted while vacationing in Tulum, Mexico, earlier this year. Collaged walls feature concert posters and other music-related imagery.
“It’s like my college dorm room,” Mike says.
A mural titled Legends Live Forever presents 10 late icons of music history, including Whitney Houston, John Lennon and Prince. That piece and the collaged walls were created by frequent collaborators Michael Pacheco—who also created artwork for Ballston Taqueria El Rey and the Rebel Taco food truck—and Rodrigo Pradel, whose work appears at The Lot, R.E.A.D. Book Bus and, with Pacheco, Bar Bao.
B Live will get the music rolling on its opening weekend, with performances from Pennsylvania-based Bryen O’Boyle on Thursday, My Hero Zero on Friday and 8 Track Jones on Saturday. The venue will soon host live music five nights a week, including regional bands, local artists and DJs that will be announced on its website and on a soon-to-arrive marquee sign.
Following the departure of venues such as Whitlow’s, Mister Days and IOTA, others stages—such as at Clarendon neighbor 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, and will host regional bands as well as Arlington-based artists.
“We want to hear them. We want to see them grow,” Mike says.
Chef Juan “Nacho” Olivera of Lahlou Restaurant Group (Dolce Vita, Alias on 14th) is behind the menu of comfort food and all-day brunch at B Live. For lunch, find a po’ boy with fried shrimp, calamari and turkey bacon, as well as a Cobb salad with biscuit croutons and buttermilk ranch. On the dinner menu, choose from steak frites, roasted chicken and turkey meatloaf royale, among other hearty options. And for brunch, the restaurant will serve up classics such as four takes on eggs Benedict, as well as chi-chi pancakes with smoked salmon and caviar.
“We just wanted to have a place that we’d actually want to eat,” Christal says. “We [have] upscale diner food, but on the menu you’ll see items that we’ve traveled and tried and just love.”
Though you may not find branded plastic mugs at the bar a la Whitlow’s, you will find a selection of draft beers, wines and White Claws. But the main drinking event comes during brunch; starting May 28, beverage director Josh Odmark plans to present a make-your-own bloody Mary bar as well as cereal shooters (with Lucky Charms and the like doused in liquor and served in small bowls).
For the Bramsons, B Live is a spot they’d like locals to return to again and again, for happy hour one night, family dinner another and, of course, weekend brunch.
“We want to see familiar faces all the time,” Mike says.
B Live is located at 2854 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. The restaurant is open Sunday-Wednesday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 a.m. During opening weekend, the restaurant will serve bar snacks, expanding to its large menu the following week. Brunch service will begin May 28.