MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Before we say goodbye today, how about a little D.C. Dives?
MR. JERAD WALKER
What is a dive bar?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1
It's a glorious dump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1
It's gotta have an interesting staff and an interesting crowd.
It's gotta be dark. It's gotta be old. Typically, it's gotta be cheap.
This time on our monthly series, Jerad Walker visits JV Restaurant. A family-owned establishment in Falls Church, that's celebrating its 65th year of business.
Tucked among the strip malls of northern Virginia, JV Restaurant is unassuming, to say the least. Even if you're a longtime resident of the area, owner Lorraine Campbell says you might miss it altogether.
MS. LORRAINE CAMPBELL
We think of us as like Falls Church's little secret. I've had a lot of people come in here and say we've lived here 10 years and never knew you were here.
But the bar and grill has been around a lot longer than just a decade. Last month, JV Restaurant celebrated 65 years in business.
My dad started JV's back in 1947, after the war. This was the first strip mall outside of D.C. back in the '40s. And they were the first business to open in this strip mall.
And now it's the last business left from that era.
The area itself has changed tremendously. Very corporate and that's where we came up with our slogan in the '70s, ageless charm without yuppie bastardization. But it...
Could you repeat that?
It's ageless charm without yuppie bastardization, but it has nothing to do with the clientele, it has to do with all the corporates that are coming in, your Ruby Tuesday's, your Chili's, your Applebee's. I can't compete with corporate. Either you're gonna like us or you're not gonna like us.
One way JV's has set itself apart from the competition is its devotion to local live music.
We've been having live music since the mid '50s. We started with mostly bluegrass. It all started with people sitting around a table and they'd bring their instruments in and they'd start picking and playing.
Just a jam session?
A little jam session.
That little jam session has grown significantly. The bar now features an eclectic mix of blues, country, bluegrass and classic rock. Vernon Santmayer has been a regular performer at JV's since 1980.
MR. VERNON SANTMAYER
Seven nights a week and twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday. They got an early show, which I'm part of today. And this will be our first gospel show that we've ever had.
That's right, Vernon said he's performing gospel music today, in a dive bar. And as we're finishing our conversation, something bizarre, something truly magical begins to happen. About 25 parishioners from Vernon's church show up and start to cram into the tiny room, eagerly awaiting the performance. And the Santmayer Family Band doesn't disappoint.
Any local musician, they first step in the door and they think to themselves, uh-oh, this is not gonna go over good 'cause the place is so small. And you think, oh, mercy. But by the time the night's over, I’m telling you, they can't wait to get back in here and play again. That is the way this place is designed. You're up close to the audience and you can see the audience's faces and stuff. And it's just like having one big front row.
Halfway through the show I catch up with Pastor Billy Shepard, who led his congregation on the 30-mile trip to JV's from Woodbridge, Va.
PASTOR BILLY SHEPARD
Sometimes we have to get out of the box, so to speak, and move out. So I'm glad I could come.
This is definitely outside the box. Can you--
This is outside the box. Yes, it is. We have Sunday night church, but we just missed church tonight so that we could come up and enjoy the Santmayer family since they're kind of a part of our lives. And so a lot of us came up here and just thoroughly enjoying the music and even the atmosphere. It's a nice atmosphere, in spite of, you know, it being a bar. Good gospel music fits anywhere.
Pastor Shepard gets it. JV's is more than just a drinking establishment and diner for regulars like Vernon Santmayer. It's a living room, it's a dinner table.
I think it's very homey, very comfortable. It's very low key.
It's a place where friends and family gather to listen to music, watch sports, laugh, argue and in some rare cases, praise and worship. I'm Jared Walker.
Is there a local dive bar you think we should visit? Let us know. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us. Our handle is @wamumetro.
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Bryan Russo, Jacob Fenston, Tara Boyle, Sabri Ben-Achour and Jared Walker along with reporter Kate Sheehy. WAMU's managing editor of news is Meymo Lyons. "Metro Connections" managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our intern is Raphaella Bennin. Lauren Landau and Raphaella Bennin produce "Door To Door." Thanks as always to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website. Our theme song, "Every Little Bit Hurts," and our "Door To Door" theme, "No, Girl," are from the album Title Tracks by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company.
You can see all the music we use on our website, that's metroconnection.org. Just click on a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song. Also on metroconnection.org you can find our Twitter and Facebook links, you can read free transcripts of stories and if you missed part of today's show you can hear the whole thing by clicking the This Week On "Metro Connection" link. To hear our most recent episodes, click the podcast link or find us on iTunes.
We hope you can join us next week when we'll bring you a show we're calling New Beginnings. We'll explore what's next after elections and we'll hear some more personal stories of Washingtonians' fresh starts, like a nun who's pursuing a new life outside the church and a teen who's looking to turn things around now that he's out of juvenile detention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2
'Cause if I would have never got put in a group home or none of these programs I wouldn't have never finished school. I would have still been on the streets.
I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 News.
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