Tiny Poco, born as a Capitol Hill wine bar and then evolved along with the rest of the Hill into a cocktail bar, is coming around to emphasize the grape, again, on upper E Pine near 15th Ave E.
It’s a quiet transition led by a new owner for the 13-year-old venue. Quieter still might be the more important story behind the bar at Poco. One of the few Black-owned businesses on Capitol Hill will remain so.
“In addition to just being on Capitol Hill nearby to where I live, the fact it was a Black-owned business was important to me,” Rashida Burnham tells CHS.
“I’ve lived in the Central District for a while now. I’ve seen gentrification. I thought this was an opportunity to ‘buy back the block.’ I’m proud of that.”
BECOME A 'PAY WHAT YOU CAN' CHS SUBSCRIBER TODAY: Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.
For Burnham, who works as a senior finance analyst for Amazon, the decision to buy Poco also came down to personal priorities as she looked for ways to work wine into her career. The small bar snuggled into the Braeburn Apartments on E Pine just below 15th presented an opportunity for Burnham to make an investment in her knowledge and joy related to great bottles of wine.
“I thought, wow, it’s not quite dipping my toe… it’s more like a dive in the deep end,” she says of finding Poco for sale as she was on the hunt for new opportunities.
Now, Poco’s new direction will put more of a focus on wine while also beefing up its whiskey game, Burnham said. She’s working with a consultant to revamp the menu and bar offerings. She also plans a few changes to the interior, mostly “polishing up a bit” and adding new furnishings.
Born in 2006 under founders Peter Moore and Bart Reynolds, the new Poco will connect more with the old poco when the joint was started as a wine bar and patrons matched pours with the kitchen’s excellent mac and cheese. The little bar has presented an investment and good times opportunity for a line of owners since, changing hands in 2011, and then again in 2015 when Jackie and Tramale Turner took over the establishment and joined the ranks of the few Black-owned bars and restaurants on the Hill including Patric Gabre-Kidan at the Rhino Room, Donna Moodie at Marjorie, and Plum’s Makini Howell.
Meanwhile, another new Black-owned business just blocks away from Poco is also wine-based. Kenneth Dillon opened wine-on-tap Footprint on E Madison last October.
Like its previous owners the Turners, Poco’s Burnham says she plans to keep her day job. But she has hopes.
“Poco’s not there yet,” she says of a possible day when she can say goodbye to the tech world grind. “I would love to see It get there.”
Poco is located at 1408 E Pine. You can learn more at pocowineandspirits.com.