The Beatles are being blasted over the pub’s loudspeaker, and the boisterous bar crowd are enjoying “Markle Sparkle” cocktails.
The walls are adorned with pink and white floral arrangements – and the kitchen is being guarded by a statue of a Beefeater, the ceremonial guards more often spotted protecting the Tower of London.
This is the Royal Wedding Pub, a pop-up bar in Washington DC that has been created to capture excitement about the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, an American actor, on 19 May.
“I hate to use cliches, but it’s like that fairytale thing where the commoner girl meets the prince,” says Megan Biggins, a local resident who along with three of her friends has donned a fascinator hat for the outing to the pub.
It has already drawn hundreds of patrons each evening since its official launch earlier this month, with the most devoted willing to queue up, sometimes for hours. The temporary venue has a fan-vaulted ceiling and stained glass, modeled after St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle where Prince Harry was christened and will marry his bride.
The Royal Wedding Pub is the latest creation by Drink Company, a group behind other viral pop-ups that included pubs inspired by Game of Thrones and Washington’s annual cherry blossom festival. The “Markle Sparkle” is one of the most popular drinks – a twist on an Aperol spritz with rose cider and edible glitter. Twiglets are among the snacks.
“She’s the first American princess. We’ve got to pay homage to her,” says Matt Fox, the special projects director at Drink Company.
Pamela Boundy and her daughter Morgan Boundy pose for selfies in the throne room at the Royal Wedding Pub.Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein for the Guardian
Paul Taylor, the company’s head of bar concepts, says the team dove “down the rabbit hole” to get every detail right. “The names of the cocktails are important, the ingredients are important, the glassware is important,” he says.
The “When Harry Met Meghan” cocktail is served in a royal wedding collector’s mug. The scotch-based drink is made with ginger, a cheeky reference to Prince Harry’s hair, and banana. The latter, Taylor says, is a favorite of the couple’s.
With drink in hand, visitors congregate inside a recreation of the Buckingham Palace throne room, replete with red and gold curtains. Pub-goers wrap themselves in a red velvet robe and pose for pictures with a stuffed corgi, as cardboard cutouts of Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Queen Elizabeth herself flank the two thrones.
The Royal Wedding Pub has drawn a range of patrons, most of them young women, from self-confessed anglophiles to fans of the Netflix series The Crown. Some simply want to see what all the fuss is about.
Pamela Boundy is the embodiment of an American aficionado of the royal family, holding court at the corner of the bar in a gold paper crown that comes as a keepsake with a cocktail aptly named God Save the Queen.
A list of royal wedding-inspired cocktails.Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein for the Guardian
A resident of Midland, Michigan, she is visiting her daughter in Washington and is planning a watch party at her home for the royal nuptials at 4.30am local time in DC.
“We have a red carpet and everybody dresses up for the occasion,” says Boundy. “My husband dresses up in a tuxedo and plays the butler. We serve an English breakfast and clotted cream.”
The family hosted a similar affair when Prince William wed Kate Middleton, but the idea of an American princess has ramped up their excitement.
“It’s about time,” Boundy says.
On the big day itself, when Prince Harry and Markle are to officially wed, the Royal Wedding Pub plans to open doors first thing in the morning for a watch party. All of the day’s proceeds will go to the Invictus Games Foundation, the international sporting event founded by Prince Harry for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.
One thing US TV viewers of the wedding apparently won’t see, though, is Donald Trump or Barack Obama – who is friends with Prince Harry – attending the event, after it emerged there would be no official political invitations.