A long dormant Ivy City nightclub is slowly evolving into a gigantic four-story drinking den and wedding mecca, complete with a working winery, intimate concert venue, loads of event space, and restaurant serving Mediterranean fare.
Love, which has sat vacant for six years after playing host to countless VIPs and rappers, now serves as the foundation for City Winery — a burgeoning chain which plans to integrate some existing elevators, bars, bathrooms, and private VIP areas into its new D.C. location (1350 Okie Street NE).
“It’s in really good shape considering it’s been empty that long,” says Colleen Hendricks, director of special events at City Winery D.C.
New York-based City Winery, which has five other locations, leased the space this spring; its already booked wedding events for next fall.
During its Love days, a corner area dubbed “The Apartment” housed a replica of an apartment’s wood-lined kitchen. That setup will be preserved and used to host wine and cooking classes and educational seminars.
Another perk of the club’s existing structure: lengthy rows of bathroom stalls. “It’s nice to have a million bathrooms,” Hendricks says.
While some elements of the former club will be retained, finishes and design accents will drastically change: expect hardwood floors, exposed brick, and reclaimed wood furniture. Soaring ceilings will keep their open, industrial feel. And Love’s over two dozen bars will be trimmed to make way for additional seating and programming.
A 175-seat restaurant and private dining room is projected to accommodate groups of 45 to 75 customers and will focus on small Mediterranean plates composed by the company’s Chicago-based corporate chef. Expect local ingredients and Mid-Atlantic accents — including tangy-sweet mumbo sauce and spicy Old Bay seasoning — to find their way on the menu.
An intimate 320-seat performance venue is projected to welcome customers with cabaret-style seating for tableside dining and beverage service. Patrons can pick their seats ahead of time online; expect its inaugural lineup to be posted online soon.
“We are removing the steel so the sight lines will be good. There’s no bad view here,” Hendricks says.
City Winery’s locations are condensed on the East Coast by design in order to easily route an artist’s tour between each one. Expect nearly one show a night (300 shows per year).
Visiting acts appearing at other City Winery outposts range from Southern rocker Gregg Allman to Irish singer Sinead O’Connor — a far cry from Love’s hip hop-heavy party past. The club was the set of the 2002 Cam’Ron “Hey Ma” music video, complete with rappers and groupies popping champagne in a velvet pink tufted VIP room and adjacent outdoor hot tub.
That space, which has a full shower and private bar, will live on as a renovated green room for the new guests of honor: performers, brides, and those celebrating bar mitzvahs. There’s also room for meet and greets, and guest enhancements like a photo booth area.
A ground-level working winery will be a main event to watch as well, separated from the performance space via glass walls. Wines will be made with California and Oregon grapes sourced from City Winery’s partner vineyards. D.C. welcomed its first version of the fully integrated concept — an all-in-one winery, restaurant, and events space — this August with the arrival of District Winery at Navy Yard.
The City Winery taking shape in Ivy CIty is twice as big as its competitor in Southeast, and the most massive location of the brand by far; the next largest location is 36,000 square feet. Also unique to the space are various roof decks circling the building that’ll be revived and utilized, reminiscent of a New York City hotel rooftop.