Rooftop respite El Techo is rebranding with a Latin jungle design for the winter, adding weatherproof siding to ice out the cold and filling its upstairs bar space with decorations sourced from Mexico. The renovation includes plans to transform into a daytime yoga studio that would be at home in Tulum, a coastal Mexican destination for wellness-minded tourists.
From now until the spring — when El Techo’s top comes off — the covered rooftop is adopting the name Selva, which translates to “jungle” in Spanish. When owner Louie Hankins opened El Techo above Rito Loco, his burrito truck-turned-restaurant downstairs at 606 Florida Avenue NW, he described the space as “Instagram gold.”
Clearly, he’s trying to make another play for the social media set.
Tribal music will flow out of an elevated DJ booth lined with a fake furry tiger head and a candle-lit altar. Tapestries featuring the Mayan calendar are also part of the latest incarnation of El Techo, which opened in September 2017.
Hankins went to great lengths to properly insulate the space. Last year, clear plastic walls enclosed El Techo, but wind still blew through. This season the outdoor bar is lined with a sturdy polycarbonate structure.
“It makes it feel like a more permanent space,” he says. Its wood deck flooring was also insulated so that wind can’t come up through the slats.
Hankins designed the entire space himself. This week, the hands-on owner was shopping at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for a bowl big enough to house a new five-person cocktail.
To honor its temporary new name, Hankins says, Selva will reroute a majority of its February sales to Amazon conservation efforts. He hopes to raise $20,000 to $30,000 to help save the jungle, partnering with D.C.-based nonprofits tied to wildlife and forest conservation efforts.
Hankins is also hoping to solve a problem lots of bar owners run into — how to make money during closed hours — by transforming El Techo into a yoga studio serving cold-press juices by day.
“It captures the Tulum/Amazon vibe where yoga is central,” he says. He also hopes to capitalize on healthy New Year’s resolutions.
Selva by El Techo is closed on Mondays and operates Tuesday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Friday from 5 p.m. to 1:30 am., Saturday from noon to 1:30 am. and Sunday noon to 10:30 p.m.
Scroll on for a look inside the space: