A year after D.C.’s nightclub scene appeared to be on the verge of a complete collapse, the local nightlife industry is experiencing a swift summer comeback. Despite the spread of the delta variant and a reinstated indoor mask order that went into effect earlier this month, the majority of D.C.’s biggest clubs have bounced back with a steady stream of bottle service, DJ bookings, and packed dance floors every weekend. A fresh crop of flashy new venues have recently joined the scene, with more on the horizon.
When clubbing came to a halt last spring due to COVID-19, a group of 19 owners representing some of the District’s most popular dancing, drinking, and live music venues asked the city for help saving a hospitality sector that was the last to reopen under the local government’s plan. Nearly all of those establishments — Echostage, Flash, Living Room, Abigail, to name a few — reopened over the past few months as D.C.’s capacity and last-call restrictions went away. Just one in the group — U Street Music Hall — closed due to the pandemic. Heist opted to pop up atop the Kennedy Center’s rooftop this summer instead of reopening its subterranean Dupont address for now. Downtown’s theatrical, Vegas-styled Sax was among the last to reopen and rebooted bottle service on Saturday, August 14. And Eighteenth Street Lounge, which ended its 25-year run in Dupont during the pandemic, has already found a new home in Blagden Alley that’ll open later this year.
Downtown’s long-running Eden Lounge plans to make a comeback in mid-September, with its rooftop returning in mid-October. Next spring, an in-the-works club called Culture will move into Ivy City in a space that formerly housed Big Chief.
At least three new D.C. clubs have opened over the past two months. They’re unaffiliated, but they share an overarching flora-filled theme.
1223 Connecticut Avenue NW
Dupont Circle’s newest nightclub comes with a storied past as a prominent Prohibition-era speakeasy. Equipped with trap doors and hideaways, a 30-foot bar secretly served elegant cocktails to high-society clients until the police raided the property in 1933 and seized its illegal alcohol, managing partner Alejandro Ventura tells Eater.
Fast forward to 2021, the same fourth-floor space reemerged this month as Zebbie’s Garden (named after the arrested proprietor, Zachariah “Zebbie” Goldsmith). Owner Antonis Karagounis, a D.C. nightlife fixture who founded Echostage, Soundcheck, Decades, and Ultrabar, has longtime ties to the building; he was its former promoter in the early 2000s when it was MCCXXIII (1223). Most recently, the building was Dirty Martini.
The speakeasy’s original name — The Mayflower Club — will live on across the renovated floors below, which will come to life this fall as a sister restaurant and lounge. An in-the-works Mediterranean menu will follow flavors from Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France, Ventura says. Cocktails that play up flavors from the same countries will join signature Prohibition-era drinks like D.C.’s beloved Rickey. At full capacity, the multi-level venue can fit 800.
Zebbie’s brings the outdoors inside with dangling pink cherry blossoms, colorful neon lights shaped as rose buds, a faux grass floor, bucket swings, and seats that resemble hand sculptures. Rows of pricey Don Julio 1942 bottles shine against a bar backsplash made up of hexagon tiles. Zebbie’s is open Fridays and Saturdays to start, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.
1348 H Street NE
This bougie newcomer slid into the H Street space that formerly housed pizza bar RedRocks in July. Marble floors and VIP tables around the perimeter mark it as somewhat of an outlier for a nightlife corridor that’s more known for dive-y destinations. The versatile, two-level space quickly transitions from a late-night club on Saturday nights into a brunch spot to nurse Sunday hangovers. Dangling flowers are aplenty upon entry, and the upstairs space is lined with colorful neon lighting and tables for smoking hookah.
727 15th Street NW
The subterranean space downtown that formerly housed L8 Lounge and Recess entered a new nightlife era this month as Sachi, a plant-filled dance hall with a 27-foot bar that plays Latin, hip-hop, EDM, and top 40 to crowds of up to 400 people. A pricey audio, lighting, and visual overhaul comes from iDesign Productions, the same company behind celebrity hotspot E11EVEN Miami. The aesthetic mimics Asian rainforests and gardens with walls of golden birch trees that greet guests, wood-woven pendant lamps, and a swirly and pearly blue floor that resembles water. Plant installations by Empire of K designer Kristy Cole complement a mural by Brazilian artist Fernanda Almeida that’s surrounded by live moss. Sachi is part of the Babylon Group, a relatively new D.C. hospitality conglomerate founded by Beau Biabani that has been buying shuttered clubs and restaurants all over the city.
Babylon, which is affiliated with Decades, is also working on Twelve After Twelve — the replacement to Eighteenth Street Lounge that recently changed its name — and an upscale sushi lounge and nightclub downtown called Koi, both set to open this year.
- D.C. Diners Must Wear Masks Inside Again Starting Saturday [EDC]
- D.C. Nightclubs Facing a Long Shutdown Ask the City for Rent Relief [EDC]
- A Pricey Nightclub Pop-Up Finally Gets to Take Over the Kennedy Center Rooftop [EDC]
- The Owner of Eighteenth Street Lounge Will Revive the Beloved D.C. Club in Blagden Alley [EDC]
- Met With Harsh Criticism, Dupont Circle’s The Lounge Will Change Its Name [EDC]