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The VIP room at Live-K can fit up to 40 guests.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

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The Wharf’s Futuristic Karaoke Bar Looks Straight Out of ‘Tron’

Live-K flicked on along the Southwest Waterfront on Friday, December 16

Between dramatic LED-lit displays, frenetic video walls, and high-tech karaoke rooms, the Wharf’s new Live-K is the family-friendly neighborhood’s most aggressive late-night addition yet.

The 6,000-square-foot, maze-like marbled venue welcomed its first crooners on Friday, December 16 (730 Maine Avenue SW). Its 40-person VIP room can be rented for $268 per hour, and smaller 10-person rooms start at $68 (no minimum spend). In need of more liquid courage before hitting the mic? The tap of a “service” button lights up the karaoke room’s number at the bar to alert staff.

Live-K comes from Chinese-American real estate investor Chris Zhu, who owns and operates China Garden in Rockville and dim sum chain Han Palace in Tysons Corner, Woodley Park, and Barracks Row. Live-K’s Japanese-leaning menu specializes in street snacks like takoyaki, gyoza, spicy honey barbecue wings, grilled meat skewers, beef donburi, noodle soups, and truffle fries, plus mochi ice cream and bubble teas.

A mega-screen display zooms across the ceiling upon entry, showcasing all sorts of darting cartoonish graphics and bursts of color. The beverage program is equally fast-paced, made up of all batched cocktails ($16) to ensure speedy service to singers and bar patrons. Large-format bottles ($95-$190) fill up to 13 glasses. Highlights include a white Negroni, mezcal Old Fashioned, and Passion-K (Bacardi, falernum, passion fruit, lime, and nutmeg). There’s also wines, beer, and bottle service that includes lots of tequila options and clubby bubbly like Ace of Spades ($900).

Another pricey attraction at the glowing gold bar is a row of four rare Bearbrick figurines. The cult pop art collectables made by Japanese toy giant Medicom cost well into the five figures (its Coco Chanel bear can sell for $75,000). Past the bar, a slick black corridor illuminated with neon vertical tubes houses private portals for groups of four to 40. Book until as late as 3 a.m. on weekends.

Karaoke rooms at Live-K are tucked past shimmering doors.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Karaoke has been a longtime form of entertainment for Zhu and her four siblings.

“In 1992, our family was very early to have a karaoke [machine] at home. It’s why we love to sing,” she tells Eater.

Zhu’s brother was the manager of Chinatown’s karaoke bar Wok and Roll for eight years, she says, and “always wanted to have a bigger, brand new” spot in the city. First up was Ginza Karaoke Spot & BBQ Lounge, which opened this fall on Barracks Row.

Their newest family affair at the Wharf is outfitted with 11 entertainment rooms, plus a main stage for open karaoke near the bar. A live DJ spins up front every Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Also commanding attention from the street: shiny, six-foot bear statues from China, standing prominently behind its glassy facade.

Hours are Sunday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Friday and Saturday until 3 a.m.

Spin a party wheel to “take a shot”; “finish your drink”; and “throw in an extra $20” for the tab.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
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