Some people think rooftop bars are made for summer, but a crisp fall day is really the best time to linger outside, enjoying the weather without worrying about overheating. D.C. hotels offer new sky-high vantage points that will impress tourists and locals alike, one of them is Lady Bird at the Banneker.
Kimpton Hotels swept into D.C. two decades ago, when boutique hotels were still a novelty, and livened up the city’s staid hotel bar scene with mod designs and buzzy bars. The Hotel Rouge, just north of Scott Circle, opened in December 2001, with a racy red decor, leopard skin rugs and “Adulteress Martini” offerings in the bar. But the concept was showing its age, and in early 2020, Rouge closed for an extended $20 million refresh and rebranding that turned Rouge into the Banneker, named after the Black surveyor and astronomer Benjamin Banneker.
Among the key differences: the Banneker would have a rooftop bar, dubbed Lady Bird, which had to be constructed from scratch. “Nothing existed” atop Rouge, Raeshawna Scott, the general manager of the Banneker, says in an email. “There were just machines on the roof.” On Instagram, former Rouge manager and bartender Rico Wisner noted that he grew cocktail ingredients in a small garden on the roof when he was in charge a decade ago.
Lady Bird, named after former first lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, is a gem of a bar, just 1,200 square feet indoors and out on the hotel’s 11th floor. The conservatory-like interior, decorated in green and blue jewel tones, is dominated by a chunky square bar at one end, facing a long row of low-slung couches and clusters of chunky wooden chairs. Local artist Meg Biram created a mural of feathers behind the bar; designs throughout are inspired by the wood thrush, the official bird of D.C.