A Northwest nightlife gets an Eyes Wide Shut edge this weekend with the debut of Alias on 14th, a flashy new drinking den from the owners of Clarendon Pop-Up Bar and The Lot.
Located in the depths of Mediterranean newcomer Dolce Vita, Alias opens Friday, April 29, with a bar program that showcases bubbles, fire, and billowing smoke, with an equally theatrical look to match (1610 14th Street NW). The 100-seat space that formerly housed jazz club Sotto also offers a dizzying count of Champagne options, out-of-the-box bottle service, and a one-page meze menu from Dolce Vita chef Elier Rodriguez upstairs.
Hours at Alias are Wednesday to Saturday from 8 pm to 2 am
Lahlou Restaurant Group owner Med Lahlou (Lupo Pizzeria, Lupo Verde) tripled down on the strip last fall with the opening of Dolce Vita, taking over the former two-story home of Ghibellina. Lahlou handed off the basement bar piece to his industry friends at B Social Hospitality to let them do their thing.
The two brands are separate, aside from the food menu and one fun factor. A few lucky diners at Dolce Vita will be handed poker chips to continue the night down below. The laser-cut tokens are redeemable for free drinks and grant exclusive entry to Alias down a secret set of stairs in the back of the restaurant.
The full-blown facelift comes from interior designer David Chenault, who’s behind lots of ostentatious looks around town (Nara-Ya, La Vie, and Pamplona).
“We told him the name and he went with it. Hidden identities assuming another identities, and playing off that with a mural,” B Hospitality co-owner Christal Bramson tells Eater.
Past a lengthy bar and DJ booth, a floor full of masqueraded figures, flowers, and candle-lit tables leads to the big finale: jewel-toned velvet sofas perched on a black-and-white checkered stage. Some of DC’s top sports stars broke in that back VIP area during a preview party last weekend, with Commanders and Capitals players imbibing side by side.
“The space calls to mind all the hidden speakeasies and bars in NYC. We want to bring that vibe to DC,” says Christal Bramson, who hails from the NYC nightlife world. Her husband and B Hospitality co-owner Mike Bramson is a former DC club promoter and always wanted to open a lounge in the city.
Accessing Alias from the street is also an adventure by design, starting with finding an unmarked, hot pink door next to Dolce Vita. A neon-lit stairwell invites guests to lose track of time inside the trippy, window-less hangout. Up-lit glass block walls, bathrooms tucked behind padded doors, and a shimmering silver bar all set the stage for show-stopping cocktails from beverage director Evan Cablayan. The tenured bartender’s bicoastal resume includes recent stints at The Watergate and The Graham hotels in DC, and in LA at Tom Colicchio’s Craft and Suzanne Goin’s The Larder.
His opening list of eight cocktails ($16 each) includes the AF1 — a spin on the Paper Plane cocktail by late NYC mixologist master Sasha Petraske. At Alias, he swaps out whiskey for mezcal alongside Aperol, amaro, and fresh lemon.
Bubblicious gum is the muse for another crowd-pleaser that requires a fast photo.
In addition to traditional bottle service, patrons can assemble their own concoctions with guidance from a server. A bottle of rum, for instance, arrives tableside with glassware, fresh mint, and sugared rims for DIY mojitos.
“Rather than just bottles, sparklers, and club soda, you can create your own cocktails,” she says.
B Social Hospitality, who also runs Rebel Taco and Roll’d, is gearing up to bring an all-outdoor waterfront bar and brewery called The Cove to Navy Yard this summer.
Alias augments DC’s growing subterranean bar scene. There’s Never Looked Better in Blagden Alley, and up the 14th Street NW strip there’s Doi Moi downstairs.