On the Town
The Height Of Happy Hour
Friday, July 15, 2005
MY FRIEND Mark lives in one of those well-appointed new apartment complexes that have sprung up like weeds around MCI Center. His building has everything, including a fitness center and a spacious, two-level roof deck with gas grills and a swimming pool. It's one of those situations where you find yourself fishing for cookout invites:
"Hey, man, we should get everyone together one of these days and fire up the grill."
Still, as I'm enjoying the last rays of the setting sun at Afterlight, the Friday night happy hour on the roof of the Hilton Washington Embassy Row Hotel (2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW; 202-265-1600), my jealousy diminishes. This isn't my house or my roof, but it's the kind of pool party I'd like to throw.
The expansive Hilton sundeck has everything you need: multiple bar stations; a pool surrounded by patio lounge chairs; a cook working a large grill; plenty of large, round tables shaded by umbrellas; a killer sound system; and a dance floor covered by a large tent. (For other area rooftop destinations, see Page 28.)
DJs Double o7 and Shawn Greene handle the music, spinning soulful house and hip-hop to keep the vibe funky. "This is what we call Afterlight," Double o7 announces. "It's Friday. It's time to untuck your shirts."
The lively, diverse crowd is a mix of women in sundresses and tank tops as well as business suits, guys wearing casual-Friday khakis and those who've stopped off to trade their ties for sport shirts and designer sunglasses.
The lounge chairs by the pool are filled with folks working on their tans or just decompressing after a long week. The rectangular pool is not big enough for laps -- it's only five feet deep and better suited for a refreshing dip or dangling your feet -- but being near the sparkling water has a soothing quality.
A steady stream of cheeseburgers and chicken breast sandwiches is coming off the grill and come with all the toppings and a bag of gourmet chips. Everyone around my table is sipping a beer or a margarita (frozen or on the rocks); both are $4 all night long.
Many people are gathered around the edges of the building, taking in the sweeping panoramas that reach from the National Cathedral through Georgetown, past the high-rises of Rosslyn and Ballston, across the Potomac River to the Washington Monument, St. Matthew's Cathedral and the canopy of trees that blankets Dupont Circle. It's a chance to see the city in a whole new way.
Most people don't come for the view though -- they come here because the combination of sun, water, DJs and food and drink specials makes this the best outdoor happy hour in the city.
Afterlight debuted at this location in 2002 as a party called Twilight. Promoters Shawn Broxson and Matthew Brady had built up their weekly house music gig at Adams Morgan's Rendezvous Cafe and were looking for a new summertime challenge.
"We wanted to do something outdoors," Broxson says. "Brady had been to a wedding reception over [at the Hilton rooftop] and thought it was a cool place. We basically cold-called them, went over there and pitched the idea to them. It was love at first sight."