From the Forum – Recommendations for inexpensive DC cocktail reception venue?

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Recommendations for inexpensive DC cocktail reception venue?

I am looking for inexpensive venues that will hold 20-25 a DC cocktail reception (or brunch?) to throw my boyfriend a graduation celebration. Everywhere I’ve looked has had $3,000+ minimums and I was hoping to keep it under $750. Any favorite spots?

41 Comment

  • Cocktails specifically or will any old kind of beer, wine and mixed drink establishment do?

    Considering that even at an inexpensive “cocktail” place, 2 drinks, tax, tip and a nosh would run more than $30/person, you may be courting disappointment.

    That said, have you talked to the Tabard Inn about taking over one of their nooks or crannies for a couple of hours? You might not get a dedicated bartender, but you may be able to get a semi-private space.

    Same (possibly) with The Gibson.

    • I love the Tabard Inn and got married there, but I think they may be a tad pricier than what you’re looking for. One of their special event rooms is $250 to rent during lunch time, and I believe their cocktail party packages start at something like $30/head, with drinks charged by consumption, plus tax/gratuity. I do recommend the Tabard Inn for small weddings/parties for others if it’s in your price range, though!

  • It’s pretty casual, but try Shaw Tavern. I think they are under new management or something but were super accommodating to a last minute 12 person dinner last weekend. (Less people, I know – but the point it they are flexible.)

  • Try to get a reservation at one of the “all you can drink” brunch spots that have popped up all over town. They usually include food and unlimited mimosas or bloodys for around $30-40 pp.

    • If you do that, I’d recommend Farmers Fishers Bakers on the Georgetown waterfront. I really enjoyed it, and I’m not a big brunch (or Georgetown) fan.

  • Science Club – you can reserve the 2nd floor at no charge.

  • Try Ulah Bistro on U Street. There is a great lounge area on the 2nd floor that they will rope off. We had a girlfriend’s 30th there over the winter and had about 25 people. It was perfect and we just ordered a bunch of pizzas/apps. Food is pretty good as well.

    • Agreed! We had an event there in April and the staff was incredibly accommodating. They have a great upstairs space that can be reserved for a VERY reasonable price. Great location too!

  • Try Wisdom in Capitol Hill at the Potomac Ave Metro Station. They’ve got a great rotating list of cocktails and pretty affordable prices for renting the space out.

  • The Board Room on Connecticut will rope off a portion of the upstairs. Bonus you can play board games!

  • 201 Bar near Union Station has really reasonable prices for private parties. Although their weekend minimum might be out of your price range ($1500 I believe), it’s probably much cheaper during the week. Open bar starts at $22pp for 3 hours.

  • we’ve gotten the top floor of Bourbon in Adams Morgan before — i think just for a drink minimum.

  • Maybe Tabaq?

  • Madhatter will give you a separate room if it’s available. No minimum.

    • Unless the bf is graduating from high school, I can’t imagine this being a good venue.

      • justinbc

        We’ve hosted corporate events there on the second floor. As long as it’s not night at 10PM-2AM it’s a totally different venue than what most people associate with it. However I wouldn’t really consider Madhatter a “cocktail bar” so it depends on whether the OP is looking for a place that specializes in cocktails or just simply pours them.

    • Agreed on MadHatter. I use them a lot for work happy hours and their minimums are very low, plus their events person is a joy to work with.

      I also used them for an engagement party on Saturday between 10p and 1a, and it was a ton of fun. Not classy in the least, but we had a private space and dedicated bartender. All we wanted was to drink terrible alcohol and dance, so this was amazing for that.

  • You can rent the patio at Little Miss Whiskey’s for $1000 minimum (though I realize that might not be the vibe you’re going for!)

  • We had our wedding reception at Darlington House in Dupont Circle. Their Library room is really nice and I don’t think there is a room fee for parties (just weddings).

    Ours was a sit down dinner but I remember that they had cocktail receptions for under $20 per person for a very basic menu. I think their open bar rates were around $18 a person per hour? So before tax and tip for 20 people that would be $760. For our event we did beer and wine by consumption and cash bar for cocktails and it was MUCH less than the open bar rate overall…but we are not really into cocktails ourselves and no one seemed to mind buying their own if they really wanted vs. the beer and wine.

    • I hosted my birthday party at Darlington House a few years ago and they double booked the room and then lied to me about it. It was a disaster. They had a $2000 + tax & tip minimum at the time. While they did discount some of the bill, they did not serve all of the food that was agreed upon and since I ended up having to split the room with an engagement party and there was only one bar tender, many of my guests paid for drinks when they shouldn’t have while I paid for drinks for people I did not know. It was such a disaster.

  • I’m sure you could do something for much less than $750 at Dulcinea on GA ave. Just talk to the owner. It’s not super fancy though.

  • justinbc

    We’ve reserved floors at Dickson before for no cost for alumni events. The wine is horrible (ironic, at a wine bar) but the cocktails are quite good.

  • I just had my birthday party at Mad Momos in Columbia Heights and they were awesome. They let me reserve the ground level and front patio (they also have a really nice upstairs with two decks, but that was already booked the night I wanted it). No bar minimum and they have great cocktails.

    The only (minor) catch is the party had to start at 10pm on a Friday so they could finish up dinner service…I got there at 9:30 with a few friends and ate at the bar while my friends started to trickle in and it worked really well. On a week night they might be more flexible about the timing.

  • Ulah upstairs, 750 minimum. Lincoln 1k minimum . 1500 seems to be the avg minimum for most places

  • Wonderland wll throw you a pretty good party upstairs with no minimums or anything, and you can bring your own cake and they’ll serve it to you.

  • This is over your price range, BUT Jack Rose can do private events and it’s a cool venue with great drink options. I think you can reserve a room there for 20 people at $1000 food and drink minimum between 5-7 pm. Rates go up per hour after that.

  • we had a very small (21) dinner reception at 1789. no room fees, multiple private rooms, and the service was phenom. agree that under $750 will be tough though…

  • yeah your best bet is an all you can drink brunch place. Masa 14, for example, has $35 all you can eat/drink brunch.. Agora is pretty good also.

  • James Hobans will reserve their smaller section towards the back of the bar and will give you one or two dedicated bartenders if you casually commit to spending around $500.

  • 20-25 people… for Bunch? Try Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont. They have a room upstairs that seats about that, and I’m pretty sure they have packages that are around 750.

  • Check out Last Exit in Mount Pleasant. It’s a cocktail lounge, with an assortment of small plates. Reasonably priced, too!

  • The Roosevelt Apartments on 16th and V has a beautiful lounge/reception facility called the Roosevelt Lounge. It’s a historic building (builit in 1920) and the Lounge is beautifully done in old wood paneling and mirrors with an art deco theme. It’s got nice tables and chairs as well as lounge chairs, a flat screen TV, a pool table, a bar area with ice maker, frig and sink. There’s also a large dining room attached to the lounge with a 30 foot dining table that can be rearranged or completely moved. The room can accomodate about 100 people. The price is $400 for outsiders and there’s valet parking in the underground garage. Contact the front desk at 202-265-4540 or you can go on to view photos of the Roosevelt Lounge.

  • I highly recommend Cause on 9th Street in Shaw. Very friendly staff and management and they all have a creative, can-do attitude.

  • Carmines!

    just kidding.

  • Radius pizza does private parties and has great food

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