Raising the Roof: Outdoor Dining Expectations Expanding in D.C.

As the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the weather gets increasingly warmer, diners are looking to “get out” – literally.

In D.C., that means eating and drinking outside of four walls, giving rise to the importance of restaurant decks and patios this season – and beyond. The “rise,” too, is literal. The dining room isn’t just extending to a summer garden or sidewalk café, it goes all the way up to the roof.

Outdoor dining in D.C. is booming. In fact, since September 2015, there were 190 sidewalk cafes, according to the Downtown Business Improvement District — up 6.7 percent from 2014. That number continues to grow, with restaurants and bars realizing they must invest in what customers are demanding, and what is quickly becoming an indisputable staple of the D.C. dining culture.

Capitalizing on Outdoor Dining

Restaurants are either investing in new outdoor seating areas or sprucing up what they already have. What’s more, they are capitalizing on the trend by extending the outdoor dining season — with heaters, blankets, fire pits, and even retractable roofs.

Case in point: Last year, Bar Pilar began the permitting process for a roof deck with a retractable roof after more than 10 years of outdoor seating that consisted of just two tables out front.

“There are so many cool outdoor spaces. Just to keep up with the neighborhood, we needed to add that,” Bar Pilar co-owner Jonathan Fain told Washington City Paper. “I never would have added one, probably, if it wasn’t for all the roof decks.” Read more