Editors Note: LivingSocial has decided to close its event space, effective early April 2014
I recently had the opportunity to tour the LivingSocial event space in downtown DC. If I had to sum the space up in a word, it would be: hipster. The building (which dates back to 1890) has five floors of meeting space, from exposed brick walls to cooking class kitchens to a speakeasy style bar, it’s also incredibly flexible.
918 F Street (not only the address of the building, LivingSocial also calls the building by its address… uber trendy) is located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC. It’s within a few blocks walking distance of the Metro Center and Chinatown/Gallery Place metro stations.
The building is easy to find – it’s in the middle of the block but there is a giant black flag that says “918 F Street” and a large LivingSocial sign in the window. You walk into the reception area which doubles as a mini gift shop (kind of the opposite of the theme park trend of emptying attractions into a gift shop). From there, it can get a bit confusing, as it’s clear that in order to offer so many different spaces, there is often a lot going on.
We started at the top and worked our way down. The building boasts one of the few remaining cage elevators in DC. There is also a staircase that winds around the elevator with access to each floor.
The top floor hosts the Dupont and Georgetown rooms, on either side of the elevator. Both rooms feature exposed brick walls and hardwood floors. Dupont has the slight edge with huge windows overlooking F street. Capacity in each room is a bit over 100 depending on the set.
One floor down is the teaching kitchen. This space is pretty cool – everything is stainless steel (which I love), and it features HD cameras which follow the teacher in the front of the room based on where he or she is standing on the mat; the cameras are connected to the tvs at the individual cooking stations, thus everyone has a good view of the instruction. The room has capacity for 36 people.
Continuing down the stairs is the gallery, which is a smaller room (998 square feet) with private stair access back to the gift shop/reception area, but would be nice for smaller private dinners or receptions.
Opposite the gallery is the Chinatown room which can be used for creative classes or sessions. The day I was there it was set for a sip and paint class (sip a glass of wine, paint a picture, drink more wine, forget about the picture, etc.).
Finally the last two spaces are usually rented together – the U Street Room and the Basement Bar, which together makes up the speakeasy. U Street has a view of the basement bar below. The bar itself is designed to feel like a 1920s hangout. While we were there they said that they often have clients with entertainers that they put on the U Street level, but that everyone in the basement level can hear and even see via the hole in the ceiling. Unfortunately my photos are all pretty blurry because I forgot to change the settings on my camera!
Most people know of 918 F Street (at least if they’re in the DC area) from the various classes and events that are hosted on-site. Most days of the week you can attend a variety of classes: this week it looks like there is a Gin Mixology class, BBQ Sauce Making & Beer class, Zumba with post-class punch, and a Cooking with Bourbon class. (Notice a trend? do an activity and drink!). If you’re looking to host a private event, you can almost always offer the same classes to just your group (minimums apply).
Another benefit is the pricing. Rental fees are cheap by DC standards (peak pricing ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the room) and they allow any caterer (which I’ve found to be rare in DC). They do have a liquor license and you must buy alcohol through them with their bartenders.
The biggest downside is also its charm – there is so much going on that your guests can get lost, or if not lost, it’s definitely not private. There are restrooms only on every other floor so your guests will likely be rubbing elbows with other event guests. Accessibility might be an issue. While there is elevator access to every floor (the speakeasy requires using a service elevator) and the cage elevator is very cool, it’s not high capacity and most guests would probably prefer to take the stairs. I would keep this in mind based on your group.
Overall, the space has a lot of character and is definitely a one-stop shop if you’re interested in private classes for your events (rather than renting the space and finding a service provider). For receptions, concerts and lectures of up to 100-150 people, it’s a more unique venue than your typical hotel ballroom, and more affordable then some of the other special event venues (museums, galleries) in DC.
Have you hosted an event at 918 F Street? What did you think?