The Arcade is changing D.C.’s nightlife scene, one D.J. at a time

BY Stefanie Gans

The entrance from a corporate courtyard in the middle of downtown Washington, D.C., into The Arcade feels like a misnomer. There’s is nothing buttoned-up about this journey into the city’s newest membership-based, late-night hideaway. 

The Arcade is a world unto itself, mixing iconic Japanese electronics—vintage VCRs; salvaged pachinko slot machines; analog TVs—with luxurious S-shaped booths of leather and cedar wood sourced from the Akita forests of Japan, plus custom buckets for bottle service and servers in tuxedos. 

There’s manga characters on the walls, hand painted by an artist flown in from Japan, and a bonsai tree near the bar (decorated in sherbet-hued cassette tapes)—which is maintained by a horticulturist team flown in from across the country. 

The Arcade is from the global restaurateurs known for The Arts Club, Le Petit Maison and, in D.C., the high-glam Japanese showpiece SHŌTŌ, which is just next door, and designed by Noriyoshi Muramatsu of Studio Glitt. 

There are surprises everywhere: the ceiling is adorned in Japanese doors that once were the entrance to actual homes in the 1970s, and in one alcove there is a wall of approximately 3,000 T-shirts. The folds are crisp, and they are layered on top and in between each other, creating the look of horizontal tiles, all dyed in ever so slightly different shades of the perfect red. Beloved Japanese characters like Hello Kitty and Bowers and Princess Peach from Super Mario Bros pop up in unexpected places. 

In one corner is a raised booth, featuring a state-of-the-art Das Audio sound system (the only one of its kind in D.C.), to be the playground for the planet’s top DJs. 

And for opening weekend, it was just that: the intimate lounge saw the world’s biggest acts, including the DJs Carlita and Blondish. The Arcade swelled with electronic beats and bottle service. Three a.m. never felt this good.

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