Roofers Union DC reboot: New owners, (mostly) same vibe

When Roofers Union, the multi-level bar and restaurant on 18th Street Northwest in Adams Morgan, closed last November, the proprietors of neighboring business Code Red saw an opportunity.

The Code Red team — led by Nik Namdar and Natalia Alexander — bought all the furniture and fixtures, signed a 15-year lease for the space, and reopened it two months later, with just a few changes.

Being able to buy the business in pretty much turn-key condition was key to Code Red’s decision to take it over, allowing them to reboot Roofers Union much more quickly than if they had to build out such a large building from scratch. The new owners say they did a little sprucing up, with new paint, a new sound system and a new stage on the main floor.

Nik Namdar and Natalia Alexander are the new co-owners of Roofers Union. (Courtesy Nik Namdar)

They also revamped the rooftop deck, one of the largest in D.C., with a new, Mediterranean-inspired look. The cavernous second-level bar and restaurant, popular for people-watching with its floor-to-ceiling windows facing 18th Street, remains largely the same.

The menu still consists of American-style food, but is completely new, under executive chef Jose Molina, who also oversees the kitchen at Namdar’s New Heights restaurant in Woodley Park, which was recently added to the D.C. Michelin Guide.

“One thing we’re really passionate about is stepping up the game when it comes to food, drinks and service. Several of our partners have a background in hotels so we’re all about that top-notch customer service,” Namdar said. “We totally get that change can be a bit nerve-wracking, especially for folks who loved the old Roofers Union vibe, but we’ve kept some of the classics while also adding in new stuff to keep things interesting.”

Roofers Union’s first level Agave Room, which focused on tequilas and mezcals, has been retooled as a science lab for mixology, featuring a broader range of craft cocktails.

They’ve named it the “Cocktail Lab.”

“Given the intimate nature of the space, we’re really focusing on creating an experimental and hands-on experience, with a bit of flair thrown in. Our goal is for everyone who visits Level 1 to walk away with a newfound appreciation for the creativity and craftsmanship behind each unique beverage,” Namdar said.

Code Red, which opened in 2023, is heavy on prohibition-era cocktails, with a speakeasy vibe.

The main floor at Roofers Union is hosting twice-a-week live late-night cover bands.

“We hadn’t fully realized Roofers Union’s significance as a venue for local cover bands until now. There is so much interest from bands wanting to perform here, which has been so gratifying and unexpected,” Namdar said.

Taking over Roofers Union has also more than doubled Code Red’s staff, to about 45 full-time employees.

The original Roofers Union had a 10-year run with chef owner Marjorie Meek-Bradley, who is now a corporate chef for restaurateur Stephen Starr’s Starr Restaurants, which includes Le Diplomate and St. Anselm in D.C., as well as restaurants in New York, Philadelphia and Florida.

The Code Red team never met with Meek-Bradley during the transaction, but they’d like to.

“We’d love to host her at Roofers Union and hear her thoughts,” Namdar said.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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