Florida Man Opens DC Bar That Looks Like a Swimming Pool

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Royal Sands Social Club brings frozen cocktails and beachy food to Navy Yard.

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Wade into the pool bar at Royal Sands Social Club. Photograph by Dan Swartz.

DC’s new Florida-themed bar, Royal Sands Social Club, is one big pool party. Patrons literally wade into the massive Navy Yard bar, which is covered in blue tiles to look like a swimming pool. Groups can snag umbrella-covered cabana booths for frozen piña coladas and conch fritters. And on weekends, a DJ will spin from a lifeguard tower. No need to wait for bikini season: It opens Thursday, December 22.

The new spot overlooking Nationals Park comes from Florida Man Fritz Brogan and Virginia Man Reed Landry, the owners of Tex-Mex hotspots Mission and Salazar, among other bars. Brogan—a former political operative who’s worked for Florida politicians like Rick Scott and Jeb Bush—drew inspiration from the beach bars he loved to go to growing up in Fort Lauderdale: “Places that are really fun at 2 PM and also 2 AM.”

A lifeguard station DJ booth overlooks the bar at Royal Sands Social Club. Photograph by Dan Swartz.

The $10 million project is their biggest yet with 14,000 square feet, two private rooms, and three bars across two levels. The 70-foot first-floor Pool Bar features cruise ship-style portholes overhead, swing chairs, faux palm trees, restrooms styled like changing rooms, and garage doors that will open to an outdoor patio in sunny weather. Upstairs, find a circular 80-foot bar with sunset-palm tree wallpaper and views of the baseball stadium entrance, plus a photo booth, cornhole, and arcade games, including Pac-Man.

The upstairs bar at Royal Sands overlooks the entrance to Nationals Park. Photograph by Dan Swartz.

The larger of the two private rooms (with capacity for 200) has a more upscale vibe with tropical wallpaper, its own bar, plus a secret back entrance for VIPs. (Neighboring bar Mission is a surprisingly popular destination for political fundraisers, among other events.)

“You think beach bar, you kind of assume cargo shorts and Coronas,” Brogan says. “We kind of want to turn that on its head a little bit.”

Royal Sands 200-person private room has its own private bar and a secret VIP entrance. Photograph by Dan Swartz.

The beachy food menu includes appetizers such as pineapple guacamole, ahi wonton nachos, and gator bao buns as well as a Cubano sandwich, mango shrimp tacos, and even sushi. True Floridians will appreciate the buffalo chicken “Pub sub” that riffs off the version from Publix grocery stores. Bottomless brunch is coming soon with plenty of omelets, which Brogan notes are really popular in south Florida.

Restrooms look like changing rooms at Royal Sands Social Club. Photograph by Dan Swartz.

Poolside cocktails include a tequila “Miami Sunrise,” a key lime-vodka drink with pink coconut foam called “Sunny Place for Shady People,” plus plenty of frozen drinks. You’ll also find Florida beers, fruity seltzers, and rosé. Happy hour runs 4 to 6 PM every day with discounted food and drinks, including $6 Painkiller shots. Late night, on the other hand, Royal Sands aims to be a nightlife destination with bottle service.

“There’s no place in Navy Yard that does bottle service,” Brogan says, despite the demand for it at Mission next-door. “The amount of people we’ve had emailing us asking whether they can come to do bottle service has been staggering even to me.”

Royal Sands is one of the only places in Navy Yard that offers bottle service. Photograph by Dan Swartz.

Drinks are served in branded polycarbonate white-and-teal Royal Sands cups with palm trees. Brogan definitely isn’t encouraging people to steal them, but he’s not exactly discouraging them either.

“We’re planning for these to populate apartment kitchens all over Navy Yard,” Brogan says. “It will be good for marketing if a couple of those end up around town. They’re actually pretty expensive, but that’s a cost we’ll eat for the first few months.”

Royal Sands Social Club. 26 N St., SE. 

Jessica Sidman

Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

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