Return of the rooftop bar

BEIRUT: Summer seems to have officially arrived. With temperatures climbing to 30 degrees last week, Beirut’s famous rooftop bars and outdoor lounges have slowly begun to reopen, and will continue to do so throughout the month of May.

Opening at the end of April, Iris – a chic lounge on the roof of the An-Nahar building in Downtown Beirut – was one of the first to welcome back the post-beach crowds.

From 6 p.m. daily, this is the perfect place for sunset cocktails or a bottle of Chateau Ksara Sunset rose wine. Those who prefer refreshment without alcohol can ask bartender Marwan for a fruity “mocktail.”

As the evening proceeds, the place is likely to be bursting at the seams, so reservations are recommended.

With great views and well-heeled crowds, Beirut’s rooftop bars are the places to see and be seen.

“[The locals] save all their energy in winter for partying in summer,” said Beiruti Roy Azzi, who works as a DJ and event organizer.

“We [Lebanese] like rooftops especially because of the freedom, the space, and the possibility to smoke and drink [at the same time].”

On the other side of Downtown, the elevators of the Asseily building in Riad Solh are once again whizzing partygoers to the Capitole roof bar. The crowd here tends to be a more mature one with most people in their thirties, according to General Manager Amal Abdel-Massih.

A new cocktail menu in the form of a magazine provides background information about the drinks and the glasses they come in. Abdel-Massih recommends a cocktail called High Heel with brandy, because “it is served in a very sexy [flute] cocktail glass.”

The Roof at Four Seasons Hotel, an elegant lounge with excellent service and magnificent views over Zaitunay Bay, opens its doors Saturday. The country’s highest rooftop lounge hosts a trendy crowd Tuesday through Sunday from 7 p.m. during summer.

Now in its third year, The Roof has added new items to its spicy Asian-inspired menu and boasts innovative 3-D light effects.

On a scenic jetty by the Meditteranean in Raouche is the Movenpick Hotel’s Square Lounge. With sea views and chill out music, it’s the perfect pre-clubbing venue, and will be opening May 11. Cocktails cost around LL20,000.

Weekly events are planned during June, so to stay updated, check the lounge’s Facebook page.

Other hotels that feature rooftop outlets during the summer include Le Gray, Palm Beach Hotel and Albergo.

The outdoor facilities managed by Add-mind, among them Iris and further out of town Caprice, will look roughly the same as last year, according to marketing coordinator Karim Attallah.

Caprice, a restaurant-lounge located on the Jal al-Dib seaside road, is scheduled to open its outdoor space within the next 10 days.

The only place that will be getting a small update is the roof club White on the seaside road in Dora.

“We have a small surprise this year at White, something which will affect the atmosphere,” Attallah said. The announcement is scheduled for the club’s opening, May 15.

Those waiting for Beirut’s most famous rooftop joint, Skybar, to launch its summer season will have to wait a little longer. Abraham Helal, marketing manager of Sky Management, said the opening date of the BIEL venue is not fixed yet: “We will open approximately mid-June.”

For those on more of a budget, try Coop D’Etat, a laid-back roof bar at Saifi Urban Gardens on Gemmayzeh’s Pasteur Street, which operates from 11 a.m. till late daily.

The bar counter has been completely refurbished and the stools upholstered – both are now a lucent yellow. “We completely demolished the bar and built a new one,” Manager Roody Khalil said, proud of the makeover.

Although currently half covered, Coop D’Etat will be opening its roof completely Saturday ahead of its Mexican-themed summer launch party Sunday, which will feature free burritos and hot dogs, discounted drinks and a range of music styles throughout the day.

Over the next few weeks, however, the possibility of dodgy weather remains. A good place to gather during those cloudy, uncertain nights is the top-floor bar Centrale, located just behind Medco gas station in Gemmayzeh. Renowned architect Bernhard Khoury designed the tube-like bar to have a convertible cover that can be opened and closed within minutes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 04, 2013, on page 1.




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