A Q&A with Loren Yates on the dramatic, seasonal transformation of The Loft at Lena's VIP Alexandria: What gave you the inspiration to create themed experiences at the Loft at Lena’s?
Loren Yates: The past couple of years with COVID have been extremely hard on everyone. We wanted to create seasonal themed experiences for our guests to enjoy since nobody was really traveling anywhere. We started with the Oasis, our tropical-themed tent out back, and then we built up here.
VIP: How do you approach the scene change?
LY: Choosing the theme is a total collaboration between myself, my husband and son and Katie Kirby of REVOLUTION. When we decided to build out this space last December, we approached REVOLUTION with the concept of doing four seasonal theme changes over the course of a year. Just like the restaurant business, the event industry was decimated by COVID, so it turned out to be good for all of us to work together. Last year, we went with the Winter Lodge theme, so we wanted to do something completely different for this year. Ultimately, we created what we called Velvet & Rye, this kind of glamorous concept harkening back to 1920s Hollywood. We really felt that more and more people wanted to get out and wanted to dress up again. We wanted to wrap our guests in opulence and sophistication and give them a huge WOW factor when they walk in. It starts downstairs in the lobby and continues up the elevator.
VIP: How long does it take to complete the change, and how do you accomplish such a massive undertaking?
LY: It is an impressive and massive undertaking by an entire team. It’s actually done in under five days. We close the restaurant at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday as soon as the last customer leaves. There is a truck outside waiting with people to start taking everything out of the space. Everything goes, including everything behind the bar. While they are unloading, painters are entering to begin the two-day process of removing vinyl, spackling, sanding and painting before anything else can be brought in. We had teams of people all working at the same time—electricians installing chandeliers, vinyl being installed, tables and chairs being unpacked and put together. Not only does the look of the space change, but each new experience also features an exclusive menu and specialty cocktails. New logos and menus must be designed as well as signage and social media pages.
VIP: Is it expensive to change it so often?
LY: It is expensive, but we view it more as an investment in our community and giving back to our guests that have supported us the past two years. After all, on Open Table, our guests voted us one of the Top 100 Neighborhood Gem Restaurants in the US, and we really appreciate it.
VIP: Do you take any COVID precautions?
LY: We have state of the art disinfection technology: Haiku fans that kill 99.99% of airborne pathogens including the virus that causes COVID-19.
Located at 401 E Braddock Rd, Alexandria, VA 22301. For more information, call 703.683.5330 or visit www.theloftatlenas.com