The Modern Speakeasy That Only Allows Higher-Earning Patrons

Paying homage to his native culture and the culinary traditions of his late mother, seasoned chef Victor Chizinga opened the much-lauded Afro-Caribbean restaurant Lydia on H to bring Malawian recipes to Washington, D.C. With a bustling dining room and tropical-themed patio, Chizinga has quickly lured crowds. Chizinga focuses on traditional flavors of Jamaican dishes and Caribbean cuisine, serving up aromatic dishes like jerk chicken, curry, jollof rice, beef and chicken suya skewers, fried shrimp, spicy wings, rasta pasta, and rum cake. Also a skilled mixologist, Chizinga pours a bevy of classic and craft cocktails.

Eater describes Lydia on H as reminiscent of a Caribbean locale with bamboo bars and tropical decor. According to the restaurant's website, a lively jazz bar named Raine is housed in the space upstairs and serves as the venue for spoken word evenings, karaoke, and private events. A nondescript black lacquered bookshelf serves as a portal to a hidden speakeasy that serves up wines, spirits, and beers produced solely by Black purveyors. Yet only a selected few members are allowed inside. 

A speakeasy with conditions

The Washingtonian reveals that the exclusive club welcomes members vetted and chosen by Chizinga himself. Chizinga views the speakeasy as a respite from the energetic restaurant and bar atmosphere and aims to keep the setting shrouded in mystery. While we know the speakeasy is stocked with cigars and Black-owned small-batch libations, other amenities are revealed only after a patron's membership is approved. "What happens in the speakeasy stays in the speakeasy," Chizinga told the Washingtonian. Membership is capped at 40 members, all of whom must meet an annual income of $100,000 or more.

City Grid indicates that Chizinga's motivation to build the private speakeasy is to conduct mixology classes and raise awareness of the Black-owned libations hitting the drinks scene in Washington. Approved members can use the space to host personal gatherings and parties of their own — unless Chizinga is teaching a group how to mix and serve unique cocktails.