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Revamped Clarendon Ballroom is back open, after a management 180

(Updated 2:40 p.m.) The Clarendon Ballroom is back — but it never really left.

The local nightlife staple at 3185 Wilson Blvd opened its doors again earlier this month with a new interior, a renovated rooftop, and a pizza take-out window.

There’s a new 30-foot video wall, elevated VIP tables, and a renovated rooftop with redone floors and cabanas. The pizza take-out window, dubbed “Disco Pizza,” sells by the slice.

In a bit of a change of initial plans, new owner Michael Darby — of real estate development and Real Housewives fame — has decided to once more hand over management and operations of the space to Mike and Christal Bramson of B Social Hospitality, the couple behind B Live, the Lot, and other Clarendon area establishments.

For the better part of the last two years, the Bramsons have run themed “pop-up” bars in the space as part of a short-term lease. While that particular lease has ended, the three have come to a new agreement for the couple to run the iconic venue for Darby.

“Michael Darby decided to reopen as Clarendon Ballroom and assumed the lease himself. In conversations between Darby and the Bramsons, it was determined that Mike and Christal Bramson of B Social Hospitality (also, behind B Live, Coco B’s, the Lot, Rebel Taco, Alias, and Pamplona) would be the best fit to handle the management and operations… based on their success and experience in the industry,” a spokesperson for B Social Hospitality told ARLnow via email.

This means no more rotating themes, but a commitment to aStudio 54 all year vibe” says a press release.

On Jan. 1, 2020, Clarendon Ballroom closed — permanently, it was assumed — with the Washington Post dubbing it an “end of an era.” But a year later, Darby purchased the building at 3185 Wilson Blvd that housed the large, long-time venue. Then, he and the Bramsons signed a 21-month lease that was intended to be a temporary solution while Darby figured out what to do next.

“It’s a great way of holding the real estate until the pandemic issues are over,” Darby said at the time to the Washington Business Journal. “We’ll, during that time, take it to market and find the right user for it.”

As it turns out, the right arrangement was right there all along.

Darby applied for a building permit in March 2022 with the intent of renovating the space and running it himself, as ARLnow first reported. It was revealed to ARLnow a few months later that Darby was essentially bringing back Clarendon Ballroom after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.

“Clarendon has really come of age. You’ve got all the great restaurants and bars,” Darby said to ARLnow. “And now with what we are doing with the Ballroom, that tops it off.”

He said the reason he was taking over the space himself was that he never got another offer that he liked. But that has changed somewhat, with Darby agreeing to a similar arrangement he had with the Bramsons initially back in December 2020.

Darby’s star turn on Bravo’s reality TV series with wife Ashley has seen a series of ups and downs, from the launch and then closure of their Clarendon restaurant Oz to his separation from Ashley earlier this year. It’s unclear whether Michael Darby or “CB” will make an appearance on the show in its upcoming season.

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