Rooftop bar carves a downtown niche – Winston

In the bar business, it helps to be unique. And if you happen to be the only game in town in a particular niche, you should have it made.

District Rooftop Bar and Grille, which opened on Sept. 20, is already carving out its own niche in several areas of the downtown bar business.

As the name would imply, District has a rooftop bar with a gorgeous view of downtown Winston-Salem, the only bar/restaurant in town with a functional rooftop. District also boasts more than 9,200 square feet of usable space, and has more than 150 parking spaces, both stats that help to make District unique.

Speaking with co-owner Mark Skoggard and executive chef Jared Keiper on one of the outdoor patios at District, it’s easy to see why the two are excited about their new venture. The idea was to meld an “old” Winston-Salem feel with a newer, sleeker aesthetic, an idea that successfully mirrors Winston-Salem’s current downtown revitalization.

“We wanted to go for an old Winston feel in the dining room, and more of an upscale, more modern, current feel in the bar area,” Keiper said.

The idea of a rooftop bar was in place from the start. “We were originally approached with the idea of creating another business in this space,” Skoggard said. “9,200 square feet was a little large for that idea, so we stepped back from that original idea and re-thought things. But we knew from the beginning we definitely wanted the functionality of the rooftop bar.”

“We have lots of areas that we can expand. We can provide different atmospheres for multiple groups of people at the same time throughout the space,” Keiper said.

And in addition to the flexibility of the restaurant, Keiper and company have provided a good deal of variety in the food and drink offered.

Skoggard was clear in his praise when he stated, “Our most important decision was bringing Jared on board. Jared is the keystone to this place.”

District’s menu ranges from salads and appetizers (District Sticky Shrimp in sweet and sour chili sauce, blue lump crab dip, and spinach and artichoke dip) to their signature entrees (Mama’s Moravian Chicken Pie, cornmeal fried tilapia tacos, District Sticky Ribs, and Cajun pasta). The restaurant also offers a late-night menu (until 1 a.m.) of burgers, quesadillas, nachos and 8-inch stone-fired pizzas.

The bar has all ABC permits, with an impressive selection of wines (ask to see the custom-built wine cellar downstairs — the aesthetics alone are worth the trip). A solid selection of beers is on hand, as well as a variety of what Keiper referred to as “retro-signature” cocktails, such as their own whiskey sour, mint julep and various seasonal drinks.

The bar area has three TVs and a large projector screen in the private dining area downstairs. District has had a few nights of hosting live bands but plan to make it a regular feature. Keiper is also planning to hold wine and beer pairing dinners beginning in January.

Keiper summed up the appeal of District as being a mix of functionality and location. “People can come and gather here, park their cars, have a great dinner here, then go enjoy the rest of downtown, and come back at the end of the night. The late-night menu has something for everyone, and it’s a great way to end the night.”

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