When she’s not teaching third grade or pursuing the guitar, Karen Jones is happily organizing one of the largest and best-known lesbian meetup groups in the D.C. Metro area. The event is a once-monthly happy hour at 15 ria, within the DoubleTree Hotel on Rhode Island Avenue, NW. It’s a modern, urban spot with a bar, lounge seating, and dining area. Notes Jones, “15 ria loves us lesbians! They are extremely welcoming. It was very important to find a place that treats us well and values us as a group.”
The meetup group is continuously growing, mainly through word of mouth, and now comprises close to 1,300 members. Each month, between 80 and 140 women of all ages, races, and professions attend—regulars and newbies alike. There is a real sense of community. Everyone is there for the same reason: to meet people and to have a good time. It’s a great place for both singles and couples to hang out. In fact, Jones knows of 15 to 20 women who have met their partners or wives at the events.
Jones started the group because she always enjoyed happy hours as a way to spend time with people and decompress after work. “It’s the most efficient way to meet professional women in a relaxing environment. You can’t be home on your computer every night. You have to get out. All you have to do is come in and say hi to someone,” she explains.
People are open, respectful, and fun. It’s a place where you can actually talk and not have to compete with the loud music of clubs. Jones uses the analogy of ping-pong balls in tub of water: You just bump into people, chat, and move on.
Because the happy hour is at the same location every month, continuity is the key to its success. People can plan for the event, know how to get there, and know what to expect. The DoubleTree is close to Metro, and 15 ria offers valet parking for $7. There is no cover, and happy hour specials are always available. Typically, the event is on the second or third Friday of the month.
It’s important to join the group and RSVP. As the number of members grows, it’s helpful for the venue to know how many people to expect and accommodate. “If it gets too big, we might have to have a secret handshake or something,” jokes Jones.