Sheila Johnson, Notables of DC Raise a Glass at Salamander Hotel Opening

Salamander has rebranded the former Mandarin Oriental

An iconic Southwest landmark rebranded to much fanfare Monday night — and DC’s old guard community of elite was back with bells on to raise a glass and line up at the Chef’s carving station.

What had been the luxe Mandarin Oriental since the property was built in 2004 was sold for a reported $139 million in a joint venture bid by Sheila Johnson (BET, Salamander Resort) and Henderson Park. Almost overnight, the hotel was rebranded as the Salamandar Washington, DC flagship, with all signs of the MO and its signature fans scrubbed.

“Transitioning a hotel of this size and scope is a tremendous undertaking,” Johnson said at the opening celebration, reminiscent to many as a throwback to some of DC’s grandest days of nights out, events packed with notable names, and receptions remembered for their opulence rather than outlandishness.

Sheila Johnson at the opening of the new Salamander Washington, DC

Among the faces “in the room where it happened” — opening DC’s new Salamander — were Mayor Muriel Bowser, football Hall of Famer Darrell Green, Commanders President Jason Wright, Ben’s Chili Bowl owner Virginia Ali, and Miss District of Columbia Alivia Roberts, as well as Mystics players, style setters, other DC business and lifestyle personalities.

The 373 room, 50+ suite hotel had a smooth transition through its rebranding, without stopping service. Many Mandarin Oriental staff chose to stay with the building, other service professionals came from Salamander Resort in Middleburg to open the new property.

Mayor Bowser speaks at the Salamander DC opening

“It’s a beautiful building. It has a great reputation. Our goal is to simply adjust, and we’re really going to elevate through service and programming,” Johnson said.

Teasing “synergies” or “Town & Country packages” between the new DC and Middleburg properties which are about 45 miles apart, management also suggested that guests should look forward to an enhanced outdoor space and spa, a new signature restaurant, and a Presidential Suite that may be the envy of the White House itself, it seems.

“Salamander is renowned for approachable luxury and that’s our intent for this hotel,” Johnson said.

If the opening party crowd is any indication, this spot in Southwest is still THE spot to plan your stay, or if you’re a local, post up at the lobby bar to run into somebody worth knowing.

@kstreetkateSo the Salamander DC opened tonight…♬ original sound – kstreetkate

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