The shades are drawn. The lights are low. The music is loud. Tassels twirl, whipped cream has made an appearance and past a plate of half-eaten French toast, a champagne bottle is popped. And of course, shirts are off.
Founded in 2010, La Boum Brunch (held at Abigail at 1730 M St., N.W.) has cornered the mid-morning hedonistic market and shows no sign of slowing down. All of this thanks to its founder, restaurateur and entrepreneur Christopher Lynch.
“La Boum strips people of inhibitions,” Lynch says. “People are almost made to interact with each other and then discover something new about themselves. At La Boum (French slang for “house party”), anything is possible.”
La Boum Brunch has seen it all since it got started in 2010. Lynch’s story, though, starts before then.
Lynch began his career in New York City, working for more than 14 years at Estee Lauder. Looking for a career change, Lynch moved to Washington in 2002. Though possessing scant experience in the restaurant industry, he decided to open a small, unpretentious French bistro in called L’Enfent Cafe on a quiet corner in Adams Morgan.
Though Lynch is gay, he did not open an LGBT-focused restaurant. Instead, his café was open to all, attracting a mixed and trendy crowd eager to hang out at a place that was neither gay or straight, a fairly novel concept at the time.
“L’Enfent Café became emblematic as a place where everyone was comfortable,” Lynch says. It was more than a French Café; it became his stage. “If I wanted to do drag show I’d do that; cabaret I’d do that; if I wanted to throw a trapeze up on the ceiling I did that.”
On a weekend jaunt to New York City, Lynch visited an afternoon party that he called, kindly, “a shitshow,” at a favorite restaurant. Looking to plug the quieter post-brunch hours at his café, he decided to take inspiration from the party, and began operating La Boum in the 2-5 p.m. slot on Sundays.
The brunch caught on like wildfire. At its inception, it attracted a mostly gay clientele, but soon morphed into a mixed crowd. It’s now held on Saturdays and Sundays from 2-5 p.m. every weekend, currently at Abigail but not always at the same location.
“This was a completely original brunch experience for D.C.,” Lynch says. “We give people a safe house. They can be weird.”
La Boum Brunch starts out innocently enough, with a glass of bubbly and food service. But as soon as the blinds are closed and the lights go down, all bets are off. Lynch and his crew have created games sexual in nature, designed to integrate tables of customers who don’t know each other. There’s an emcee, burlesque-style performances and dancing. Lots of dancing.
The larger-than-life brunch, however, was taxing on the building. Bistro chairs, after all, are not crafted to support two grinding and tipsy revelers. In 2016, La Boum Brunch moved to a downtown club space that, though less intimate, allowed for a bigger party to rage.
Today, there’s also a second, evening party called La Boum Boum Room, which incorporates all the non-food elements of the brunch (“the shirtless, sexier, grittier parts,” he says). Lynch soon founded a company to control the La Boum brand.
Soon after La Boum Brunch moved, Lynch decided it was time for a change for him, too. He had bought the building but closed down L’Enfent Café, and now rents the space to the trendy burger joint Lucky Buns, run by Alex McCoy.
Lynch soon opened Red, White and Basil, a traditional Italian restaurant, which he later sold. Today, he owns and manages Wundergarten, a beer garden in NoMa (1101 First St., N.E.).
Lynch is still honored, though perhaps not so surprised, by the reception La Boum Brunch has received. He sees it as part of the evolution of the gay scene in D.C. When he first moved here, he says the community, “really only went to places we felt safe in; it was more segregated.”
Today, there’s much more assimilation.
“I think it’s gorgeous that people can be together and recognize how similar we are and overcome our differences through several bottles of champagne,” he says.
In 2016, Bravo TV called out L’Enfent Café as one of the top “5 Ranging Brunch Restaurants” in the country, along with others hand-picked from Vegas and L.A. Today, Lynch is looking to expand the franchise, perhaps in D.C. or even in other cities around the country. Make reservations online at laboumbrunch.com.
“La Boum brings together all different people, different races and sexualities. It’s a social experiment. People you’d never expect to party with and barriers are broken. And that’s the essence of La Boum.”